How To Make A World Class Espresso For Less Than $300, With 1 Square Foot of Counter Space, and No Electricity

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I wanted a La Marzocco espresso machine, or at the very least, a Breville BES900XL. Problem was (and still is), I have neither the cash, space, nor electrical capacity to accomodate such espresso machines in my kitchen.

But I wanted real espresso, really bad. So I figured there had to be a solution out there.

I think I finally found it…and I’m writing this post to show you exactly how I achieved a near perfect espresso for under $300, with 1 square foot of counter space, and no electricity whatsoever (ok I lied, I used an electric kettle…but you don’t have to).

The Materials

Espresso Materials

Here’s what I use to make top-notch espresso:

  1. Hario Slim Ceramic Burr Handmill Grinder (the grinder)
  2. Mypressi Twist (the espresso maker)
  3. EatSmart Gram Scale (gram scale) – not in the picture, doh!
  4. Espro calibrated tamper (the tamper) – optional
  5. Bonavita Variable Temperature Kettle (the kettle) – optional

That’s it! The reason I have the tamper and kettle listed as “optional” is because you don’t need these exact tools to get a world class espresso. This isn’t to say that you don’t need boiling water or a tamper, because you do. But the Mypressi comes with a decent plastic tamper that will get the job done, and most people have the means to boil a little bit of water.

The Process

Now, I never said this would be an easy process. If you are looking for easy, get out of here! Just kidding. But really, good espresso is very, very difficult. If you are on a budget and/or limited with space, but still want the best espresso possible, keep reading.

Step 1: Choose the right coffee

Those whole beans you buy from Starbucks or Peet’s probably won’t work here. What we are looking for is either a single origin coffee or espresso blend, arabica beans, generally roasted on the lighter side. Coffees I’ve used in this process have been Friendo Blendo espresso blend from Four Barrel, Rwanda Huye Mountain from Stumptown, and Ethiopia Yirgacheffe YCFCU Peaberry from Blue Bottle.

Assuming that you won’t be grinding a whole pound (or half pound) of coffee in one day, you will want a good place to store your precious beans. I use the Airscape (pictured below).

Planetary Airscape

Step 2: Weigh out your beans

The Mypressi uses a double filter basket. This means that you should weigh out about 18-22 grams into your Hario grinder. I use the EatSmart gram scale, but I know there are better ones out there that will show you a couple more decimal points.

EatSmart Gram ScaleGram Scale tared with Grinder18 Grams of Coffee

 

I used 18 grams of the Friendo Blendo with this shot. I recommend keeping your dose consistent as you try and dial in on the correct grind, which is your most important variable here.

Step 3: Grind your coffee with the Hario Slim Ceramic Burr Grinder

Now, a manual grinder isn’t the most ideal grinder for espresso purposes, but if you don’t want to rely on electricity this definitely gets the job done. What you need to know about the Hario grinder is that dialing it in can be a real pain, especially when you spend a lot of time grinding the coffee.

What I’ve found is that the 5th-6th notch to the left of the finest setting tends to work well. What you are looking for is an extraction time that takes about 26-30 seconds and produces about 35 grams of espresso.

Hario Grinder Notch

 

If you’d like to see the Hario Grinder in action, or read the review I’ve already written on it, go here.

Step 4: “Dose” and distribute the ground coffee  into the filter basket

This is the part I truly suck at. I know it’s an important step too. Here’s how I’ve been doing it…would love some feedback and scolding in the comments below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOySedTwKGc

Step 5: Tamp the coffee evenly with 30 lbs of pressure

Espro Calibrated Tamper

This is why I love the Espro so much. It clicks as soon as you’ve applied 30 lbs of pressure on the ground coffee. 30 lbs seems to be the standard, but more importantly is the fact that the Espro gives you consistency when it comes to tamping, allowing you to practically eliminate tamping as a variable in your espresso-making technique.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VAZH_RDBXQ

Step 6: Pre-heat the Mypressi Twist…twice

We’re almost there! From here on out it’s pretty easy and there is very little technique involved.

First, boil your water using a tea kettle of any sort. Once the water boils, pour it into your Mypressi and wait 20 seconds. You should also pre-heat your espresso cup or glass by filling it halfway with boiling water.

After 20 seconds, pour the water out of the Mypressi, and then add a second round of boiling water. Finally, place your filter basket in the portafilter, twist the water bowl onto the handle of the Mypressi, and pour a third and final round of boiling water into the hole.

Pour out the hot water from your espresso cup.

Step 7: Place your cup on the gram scale and tare it

Pretty self explanatory, no?

Tared Espresso Cup

 Step 8: Pull your shot of espresso

I like to use the bottomless portafilter so I can determine if I have the right grind, tamp, etc. The way the espresso looks when it comes out of the Mypressi will tell you a lot about the way the shot tastes. Again, you should be aiming for about 35 grams of espresso in 26-30 seconds.

In the video below you will see me pulling a decent shot with the Mypressi Twist. Sorry for the poor camera work.

Step 9: Smell, taste, enjoy

With some practice, you should have a world class espresso that is better than most of what you would find at a coffee shop. The results are also comparable to those of a far more expensive espresso machine.

Good luck…and please share your comments and questions below!

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