Have you recently bought an espresso machine with big dreams of transforming your morning coffee to something from a European Cafe? Or were you gifted one of these delightful contraptions with not a clue how to use it? Don’t fret, we at Caffeine Hackers have your back! Bookmark this page to serve as your guide for the top recipes for espresso machines.
Before the craft latte comes the espresso itself. So what is it? Espresso is a method of brewing coffee from fine grounds using very hot water and high pressure. The method comes from Italy and produces strong, concentrated coffee to sip on its own or mix with milk or water to produce a number of other espresso-based drinks. In recipes for espresso machines, all you need is:
- 7-9 grams of finely ground coffee for a single shot, or 14-18 grams for a double shot
- Approximately 28-30 seconds of brewing time
Keep reading for how to pull the perfect espresso shot, as well as more recipes for your espresso machine.
How to make perfect espresso
When brewing espresso, there are three key elements: water, coffee grounds, and time. Luckily, your espresso machine takes care of water temperature and pressure for you – maintaining a perfect 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit at a pressure of 8-9 bars. All your focus, then, can go to your coffee beans.
Time needed: 2 minutes.
How to make your own espresso recipe
- Grind your coffee
for a double shot. Grind your beans to a fine grind (don’t worry too much about grind for now, as later we’ll talk about how to find the perfect grind setting for your espresso machine recipes).
- Tamp your grounds
Next, tamp (a coffee-lingo word for press firmly) the coffee grounds into the portafilter bed, until they are flat and even.
- “pull” your espresso shot
Pull your first shot by clicking the portafilter into place, and press the corresponding button on your espresso machine to pull the espresso (it’ll be different for every machine, but often has a photo of one cup or two, symbolizing a single or double shot).
- Time your shot (important)
This brings us to the third element: time. A good rule of thumb for an espresso shot should take around 28-30 seconds to fully dispense. Time your first shot using a stopwatch.
- Taste and adjust
Now do a taste test, looking for the three elements of espresso taste: bitterness, acidity, and sweetness. A shot that pulls too long will often be too bitter, whereas a shot that pulls too fast will taste acidic. And while 28-30 seconds is the guideline, if your espresso tastes delicious at 24 seconds, that’s just fine!
In the following sections, we will outline how to adjust your espresso pulling time to find your “sweet spot” of perfectly balanced tasting espresso.
This tasting wheel gives you an idea of all the flavours to be explored. Credit: Counter culture’s coffee wheel
Why does my espresso taste bitter?
A bitter taste in espresso means that it has been over-extracted, or in other words, the grinds were so fine, the water could not flow through quickly enough. This leads to the coffee grounds being exposed to the heat of the espresso machine for too long until they burn slightly. To remedy bitter espresso, adjust your grind setting to a more coarse grind. An easy way to think about how to adjust your espresso grind is: “would water run quicker through sand or rocks?”. Sand is equivalent to a grind that is too fine, and rocks to a very coarse grind. In coffee terms, our too-fine espresso, like sand, trapped the water – leading to a long-extraction time and a burnt, bitter taste. We adjust to a coarser grind to let that water flow through just a little quicker.
Why does my espresso taste sour?
Sour espresso is caused by the opposite spectrum from bitter: it is extracted too quickly. Just as water is very quick to flow through large rocks (in comparison to sand), too-coarse espresso leads to a shot that pulls too quickly. This process leads to an acidic taste in our espresso. To achieve that sweet-spot equilibrium balance, simply adjust your grind to one slightly finer. The process of finding a grind setting that creates balanced espresso for your machine takes time. Specialty baristas call this process dialing in, and often do it multiple times throughout even one shift as environmental factors change the brewing process even slightly.
How to make a latte
Now that you’ve set up your machine and learned to dial in the perfect tasting espresso, we’ve arrived at the most fun part: crafting delicious recipes for your espresso machine. We will begin with the classic drink many of us think of when we imagine “espresso”: the latte. In its most pure form, a latte is simply espresso plus 8-16oz (or more!) of steamed milk. From this base recipe, we can build all sorts of delicious concoctions.
