You know that feeling whenever you walk into a coffee shop and you smell the aroma wafting through the air? Well then congratulations you know what love feels like and I think that it’s time that we bring that love home with a fresh espresso made from your Sage Barista Express.
So obviously, you’re going to need an espresso machine if you want to brew espresso. There are many on the market but perhaps the best one for home brewers is the Sage Barista Express.
I know that the Sage Barista Express is a little bit pricey but to me this machine is the perfect beginner machine because it comes with everything you need in one package and it makes pretty damn good espresso (and no I’m not being paid by Sage although I wish I was).
Which coffee beans?
Once you’ve got your machine, make sure that bad boy’s topped up with water and make sure that your portafilter is fitted with the appropriate basket to pull a double shot and of course make sure you’ve got that sweet, sweet coffee.
Now let’s quickly talk about types of beans. Some people don’t know this but you can use any type of roast from any region you want. For coffee choice it’s a misconception that it must be the darkest of the dark if you’re brewing espresso. I’ve found that some of my most favourite espresso pulls were actually with medium roasted beans.
Roasting as well as origin is simply going to affect its flavour profile so just play with some different roasts and see what you like the most. That’s the fun of espresso making.
Weighing your coffee for espresso
The next thing we’re going to talk about is how I would really recommend weighing your coffee for your shots especially when you’re first starting out. I’ve found that for the Sage Barista Express, about 17 to 18 grams of coffee for a double shot has worked pretty consistently for me.
You can either zero out the weight of your portafilter, then grind the coffee and sort of just keep laying it on until it gets to that weight or you can just weigh your beans and then grind all of that under your portafilter. I prefer the latter simply because I don’t like to leave beans in the bean hopper as they tend to go stale pretty quickly and it’s not super airtight and the heat generated from the machine seems to leak into the hopper a little bit which isn’t ideal.
Setting the grind consistency
The next thing we’re going to talk about is grind consistency. This is one of the most important variables. It is one of the key factors on whether your extraction is going to be great or very very sad and depressing. Too coarse and you’re going to get coffee that’s sour and acidic and it doesn’t matter if you have a £4000 La Marzocco – if your grind isn’t right the coffee isn’t going to be right.
The first thing is making sure that you’ve got a good grinder. Grinders can get expensive which is why I like using the two-in-one set up that the Barista Express has. The grinder on it isn’t the best in the world but it’s surprisingly good and if you’re using this machine I like to set my grind to a 4 or a 5 depending on the coffee I’m using for that day. You’re just going to want to play with it to see what’s right for you but this setting is a good starting point.
Tamping the ground coffee
Next we’re going to talk about tamping. Get the weighed coffee in your portafilter group handle. If you weighed your coffee it’s probably piled pretty high so give it a few taps on the counter to get it a little levelled out.
Now, the keep to tamping is that you want to make sure that your tamping is as level and even as possible in pressure and angle you don’t want to get a diagonal slope. So take your tamper (holding it like you would a doorknob) with your elbow pointing straight up in the air and press down in one clean movement. You don’t want to press too hard but you also don’t want to press too soft. There’s a lot of writing about this online and someone described it as a warm hug with gravity.
The main thing is once you’ve got the perfect tamping level then you simply need to just pay attention to consistent pressure every time you do it. You can also twist the tamper and polish the grounds. That’s not a necessity though but again just keep testing and see what tamping pressure works the best for you.
Extracting an Espresso shot with a Sage Barista Express
Okay so we’ve finally made it to the apex of espresso making – the extraction. Now make sure you’re pulling double shots with the weight that I’ve given you. Every machine is going to pull a shot differently depending on how it’s set up to work not to mention all the previous things that we’ve mentioned that are all going to affect the way the shot is pulled especially the grind consistency and tamping.
The Sage Barista Express pulls in volume rather than seconds so that kind of makes things a little different.
So take your portafilter filled with tamped down coffee, attach it to your group head.
Now most people will suggest the timing of your shot to take about 25 to 30 seconds total. For me it’s been consistently around 25 seconds including the five-second pre-infusion in the puck. Also, look at the pressure gauge and make sure that it’s hitting that espresso range.
How to tell if you’ve pulled the shot correctly
That timing is going to ebb and flow based on a lot of factors but the number one thing here is your taste. If the coffee tastes good – without any sourness and isn’t bitter – then you’re doing pretty well. But you do have to keep testing. My advice would be to try and get the shot in that twenty five to thirty second range and play around with the different variables because that’s the whole point of coffee!
Another good way to tell if you’re pulling a good shot is the crema. You should be noticing the stark separation between the sort of dark espresso and the sort of creamy top. That is because espresso is an emulsion just like mayo is with oil and egg yolks.
That creamier part on top is called the crema and it is a result of that emulsification process – it’s important for flavour, texture and for sweet latte art.
So there we have it – we’ve made espresso with the Sage Barista Express in the least finicky way possible with the best end result possible.