The espresso is the basis of a large number of popular drinks, and with the introduction and vast growth of domestic coffee machines to the Australian market, many of us have had to learn to be home baristas very quickly. This guide is to help you learn the basics of coffee making but I hope to soon either extend this to more unusual espresso based drinks and add some pictures in the future.
Espresso - What is it?
Espresso is created when water which is heated to approximately 92 degrees passes through a bed made of 7 - 9g of finely ground tampered coffee under pressure and pours through bringing with it a golden layer of aromatic oils known as the crema. An espresso (also known as a short black) is normally only 25 - 35mls and the extraction should take no more than 30 seconds.
A Ristretto is very similar to an Espresso, only the extraction is restricted to only 15mls.
Caffe Americano or Long Black should not be made by extracting the coffee for longer. If it is done that way the coffee will taste bitter. The safer way to produce an Americano is to pour hot water into the glass or cup first and then top it up with a shot or two of espresso.
The Macchiato is an espresso, or double espresso (2 shots), marked with foam. Some may expect a splash of milk with the foam, so if you are not sure then it is probably safest to serve the espresso accompanied by a small jug of foamed milk. Starbucks however have popularised a beverage named the Caramel Macchiato, which I believe is a Latte Macchiato (milk stained with espresso) and a vanilla syrup with caramel sauce on top.
Affogatto is made with vanilla gelato or ice cream "drowned" in espresso. It can be decorated with shavings of chocolate, drizzle of honey, mint leaves, etc to taste.
Latte, which means milk, is made with a shot of espresso poured into a glass and then topped with milk to just 1cm from the rim of the cup which is then finished with foam. The Latte is also known as a Cafe au lait (French) and a Cafe con leche (Spanish).
Cappuccino is arguably the most popular espresso based drink in Australia at present. A cappuccino is made up of one third espresso, one third milk and one third foam. The cappuccino may be topped with a sprinkle of powdered or grated chocolate, cinnamon or vanilla sugar.
Mochaccino is similar to a latte, only chocolate powder or chocolate sauce is added to the steamed milk before it is poured over the espresso. You can also top this with whipped cream.
Vienna Coffee is either a single or double shot espresso with steamed milk topped with cream.
Babycino is just straight milk froth. You can however sprinkle a little chocolate on top, but as this is normally ordered for young children do not add any espresso. Caramel Cino is a baby cino with a dash of caramel sauce.
note: Foamed milk is produced when the steam passes into the milk, drawing with it air that forms microbubbles. It is best to use a stainless steel milk jug for this process. When steaming milk dip the steam wand deep into the milk to begin before turning it on. Then as the steam starts to warm the milk lower the jug until the tip of the steam wand is just at the surface of the liquid, but still emersed enough that it is not going to create large bubbles. For best results have the steam wand at an angle to the milk. With a little experience you will know from the sound whether you are steaming correctly. When the steam wand is deep in the milk it makes a squealing noise and does not produce foam (froth). When the wand is too far above the milk the noise is similar to when you blow down a straw into a milkshake to create bubbles. When the wand is in the correct foaming position it makes a hissing sound.
When foaming milk you should not heat it above 65 degrees as that would alter the taste of the milk and cause it to separate. For beginners it might be best to invest in a milk thermometer.