You may drink it daily in your lattes or macchiatos, but have you ever wondered what espresso is?
Espresso is the caffeine source in your morning latte or cappuccino, but what exactly is espresso? Isn’t it quite coffee? But they’re so similar. So, let’s get to the bottom of what’s in your morning Americano.
What Exactly Is Espresso?
Espresso is a concentrated coffee made using specially roasted beans and an espresso machine.
Finely ground beans are packed into a portafilter, then secured to the espresso machine’s base. Water is forced through the packed grounds at high pressure to produce one or two-ounce shots of creamy, thick espresso.
So, how did this machine come into being? While Angelo Moriondo is thought to have been the first to patent an espresso machine in 1884, his machine could only brew larger quantities of coffee. Then, in 1903, Luigi Bezzera invented the single-serve espresso machine, which he later sold to Desiderio Pavoni. Bezzera and Pavoni collaborated to create a machine similar to the ones we see today, and the espresso machine became more commercially available after the 1906 Milan Fair.
To summarize, thank you, Italy, for giving us our favorite way to wake up, our afternoon pick-me-ups, and our after-dinner treats.
How Is Espresso Different from Coffee?
The only real distinction between espresso and coffee is in the beans and the brewing methods. As previously stated, espresso is brewed using high water pressure and finely ground beans. Coffee is brewed more slowly, with less pressure, and with lighter roasted beans.
Espresso beans are very dark and are roasted longer than regular coffee beans. The long roasting time ensures that oils are released from the coffee beans, resulting in the thick, full texture you expect from an espresso shot. Light, medium, and dark roast coffee beans are produced by roasting beans for shorter periods. These beans make traditional coffee, French roasts, and pour-overs.
For example, brewing espresso-roasted beans in your drip coffeemaker would not produce espresso. Because of the extra dark roast, the coffee would taste very strong, but because there was no high-pressure brewing, the resulting beverage would just be regular coffee.
How Much Caffeine Is in a Shot of Espresso?
A single shot of espresso contains approximately 64 milligrams of caffeine. A single eight-ounce cup of coffee contains about 92 milligrams.
However, most espresso drinks contain two or more shots of espresso. While a single espresso does not contain the same caffeine as a cup of coffee, most café-style drinks do.
Blonde Espresso vs. Regular Espresso
Regular espresso is made from the previously mentioned darkly roasted beans. The result will be bitter and heavy. Blonde espresso is a trendy marketing term, but it’s essentially an espresso bean roasted to the lighter end of the roasting scale. Because it is roasted shorter, blonde espresso is less bitter and lighter on the palate.
How to Drink Espresso
If you like cute coffee mugs, prepare for your new obsession: espresso cups. They’re the cutest, tiniest mugs and look great on your kitchen counter. If you’re a fan of these cups, you’ll also want these espresso accessories.
Sipping espresso black is the simplest and quickest way to consume it. There’s no need to froth milk or mix syrups—black espresso is as simple as it gets. However, the flavor will be strong and bitter, so sip slowly. If the flavor is too bitter, you can make a latte with steamed milk or a cappuccino with frothed milk.
Popular Drinks Made with Espresso
- Espresso: It’s simple and classic—just a shot or two of creamy, thick espresso.
- If you’ve ever been to Europe, you’ll understand the distinction between an Americano and a cup of coffee. We Americans adore drip coffee, but it is uncommon in Europe. To cater to tourists’ preferences, a shot of espresso is mixed with hot water to dilute the strong espresso flavor found in drip coffee.
- Latte: A shot of espresso topped with steamed milk is another classic that is always a treat. Sweeten it up with syrups like vanilla, caramel, and hazelnut.
- Cappuccino: A cappuccino is similar to a latte but has more foam on top of the steamed milk. Because of the small amount of foam resting above the milk, the intricate leaves and hearts in latte art are possible. Because a cappuccino contains so much more foam, the closest thing to cappuccino art is a snow-capped hill.
- Macchiato: If you want something close to black espresso but with a less bitter aftertaste, a macchiato is the perfect balance of espresso and milk. A classic macchiato, as opposed to the large, creamy caramel-drizzled drink you might find at a coffee shop, is simply a shot of espresso with a dollop of warm milk mixed in.
- Affogato: Consider the affogato to be part dessert and part after-dinner drink. It’s made with a scoop of gelato and a shot of espresso poured on top—delicious.
- Martini: While this isn’t the traditional way to drink espresso, we know espresso martinis are delicious. As an after-dinner drink, make one of these.
Learn more: Creamy Homemade Hot Cocoa Recipe