Espresso 101: Taking The Confusion Out of Espresso

Most of us are very familiar with coffee. When you ask someone to describe coffee they will probably describe putting instant coffee granules into their favorite coffee mug, adding sugar and cream and stirring in hot water. Some will describe the coffee they drink as fresh brewed from their drip coffee maker. This is the most familiar brewing method most people use to make their daily coffee.

Most of us have heard the term espresso. Many will say they have never tried it, but little do they know, they may have had some in a favorite cappuccino or frappe they have bought at a coffee shop. If you haven’t tried espresso, chances are you aren’t a true coffee connoisseur.
If you are going to drink espresso you have to have the right lingo. Many people spell or pronounce espresso as “expresso”. This is incorrect. The name came from Italy around 1900 to describe coffee brewed “expressly for you.” This is the loose translation of the origin.

Espresso had its beginnings in Italy. The formal name is Caffè Espresso. In Italy, espresso is more than just a drink. The Italians make time to drink espresso. They describe drinking espresso as an experience, not just a beverage.
Hot, but not boiling water is put through ground coffee beans at high pressure to make espresso. The high pressure helps to extract all the flavors. Because of this high pressure process, only one cup can be made at a time. Each cup is made individually and then quickly served.

It has a brownish red color and an exquisite aroma. A proper glass of espresso should have crema. Crema is the tannish colored foam that is found on the top of a good shot of espresso. If you are served an espresso with no crema on top, it is considered a bad shot and you should ask for a replacement.

Served in glasses and drunk in shots, espresso is a brew with a rich taste and great aroma. If I had to explain the taste I would describe it as a dark chocolate taste although not the same.

Drinking the espresso is an art form in itself. Italians buy most of their espresso in a caffè. It is customary to lift up the both the saucer and cup, smell the shot and then drink it in three or four rapid swallows. The “ceremony” is completed by clacking the cup on the saucer firmly, but not too hard.