As we all know, coffee is an astoundingly popular drink.
And the basis for many of the most popular speciality coffees around the world is espresso.
And as a coffee lover, you should have a basic understanding of what an espresso is because it will help you make better coffee.
However, because of its importance and popularity, espresso is a drink that is widely misunderstood.
In this article, I want to help clear up some of the confusion.
And so, let’s start with a definition.
What Are The Elements Of A Traditional Espresso?
What makes an espresso?
To make espresso, you force pressurised boiling water through finely-ground coffee beans.
It is much thicker and stronger than other methods, like French press and filter coffee.
It’s famous for the rich foam on top, known as crema.
Any bean or roasting method is suitable for making espresso, it’s the fine grind that is important.
The coffee in tamped down and so the water goes through it evenly. The crema is produced by the emulsifying oils in the coffee beans.
A “certified Italian espresso” has a number of key characteristics.
It must contain a quarter of an ounce of ground coffee.
The coffee must be 190°F as it comes out of the machine, the serving temperature 153°F.
The water pressure matters too, it’s got to be 9 bars (131 psi) and percolate for 20-30 seconds.
A certified Italian espresso should be 25 ml or about 0.85 fluid ounces, including the crema.
As you can see, making a ‘real’ espresso is a craft.
Common Misconception 1: You must buy a special ‘espresso’ bean.
It doesn’t matter what kind of bean you use.
Both filter coffee and espresso use the same beans from the same to coffee strains: Arabica or Robusta.
You can use any bean in your espresso machine and use espresso beans in your French press.
Common Misconception 2: The beans must be roasted in a specific way.
Many coffee beans marketed as ‘espresso beans’ are just a dark roast.
This is because people tend to prefer the rich flavors of a dark roast with espresso.
But it doesn’t define espresso.
You can make espresso with a light roast if you want.
Common Misconception 3: The fine grind defines espresso.
Wrong, yet again.
Though, espresso is made with finely-ground beans.
The fine grind doesn’t define espresso.
You can brew up a French press using fine ground coffee, it’s still not an espresso.
Espresso is the method, not the coffee.
Common Misconception 4: Espresso has more caffeine than other brewing methods.
While espresso has more caffeine per unit than most other brewing methods, the total amount of caffeine in a shot of espresso is less than your standard cup of filter coffee.
On average, the standard drip coffee has 170mg, while an espresso has only 120mg.
History of Espresso
In 1884, Angelo Moriondo patented the first ‘steam-driven instantaneous coffee beverage making device’.
It didn’t work quite like modern espresso machines, it brewed in bulk. So, no single shots.
Seventeen years later, along comes Luigi Bezzera.
He reinvented the espresso machine and patented several improved machines.
The patent was bought by Desidero Pavoni who put the machine into industrial production.
Historians consider urbanisation as the most crucial factor in the popularisation of espresso.
In Italy, espressos began to pop up as a place for city workers to socialise.
The English-speaking world first got wind of espresso in the form of cappuccino and here is a guide to the 10 best beans to use to make your cappuccino.
The English-speaking world already loved coffee with milk, and the foam added an extra twist.
Coffee bars began springing up across the UK and USA.
It was a place young people could hang out. Latte became popular in the States.
Espresso bars grew into high-class venues.
The art of espresso-making and the hundreds of different types of coffee continues to grow worldwide.
Espresso Cheats- Make An Espresso Without An Espresso Machine
Don’t have an espresso maker? Surprising as it may sound, you can make tasty ‘fake’ espresso without a machine.
Part A: Make Espresso with a French Press
First off, you’ll need your French press and ground coffee.
Don’t use boiling water just hot.
Put a heaped spoonful or two of fine-ground coffee.
Add about 4 fluid ounces of hot water and whisk up.
Put on the lid and slowly press the plunger.
Tada! You have espresso.
Part B: Make Espresso with a Moka Pot
Start with your Moka port, disassemble the pot and fill the base with water (don’t cover the valve).
Fill the funnel with coffee, use a standard grind rather than fine.
Smooth off with your fingers and don’t tamp down.
Then, place the funnel in the base and reassemble.
Put on the stove at a medium heat.
Steam is forced into the top of the pot. Remove from the heat as it finishes to prevent burning.
Like magic you have an espresso. Or close enough.
