Many people know espresso as that dark mysterious liquid that bears the strong, bold, intense essence of coffee. To some, it tastes delicious; others, maybe not so much. So what is it really, and how is it made?
Espresso is the main brewing method of choice in almost every coffeeshop. Espresso makes the base of all your favorite drinks like the latte, cappuccino, americano, and even the caramel macchiato. By itself, espresso has a strong, bold, concentrated taste and intense aroma. Those who prefer to drink espresso will either drink it like a shot or slowly sip it as it cools. When paired with dairy, the taste of the espresso is mellow out and complemented by the creamy, silky texture of the milk (or milk alternative).
Despite how common espresso is, some confusion still exists around what “espresso” actually means. The term “espresso” refers to one of two things: the brewing method by which an espresso machine is used or the resulting beverage produced by said machine. Espresso is not a type of bean nor roast profile. In fact, you can use any type of coffee at any roast level to make espresso. Some coffee companies will label their coffee as “espresso beans/roast” to indicate that it was designed to taste best as espresso, but it can still be used in other brew methods as well. It is simply a matter of personal preference.
So how do espresso machines work? First, coffee is finely ground into a metal basket held by a portable filter, or “portafilter.” The grounds are leveled out in the portafilter then tamped into a compressed bed of coffee. The portafilter is securely attached to the espresso machine then a hot water pump is engaged. The pump will build up to 9 bars of pressure to force water through the coffee bed, extracting as much coffee as possible. Finally, espresso will slowly pour into a vessel which can then be served as is or mixed with other ingredients such as milk, flavoured syrups, or maybe tonic water.
Let us know what your favorite espresso-based drink is. We’d be happy to make it how you like it. Next time, we’ll look at the most user-friendly brew methods: capsule/pod brewers and instant coffee.