If you're a regular coffee drinker at your local café, you probably know what espresso is. However, the barista may have never really talked much about what it truly is beyond the base of your cappuccino order. You're missing out on something really enjoyable to learn about, especially if you're a die-hard coffee fan.
If you're too shy to ask the busy barista for a short espresso story, this article is for you. Here, we will be talking about everything you need to know about espresso and why it is a favorite in the coffee world.
What is espresso?
Exaggeration aside, espresso is the purest concentrated version of coffee. The word doesn't refer to a kind of bean or a blend–it's a method of preparing it. This means that there is no difference between coffee beans! There is no such thing as an espresso bean.
Traditionally, espresso is brewed in machines that generate pressurized extraction, wherein hot water is forced to pass through coffee grounds to make a concentrated and intense coffee. An espresso contains three parts–crema, body, and heart– these signify whether or not you've "pulled" a perfect shot.
History of Espresso
Coffee was already widely enjoyed by the Italians during the Renaissance era. But in 1903, a Venetian businessman introduced a new process of brewing coffee.
Luigi Bezzera simply wanted to shorten the coffee breaks of his employees at work, so he began to experiment on how one could make coffee faster. Later on, he discovered that adding steam pressure to his existing coffee machine quickened the brew and created a more robust cup.
This new brewing process is called "espresso," which is Italian for "fast" since it takes about 45 seconds to brew an espresso shot. After several years, this new brewing method was practiced worldwide and became one of the most widely consumed beverages today.
Espresso vs. Drip Coffee
Espresso and drip are two different kinds of coffee preparation techniques. Drip coffee utilizes gravity, wherein the water slowly filters over coffee grounds to brew a cup. Although espresso has some similarities, it uses pressure to extract the coffee instead, yielding a more concentrated product.
In terms of caffeine content, drip coffee generally contains more caffeine than a shot of espresso. A cup of coffee can have about 70 to 140 mg of caffeine, while a shot of concentrated espresso has around 60 to 80 mg.
Finally, the variables that play important parts in the brewing process also differ within the two methods. In the next section of the article, we will discuss the specific variables used when brewing espresso.
How to Make An Espresso
Have you ever seen baristas skillfully working with the espresso machines behind the bar area of the coffeehouse? If so, you should know that they are not just simply pressing buttons to pull that perfect shot of coffee for you. There are variables that they need to consider every time.
Variables in Brewing An Espresso
When brewing espresso, we should use a finer grind to yield the proper extraction for a perfectly concentrated espresso. The consistency of the coffee grounds should be a little finer than table salt. In addition, using a burr grinder to grind your coffee beans is ideal, since this type allows custom grind settings.
Water is a variable that can significantly affect the overall flavor of your espresso. Sometimes, the water you're using may lack the minerals required to extract desirable flavors or simply over-power the taste of the coffee extracted. The best way to treat your brewing water is by using a carbon filter to filter out the excess minerals unnecessary for your coffee. If you cannot access one of these, you can also use Third Wave Water packets paired with distilled water, which impose ideal minerals for coffee brewing.
Dose is the weight of ground coffee you put into your portafilter when brewing espresso. It's one of the main components of an espresso recipe. Generally, the ideal dose is between 18-21 grams of coffee, but you can also customize depending on your espresso style.
Contact time between your espresso and water dictates whether the coffee will be under-extracted or over-extracted. Time also plays a determining factor in whether your other variables are ideal or not. Most coffees generally thrive between the 25 to 35-second extraction range.
Tamping is the act of compacting your ground coffee to restrict water by means of pressure. This action should be firm and even. Tamping too hard may cause the flow of water to be more prolonged, signifying over-extraction. On the other hand, tamping too soft will quicken the process and get you an under-extracted coffee.
We usually determine the coffee and water inputs, referring to the brewing ratio whenever we brew drip coffee. In the case of espresso, we measure the coffee input and the final beverage output. Generally, the ideal espresso brew ratio is 1:2; the amount of brewed espresso on your final cup should be twice the amount of the coffee you used.
Espresso remains one of the most popular beverages ever since it has been introduced to the coffee industry. Learning about its history, basic facts, and how-tos may not be that essential, but at least now your face won't get flushed again once a barista shares about the espresso craft.
Now you're fully equipped with enough knowledge from this article. All of your questions about espresso-making art have finally been answered. You know everything about espresso–well, most of it.
Next stop, brewing espresso yourself!