Do espresso machines make cappuccino as well?
Yes, espresso is the basic ingredient of cappuccino, just add steamed and frothed milk. A frothing pitcher is essential for this.
I love espresso, but don't drink it that often. Do I need to buy the more expensive unit?
It's a matter of taste. A steam driven machine can produce a perfectly fine cup of espresso. Those who take their espresso and cappuccino more seriously may want to splurge for the pump driven machine. Or, if you entertain, the pump will be the better choice so your guests don't have to wait for their cup.
What does "tamping" the espresso mean?
Tamping is the act of pressing and compacting a bed of loose, finely ground espresso in preparation for brewing. Different machines require different tamping methods. Steam powered espresso requires a leveling tamp, whereas a piston lever, a spring lever and pump-driven machines requires a more compacting action. Some machines require a heavy tamping action (using 25 or more pounds of pressure) while others require a lighter tamping action (less than 15 pounds of pressure). On some machines you'll have to tamp the espresso yourself.
Do I really need a frothing pitcher?
If you are planning on making cappuccino, then yes. Place it in the freezer before using and use cold milk. This makes for the best froth, as does using skim or low fat milk. You can also steam soy milk; however, frothing soy milk does not always achieve the same frothed texture as regular milk. Plus, having a frothing pitcher wastes less because you can store unused frothed or steamed milk in the refrigerator after you are finished preparing that nice cappuccino.
What is a steam wand and how does it work?
A steam wand is a visible, external pipe found on most espresso machines that is used to froth and steam milk as well as heat espresso cups. The steam wand is controlled by a steam knob that opens and closes the steam valve inside the machine. On some machines, this steam wand may also provide hot water. Some machines may also enable you to heat water with this steam wand.
Do I need to purchase those little demitasse cups?
You certainly need a few if you're purchasing a pump machine. With no carafe included, you'll be brewing right into the cups (and your coffee mug probably won't fit under the machine). Plus, one shot of espresso fits perfectly into a demitasse cup.
How do I make cappuccino and other drinks?
CAPPUCCINO: The ratio is 1/3 espresso (about one shot), 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 frothed milk. If you like your espresso strong, make it a double shot.
CAFE CREME: An espresso-type beverage brewed at a similar manner to normal espresso. However, where espresso is brewed at a pace delivering roughly 1.5 ounces over 25 seconds, (or three ounces for a double in 25 seconds), cafe creme is brewed at a faster pace-as much as 5 ounces or more in 25 to 30 seconds. This is achieved by altering the grind of the coffee to allow for more flow through in the cup. Under no load, a properly running pump driven espresso machine should deliver between 2.5 to 3.5 ounces every 10 seconds. By altering the coarseness of your grind, you alter the flow rate of your brewed beverage.
CAFFE LATTE: (aka latte) A beverage that is based on espresso (or moka coffee) combined with steamed milk. The ratio of both is up to you depending on how many shots of espresso you choose to begin with. Fill the rest of your mug with steamed milk. Unlike a cappuccino, there is only a dollop of foam spooned out and laid across the top of a latte. Keep this in mind when you're steaming your milk!
CAFFE MOCHA: (aka mocha) Is a beverage that mixes chocolate syrup or powder with espresso and then is later combined with steamed milk for a decadent espresso drink. Before you make your espresso, pour 2-3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup or powder into the bottom of your mug. Make one shot of espresso and then mix this into the chocolate powder or syrup. The hot espresso will melt and mix well with the chocolate powder or syrup. Steam your milk and pour it into your chocolate espresso concoction. For best results, never use chocolate milk to steam with, as the sugars will crystallize and stick to the wand.
CAFFE AMERICANO: A fancy name for a simple drink. This beverage is made by making one shot of espresso and mixing it with boiling water. This dilutes the espresso, and should taste less bitter than drinking a shot by itself.
RISTRETTO: Literally, this means a "restricted" shot. Most double espresso shots are 2.5 to 3 ounces using 14 or more grams of grinds. A ristretto uses the same volume (or dose) of grinds, but the operator pours only about 1.5 ounces (or less) of espresso within the normal brewing time of 25 to 30 seconds. A ristretto is a richer beverage in terms of intensity, but it is also much harder to brew properly. There is a fine balance you need to find between stalling the espresso machine and making a perfect ristretto.