Espresso is extremely popular among coffee fans, especially in European and Asian counties. It is the base of most coffee favorites like lattes, mochas, and flat whites. And because of this beverage's popularity, you don't have to ask where or when to drink espresso–because coffee shops are at every corner and usually open all the time!
But how much do we really know about this famous beverage? Read this complete guide to learn more about espresso coffee.
What Is Espresso?
Espresso is a way of preparing coffee in its most concentrated form. This is made by forcing water through fine coffee grounds with the use of pressure to extract a rich and intense coffee.
Suppose you've encountered "espresso roast" when buying a whole bean bag in a coffee shop or a grocery store. This simply means that the beans are roasted with flavors and characteristics that will shine as an espresso shot. They are not separate beans entirely.
Espresso originated in Italy, discovered by a businessman named Luigi Bezzera in 1903. His primary purpose in inventing this method of brewing was to cut his employees' coffee breaks since it takes a shorter time to consume. In fact, espresso actually means "express" or "fast" in Italian.
Espresso Vs. Drip Coffee
Although both are great options to enjoy coffee, drip and espresso are very different. Here are their main differences.
Just like a coffee maker or a pour-over, drip uses the gravity method to produce the coffee we enjoy, or rather the naturally downward sensation of gravity pushing on coffee grounds. The process begins with your coffee grounds on top of a filter, wherein you pour your brewing water through. Thus, very minimal pressure and agitation are utilized in the procedure.
On the other hand, an espresso machine deploys pressurized extraction in brewing. In the portafilter, you have your ground coffee packed very firmly. This is where hot water is ultimately and quickly forced to flow out by using a great deal of steam pressure. And the result is a shot of concentrated coffee or espresso.
The coffee grounds used in brewing drip coffee should be medium-fine or medium-coarse, depending on the extraction you want to achieve. Using too fine will only result in over-extracted coffee with too much bitterness. However, setting the grind too coarse will give you otherwise–under-extracted coffee with a mild flavor.
In comparison, very fine grounds are appropriately used in espresso machines. Most of the time, a finer grind will translate to better extraction. Piece of advice though, don't grind your beans too fine if you don't want your espresso to be very intense (that means it's probably undrinkable).
Using a regular coffee maker will yield roughly 7 small cups (8 ounces) of drip–it's often used in making more-than-one batch at a time. A pour-over is ideally used when you want a single serving of brewed coffee, and the volume generally depends on how much water you put in.
By standard, espresso shots usually come in 1-ounce shot glasses. And most espresso machines can produce two separate shots in one pull. Even if this is the case, you can still make more than that amount by experimenting with your extraction time.
We're all very much aware that brewed coffee usually is black in color. It looks smooth and clear with no or little presence of other substances like oils or coffee residues. This is due to the filter used during the process of brewing that makes the drip coffee's appearance plainer and cleaner.
Espresso, on the other hand, has layers–the crema, body, and heart. The colors are layered as well. If we view a freshly brewed espresso in a shot glass, we will notice that the heart (bottom part) is the darkest of the three. The body (middle part) is somewhat chocolate or mahogany brown in color. And the crema (top part) is golden. Another distinct feature is that a shot of espresso is more creamy and oily in texture as compared to a drip.
Drip coffee tastes cleaner since the filter will mostly trap other substances that might conceal the coffee's flavor, body, and acidity. At the same time, the extraction will be smoother, thus minimizing the intensity of the cup. While this is the case, it's important to note that the overall profile of the beans you use will also be a definite contributor to the taste of your coffee. This includes geography, variety, roasting, etc.
On the other hand, the flavor of espresso is definitely going to be much more intense and straightforward. With the pressurized extraction, we get a concentrated shot that's full of flavor- rich, sweet, and a little spicy. The acidity and body of the coffee will also be more evident than what drip coffee has.
Some of us assume that the more bitter the coffee, the higher the caffeine–this is actually wrong, but not entirely. Generally, the amount of caffeine we get depends on the serving size of the coffee we get. So it's not correct to say that a shot of espresso has a higher caffeine content than a cup of a light-roasted drip.
If we get a regular cup of drip coffee, we take about 140 mg of caffeine. However, having a shot of espresso which appears to be more intense and bitter, only contains about 60 to 80 mg of caffeine. But if you compare drip and a triple shot vanilla latte of the same sizes, it's a different story. Even if the latter is much sweeter (no matter how many pumps of vanilla you put), it will have more caffeine than plain black drip coffee.
Popular Espresso Beverages
Now let's talk about popular espresso beverages that are usually offered in different coffee houses around the world. Let's compare the difference between espresso drinks.
Of course, almost every single coffee shop has espresso on its menu. Frequently, they are served in demitasses or short cups and consumed in-house to assure freshness of the brew. There are four basic espresso drink sizes–solo(one), doppio(two), triple(three), and quad(four). If you order more than that number of shots, you can clarify that with your barista. And make sure you're ready for extra palpitations every sip.
One of the most common terms we hear at a coffee shop is the word "macchiato." It's actually an Italian word that means "to stain." If you order an espresso macchiato, you might also need to dictate the espresso drink size you want. So what's in espresso macchiato? It's basically made up of a shot or shots of espresso with a dollop of milk foam on top.
Espresso Con Panna
Espresso Con Panna is just like an espresso macchiato–but instead of milk foam, you get whipped cream. "Con Panna" means "with cream" in Italian.
Cafe Americano originated way back in World War II, when American soldiers ordered this drink in European coffee houses. Since these shops only offer espresso at that time, soldiers get them with a cup of water to make their own version similar to the drip coffee they are used to back in the US.
Basically, a Cafe Americano is composed of espresso shots poured with hot water. In Australia, a similar drink called Long Black is extremely popular. This beverage is made by pouring espresso shots on hot water instead, which retains more crema.
A latte is made by pouring hot steamed milk over espresso shots, topped with a little amount of froth. The intense flavor of espresso can withstand the full flavor of the milk, resulting in a balance between the two components. A latte is the base of most espresso beverages like mochas. Coffee shops also offer this drink in cold variants.
Lattes are also extremely popular for the art that baristas create on top of them. Latte art requires skill and practice.
Cappuccino is just like a latte but is much lighter in volume. This is because the milk is aerated in a certain way that makes it very frothy. Cappuccino was a term derived from the Capuchin friars who wore brown-colored robes. When you're making a cappuccino drink, you will usually end it with a pointed froth that slightly resembles the robes' hoods.
How To Drink Espresso
Even though there is no standard way of drinking your espresso coffee, coffee experts have a specific method of tasting. This will allow a taster to enjoy the flavors more. All of this may sound quite fancy but actually makes sense and is very easy to do.
First and foremost, you have to know how to serve espresso coffee. If you brew it yourself or order it from your favorite coffee shop, make sure you get it in a demitasse cup and served fresh and hot. In addition, have a glass of water with you because you will be cleansing your palate first before consuming the coffee.
Once served, the oils and flavors of the espresso will begin to separate after being poured into your cup. It is best to have a tasting spoon with you, as you may need this to combine the flavors altogether. However, if you don't like the crema, you can first skim it off before stirring.
Now it's finally time to try the espresso. Smell the aroma first, so you enjoy every step of the experience. When you are ready, sip the espresso slowly and let it spray all over your palate. In this way, you will be able to identify the different characteristics of the coffee–flavor, body, acidity–and will enjoy it even more!
Now that you have finished this guide, you're finally equipped with so much knowledge about espresso coffee. You can share it with the friends you meet up with in your favorite coffee place or maybe initiate a conversation with your barista. Most importantly, learning about your favorite beverage will help you to enjoy it even more.