Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com
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Servings: 1 - 4 shots of espresso
What is Espresso?

Definition: [ehs-PREHS-oh] A dark, strong coffee made by forcing steam (or hot water) through finely ground, Italian-roast coffee especially blended for making espresso. This form of brewing produces a thin layer of creamy, dark beige froth on the coffee's surface. Espresso is served in a tiny espresso (or demitasse) cup. An espresso doppio [DOHP-pyoh] is simply a double espresso.

Copyright (c) 1995 by Barron's Educational Series, from The New Food Lover's Companion, Second Edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst

An espresso is a high-pressure extraction of coffee from a special machine. These instructions will vary depending on the type of machine you have, but the basics are the same for all.

Espresso coffee beans (Italian Roast whole beans or ground beans), or you can grind your own roasted beans
Espresso maker with carafe (if your espresso maker didn't come with a glass carafe, use a cup)
Coffee bean grinder (if needed)
Chlorine-free, filtered or bottled spring water


1. Pour cold, clear water into your machine's water chamber and make sure the boiler cap is secured. One shot of espresso is about 1 ounce. For a double shot, use two ounces. Some machines let you make as many as four shots at once.

2. Place the coffee basket in the filter holder and lightly pack in the ground coffee. Your filter should have a measure for how much espresso you are making.

3. Brush off any grounds on the sides and top of the filter and place the filter holder in the machine.

4. Place the provided glass carafe (if your machine comes with one) under the spout and turn on the machine. The machine will heat the water to the proper temperature and force the water through the coffee grounds. Use a cup if your machine doesn't come with a carafe.

5. When the coffee starts to flow into the cup, it should have brown foam, or "crema," on its top. When the foam becomes almost white in color, the good-tasting liquid is no longer flowing. Remove the cup immediately.

Makes 1-4 shots of espresso, depending on your particular machine.

Tips: Beans selected and roasted specifically for espresso are available in major grocery stores or coffee specialty shops. If you are serious about espresso, purchase an espresso grinder and grind the beans just before brewing. Otherwise, buy your espresso beans in small amounts and have the shop grind them for you. Espresso is a tricky grind - it should be very fine, but not completely powdery, or else the coffee will overextract.

Use bottled spring water or filtered water if your tap water is hard or has an unpleasant taste.

The quality of machine has a lot to do with good espresso. While some (usually expensive) home models are decent, you are unlikely to get the same quality you get at a restaurant or coffee bar with an industrial machine.

Warnings: If the top is not securely in place, the machine can explode. The water is very hot and at a high pressure.

Be careful when handling any metal parts of the machine after it heats up. These parts can be very hot even if the machine has been switched off.

How to Choose an Espresso Machine

The most important consideration when buying an espresso machine is how serious you are about making real espresso. For a top-of-the-line machine, you could pay more than $1,000, but once you learn how to use it, you'll get fabulous espresso.

1. Measure the space you have for an espresso machine. Assume that you will use up to 2 square feet for the machine, the grinder and necessary utensils.

2. Research the process involved in making espresso. It can be complicated and time-consuming - not to mention messy. Be sure an espresso machine is what you want.

3. If you want to save money, buy a steam-driven espresso machine. Although these are economical, it is generally agreed that they do not make anything resembling good espresso.

4. If you can afford it, buy a pump machine. The pump pushes the water through the coffee, making a decent cup of espresso with less effort than a piston machine requires.

5. If you are an espresso connoisseur, buy a piston espresso machine. These are the most expensive and the most difficult to master, but they make the best espresso once you learn the art.

If you're not sure you want to deal with the mess and complicated process of making espresso, stick to buying yours ready-made at a coffee specialty store.

Warnings: An espresso machine is not necessarily a good gift unless you know the receiver really wants one.

Where to Buy Espresso Makers Online

Inexpensive stovetop espresso makers may be purchased online at Cooking.com for as low as $12.95 and up to $29.95. The more authentic and much more expensive espresso machines may also be purchased online at Cooking.com. The prices for these start at $99.95 and go up to as much as $2,199.95. You should be able to buy a very fine quality espresso maker for somewhere between $300.00-$800.00.

Amazon.com also sells many espresso makers and machines. A stovetop espresso maker will cost you around $19.99, and the several automatic espresso makers they carry will range in price from $50 or so up to $2,199.00, with an average price for a good quality machine at $200 to $400.00.

Date: June 10, 2003

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