One Machine, Countless Possibilities.
A lot of people know about espresso and cappuccino, but there is so much more you can do with your good buddy, the espresso machine. There are so many possibilities that you could probably have a different drink before work or after dinner every day of the week. That’s a sizeable variety.
I’m pretty set on my favorites, but every now and then I mix it up and try something new. No coffee drink is particularly difficult to make once you have the basics of making espresso down to a science. If you can get that in order, you can make just about anything.
Obviously, if you’re buying an espresso machine, you want to make espresso. That sounds pretty simple, but it’s not exactly what a lot of people think. Espresso is made with much less water than “regular” coffee, so it’s very concentrated.
It’s often the darkest roast, which would be stronger than any coffee you’re used to drinking, and it has plenty of flavor, but not a lot of volume for tasting. It also has a LOT of caffeine, so if you’re caffeine sensitive, you’re going to want a lot of milk in yours.
The theory here is that Americans prefer weaker coffee than our European counterparts do. I don’t know how much truth there is to that, but the Americano is basically taking a shot of espresso and matching it with equal parts water.
It does dilute the espresso some, but it leaves a little bit of space for milk or cream if you just want to lighten it up some.
One of the most famous coffee drinks in existence is also the swankiest sounding. While it is delicious, it isn’t as complicated as it would seem. In fact, the biggest difference between coffee drinks is how the same parts get layered.
For cappuccino,the espresso goes in first. Then, the milk gets steamed. If you’re using an old fashioned, non-automated frother, it’s not just a matter of letting the steamer do the work. In fact, even with a lot of semi automated and fully automated machines, you have to learn how to work the wand to get real cappuccino foam.
Here’s how I learned to do it: first off, you don’t need a lot of milk. You probably actually need less than half of the milk you would need for a latte of the same size. Once the milk is in the frothing container, you just place it under the frothing wand, turn it on, and keep the steam head just below the surface of the milk. That gets just the right amount of heat into the milk to build a really good foam on top and you can just layer it on using a spoon once it’s done building. Boom. Cappuccino. That was simple.
A latte is basically a cappuccino in reverse, but it doesn’t take as much work.
Start with making your espresso. While that’s happening, froth up the milk. A lot of times you can just leave the steam wand in the milk and let it build. When the espresso and milk are both ready, you start the drink with the milk and pour the espresso in from the center of the drink at the top.
There is a lot more liquid in a latte then in a cappuccino, which is why you can get lattes with different flavors. You can also get different flavored cappuccinos, but there isn’t a lot of milk to stir the flavoring into, so it doesn’t taste the same.
If you’ve ever been to one of the larger coffee chains, you probably think you know what a macchiato is. Unfortunately, what those chains call a macchiato is nothing like what an actual macchiato is. It’s actually a really simple drink without a whole lot of volume, but it’s still delicious and really strong.
You start with a shot or two of espresso, steam up a small amount of milk, and spoon a small drop of the milk on top of the drink. That’s it. I know it’s nothing like the macchiato you’re used to, but that’s the proper way to make it.
If you’re an espresso lover, a ristretto is like an espresso plus. If you think espresso is too strong, then you will want to stay far away from this.
Ristretto uses half the amount of water as espresso with the same amount of grounds, and it turns out twice as strong. You can then use it to make a bunch of other drinks, but they, like their predecessor, will be super, super strong. But, you know, delicious if you love espresso.
If the word “lungo” makes you think of long, you’re on the right track. It’s supposed to mean a long coffee shot.
Basically, you start with espresso, and then put a slightly “longer” amount of water in it so it’s more diluted. It’s still very strong, though, and doesn’t equate to as much as a regular cup of coffee.
It’s different from an Americano in that the additional water is used in the brewing, rather than added to the brewed espresso. It usually has a darker taste than an Americano, and it’s probably stronger because of the difference in the amount of water used in an Americano, depending on who is making it.
So Many Drinks. Get Brewing
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making espresso drinks. You can expound on these basics by trying all kinds of different syrups that are made just for coffee drinks so you can create almost any flavor you could want. Sweeten it up or cool it down with a giant variety of flavor options. Once you decide what you want, you can get to drinking!