The Ins and Outs of Homemade Espresso – Part 1

Espresso As I started writing this article, it became clear that it was going to get long, so this is the first part, and there will be one or two more parts soon to finish the article out.

There is something really nice about being able to wake up in the morning and make espresso without having to leave the house. I mean, if you’re awake enough to drive, do you even need any espresso in the first place? Ha!

I made the investment in an espresso machine in 2007 and it was a great choice. It can get a little fussy at times, but who wants to get in a car and drive halfway across to town for an ounce of coffee that they will drink in 10 seconds? Unacceptable!

The main argument against making espresso at home is the upfront expense. It’s probably not as expensive as you think, and if you do some basic maintenance on your equipment once in a while, the appliances will last a long time and the economics start to make sense.

You can buy a basic espresso machine for $150-$200 shipped, a good tamper for $30 and a good manual grinder for $35. You’re looking at $215-$265 for an entry level espresso setup. For the ease of math’s sake, let’s say you spend $240 altogether on your equipment.

Now let’s say you’re buying high-end, artisanal fresh roasted beans at $15/pound. A pound of coffee is 450 grams. I use 18g for a double shot of espresso at home, so that’s 25 servings from a pound of coffee. That comes to sixty cents in coffee every time you run your machine. Assuming a good espresso costs an average of $3 at a good coffee shop, you’re saving $2.40 every time you make it at home instead of going out for espresso. Let’s say you’re like me and you fire up your espresso machine four times a week, you’d have your equipment paid off in 6 months. Now, I’m cheap, so I would never buy espresso 4x/week at that kind of price, although I might if I lived walking distance from a good shop or my commute or workplace brought me close to a good place.

That being said, I’ve owned all my equipment for seven years, so I’ve definitely come out ahead. I know a LOT of people who are everyday *$ drinkers, and I’m talking about the big, sugar and milk-filled drinks that cost over $4 each, so if you replace five of those suckers a week with a home setup, you’re going to see a return on your investment in a couple months!

But, really, the main reason to make espresso at home is that it gives you the flexibility to make it whenever you want, try lots of espresso blends out (not just the ones you can get from your favorite coffee shops), pull shots exactly the way you like them, pull shots of different coffees back-to-back and taste them like a flight to appreciate all the differences, etc.

It’s the way to go!

If you really, really, REALLY want to understand espresso and you’re an even bigger geek than me, you should read Scott Rao’s The Professional Barista’s Handbook and/or his newer e-book (which I haven’t read because I JUST learned about it), Espresso Extraction: Measurement and Mastery, but that’s probably going a little into insanity for most people who just want to exercise their right to drink espresso without having to wear any pants.

You do need some skills (which are easy to pick up) and some equipment to make espresso. First of all, let’s get this out of the way right away… espresso is espresso. It is a drink made by putting a huge amount of pressure into hot water and forcing it through a compact bed of tiny grounds. As great as the coffee is from Aeropress and Moka pots, they aren’t really espresso and the flavors you get from them are completely different from what an espresso machine will make.