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I have just purchased an expensive espresso coffee machine (American) but the taste isn't nice and strong as I expected. Does it depend on the coffee beans? What characteristics should I look for (in the coffee or in the preparation)?

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Most coffee shops will sell you espresso beans by the pound (and grind them too, if you like). –  sourd'oh Feb 20 at 16:39
    
Sorry, but recommendations for "What brand of X should I buy" are off topic on our site. –  rumtscho Feb 20 at 17:35
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It would help if you explained exactly how you are currently using the machine. What kind of beans do you currently use? How old are they? How do you store them? Are they pre-ground? How finely are they ground? What type of machine is it: steam-, pump-, or piston-driven? Is the machine a super-automatic (i.e., it tamps the grounds for you)? Are you getting a proper crema? –  ESultanik Feb 20 at 18:00
    
The edits are useful but those questions have already been asked. I can't really even point to a specific question, because various aspects are covered by the entire [espresso] tag. –  Aaronut Feb 20 at 18:20
    
@tsturzl comments are not intended for skirting around the fact that you can't post answers to closed questions. –  rumtscho Feb 21 at 12:57

2 Answers 2

You do not tell us too much about your equipment, so I guess that you are in the same situation me.

I was in the same situation when I bought my machine. I purchased a Rancillio Silvia, without a grinder. I blamed it on the coffee at first, but it turned out that all the pre ground espresso coffee I was buying in shops was simply not made for such a machine. I was so lucky that I got to grind the my beans at a local coffee shop, using the same find grind as they did in their machines. Only then I got the crema and punch that I wanted from my espresso.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Do your espresso come out too thin?
  • Extraction time less than approx. 25 seconds for a double espresso?

It didn't take me a long time to understand that I needed a own grinder to get exactly the espresso I wanted.

If your grind is just a little too coarse it is possible to counter this by increasing the tamper pressure. But from what you explain you need more than this.

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I don't know what kind of coffee you use, but I think that any coffee powder specifically made for espresso should be fine, at least to start with. But, bear in mind that the coffee quality is not the only factor that makes the good espresso, it counts a lot, but there are many other aspects to take into account.

  1. Blending. Don't buy coffee beans and blend them by yourself, unless you have a good coffee beans blender, because you risk to not blend to the correct size, not uniform, and also to burn the cofee.
  2. Freshness matters. Always buy coffee roasted not more than three weeks before.
  3. Water. Use purified water, without minerals or poisoning elements. The ideal temperature is 90°C
  4. Quantity. Use about 7 grams of blended coffee beans. Put some pressure to guarantee proper water flow.
  5. Turn on the espresso machine. first drop should fall in 5-10 seconds, and the flow should go on for 20-25 seconds to reach a total of 25 ml (cream included) coffee.
  6. Serve immediately.
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