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So You Have a New Espresso Machine - Now What?

Unwrapping a package to discover a brand-new, gleaming espresso machine is an unbeatable Christmas morning delight for coffee lovers. However after the wrapping paper is cleared away and the last slice of fruitcake has been polished off, you may...

Unwrapping a package to discover a brand-new, gleaming espresso machine is an unbeatable Christmas morning delight for coffee lovers. However after the wrapping paper is cleared away and the last slice of fruitcake has been polished off, you may be left wondering: what next? Read on for our handy list of six tips and tricks aimed at helping you make the most of your new espresso machine.

Espresso machine
Making perfect espresso takes care and attention, but anyone can do it.

1. Always Preheat the Machine

Espresso should be served between 158°F to 187°F to achieve the best flavor. Always make sure your machine, portafilter handle and cups are preheated for best results.

2. Use High Quality Beans

It makes sense that the quality of your espresso is directly impacted by the quality of your beans. Stale beans, in particular, can interfere with the taste and body of your finished espresso.

If you're using pre-ground coffee, store it in an airtight container at room temperature, and stick with small batches to minimize storage time as the longer it's stored, the more likely it is to go stale.

Lastly, avoid keeping beans in the fridge or freezer as the condensation can ruin them.

3. Know Your Grind

Even the best quality beans in the world will make a poor cup of espresso if not purchase in a grind suitable for espresso machines. If you're choosing pre-ground coffee, look for espresso grinds, not espresso blends. While the former refers to the grind setting, the latter pertains only to flavor.

If you're grinding your own, which most coffee connoisseurs recommend, the grind should be very fine with a consistency like table salt. If it feels like flour or sugar it's either too fine or too coarse.

A rule of thumb? Pouring a single shot of espresso should take 25 to 30 seconds, while a double shot of espresso should take approximately 25 seconds. If the coffee is coming through too fast or too slow, adjust your grind until you get it right.

4. Tamping Matters

Your espresso machine comes with a measuring/tamping spoon for a reason: to ensure that ground coffee is evenly distributed within the filter. Use a spoon to firmly pack (or "tamp") the grinds to just below the filter rim. If the coffee is too loose, the water will flow through too easily leaving you with a weak brew. Too firm, however, and you'll end up with an over-extraction.

One caveat? If you're brewing a double shot, do not tamp between layers as this can introduce a layer of air to the mix and interview with the result.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Perfectly crafted frothed milk is an art form. With care and practice you can learn to create a thin layer of steamed milk which beautifully blends with your espresso.

Want to take it to the next level by learning to create latte art? That's also within your reach thanks to the abundance of late art videos on the internet.

Espresso machine
Practice makes perfect when it comes to coffee art.

6. Keep It Clean

Cleaning your espresso machine and portafilter is an important part of both care and maintenance as well as producing the best quality of espresso. Consult your owner's manual to determine the best process for cleaning.

And remember: all espresso machines are not created equally, so your owner's manual is your new best friend when it come to embracing your inner barista skills. And don't forget to stop by Cilantro The Cooks Shop to browse our assortment of tea and coffee supplies, including everything from milk frothers to coffee cups, and so much more.