Anyone who has ever holidayed in the beautiful country of Italy will be familiar with the experience of walking up to the local cafe early in the morning and getting a steaming cup of Italian espresso.
But is it possible to recreate the same kind of experience at home?
You may not be able to transport yourself to your favourite Mediterranean city, but you can recreate the same delicious cup of coffee from the comfort of your kitchen.
If you want to try it out for yourself, here’s our step-by-step guide on how to make the perfect Italian espresso at home.
What are the Main Characteristics of Italian Espressos?
A shot of espresso is made when near-boiling water gets pressed through ground coffee. This creates a cup of coffee that is stronger, thicker, and more acidic than traditional coffee.
Italians drink espresso at all times of the day, no matter if it’s a cup before a hard day’s work, or as a pick-me-up before you crack open your favourite sparkling wine from Italy.
The main three differences between espresso and other coffee are:
The bitterness in an espresso perfectly balances with the sweetness to create a unique coffee.
Acidity brings a sparkling effect to espresso, comprising flavours such as lemon, orange, berry, apple or peaches.
This mixture with sweetness is another important flavour profile in an espresso. Different flavours can be incorporated, such as white or brown sugar, caramel, honey, or butterscotch.
Finally, to balance out the sweetness of some of the different flavour profiles, espresso also needs a bit of bitterness to complete the balance of flavours.
Some people may feel that bitterness is a negative thing in an espresso, but when it works in harmony with other flavours, it’s essential for creating the unique flavour of a good cup of espresso.
How to make an Espresso the Italian way
Making Italian espresso at home is an art, so there are certain steps that you need to follow to brew your perfect drink.
Here’s how you can make espresso the Italian way:
- Get yourself a Moka pot
A Moka pot is one of the essentials in Italian coffee, so if you haven’t got one already, you need to get your hands on one.
This brewing system is made up of three components: the boiler which gets filled with water, the funnel cup which sits on top, and the top chamber where boiling water gets forced into after hitting the coffee grounds.
You can get Moka pots in a range of sizes, so whether you’re just making coffee for yourself, or your whole family, there’s a pot for you.
- Be particular about the water you use
Some Italians will use bottled water on top of tap water to create their perfect espresso, and they’ll also be mindful of the temperature – some insist on hot water, whereas some say that cold water is the best option.
Regardless of the type of water or temperature you use, you don’t need to fill your Moka pot up to the top. To create the perfect espresso that isn’t too watery, you want to stop pouring in water once you hit the level of the small valve in the boiler.
- Select your coffee
Depending on your brewing method, you might need to use slightly different grounds of coffee. For stovetop brewers, like a Moka pot you want a medium-ground coffee, but for an espresso machine, you might go for something a bit finer.
Using super-fine coffee grounds in a Moka pot won’t let the water pass through properly, and, similarly, coarsely ground coffee will create a watery, less flavourful drink.
- Use a low, gentle heat
You don’t need to crank the heat up to the top, this will just burn your coffee. Instead, use a low, gentle heat so the water will get drawn through the coffee grounds slowly, giving time for the flavours to get to work.
After boiling away, you’ll be able to hear a gurgle that signifies the coffee is coming up the top chamber. When you hear this noise, you can turn off the heat so nothing gets burnt.
- Give your coffee a good stir
The finishing touch is to give your espresso a good stir to make sure the sediment is distributed throughout the coffee and not just sitting at the bottom.
Now, do it Yourself!
Now we’ve told you how to make the perfect cup of Italian espresso at home, it’s time for you to take everything you’ve learned and put it to work in your kitchen.
Using the tips above, you should be able to make a delicious cup of authentic Italian espresso that makes you feel like you’re relaxing in a Mediterranean village every morning.