Last Updated on June 27, 2023 by Barry Gray
I think it’s reasonable to assume that most people will think about espresso when someone mentions coffee. We all have these images of those small espresso cups with people sipping out of them to get their caffeine fix, and it’s an image you will find all over the world.
But how much do you actually know about espresso?
I myself thought I knew a few things about espresso, but do you know something? I knew less than I had anticipated.
This all came about after a conversation with a friend.
He’s not a big coffee drinker (I don’t understand why I’m friends with him due to that alone), and he asked me what the big deal was about an espresso.
Honestly, my answer was a bit stunted.
Sure, I know what it is and all of the basics, but it was at that moment I realized I should educate myself a bit more on the humble espresso.
So, this is the spin-off from that conversation and having to entertain that thought of not knowing enough about this particular type of coffee.
I’m convinced that you will also learn something new even if you, like me, feel you have a good understanding of the espresso.
What is an Espresso?
Let me get the basics out of the way first.
An espresso is a strong black coffee produced by blasting hot water through the remains of coffee beans. I say blasting because the pressure plays a role in creating an espresso.
But that shot of espresso can then be used to make other drinks. A latte may be predominantly a milky coffee, but it still requires that shot of espresso to give it that coffee kick.
When Did People Start Drinking Espresso?
I love history, and that includes the history of coffee.
To get to the origins of the espresso, we have to go to Italy. That’s not a surprise to me since the word “espresso” comes from the Latin word “estimate,” which means “to express.”
But the origins of espresso do not go as far back as you may think.
The first espresso machine was not invented until 1884, thanks to a guy called Angelo Moriondo. However, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the concept of espresso started becoming more popular.
Does All Espresso Taste the Same?
People that don’t understand coffee make the mistake of believing all espresso must taste the same. That’s not true.
Instead, the bean used makes a huge difference to the result, which is why I love experimenting with different beans growing in various climates.
Generally, espresso is viewed as having a slightly acidic taste. It can have a hint of a bitter flavor, but the extent to which this happens depends on the bean.
Yet, the one thing you should always experience with an espresso, if you use good quality coffee beans, is that it has a smoothness to the taste. There should be some resemblance of a sweeter aftertaste that lingers around.
But do try different beans and see how that aftertaste changes.
What is the Best Coffee For An Espresso?
This comes down to personal preference. So, let me tell you my own favorite for an espresso.
I prefer a dark roast coffee bean from Africa. It has more of a bitter taste to it and less of a chocolate flavor.
Also, I find a dark roast to be more mellow to the taste, which is perfect for my palate.
However, the best coffee for an espresso is the one that suits your own individual tastes.
What is a Double Shot?
I’m sure you will have heard of a double shot, so let me explain more about what that actually is.
When you make an espresso, it comes in a balanced amount that equates to one ounce of liquid. So, it’s no surprise that a double shot equates to two ounces of liquid.
But here’s something else to remember. You may find it being described as a “doppio” by some people. However, it’s the same thing.
What is Ristretto?
If you want an espresso with a real kick, then a ristretto is what you should look for. Even real coffee lovers don’t always love this espresso because it is so strong.
What you get here is a shorter shot of coffee with less water but with some concentrated coffee included. There’s a significant difference in the amount of water used compared to a more regular espresso.
What is Lungo?
Another term you may come across is “lungo,” which you might prefer if you are not too keen on a more concentrated coffee.
I stated earlier how espresso produces 1 ounce of liquid. This version is different because it produces 1.5 ounces of liquid from the same amount of coffee.
That makes a difference in the strength, so if you hate the idea of a strong coffee, this could help.
Are There Different Parts to an Espresso?
Yes, people make the mistake of believing it’s just coffee, but you actually get different parts to an espresso.
At the top, you have the crema, and if you don’t have it, there’s a problem. This is often the sweetest part, and it does have a lighter tint to it.
The middle part holds most of the liquid, while the third part is where you get the real espresso coffee.
