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What Is Espresso? What Drinks are Related?

What Is Espresso? What Drinks are Related?

Espresso is a deeply flavorful coffee drink made in a special way with ground roasted coffee. The word "espresso" originated in Italy around 1900, and described a coffee that was brewed "expressly for you." Today in Italy, ordering "un caffe" means (de facto) that you are ordering an espresso.

Espresso is very popular in Argentina, in Europe (especially Italy, Spain, and Portugal), and in the United States. Starbucks started serving espresso-style coffee topped with syrups, spices, and whipped cream. At the same time, home espresso machines have increased in popularity. But what is espresso really?

Any coffee bean can be used for making espresso - from the most common, to the most exotic - so espresso is not a type of coffee bean. Many blends can be suitable for making espresso, so espresso is not a coffee blend either. You can make a great espresso from any roast type (usually, Medium roast in Italy, and Full City roast or "Espresso Roast" in the USA). So espresso is not a type of roast.

If espresso is not a coffee bean, nor a coffee blend, nor a roast type, then what is espresso? Espresso is yet another very special way of brewing coffee. Espresso is brewed by pushing very hot water through a "puck" of finely ground coffee under high pressure. Coffee for espresso is ground more finely than for regular coffee, but not as fine as for Turkish coffee.

An espresso machine must produce high pressure (9 bars or more is usual) in order to push the heated water through the "puck" of finely ground coffee. (Note: 1 bar = 1 Megadyne per square centimeter = 0.987 atmospheres.)

A normal single espresso has the same volume as a shot or jigger (1.5 ounces). Preparing a single espresso will take a tablespoon of finely ground coffee and 1.5 ounces of water. A double espresso, or doppio, requires 2 tablespoons of coffee and 3 ounces of water.

When brewed properly, the resulting beverage will have a golden-brown cream-like film floating on the black surface of the espresso. This golden film is called the "crema." The crema is a residual of the espresso-making process, hence, crema is a good indicator of the quality of the brewed espresso.

In poorly extracted espresso, the appearance of the crema will belie what was done incorrectly. If the espresso was underextracted and the pull (or shot) was too fast, there will be very little crema. The crema with be pale, and will disolve back into the espresso. The espresso will taste weak. If the espresso was overextracted, and the pull (or shot) was too slow, the crema will be dark instead of golden (or it will have dark streaks), and it will have irregular bubbles in it. The espresso will taste bitter and a little burnt.

Though you can experience the true aroma of the espresso by drinking it sugar-free, in Italy sugar is often added to the espresso.

Espresso is also the base of many coffee drinks. Ristretto is an espresso brewed with less water, hence having a stronger taste. Lungo is the weaker espresso brewing with more water (usually double), while doppio is a double serving of normally brewed espresso - as we usually drink it in the US.

Adding milk to the espresso in various ways results in many different coffee drinks. If you put steamed milk in the cup first and add the espresso shots on top, then you have macchiato, while if you want whipped cream on the top, you should order the espresso con panna. The well known cappuccino is an espresso-based drink, traditionally made of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 microfoam, and 1/3 steamed milk. Latte is also based on espresso, but it has less foam than a cappuccino.

If you order a cortado, then you should get an espresso that is "cut" with a small amount of milk, while an affrogato is espresso served with ice-cream. Espresso Americano is an espresso diluted with water (similar to drip-brew coffee).

Varieties of the Americano (American coffee) are the Red Eye (an American coffee with a shot of espresso added to it), a Black Eye (an American coffee with two shots of espresso added), and a Dead Eye (American coffee with three shots of espresso added).

...written by your friends at The Coffee Brewers