Coffee Snob Series II. – 5 Reasons Why Your Espresso At Home Tastes Disappointing

With coffee industry booming at the moment, a lot more people are trying to get into coffee. You go to the best coffee shops in the city, you start looking at the beans they use and sell and you start thinking, ‘if I buy an espresso machine, could I make a coffee like this at home?’ You go online, you do your research and buy a mid-range espresso machine with good reviews. But then, you are disappointed. Why doesn’t it taste as good as the one from your favourite barista? You feel like you’ve spent a decent amount of money on this and it still isn’t satisfactory. I’ll tell you why.

There’s more to it than meets the eye

Having spent considerable time behind the bar as well as behind the coffee machine, I believe that making a perfect cup of coffee is much more complicated than making a perfect Margarita at home. If you didn’t go through a proper barista training, I really doubt that you know all the little things that need to be done perfectly to get the espresso right. Let alone making a flat white. And what’s worse, those little details make a massive difference, believe it or not.

Are your beans fresh enough? Are you grinding them just before making the coffee? Are you measuring the grams of coffee, the extraction time and the yield? And making sure it’s right? Are you adjusting the grind according to how is the coffee pouring? Well, let’s be honest, probably not. And it’s pretty fair too, because when you’re doing it on such a small scale, you’re not gonna be throwing away espressos that aren’t exactly right. You’re probably not gonna get your full kit out with scales, stopwatches and grinder every time you’re making your morning coffee. It’s fair.

You’re cutting corners – trying to save money

As much as I think that it’s totally understandable not to be willing to spend 5000-10000 dollars on a La Marzocco machine for home, I guarantee you that all the speciality coffee shops that you are comparing this coffee to, have one. And this is gonna make a big difference, a cheap machine is gonna make steaming milk so much harder, borderline impossible, the pressure and settings are not gonna be that advanced and so on and so on. I’m not saying you should spend 5000 dollars but if you’re trying to keep it low cost, you might as well not bother and get into filter coffee instead.

You’re cutting corners – for convenience

The one mistake that people do when choosing a coffee machine that upsets me the most is when they go for an automatic one that grinds the coffee and makes the espresso automatically within a push of a button. I get that it makes it very convenient. But more importantly, this massively limits your control over so many steps that come in between. You cannot measure the amount of grinds you’re using, you cannot tamp it yourself and you’re also closing this area off which means you’re not able to clean it at all. Therefore, overtime, the grind and pressure will be off and needing to be adjusted, the coffee machine cleaned and properly serviced and the settings readjusted too. Are you doing that? Didn’t think so.

And don’t even get me started on Nespresso machines, if you bought one of them, you’re not allowed to call yourself a coffee snob anymore. Sorry, not sorry.

You’re cutting corners – on coffee beans

If you decide to invest in a coffee machine at home, you should be also investing in getting coffee beans that are really high quality, freshly roasted by one of your local speciality roasters. I’m sorry but the 5 dollar Lavazza beans you get on sale from supermarket is really not gonna cut it. Come on. And I’m not even getting into the fact that after it’s freshly roasted, it should sit for a week before you use it and if it’s older than one month, you might as well throw it away.

Are you cleaning it properly?

If you’re not a barista, did you know that every coffee machine at a cafe has to go through a full cleaning procedure at the end of each day? Fair enough, you making a lot less coffee at home than you would be at a cafe so you wouldn’t need to clean it every day, but still, it would need to be done at least every few weeks or each month. Do you know how? Do you have the right chemicals for it? Are you taking time to do this regularly? Well, you should, because that build up coffee residue is exactly what makes it taste disgusting and ‘burnt’ over time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love espresso coffee, I love long blacks and occasional flat whites when buying them out. I don’t mean to bring down espresso coffee, I just wanted to explain to you why you might be disappointed when making it at home. Don’t worry, I’ve got good news though, a perfect freshly brewed pour over (filter) coffee which would match the one you buy at a speciality cafe is totally doable at home. And much lower cost too.

In the next episode of the Coffee snob series, I’ll finally tell you about different brewing methods, what are the main differences in difficulty, price and taste and which brewing is the most suitable to your coffee needs.

Until then,

in caffeine we trust,

Suz

xx

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