The 4 M’s of Espresso

Is it organic? Fair trade? Does the milk come from grass-fed cows? Is this flavoring all-natural? Can you make it soy with whip? These are the typical questions that many coffee lovers toss at their baristas during their daily coffee ritual. However, there is a more fundamental yet precise method behind the drink construction that most people just do not realize. The process is made up of four individual aspects that make up the bigger picture: miscela, macinacaffe, macchina, and mano.

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Miscela, or mixture, is the process of determining the best blend for espresso. So many people believe that espresso must be dark roasted (nearly burnt) to be good espresso. However, some of the best espresso blends are comprised of medium roasted coffee beans. There are even some espressos that contain light roasted beans. To create a great espresso blend one must first begin with freshly roasted coffee beans. The longer that beans sit before the blending process, the more of the unique flavor characteristics are lost. Fresh is always best. Attention to detail during the blend assembly is one of the more important aspects of espresso blending. Deciding on bean origins and roast profile can take trial and error until just the right combinations line up. A masterpiece takes time. Don’t rush the process.

The next part of the espresso creation process is the milling process, or macinacaffe. The coffee beans must be ground to just the right size before the liquid espresso can be extracted. To produce the optimal grind size a commercial burr grinder is the best piece of equipment to use. While a hand grinder will work in a pinch, a burr grinder can ensure that all the grind particles are the correct and same size. As with the blending process, the grinding process also takes some patience and experimentation. If the grind is too tight the extraction process will take too long, resulting in a bitter shot. Contrastingly, if the grind is too coarse the espresso extraction will be too weak. The daily atmospheric pressure, humidity, and temperature all affect the particle grind size that espresso blend coffee beans must adhere to. It’s a science that requires careful precision, knowledge, and the desire to create only the best with every grind.

The process of yielding the best possible espresso extraction via a machine is referred to as macchina. To extract a perfect shot of espresso one must use a machine that observes a certain design and standard. Specifically, an espresso machine needs to be able to properly heat the water to an exact temperature, as programmed by the operator, and thereby send it forcefully through the group head containing the finely ground coffee while achieving a stable pressure and temperature.

The final part of the espresso creation process is called mano, also known as the manual skills of which the barista owns. Sadly, not everyone have the skills to be a barista. First, one must have a passion for coffee, in addition to actually partaking of the savory beverage – shockingly, there are baristas who can’t stand drinking coffee. A barista must also be knowledgeable about the entire drink construction process. By taking the passion and combining it with patience and practice, a barista can extract a perfect espresso shot, steam the milk properly to yield a satiny microfoam, and in many cases create a masterpiece in the foam that tops the drink.

By Copper Canyon
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