Extracting the coffee

There are only 4 rules to pulling the perfect shot of espresso:

  1. Temperature. KUSH Barista Tips - how to make the best espressoIf the machine has been sitting for a while, draw off some water through the group head. This will remove the boiling water in the head and replace it with cooler water. Drawing off water will also wash the head of loose grounds.
  2. Fill the handle. This must be dry, clean and hot. Clean it under the group head by running some water through it. Then dry on a tea towel. This also cleans the head from old grounds from the previous cup and means the coffee will taste better. The coffee must pack the handle from the bottom of the filter basket to the shower screen in the group head. If not the water will move the coffee around and an inferior extraction will occur. Overfill and wipe off the excess back into the grinder. Then tamp. There is a line in the basket which shows the level the coffee should come to after tamping.
  3. Rats tail. The flow from the handle must be no thicker than a rats tail. See adjusting the grinder to correct any errors.
  4. Only 30 ml per cup. The first 15 ml of liquid is the strongest (as used in a ristoretto), the next is less strong but very acceptable (total now 30 ml) but the next 15 ml is not acceptable. After 30 ml there is no further coffee oil to be dissolved and what remains is acidic, bitter and thoroughly unpleasant. This is definitely not coffee. Note that 30 ml from a double shot into a single cup is effectively two 15 ml ristoretto’s in a single cup – simply the very best that can be provided.

Frothing the Milk

Milk that is frothed correctly looks great, adds to the flavour by toning down some of the natural acidity of the bean and creates a wonderful texture in the mouth. With the milk you aim to avoid two things. The first is not to scald the milk and the second is to avoid large air bubbles in the jug. Both are easily avoided with a little practice.

Take a half-filled stainless steel jug of cold milk, introduce the steam wand to the centre of the milk jug and turn on the steam. Withdraw the jug until the tip of the wand is just below the surface of the milk at which point you will hear a sucking sound. This is the best position since with the wand further in, the milk heats before it froths and further out you blow bubbles. You will need to keep pulling the jug down in tiny steps to keep the wand in the right place as the milk expands. This is called stretching the milk and will only occur at lower temperatures – roughly below 35 degrees. You must stretch the milk before you heat it. Once heated, milk will scald before it stretches. Shut the steam off, remove the jug, wipe the wand and bang the jug a couple of time on the bench top to remove the larger bubbles.

KUSH Barista Tips - how to make the best frothed milkNow make your coffee and pour in the milk. You do not need a thermometer in the jug to measure the temperature – use the touch method. Hold the jug by the handle using the hand you write with and place the fingers of your spare hand on the jug bottom away from the steam nozzle. When it gets too hot to hold, count three and remove it from the steam. Is the temperature right? Make yourself a coffee using the milk just frothed. If it is too cold simply increase your count until you get the temperature correct. There is no need to burn your fingers.