The best Espresso Coffee. What it is and
what you need to make it.

When it comes to the best Espresso Coffee, there are 2 (highly debated) schools of thought in Italy. Many say the best Espresso coffee can only be found in bars and restaurants, while the other, more traditional school, says you must make it on a stove at home in a pot you’ve had for 20 years.

Who’s right? Both and neither. They’re two very different ways of making the same thing – even the final product is slightly different.

One thing both agree on though, no authentic Italian meal would be complete without a shot of espresso to finish it off.

So how’s it actually made?

Well, the principles are the same for both methods – you push boiling water through freshly ground coffee under high pressure – it’s just that the tools change.

The Moka Pot is a stove top machine that comes in various sizes (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12 and 18 cups).

You fill the base (up to the valve) with water, put the metal filter in and fill that up with ground coffee then you heat it on a low to medium flame (a high flame burns the coffee) until you start to hear a very satisfying bubbling noise. That’s it! Is this the best Espresso coffee? It’s wonderful, great after a meal at home and all the flavor of real coffee.

The commercial machine is a little different. The body of the machine is always full of water, which is kept (under pressure) at a temperature just below boiling. When the coffee is made, the ‘Barista’ fills the metal filter with coffee, attaches it to the machine (making sure it’s tight) pushes a button (or pulls a lever) and hey presto… espresso! Many think this is the best espresso coffee and if you’re after a quick shot during a long day, I tend to agree with them.

It really is all a matter of preference…

So, the only real difference is time – a bar espresso is more or less instant and you have to wait 5-10 minutes for the one you make at home?

Not so, they both produce very different results. The coffee at the bar is of a thicker consistency and has a lovely gold colored ‘Crema’ on the surface (add sugar, if it stays on top of the cream and doesn’t sink, you’ve got the best Espresso coffee) whereas the one you make at home, is a little thinner but has a wonderful full coffee aroma.

Tip: if you’re having guests around, make a sugar and coffee mix (two shots of Espresso plus enough sugar to make it thick) and serve your own ‘Crema’ (like they do in Naples) instead of sugar.

Espresso in the 21st Century

Nowadays, it’s not so much a case of which way’s best, because you can have either (or both) at home.

The domestic Espresso Coffee Machine has come a long way in the last decade. From something that looked similar to a coffee machine you’d find in a bar (but, in essence, made the same kind of Espresso as your Moka) to something that’s really up to the job.

People slaved over their machines for hours trying to find just the right amount of coffee, or pressure, or temperature, to make a creamy Espresso – but to no avail – every now and then there would be cream, but usually it came about more by luck than by judgement.

Not so today. For traditionalists, there’s Lavazza Coffee who claim to supply 19 out of the 20 million coffee drinking households in Italy (which wouldn’t surprise me). Originally they produced various qualities of (extremely good) ground coffee.

Now they produce a great little Espresso Coffee Machine called A Modo Mio (My way) which uses coffee pods and makes a more-or-less perfect bar coffee.

Then there’s Nespresso – “Boo! No!!! it’s not Italian!” I hear you cry – you’re right, it’s not Italian, but the research and development Nestlè has put into perfecting the home Espresso is overwhelming. They even entered a market – the Italian one – which should have turned its nose up, but it didn’t.

Nespresso has been extremely well received in Italy and as one who has drunk many different Espresso’s, it’s very, very good – there are also 16 different types of Coffee Pods (called ‘Capsules’ in actual fact) you can choose from.

For design lovers Illy’s the brand for you!

It’s one of the most expensive ground coffee brands on the market (mainly due to its sexy, aluminum packaging) but again, it’s worth the price.

This Italian company, prides itself on the design of its products – the domestic coffee machine has a retro look to it – but there’s nothing retro to the technology. Form and function perfectly matched.

One of the greatest things about Illy are its Espresso Cups.

Each year, the company invites well-known designers and artists, to design cups for them – they really are beautiful – many of which have already become collector’s pieces.

So, which one’s the best Espresso coffee for you? That’s a question only you can answer, it’s a highly personal choice. But just remember the next time you’re passing Starbucks, their whole business was built on one drop of coffee… the Espresso!