If you like your drinks on the sweeter side, there are a few ways to brighten up your latte. If using raw or white sugar, add the sugar into the espresso after brewing. This allows the sugar to melt and disperse evenly into the drink instead of gathering at the bottom. Add your flavors into your espresso, pour your steamed milk in slowly, and poof – a delicious flavored latte. Maybe you even get creative with toppings or foam milk patterns – with a latte, you can be as simple or as complex as you wish.
How to make an iced latte
So what if you prefer your coffee cold? No need to worry, an iced latte is even simpler than a hot one. For a simple, unsweetened iced latte, simply pour your espresso, add ice, and then include 8-16oz of your cold milk of choice (coconut and oat milk are delicious milk alternatives for iced coffee). Stir, and you’re finished!
For a flavored iced latte, the same principles as before apply. Add your flavoring or sweetener to your freshly brewed espresso, and stir to dissolve. Then follow the same steps, adding ice and milk to your desired color.
How to make a cappuccino
So, what is the difference between a latte and a cappuccino? This is one of the most frequently asked questions from novices to the coffee world. This is because, in coffee corporations like Starbucks, a cappuccino has changed meaning slightly to resemble more like a latte. You may be surprised, then, when you order a cappuccino at a specialty coffee shop and they give you a 5oz cup – only slightly bigger than an espresso!
This is because, traditionally, a cappuccino is a single shot, with a splash of steamed milk, and 2cm of foam, or froth. A double cappuccino is the same concept times two – a double shot and slightly more milk and froth. To make a cappuccino at home, think of making a tiny latte, and spooning out extra foam on the top.
How to make a flat white
Have you ever heard of a flat white? A flat white is the bigfoot of the coffee world, you may have heard of it, but never seen it – does it really exist? Absolutely yes, and they are delicious! Whereas a latte is espresso and steamed milk; and a cappuccino is espresso, steamed milk, and froth; a flat white is simply espresso and foam. Much like a cappuccino, a flat white is traditionally served in a small (5-8oz) cup.
To make a flat white at home, pull your espresso (adding any desired flavors just as you learned to do previously), and spoon around 20mm of foam (just under an inch) of froth on top. A flat white is an espresso machine recipe for someone who loves the espresso taste. So if you prefer a sweeter, milkier taste – a flavored latte, or our next recipe, a mocha, might be your perfect fit!
How to make a mocha
A mocha is a delicious, sweet, chocolatey coffee recipe that is easy to make at home with an espresso machine. The recipe is three-part: espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate. To make a mocha, pull your espresso as normal. Your next steps will depend on your taste! If you prefer a sweeter drink, add sugar or vanilla syrup to the espresso – or peppermint syrup for a holiday flavor. Next, add melted chocolate – you can make this at home, or purchase a wide array of bottles of melted chocolate specifically for coffee.
After combining your espresso, optional flavors, and chocolate, pour in steamed milk just as you would with a latte. What happens next is up to you! There are a wide variety of toppings to spice up a mocha: a dash of cinnamon, peppermint flakes, cocoa powder, or even whipped cream. A mocha is the perfect delicious recipe for holidays or your everyday, and like all these other recipes for your espresso machine, there are unlimited possibilities.
How to make a cortado
So: our final recipe for espresso machines at home, the beautiful cortado! The cortado is, simply, the missing piece of the espresso/steamed milk/foam combinations. The easiest way to understand a cortado is to imagine it as a tiny latte. A cortado is perfect for someone who loves the taste of espresso but wants to cut the taste with milk just a little. Whereas a latte is an espresso and 8-16oz of steamed milk, a cortado is 1:1 – 1oz espresso and 1oz steamed milk of choice.
The cortado recipe, then, is incredibly simple! Using your espresso cup or small, 5oz glass, pour your espresso, and add an equal amount of steamed milk. Similar to previous recipes, you may also choose to sweeten as desired, or to add any flavors you wish.
We here on the Caffeine Hackers team hope that you enjoyed this journey through recipes for espresso machines at home! Save this article for your reference, and soon you’ll be making specialty coffee beverages to stun your friends and family and add more pleasure to your daily coffee consumption routine. Thanks for reading, and happy brewing!
– Author: Catherine Adam-Albarracin