Making a nice espresso does not need to have a big expensive machine to do it. All you need is one simple device. A stove-top espresso maker.
These handy things come in many shapes and sizes. Some will even pour the espresso into one or more cups for you. The one I am going to show you is a basic kettle type.
Here I will show you how to use the one I have and review it.
The brand is Bialetti but I am not sure of the model since I no longer have the packaging. This one is big enough for 2 shots of espresso. (My pot has spots all over it from heavy use so it will not be pretty in the pictures.)
It comes in two halves. The bottom half has a safety valve that releases pressure if the pot somehow gets stopped up. This will prevent it from exploding. So far I have never had this happen.The filter fits into the bottom half.
The top half should have a rubber ring inside where the halves screw together. Do not use one without this ring or the pressure will cause extremely hot fluid to shoot out the side of the espresso maker. There is also a removable metal mesh covering the opening where the coffee will come through. This prevents the grounds from traveling with the coffee. The lid is attached to this top portion.
The water gets heated to boiling in the bottom half. The increased pressure from this forces the very hot water through the coffee and up into the top chamber.
You should use finely ground coffee for this maker. You can use coffee ground for espresso making or just use any whole bean coffee and grind it finer than you usually would. I am lazy about this so I use regular ground coffee for drip coffee makers and I like it fine (blasphemy!) Choose the strength of coffee you prefer. Espresso coffee will be strong.
Fill the bottom portion with water to just below the valve. Do not cover this valve.
Place the filter into the bottom part of the pot. The tube should go down into the pot. Next, fill the filter full of ground coffee to the top. Do not pack it down.
The valve in this picture (left) is the round, brass ring on the side of the pot. The water is just below it though it does not show well in the picture.
Now place the pot onto the burner.
For electric stoves: The handles of this pot is plastic and will melt. You need to be sure the handle is not over the burner, even if this means it is not centered. Turn the heat on high.
For gas stoves: Turn the flame up as you normally would to boil water but do not let the flame go up the sides of the pot. The handle will melt and you do not need to cover the pot with fire. 🙂
Stay by the pot! You need to be ready to take it off of the heat. Once it starts to to boil the coffee will finish fast.
When you first hear something going on you can take a quick peak to see if the espresso is pouring into the upper half of the pot. But be careful. If you time this wrong you may get hit with coffee. Peek fast. But you do not need to do this and I recommend not. I just cannot help it. 😉
Once the coffee starts to pour into the top chamber you will hear it. Once air starts sputtering, take it off of the stove immediately. It will still continue to fill for a few seconds so wait until you do not hear noise. Keep the lid on to be sure you do not get hit with any still coming up.
Be careful, the pot and coffee will be hot. Let the espresso maker sit off of the heat for awhile before you take it apart to clean it.
One of my favorite ways to have espresso is to froth some creamer and sugar together ahead of time and then gently pour the espresso into the cup. I like to add a dash of cinnamon on top when I feel the need for comfort food.
I generally like this pot. Once I got the hang of it (does not take long), the espresso comes out very nice and comparable to what you would get in a decent coffee place. I have used it off and on for 6 years and it is still in great shape. I had gotten extra rubber rings for it but so far the original is doing fine. The espresso really does come out fantastic. I have an electric maker and I never use it. It is a pain to use and the coffee was not any better.
My only complaint is the size if I want to serve more than just myself. The plastic handle is a shame and it has melted in a few places. Also the inside looks like it has a few spots that looks like it might be reacting with the drink. But that last part I am not sure of and I still use the thing with no problems.
A friend of mine has a pot that pours into cups rather than into a top chamber. I generally do not like those types of makers but an advantage would be that you can see the coffee coming out and it is removed from the heat right away. No burnt coffee (at least in the cup) if you get distracted. You know it is done. These cost more so I will probably stick to the one I have until it finally falls apart…if it ever does.
Another great way to make coffee is to use a french press. You can regulate how strong your coffee will be with this maker. I review mine at https://virtuallyamy.wordpress.com/2008/09/14/french-press-review/
At Gentlewood Cottage, she has a method for making coffee without a pot. Kind of neat. I have not tried it yet but you might find it neat. (added March 02, 2009)
Have an espresso pot you like? Let us know!