Part C: Make Espresso with an AeroPress
Get your coffee, Aeropress, a glass, an espresso tamper and a disposable filter.
Load the filter into the Aeropress.
Half fill your Aeropress with coffee, tamp down firmly.
Then, pour hot water over the coffee, using the tamper to keep it in place.
Assemble the Aeropress and pour into a glass.
And, Yay! You have espresso.
Bean and Roast Selection
With espresso, you can use any type of coffee bean you prefer.
It’s up to you.
Do you like it strong and nutty?
Then try a full-bodied bean from Brazil.
Do you like something savoury-sweet?
Give Kenyan beans a go.
If you like your espresso thick and syrupy, try Ethiopian.
What about something with a fruity edge? Try something from South America.
What about roasting?
Dark roasts give a richer and deeper flavour.
Lighter roasts tend to be smoother and less bitter.
Light roast has more caffeine, because the dark roast burns it away.
7 Mistakes To Avoid
#1. Grinding Too Much
The moment you grind the coffee, the flavours and aromas are released.
If you grind too much, you’ll end up having leftovers.
Many people use this for their next batch of coffee.
This is a mistake. That coffee will go stale.
#2. Not cleaning out the filter basket
Leaving old coffee in the machine causes coffee oils to build up in the device.
It clogs your machine.
It will ruin the next batch.
#3. Not cleaning the machine
All the old coffee oils and gunk harden when left inside the machine.
Clean the steam wand, the portafilter, and get rid of all the excess coffee from the drip trays.
#4. Uneven Tamping
Another crucial point is tamping the coffee correctly.
If it’s not firm enough it can leave you with a watery mess.
#5. Forgetting to watch the espresso pour
Watch whether it sputters.
Check the quality of the crema.
Fast flowing means the grind is too coarse, slow flowing means it’s too fine.
#6. Not tasting the coffee yourself
If you don’t taste it, you have no idea whether the coffee is burnt, whether it has the correct taste or whether the milk is too hot.
It stops you embarrassing yourself in front of guests.
#7. Bad presentation
It’s got to look good. It’s got to feel good.
Make sure to use quality cups.
Make sure the any foam is beautifully presented.
The first taste is with the eyes.
Kicking Horse Coffee, Cliff Hanger Espresso
Ideal Buyer – the coffee purist in search of something special
Want something smooth and chocolatey?
Wants something with a silky fruity texture that works perfectly for your French Press, a Cold Brew or your favourite Espresso Machine?
Check out Kicking Horse Coffee. It fills the senses with delight.
It’s fair trade, organic, kosher and delicious.
It comes in a 2.2lb bag.
Kicking Horse source their coffee beans from Africa, Indonesia and South America.
The beans are 100% arabica and of excellent quality.
Though, some might find the taste a bit bitter and strong.
It’s a touch pricey, but coffee nuts will love the depth of flavour.
Lavazza Gran Crema Whole Bean Coffee Blend
Ideal Buyer – An Italian coffee addict and espresso fan
Want something rich and spicy?
Do you long for a thick luxurious crema? Are you an Italian coffee connoisseur?
Lavazza’s Gran Crema Whole Bean Coffee blend might be just what you’re looking for.
This coffee is ideally-suited to espresso.
It comes out thick and almost syrupy with a rich and delicate flavour. The crema is to die for.
You can tell how unique it is from the moment you open the bag; the smell is light and smooth.
If you prefer an intense and bitter taste, then this isn’t the coffee for you.
This is for espresso lovers who like their coffee to taste like liquid gold.
illy Coffee, Espresso Ground, Medium Roast
Ideal Buyer – The coffee fanatic who loves a strong shot of espresso
What something smooth and full-bodied?
Want a ground coffee that stays fresh?
Want to brew up that perfect, intense espresso shot?
Perhaps give Illy’s espresso ground coffee a go.
It comes in a handy 8.8oz tin that helps keep your coffee fresh.
The tin is pressurised, so be a little careful opening it otherwise you might get coffee everywhere!
It’s a little on the expensive side, but the quality is what puts this espresso head and shoulders above the rest.
The fine grind is designed to make the most intense espressos.
Death Wish Organic USDA Certified Whole Bean Coffee
Ideal Buyer – the night owl who doesn’t have time to sleep
Haven’t found a coffee strong enough?
