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A casual coffee lover might find themselves walking into a café in search for a strong coffee drink for that much needed jolt of energy, and end up ordering an espresso-based drink or two. People always associate strong coffee and high amounts of caffeine with espresso. This is not a totally wrong assumption, but there is much to know about this beloved drink.
Espresso is one of the most popular drinks all over the world. Most people know espresso as the popular strong coffee of Italian origin. When coffee lovers talk about coffee, they always talk about beans and espresso because this is the base of other coffee drinks.
A Brief History of the Espresso Drink
Espresso became popular in the 19th century, which is also around the time when the first espresso machine was made. The first espresso machine was made in the early 1900s. The goal was to make coffee faster for the workers. It used to take a few minutes to make coffee, but when the machine came to be, coffee was extracted in a matter of seconds. Espresso and espresso machines became so popular that by the 1920s, machines were being exported to various countries.
Since then, espresso became more popular, and espresso machines became available to regular consumers. Improvements include digital and electrical features to measure the right amount of coffee, the perfect texture of grounds, the right amount of pressure, and the temperature of the water—all for the perfect cup of espresso.
So, what exactly is Espresso?
There are a lot of coffee shops that sell this supposedly wonderful drink called “espresso”, but you find yourself unsure what it is. What is espresso? Is it the same as brewed coffee?
Espresso is a type of coffee drink and a method of extraction and does not refer to any particular type of bean. You can make espresso using all types of roasts. Unlike what the supermarket shelves will tell you, it is not a type of roast. Do not be confused by the “espresso roast” labels.
Making espresso has to do with extracting a concentrate from finely ground coffee beans using hot water and high pressure. This concentrate (i.e., espresso shot) is the drink that we all know and love. It is strong and flavorful. You might find this surprising, but espresso has less caffeine than an average mug of brewed coffee.
It’s part of Italy’s culture and history. It has influenced the way ordinary people consume coffee around the world. Espresso is not just a drink that you take on the go, chug down quickly so you can make it to your next appointment. It is an experience that teaches you how to make the most out of a moment.
Before you frown at having to pay so much for a tiny amount of coffee, understand that espresso actually does come served in a small cup, in a smaller amount than you’re probably used to. A shot of espresso is about 30ml (1 oz.). In most cases, a serving of espresso is 60ml (2 oz.).
Espresso is slightly more viscose than brewed coffee. If you were to enjoy it in a coffee shop, you may find yourself paying the same amount that you would pay for a cup of regular coffee. Don’t fret. There is a good reason for that. Just think that when you are ordering an espresso, you are paying for quality over quantity.
How to Drink Espresso: A Guide
Ordering a shot of espresso at a hip new café might sound intimidating, especially if you’re just a curious, casual coffee drinker in the presence of experts. Full disclosure, there is a “right way” to drink espresso, but it’s not as intimidating as you think. Espresso “shot” is a bit of a misnomer. As a rule of thumb, you should not treat it like a shot of tequila and drink it in one go. Not only will you miss the experience of enjoying espresso, but you might also end up burning your throat in the process.
Below is a guide on how you should drink espresso:
- Place your order for one serving of espresso. To get the full experience, tell the barista to put it in a warm ceramic cup (a demitasse).
- Cleanse your palette before taking your first sip of the espresso. You may drink some plain water. Some coffee shops might serve sparkling water on the side of the espresso shot.
- Optional: you may drink your espresso with crema on top or not. A lot of drinkers choose to skim the crema off because it is quite bitter.
- Stir the espresso to get an even blend. The thicker elements usually sink to the bottom while the lighter elements rise to the top. Stir it to enjoy the full flavor of the coffee beans.
- Optional: If you find espresso too strong, don’t be shy and add some sugar!
- Take a sip and enjoy!
Tip: espresso comes in small servings, so you might think that you should take it in tiny sips to make the most out of the experience. Espresso is best enjoyed while it’s fresh and at the optimum temperature. We suggest drinking it in 2-3 sips. Don’t let it sit around for too long, otherwise, the flavor will be altered. Cold espresso is not that great.
The crema is the creamy-looking layer on top of the espresso. This is one of the distinguishing features of espresso. Some say that the presence of crema will tell you that the espresso is made well using good quality beans by a talented barista. The crema is formed when the high pressure is mixed with the coffee. A good crema should last about two minutes on top of the espresso.
