What Is An Espresso – And How To Drink It?

Espresso, served in short strong shots, is an extremely concentrated version of coffee. It’s made by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee at pressure.

Espresso coffee

Espresso is either drunk by itself, or used as the base in other coffee drinks. Its popularity stems from the rapid 30-second brew time, making it ideal to order on short breaks.

This drink is made from coffee beans, but has a higher caffeine content than coffee. It’s also stronger and thicker than coffee and usually topped with a brown foam called ‘crema‘ – which lends an aftertaste that lingers on your tongue.

How To Make An Espresso?

Espresso is made with heated and pressurized water being forced through fine-ground coffee beans.

It’s often made with an espresso machine, since the process requires a high pressures of 130 psi. The brewing extracts coffee rapidly, with the oils carrying rich flavor.

The key elements to making a delicious drink are:

  • source
  • taste
  • brew
  • grind
  • roast

You can use any coffee bean to make espresso. How you grind the beans and treat it impacts the flavor and taste of your espresso.

Typically coffee beans are ground finer than for regular coffee. After packing the grounds tightly, hot pressurized water is forced through it in a machine.

A ratio of coffee-to-water of 1:2 is much higher than with regular coffee.

This coffee can be drunk by itself fresh from the coffee machine. Or it may be used to make other coffee drinks like a cappuccino or Americano.

Can You Make Espresso At Home?

What Is An Espresso

Yes, of course.

You’ll need

  • a good espresso machine (like the Nespresso Breville coffee maker) equipped with a tamper and filter
  • a coffee grinder to process coffee beans – and grind them really fine (almost like table salt)
  • accessories

Choosing the right coffee is vital.

The best roasts taste balanced and retain flavor when mixed with milk. Fresh ground coffee beans taste delicious in any drink.

Measure out quantities of coffee powder carefully. A double-shot of espresso needs 14 to 19 grams of coffee.

Fill your filter evenly and tamp it down firmly using gentle pressure to make it level.

Run the coffee maker and start collecting your shot!

Adjust your timing based on the taste. A fair estimate is between 25 and 30 seconds per shot.

Be ready to modify and tweak your process to achieve a great taste. Your tongue and palate are the best judge… so trust them.

Add frothed milk to a shot, if you like. And add sugar or sweetener to taste.

How Does Espresso Taste?

Shots are served in demitasse cups, which are tiny shot glasses that hold an ounce or two of fluid.

(A double shot is called a ‘doppio‘, and a long espresso is known as a ‘lungo‘).

As you’d imagine, such a concentrated form of coffee tastes strong and a little bitter. It is often described as tasting ‘bold’.

Espresso has similar flavors as with other types of coffee.

It is in parts bitter and acidic, slightly sweet and toasty. Much depends upon your choice of coffee beans. Lighter roasts of coffee beans are usually more acidic.

Without a paper filter, all the flavor filters into your drink. The oils are what make the taste linger, and the beverage itself feel full and thick.

In texture, this drink is creamier and thicker than coffee.

Some people like to add a sweetener or sugar to their espresso drinks, or eat a biscotti along with it.

A Word About Crema

Espresso with crema

The thick layer of crema that foams on top of an espresso shot is a delight.

It is formed by the contact of coffee grounds with hot water. As carbon-dioxide is expelled from coffee beans, it combines with oils to float on the surface.

The captivating aroma of a great espresso comes from the crema. It gradually dissipates in time. Since it tastes rather bitter, many coffee-drinkers spoon it off, or stir it to mix with the drink.

When To Drink Espresso?

You can order one at any time through the day. You’ll order a ‘shot’ from the barista.

  • A ‘solo‘ is a single shot.
  • A ‘doppio‘ is a double, each with two ounces.
  • A ‘lungo‘ is a ‘long shot’ with more water.
  • A ‘ristretto‘ is made with less water than usual.

In the morning, it can be a stimulant that gets you started with verve and vigor. Mid-morning or mid-afternoon, it serves as a pick-me-up to jolt you out of a post-meal dullness.

Although it’s called a ‘shot’, you don’t gulp down an espresso but sip it instead. (The first time I ordered one, I didn’t know – and took a giant sip from that tiny cup… and almost choked!)

What Coffee Drinks Can You Make Using Espresso?

In discussing the types of coffee, you’ve seen how you can integrate espressos into other more complex coffee drinks.

  • Americano – a shot of espresso with hot water.
  • Red Eye – a filtered coffee juiced up by an espresso shot.
  • Caffe Latte – espresso mixed with steamed milk.
  • Cappuccino – a single or double shot of espresso mixed with steamed milk and froth.

Other drinks you can make using an espresso shot include a flat white, Affogato, cortado, and espresso macchiato.

How Much Caffeine Is In This Drink?

A shot of espresso has 30 to 100 mg of caffeine.

This isn’t a lot, considering how strong the drink is. But that’s probably because of the small volume of a single serving.

Double- and triple-shots of espresso, such as used in a Red Eye, can have quite a lot of caffeine – and will keep you awake and wired for a few hours, no matter how tired you were.

By contrast, drip coffee has 80 to 200 mg of caffeine in a cup.

How Does It Differ From Coffee?

Mainly in the brewing method.

Espresso machines operate under high pressure (9 bars), pushing water through tamped coffee grounds to speed up extraction.

Regular coffee brews gently through the effect of gravity alone. This means extraction is slower, taking a longer time to prepare.

In all other aspects, the two are similar. You should grind coffee beans more finely ground to prepare espresso.