This is where you get that hit of bitterness along with all the rest of the flavor. Also, it’s darker.
What is the Caffeine Level Like in Espresso?
People associate espresso with a blast of caffeine, and I understand why. Before I fell in love with coffee, I saw espresso as a caffeine shot.
So, here are the average facts.
A shot of espresso offers you in the region of 64mg of caffeine. Compare that to a standard cup of drip coffee containing 8 ounces of liquid and 95mg of caffeine.
That’s a big difference when you consider the amount of liquid.
Will Normal Coffee Beans Make An Espresso?
You do not require any special coffee beans to make an espresso. Sure, I feel either Arabica or Robusta beans are best, but it’s not always necessary.
Also, I know you can find beans described as for an espresso. They may make a slight difference to the quality of the coffee, but I still don’t think it’s something you must do to get an espresso.
Can You Have a Decaf Espresso?
While it’s not something I would do, having a decaf espresso is possible. All that’s required is to use decaf beans, and many companies offer them for sale.
I feel this is one of the surprises for people since we tend to equate an espresso with a caffeine hit, so discovering you can have a decaf version is actually pretty cool.
Is it Easy to Make An Espresso at Home?
This is a bit of a “yes and no” answer because while it is entirely possible to make espresso at home, it’s not always that easy.
Some espresso machines are better than others, and then there’s the quality of the bean you use that also plays a role.
The right machine will produce the correct pressure for the water as it’s sent through the beans. This makes a huge difference to the final taste.
If you want to make a delicious espresso at home, get a good machine, or you may be disappointed.
Will Any Coffee Machine Work For An Espresso?
I feel this issue of the machine is important, so I must stress that not just any old coffee machine will make a good espresso.
Instead, you should purchase a pump-powered or steam-driven coffee machine for the best outcome.
What is a Steam-Driven Machine for Espresso?
I think a steam-driven machine is self-explanatory.
The machine boils water, builds up pressure, and creates steam. This is key to getting a good espresso since it must fire that pressure and steam through the ground beans.
These machines are designed to create ample pressure, which is required, and you don’t have to worry about not getting it up to the correct level.
What is a Pump-Powered Machine for Espresso?
A pump-powered machine is different in its approach. Also, many different machines exist, and they cover various price ranges along with sizes.
The big difference here is this machine uses a water pump system rather than steam.
It manages to push water through the machine, and it does this at a consistent rate. This consistency means you get a predictable coffee at the end.
When Do You Know You Have a Good Espresso?
A good espresso is one that hits your taste buds. However, I know of a couple of signs that you may have made the perfect espresso at home.
I pay attention to the top layer, known as the crema.
Ideally, this layer should look slightly frothy. If it appears flat, then it tends to mean the pressure is not good enough, as the pressure makes things fluffy.
If you don’t have that top layer, I suggest trying again.
Will Cleaning Your Espresso Machine Make Better Coffee?
While many people would argue you do not have to clean your espresso machine after every use, I’d still clean it regularly.
This is to remove old coffee from the machine, as old coffee will destroy the quality of your espresso.
But here’s a key tip. Don’t put any part in your dishwasher. Clean your espresso machine by hand, and ensure you do a thorough job.
Flush through the machine without any coffee to ensure you clean the pipes resulting in some fresh espresso the next time you use it.
How Much Coffee Do You Need For Espresso?
Typically, you need between 6g and 8g of ground beans to make an espresso. Obviously, if you intend to make a double shot, you need to increase that to 15g to get the same strength throughout.
As I said earlier, it’s the quantity of water that you then use that will change the strength or concentration of the espresso. These amounts also remain the same, regardless of your coffee bean.
Also, if you are wondering how many coffee beans that equates to, most people agree you are looking at around 50 coffee beans for every espresso shot.
I love an espresso, and I hope the different facts and points above also managed to teach you more about this wonderful drink. However, learning about it is not as good as tasting it, which is something you should perhaps think about doing now.