What is Espresso? A Complete Explanation


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For a drink that is supposed to be strong, espresso has always been somewhat elusive. Many coffee lovers have gone on for years without understanding the difference between an espresso and just some coffee with cream spilled across the top of it. 

While espresso is the most complicated form of coffee, it is above your regular brew. Besides having a potent, rich, and delicious flavor, the careful extraction using freshly roasted beans to make crema-like micro-foam creates masterpiece that many people have grown to love.

For all these years, I went down every aisle looking at the different flavors – but nothing jumped out as being anything more than what we already had figured out about this concentrated coffee drink. Let’s explore what espresso is, how it tastes, and where this delicious concoction came from.

What is ESPRESSO?

“Expresso” is a short, strong, and full-flavored, concentrated form of coffee served in “shots.” It is a coffee-brewing method in which a small amount of nearly boiling water is forced under bars of atmospheric pressure through finely-ground coffee beans. 

The traditional way of preparing this drink is not to contain milk and is meant to be taken quickly, like a shot. But it has an intense flavor and aroma because of its high concentration in terms of both ground coffee ratio and extraction time. 

Because a typical espresso often has a thicker consistency than a regular brew, this type of coffee has become a foundation of many flavors of beverages, making coffee drinks start with it and just brewed in a particular way. It means that espresso is used as a base for other coffee drinks, such as Caffe Latte, Cappuccino, Flat White, Macchiato, etc. 

A Brief History 

Espresso has been around for ages, and its origins are still up in the air to this day. But it’s clear that Europeans have always loved this type of coffee drink.

The history of espresso can be traced back to centuries ago when Italians were brewing dark coffees using pressure from boiling water being pushed through finely ground beans into small cups or bowls known as “demitasse.”

And since espresso is the most common way of making coffee in Europe, particularly in Italy and Spain, the first commercial espresso machine was developed in Italy, making espresso the country’s famous type of coffee.

The espresso starts making in 1884 with the first Italian bar machine. It gains popularity in the UK in the 1950s. Then it also becomes popular in many other countries with its extraordinary taste. The consumption of espresso rose in Italy because of urbanization, and the local authorities also controlled the price. 

While in the US, it gets popularity in the form of cappuccino, then in the form of LATTES which also getting more popular and recognized.

How is Espresso Made?

Espresso is a dark, concentrated coffee that we extract from roasted and ground beans. It is made with the espresso machine by adding and forcing hot water under high pressure through that finely ground compact coffee. And it is usually served in a small espresso cup.

There is no universal standard available defining the extraction of espresso. But generally, one uses an espresso machine to make this kind of drink. Moreover, there are different parameters to make espresso at the commercial level.

Espresso is also known for its thicker texture. And with that aspect, especially with warm honey viscosity, it is said that it produces a better-tasting drink than coffee brewed with other methods. Possibly because of the pressurized brewing process, the flavors and chemicals are concentrated in the coffee cup. 

This beverage is also unique because of the THREE DISPERSED PHASES.

  • EMULSION OF OIL DROPLETS
  • SUSPENDED SOLIDS
  • LAYER OF GAS BUBBLES AND FOAM

Espresso Roast

Is there a roast degree exclusively for espresso? 

Espresso is not a coffee bean nor a type of roast at all. It is technically a brewing method or as well as a coffee beverage. Espresso coffee beans often have several roasts with a blend of different types to form the preferred flavor.

The ingredients found in most bags are usually roasted darker, which are typically considered “espresso roast.” I think the reason for it is because dark roasts have bold and full flavor, since espresso has a notion of being a strong coffee.

The Espresso Dark Roast Coffee from Volcanica Coffee, for example, is roasted dark but works perfectly for espresso or any espresso-based beverages. The taste is bold and strong, but it complements the creaminess of the milk in case you want to make latte or macchiato out of your espresso.

But on the other hand, contrary to some belief, “espresso beans” don’t automatically need to be roasted dark. They they can work simply as being lightly roasted, blended and mixed correctly. 

For instance, the Ethiopian Bold Roast from Copper’s Cask Coffee is lightly roasted but works great for espresso. That is because espresso isn’t all about bold flavor. It can also be an intensely bright and clean taste, with a vibrant taste profile. You can still maximize the flavor and aroma even the beans are lightly roasted.

So, there is no specification of a particular bean, bean blend, and roast level to make espresso. The different types of coffee beans can be roasted in various ways to create the desired taste and flavor.

Any roasting level or bean can produce this coffee drink. In different countries, different methods or espresso are preferred. 