While a lot of baristas can have long conversations about crema, it is not uncommon for espresso drinkers usually sweep it to the side. Some people find that it doesn’t taste that good. Unlike its creamy appearance, it can be quite bitter. To learn more about coffee crema, check out our article: What is Coffee Crema?
Types of Espresso Shots
Espresso is a full-flavored concentrate, which is why it is often used as a base for many drinks. In the sections below, we will discuss the various types of espresso shots and the types of espresso drinks that are popular these days.
- Doppio: a double espresso shot (60ml); served in a demitasse
- Ristretto: a more concentrated coffee extract
- Lungo: made using an espresso machine but extracted over a longer period. This results in a milder flavor, contains more water, and a higher caffeine content.
- Macchiato: an espresso shot with milk (typically foamed)
Popular Types of Espresso-based Drinks
There is an espresso drink for everyone. Whether you enjoy the pure, unadulterated flavor of espresso or something sweeter, there is something for you. You can order various espresso drinks from your favorite café. Although there are some slight differences in their recipes and brewing methods, you will find that they have some coffee drinks in common. Here are a few:
- Cappuccino: contains equal parts of double espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.
- Americano: espresso mixed with about 6 oz. of hot water. The espresso is poured into the cup first.
- Breve: made like a cappuccino, except with half and half.
- Red Eye: brewed coffee with a shot of espresso.
- Espresso Con Panna: plain espresso with whipped cream on top.
- Mocha: espresso mixed with chocolate, steamed milk and topped up with some whipped cream.
- Latte: made with 1/3 part of espresso and 2/3 part steamed milk mixed with a thin layer of foam on top.
- Flat White: Similar to the Latte, it is made with two shots of espresso and has less milk and foam.
- Long Black: espresso mixed with 4oz of hot water. The hot water is poured into the cup first followed by the espresso. This process creates crema.
The Wonders of the Espresso Machine
Espresso is made of 2 very simple ingredients: coffee beans and water. The drink seems quite straightforward, but the process of extracting the concentrate is a bit technical. This is why baristas and aspiring baristas study a lot and have to put in hours of training. An espresso machine will help in making sure that all the ingredients are measured correctly, that the water is at the right temperature and the water pressure is just right.
In recent years, espresso machines became even more popular. Some machines have become more user-friendly. You can buy an espresso machine and the corresponding espresso pods or capsules. All you need is a user manual and a few clicks. Now, even non-experts can have their espresso without going to the nearest coffee shop.
Not all about the Caffeine
You don’t have to be a coffee connoisseur or Italian to enjoy your espresso or espresso drink. Some people get thrown off by its bitterness. However, good espresso is not too bitter. If it is, it’s probably not made well. A good espresso has a depth of flavor.
The richness of espresso is not an indicator of the amount of caffeine it contains. To be precise, a 1 oz serving of espresso has 60 mg of caffeine while a 12 oz serving of regular coffee has 120 mg. Technically, it has a higher concentration of caffeine per ounce, but the difference is not that significant.
Try your best to enjoy the flavor of the espresso in between sips, Yes, it will probably give you the caffeine fix you need, but more than that, it allows you to enjoy a high-quality beverage before you start your day. Espresso is made in small quantities so people can drink it and get on with their busy lives.
To learn more about the caffeine content in coffee check out our article: How Much Caffeine is in Coffee
Drink Espresso, you deserve it!
Enjoy the sweetness of life with a cup of intense espresso. Espresso seems intimidating to the uninitiated, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When drinking espresso, you don’t have to feign interest or pretend to taste certain flavors that aren’t there—a good cup of espresso speaks for itself. It’s not that.
If you want to know more about this beautiful drink, you can take classes at your local coffee shop or take online courses. Better yet, engage in a conversation with your barista. Ask them about espresso. They will surely have lots of stories and important information to share.
Having espresso is like a ritual. It’s something to do for yourself before you head out into the world. When we talk about “how to drink espresso”, we’re not just teaching you the technical details of how to enjoy and make the drink. We are encouraging you to take a momentary pause for yourself. Enjoy that moment like you would savor the few sips of espresso, then move on to the rest of your day. Enjoying espresso is how life is, isn’t it?
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