Here’s a little something to aid your new found ‘flat white’ connoisseur status – pronunciation, the antipodean way!!!
AUS. flaat whyette NZ. flet wyte
PART 1 – PERFECT ESPRESSO CREMA
‘Crema’ is INCREDIBLY important as it is the ESSENCE of good espresso. Crema consists of caramelized coffee sugars and coffee proteins. It will be formed only when you brew your coffee at the right pressure and right temperature using good quality beans. There will be a fair amount of trial & error in your quest for the perfect espresso. My advice is to NOT be afraid to change things up – you may need to vary your beans, the way you grind & the pressure you apply when tamping. Only practice will make perfect.
The beans – select wisely!
The best espresso roasts use primarily Arabica beans. Some Robusta beans are included in the blend because of their ability to provide a full-bodied taste & to generate crema. I should point out, not all espresso beans will produce crema, so if you buy your beans from a good source, be sure to ask their advice on the crema producing qualities.
Grinding the beans – trial & error!
The aim is to NOT allow the water to pass through too quickly, but at the same time, not make the grind so fine that your machine won’t be able to force the water through without straining. Two ways of achieving this – 1/. the fineness of the (bean) grind. 2/. the tamping of the beans in the filter.
The flow of the coffee when being extracted should be steady and even, from both apertures in the filter. If the beans are ground too coarsely, the flow will be too fast, ergo, zero crema. Likewise too finely ground & the flow will be too slow or very little flow causing the pump to strain. Adjust your grinder setting until you achieve the correct flow and perfect crema production.
Tamping – practice, practice, practice!
This is the process of pressing down on the ground coffee in the filter. This action is done with a tool called a ‘tamper’. The tamper should fit snuggly into the filter. You must ‘tamp’ with even pressure (approx 30lbs). The aim is to achieve an even and consistent flow of the water through the coffee. If the coffee is pressed unevenly, the water will find its way through gaps in the coffee, resulting in a fast flow & without good extraction. Your tamping must be exact, without this you will NOT produce good crema.
Brewing temperature, pressure & extraction – don’t blow a gasket!
The temperature of the water has to be hot enough to caramelize the sugars in the coffee to produce the crema. The optimal temperature range is around 92 to 96 degrees Celsius. For effective brewing, you will need pressure of at least 130 psi to get a good crema. To achieve good crema, for a double shot, extract 2 to 2.5 ounces of coffee into your (warmed) cup in 20 to 30 seconds from the moment you turn on the pump. A single shot should still take 20 to 30 seconds, but now you will want 1 to 1.5 ounces of coffee in your (warmed) cup. You are looking for a silky, reddish, brown syrup as shown in the picture.
Tip for buying a good domestic machine : The best machines use a metal for the boiler that has good heat retention, such as brass. Also, many machines offer separate boilers for coffee brewing and steam generation. This is because the water used for steaming has to be heated to a higher temperature than is the optimal temperature range for brewing the coffee. The machine must operate with at least 130 psi of pressure (or minimum 16 bars of pressure) without this you will not get good crema.
Now you know how to make the PERFECT espresso or short black. Stay with me (part 2) to discover the matrimony of the espresso & the milky masterpiece, culminating in a PERFECT FLAT WHITE.