I think I've discovered why the the coffees I've been making lately seem to taste nothing like the ones from the shop. Its not the machine, as it seems my daughter and wife seem to make better than the ones I do. Mine taste a bit “dirty” without the nice caramel crema.
Apparently the problem is Espresso Tamping. This is an art that is often (in my case) neglected in espresso preparation. The goal is to create a cake (or pellet) of ground coffee through which the hot water from the espresso machine will penetrate “evenly”. Since the water from the espresso machine is under pressure, the espresso pellet must be hard and evenly tamped. The water only goes from a region of high pressure to a region of low pressure. Therefore it is important to prevent paths of least resistance in the coffee pellet and force the water to evenly permeate and extract the coffee.
Because I “tamp” the coffee down hard I think the water may forced to make a single path through the coffee rather than being absorbed more holistically.
I didn't do it on purpose. I honestly believed that by tamping it down the bits would fit together better. the water obviously disagrees.
In life, I wonder if sometimes we tamp down our schedules and plans so hard that when life happens we end up with a watery and ultimately unsatisfactory result. Something that is not so much fun.
Apparently the secret is to apply the right amount of pressure. ((About 30 pounds apparently, which can be practiced on a bathroom scale). I think I need to observe the pressure my daughter and wife apply.
So if we practice applying the right amount of pressure we can get the best results.
Life is too short for bad coffee.