How to make the perfect espresso at home

If you know me well, you know how much I love my espresso. It is difficult for me to finish a meal in a restaurant without a short espresso to round off the meal.

However, I have always struggled to make a good espresso at home. For years I have been using one of the stove-top espresso machines, which while it makes great espresso, it simply does not create the lovely crema (the creamly texture on the top) that a real espresso has.

So, I have both good and bad news. The good news is that you can make a good espresso at home. The bad news is that you need a proper machine to do so (and not a cheap machine from Makro or Wallmart).

The machine that I used is a Mitaca Cappucinatore, made by Illy. Illy are one of the 2 major brands if Itallian expresso coffee (the other is Lavazza). Both companies make similar machines, and they operate on a similar process.

Starting with the end result, below is what you are going to drink, a short cup of espresso – note the crema on the top.

Single espresso.

Here is the machine that does all the work. You need both quality coffee and pressure to extract the oils from the coffee. This machine with its pods provides both.

The machine

This machine uses coffee capsules, or pods. A pod is basically a small plastic container filled with pure ground coffee (of course 100% Arabica coffee). There are no additives at all (ie no preservatives, milk powder sugar etc) . Just coffee.

Espresso pod

The pods are individually wrapped, ensuring freshness.

Red and blue pods

Illy make two types of pods, the regular red, and the blue “Lungo“, or long for tall espressos; basically a double. The pods make the process extremely clean; there is almost no cleaning up required at all (all you need to do is to wash your cup afterwards).

Loading the machine

Pop the pod into the machine

Let’s go

Press the button for short or long espresso


Wait a few seconds while the coffee is extracted. Once again note the crema.

Long espresso

And finished, a wonderful and authentic Italian espresso. Ok, so the purists will tell me that a double is not authentic; you can see the single at the beginning of this post :-)

A quick tip: if you heat the mug before making espresso it will stay hot for much longer.

The machine is brilliant, easy and fast to use and has almost no mess. And the espresso tastes great! The capsules cost about R3,60 each.

Thanks to the folks at Illy South Africa for the free coffee (you currently get 100 free pods with the machine), the extra samples and the set of espresso mugs that they gave me.

Note that Illy SA did request or know about this review, so the gifts were just because they were giving great service.

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