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Newbie Introduction to Espresso

The "Newbie Introduction to Espresso" series of videos was created specifically for those new to making espresso at home. In addition to watching these videos, I strongly urge newbies to spend an evening with the site's Recommended Reading outlined in the FAQs and Favorites Digest. These resources address practically every problem and every question you'll encounter in the first three months as a home barista.

Below are the discussion threads associated with these videos:

* Taste Appreciation
* Barista Mechanics
* Grinders
* Taste Diagnosis
* Latte Art
* Consistency
* Buying Advice
* Heat Exchanger vs. Double Boiler Espresso Machines
* Lever Espresso Machines

There are more videos available in the FAQs and Favorites under Instructional Videos.

  • I spent the morning introducing espresso to a friend who's a regular coffee drinker, but limits himself to espresso with milk and sugar. The video below is his discovery of good espresso through a progression from latte to macchiato to straight espresso. I hope you'll find his observations and my commentary helpful in your attempts to convince others that coffee doesn't need to be "tamed" by loads of milk and sugar.
  • Following Newbie Introduction to Espresso - Taste Appreciation, Phillip and I reviewed the basic mechanics of making espresso at home. One of the goals of this "newbie introduction" series is demystification of espresso, that is, the message I hope to convey: It just isn't that hard. The methods presented in this video emphasizes consistency over speed; the Newbie Introduction to Espresso - Bottomless Portafilter video later in the series demonstrates more efficient techniques familiar to more experienced baristas.
  • This is the third installment of the series. Phillip returns for another lesson after a few weeks practicing at home without any additional instructions beyond those we covered in the first two videos. Dan first covers the differences between a range of grinders (Baratza Preciso, Mazzer Super Jolly, Compak K10 WBC), then presents a method for dialing in the grind setting on any grinder with minimal waste.
  • This is the fourth installment of the series. Phillip returns for another lesson, this time on problem diagnosis by taste. Dan and Phillip discuss various taste defects and their causes. To end the session, Phillip is challenged to guess what Dan changed in a side-by-side taste test of two espressos, one ideal and another not-so-ideal.
    For reference, below are the two articles I mentioned during the video:

    * Home Barista's Guide to Espresso
    * How to Adjust Dose and Grind Setting by Taste

    Although I consider these must-read references, I specifically refer to the pages entitled Better extraction, better espresso and Diagnosis of extraction problems.
  • In the fifth installment of the Newbie Introduction to Espresso series, four-time SERBC barista champ Lem Butler instructs Dan and Phillip on the finer points of latte art. In addition to offering a full step-by-step tutorial on properly steaming and pour milk, Lem attempts to correct some of Dan's latte art foibles. Before wrapping up the session, Phillip applies what he's learned to pour his best latte art heart.
    Bonus features from the original latte art session with extra tips and outtakes:
  • In the sixth installment of the series, Phillip and Dan discuss the key contributor to making exceptional espresso as home: Consistency. In Part I, Dan recommends steps the barista should master to assure consistent performance from the espresso machine and grinder. He also demonstrates an easy, fast technique for dosing. In Part II, Dan and Phillip look closely at how a bottomless portafilter can help diagnose problems and thereby increase consistency.

    Part I - Consistency:
    Part II - Bottomless Portafilter:
  • In the final (?) installment of this series, Dan and Phillip discuss the capabilities, capacity, and consistency of the difference classes of espresso equipment. He also covers some of the points raised in the question and answers format of the site's How to choose an espresso machine and grinder at the "right" price recommendations. Finally, with six months of experience as a home barista (and he's really no longer a "newbie"), Phillip shares his decision process and offers his own advice for buyers in similar circumstances.
  • The previous video on buying advice discussed double boiler espresso machines, but largely skipped over heat exchangers (HX). As part of their buying decision, a shopper is confronted with lots of choices, but frequently doesn't know how these two types of espresso machines differ. This video explains how HX espresso machines work and how its design affects the barista's routine. The video ends with a side-by-side taste test.
    To see the original HX hydraulics diagram by Eric Svendson and Lino Verna that I used in the video, click here. If you're interested in the E61 thermometer adapter I mentioned in the video, please contact Eric directly via e-mail or PM.
  • When the first Newbie Introduction to Espresso video began, Phillip had no hands-on experience with espresso equipment. It's been almost two years since we started this series! To wrap up it up, this video introduces him to lever espresso machines, specifically the Elektra Microcasa a Leva.

Background information