In the end, like any good cup of joe, the key is finding a bean you like best- which could take some experimentation! Here, we’ve listed some of the best coffee beans for espresso.

Shot Variables

The “sizes” and “lengths” are the main variables in shots.

Size:

While using a proportional amount of ground coffee, the size can be single with 7grams, double with 14grams, and triple with 21grams; correspondingly sized filer baskets are used. 

The single shot is the standard shot size. The solo uses for single size; the doppiouses for a double size, and the triplo uses for triples. In America, the espresso-based drink, a drink with three or four espresso shots called triple or quad, respectively.

Length:

The length of the shot can be ristretto (reduced), normale (standard), and lungo (long). These shots usually are not the same; it stopped at a different time for reduced one it is under-extracted shot for long it is over-extracted shot, so the grinder adjusts and time of the extraction for the results we need.

What Does Espresso Taste Like?

Espresso is one of the most misunderstood drinks. People always think that this coffee will be bitter because of its high caffeine content

However, espresso doesn’t have to be any more bitter than regular black coffee if it is made with fresh beans and by a skilled barista. And with the right equipment and ingredients, a person can make an excellent tasting drink that will delight their senses while still being gentle on the stomach.

In general, each espresso shot has a layer of crema foam on the top, mainly golden to dark in color. It is bittersweet in taste, rich in texture. An espresso shot is generally made with 1 to 2 ounces of coffee having more caffeine in it. That’s why it is considered more substantial than other beverages of coffee.

Coffee’s charm convinces me since the first time I tried this drink in college. Its aroma overpowered me so much that my mouth began to water. When taking a sip of it for myself, my taste buds burst with flavor.

The foam on top made every bite sweeter than before. Indeed, nothing could compare to how smooth this drink is going down your throat. It turns out after drinking one cup as well -after- you become addicted too. I found myself being drawn more towards espresso based coffees like Latte or Cappuccino due to their rich smell, almost entrapping me into trying something new despite never having such intense cravings before then.

But while espresso is exceptionally delicious, its taste will still vary with the roast degree, the grind quality, and the technique and machine used to brew it. 

In fact, you can fine-tune the process of making espresso or any coffee ideally if you have the right equipment and the control over the variables that affect it – the grind consistency, temperature of the extraction, extraction time, and the coffee-to-water ratio.

Caffeine Content of Espresso

While it’s pretty confusing to understand espresso’s caffeine content, it is likely different from a regular brew. 

Espresso is a coffee drink packed with more caffeine than other coffee beverages. That is because its caffeine level is measured per ounce shots and not in cups.

You may think that it is less, but typically 1 ounce of espresso contains 65mg or more caffeine. Whereas a brewed cup only has around 10 mg per ounce. If you’re going to compare that 1-ounce shot of espresso to an average drip cup or per serving, that espresso can still give you a high caffeine kick all day. 

So, it should be noted while some people are more sensitive than others, espresso can help you reach your caffeine limit, especially if you’re so addicted to it. Imagine if you make a medium-sized drink with two or more shots in it; that’s a lot of sleepless nights. Therefore, it would not be suitable for those who want just a few “coffee beans” at a time.

Although you may add sugar or milk into your cup to overpower the strong taste or bitterness, that doesn’t mean it is caffeine-free. You just had a new perception of flavor. Caffeine is still there. You just can’t taste it. 

Nutrition

Unlike other coffees containing a higher quantity of suspended solids, the espresso has RIBOFLAVIN, DIETARY MINERAL MAGNESIUM, the B VITAMINS NIACIN, CARBOHYDRATE, or also a significant amount of CAFFEINE in it as compared to other coffee beverages.

Espresso Based Drinks

Varieties of Espresso can come in different flavors, including chocolate or caramel, among other options. Besides being served alone, espresso is filled with dry foam, wet foam, or steamed milk. It is also part of many other drinks such as:

You can read our article on the 17 Different Types of Coffee Drinks for more details.

Conclusion

While espresso is good in taste and more robust than other coffee beverages, it is a drink that many people have never tried. It can be confusing at first, but it’s worth exploring the options for yourself because espresso has endless possibilities with various preparations and presentations.

It is indeed the most complicated and hardly explored form of coffee ever created. But if you want to get into this particular brew, the best option is an espresso machine. 

Try exploring the incredible world of espresso by going to any local coffee shop’s brewing area and watch each step before making a choice. Also, always use freshly roasted coffee beans that have been ground fresh to achieve the perfect shot of tasty espresso you can ever have.