How to Make Espresso | Food Photography

Happy New Year!

There’s no better way to kick off the day than with a tasty double shot, so I figured I’d do something out-of-the-ordinary and post a photographic recipe about how to make a good espresso. I used to think this stuff was repulsive, but my mind quickly changed when I discovered the true black gold. I learned about the sweet taste and the berry flavor and the fact that a good espresso tastes like candy. Bad espresso tastes bitter and sour and harsh and is really just disgusting.

Ever since, I’ve been searching for a good shot in the USA, and have found exactly one place that does it right: Loaded Joes, in Avon, CO. I’m sure there are many more great baristas in the woodwork of Colorado, so if you know where they’re hiding, leave a comment and tell me!

Anyway, first thing first: rinse your portafilter. You don’t want to have any old coffee oils and residue in there. Also, let your machine heat up completely (don’t be impatient!), and run a quick blast through it to clear out any leftover gunk.

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The next step is to make sure you have your grind dialed in. Different beans produce a different grind, and it usually takes me a couple shots before I can find my desired grind setting for my bean. We have our Rancillio Rocky hovering between 4 and 7 on the grind-o-meter scale. Ultimately you want a grind that, when tamped properly and espressed for 25 seconds, gives you a solid double shot with your double basket. You will probably make a mess on your counter, as we do. We’re still trying to figure out a way to keep the coffee station clean.

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If you’re a Euro pro, you can flatten off the grinds with your fingers, but it’s not advised. Best to use a knife and slice off all the extra so it’s all flat with the top of the basket.

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If you are making a single shot in the Rancillio Silvia machine, we’ve discovered that it’s even better if you actually leave a concavity in the surface. You can create this by wiping off the extra coffee grinds with a butter knife instead of a flat edge. For some reason, the basket is not quite deep enough and you’ll too much coffee in the portafilter.

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Tamp, tamp, tamp. This is where the art comes in. Everyone has their own way to do it, but the basics are: 30 pounds of even pressure. If you tamp too tightly, the hot water doesn’t pass through fast enough and you get a ruined shot. If you tamp too lightly, it comes too fast and you don’t get your essential espresso flavor. And if you’re just a brute and don’t do it carefully, you risk cracking the puck of coffee grounds, and the water will slip through the cracks. As a result, the water touches some of the beans for a long time, but doesn’t touch the rest of the grounds. Ruined!

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Assemble the contraption!

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And last but not least, hit the “Go” button, and watch your espresso come out in a a thin stream. Then, sip and enjoy. Mmmmmm!

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It awakens your senses, perks up those taste buds, and just feels good. Yum!

How to Make Espresso | Food Photography was last modified: December 4th, 2012 by Nathan Welton

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  • Jayt

    Hope the brew was as nice and sharp as your macro lens.

  • http://www.rannveigaamodt.com Rannveig Aamodt

    mmmmm…

  • Amos

    Dude! You are gonna let me have a taste of your black gold. My American taste buds can’t tell the difference between a good brew and a poor one. Have you messed around with an Aeropress? Might be handy for when you are on the road. I can make a pretty tasty americano with one.

  • http://www.mattwarrell.com Matt @ macro photography

    Wow you really have a way with tonal ranges in black and white! Plus I love coffee so you get bonus points!