Before we dive into the mechanics, techniques and machine I’m using in my attempt to create the ideal brew, let’s talk about the different types of common espresso-based drinks, cappuccinos and lattes. I used to mix these two up a ton myself!
Cappuccino: one or two shots of espresso combined with with an equal or larger amount of hot milk & milk froth
Latte: one or two shots of espresso combined with an equal or larger amount of hot steamed milk without (or with very little) froth
I recently had the opportunity to test The Café Pro Professional Espresso & Cappuccino Machine by Capresso, which is one of the most highly rated, comprehensive systems for creating consistent, quality espresso and espresso drinks.
When I first received the machine in mail, I couldn’t believe how many parts fit compactly and sensibly into this machine! Here are some of the amazing features that it includes:
- a boiler (this keeps the internal water reserve at the ideal temperature, making for more consistent brewing results)
- two different portafilters (we’ll explain more on this below)
- a frothing wand, including a grip
- a cup warming compartment
- removable grid and drip tray (no more coffee stains on your beautiful countertops!)
- coffee scoop and tamper (the tamper is used with the bottomless portafilter to firmly pack the expresso into the sieve, with the same amount of pressure you would use to remove a tight lid from a jar)
- a easy to use control panel for turning the machine on and off and altering the functions between brewing coffee and steaming/frothing milk
The flexible, frothing wand is a great addition, as it allows you to make creamy cappuccinos and lattes. Cold, fresh, whole milk, as opposed to low-fat or fat-free milk, works best for producing evenly distributed small bubbles called micro foam; but being dairy-free, I prefer to use whole coconut milk. I find that it blends better than almond milk and other non-dairy alternatives. If you are using other non-dairy alternatives, expect steamed milk as opposed to frothed. (The ideal temperature for steamed milk is 140 degrees F – 160 degrees F, which the machine will help you to achieve.) If your full-fat milks aren’t frothing enough, it’s probably because the milk was too warm. Use cold milk (preferably at 34 degrees F) and preferably froth in a cold, stainless steel pitcher.
Use espresso grind coffee
Whenever you’re looking to make the perfect cup of coffee, the quality of the coffee grinds is highly important. I say coffee grinds, as opposed to beans, because this machine works on finely ground espresso. As always, aim for organic if possible. Ground coffee should be finer than sugar, though not powdered. Be wary of grounds that are too coarse, as they will likely produce a lighter, less potent brew.
Brew into a pre-warmed cup
Though I love the warming platform that accompanies the machine, I like to rinse my cup under hot water before brewing. The key to a good espresso is temperature! I'm in love with these little iron-made espresso cups and saucers. If you're feeling really creative, you can hang them on a beautiful mug tree, like this one made of reclaimed mangosteen tree trunks from Thailand.
Purge the frothing wand
Purging the frothing wand ensures its cleanliness and its optimal performance. Be prudent in following all of the cleaning and decalcifying instructions accompanying the machine to ensure the best brew possible. I’m terrible at reading directions, but I promise you, they make it quite simple.
Choose the right portafilter for you
The machine comes with a double spout portafilter with a 2-cup sieve, as well as a bottomless portafilter with a 1-cup bottomless sieve. The former is what I use, as I am not yet a brewing master, and I like to create two espressos simultaneously. The latter is suggested for baristas or advanced espresso brewers looking to perfect their technique. The bottomless portafilter requires the maker to adjust the grind size and other components, and enables he/she to diagnose errors that can improve his/her technique as well as the taste of the coffee. When used properly, it will produce a hotter brew with richer crema.
Always use clean, cold water
Just as you should drink spring water or filtered water, you should also use it to brew your espresso. Don’t just turn on the sink and fill up the water tank if you don’t have good quality or filtered water on tap! There’s reason beyond your health for this one: using good quality water will slow down calcium build up within the machine, which requires cleaning after about 100-200 uses of the product. You will want to use a natural decalcifying agent for this. Although vinegar is a great, natural cleaning agent, don’t use it to clean these machine parts, as it can affect the machine parts adversely (like shortening the brew head’s seal life.)
What machine, if any, do you guys use to make espresso? Or do you prefer to brew drip coffee? Either way, I want to hear from you with the product(s) you're loving! Let me know in the comments below & I'll see if I can get you special discounts in the future!