Need to keep alert while burning the midnight oil?
Want a coffee with double the caffeine?
Death Wish Organic USDA Certified Whole Bean Coffee might be the elixir for you.
Again, this coffee is fair trade, organic and kosher.
Their roasting technique is exquisite.
ou can sense the strength from the moment you open the bag.
It’ll kick you like a mule and get you working.
It is a blend of arabica and Robusta, so if you’re not into the bitter tastes this may not be for you.
But if you need to work late into the night, this just might provide the oomph you need.
Lavazza Super Crema Whole Bean Coffee Blend
Ideal Buyer – For the latte artisan who dislikes bitter coffee
Need something smooth and mild?
What something gentle on the taste buds with hints of almond and honey?
Do you love lattes and cappuccinos?
Lavazza’s Super Crema Whole Bean Coffee Blend might be the one for you.
The beans are lighter than the average roast.
It’s great for making lattes, cappuccino and even mochas or frappés.
Its aroma is beautiful and, even without milk, it is smooth and creamy. It complements steamed milk perfectly.
It’s not for those who like intense bitter black coffee.
So, if you like your coffee smooth with milk, this is your perfect choice.
Coffee Bean Direct Dark Brazilian Santos
Ideal Buyer – The home barista with a passion for smooth, dark coffee
Do you love dark roasts, but want something smoother?
Do you want something that both has a full-bodied flavour and low acidity?
Do you want to be professional barista at home?
Coffee Bean Directs’ Dark Brazilian Santos might be just what the doctor ordered.
It comes in a big 5 lb bag.
It’s great value and great quality.
It has an aroma that reminds you of freshly-cut sage.
It’s deep a fruity too, but without the bitter edge of most dark roasts.
The beans are quite oily, but it produces an excellent crema.
Give it a try, you won’t regret it.
Kona Coffee Beans by Imagine – 100% Kona Hawaii
Ideal Buyer – A coffee gourmet with a taste for exceptional
Are you looking for something better?
Do you want to drink liquid luxury?
Do you want hand-selected beans with unique flavour?
Then Kona Coffee by Imagine might just be the perfect fit.
Grown in fertile organic soil, it uses 100% Kona coffee beans.
They don’t blend with any other variety.
It tastes sweet and robust without a trace of bitterness or acidity.
The heavy price tag will put some off.
But, if you’re wanting to invest in something high-class, then these beans are an excellent choice.
Koffee Kult Thunder Bolt Whole Bean Coffee
Ideal Buyer – the artisan coffee lover with a passion for rich flavours
Want something packed with flavour?
Do you like a deep, rich taste that enlivens the senses?
Do you have a hankering for pure Colombian coffee beans?
Then give Koffee Kult’s Thunder Bolt Whole Bean Coffee a try.
It’s perfect in a French Press or tamped down in your espresso maker. It has the rich taste of an artisan coffee shop. It’s smooth, robust and has lovely hints of cocoa.
What’s more it’s ethical, both organic and fair trade!
If you want to feel like you’ve brought the coffee shop home, then give it a shot.
Cafe de Loja Speciality Coffee Beans
Ideal Buyer – An espresso lover who loves a sensual experience
Do you like a glorious aroma?
Are you addicted to deep, exotic flavours?
Are you a fan of Ecuadorian coffee beans?
Café de Loja has complex flavour mixing rich nutty tones with a fruity finish.
It doesn’t have the slightest bitter aftertaste.
It’s grown at high altitude.
Each bean is checked carefully for quality.
And it comes in a big 2 lb pound and is excellent value.
It is one of the most affordable coffees out there, while still maintaining excellent quality.
Cafe Don Pablo Decaf
Ideal Buyer – The passionate coffee connoisseur who wants to cut out the caffeine
Do you love high quality coffee?
Are you passionate about rich, flavourful coffee beans?
Are you trying to improve your sleep?
Then Café Don Pablo’s Decaf is an excellent choice for you.
It’s a rich medium-dark roast.
It tastes smooth with a wonderful edge of caramel.
There’s even a touch of citrus in there.
It’s a full-bodied, refreshing coffee.
It uses the Swiss water process to decaffeinate, and it’s one of best value Colombian coffees out there.
It is so much better than the usual flat-tasting decaf options. One of the best decafs on the market.