A lot of people have heard of espresso, but not many of us know exactly what it is and how it’s different from regular coffee. So, what is espresso really and what is an espresso shot? There are a lot of myths about the popular drink. One belief people think is that it’s a type of coffee bean, but.. it’s not!
Did that surprise you? Yes or no, we’re here to give you the answers cut and dry. Read on to see what this awesome drink is about and more.
What is Espresso?
Despite some beliefs, espresso is a style of brewing coffee and not a type of coffee. To make it, you need a specific machine. An espresso machine pushes water through finely ground coffee beans at a high pressure. These machines commonly have built-in grinders, to achieve a fine powder from your roast coffee. With manual grinders however, you fine grind the beans yourself.
As a result of the fine grounds and the brewing process, brewed espresso has a concentrated flavour that is full and rich. Which is something that a lot of coffee drinkers admire.
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What is an Espresso Shot?
Since high pressure is key for an espresso brew, you will only get a small yield called a ‘shot’. However, it is not meant to be taken like one. Instead, it goes into a demitasse, which is a small cup and drinks like a normal cup of coffee.
Espresso shots are typically served as a single or double shot. They can also be combined with steamed milk to make flavoured drinks, like cappuccinos and lattes. A single shot contains 30 ml of espresso while a double shot is 60 ml. Hence these main differences, we can see it’s just not the same as regular coffee.
Brief Background of Espresso
So where did this method of preparing coffee come from? Italy is your answer.
In the early 1900’s, the espresso machine came to life thanks to a man by the name of Desidero Pavoni.
This invention changed the coffee game. Since then, better machines and better grinders slowly came along to improve the pressure that the machine could make. As a result, ‘crema’ was first born in the 40’s, which is a key part of this brew.
Crema is a layer of froth that lies on top of the drink after it brews, which gives off a great aroma and taste. This is also another difference from regular coffee. After the 40’s the culture around this drink continued to grow and has become what we know it as today.
Types of Espresso
There are two factors that affect the type of espresso you can get. The first is size. The sizes you can get are a single, double or triple. In terms of ground coffee, each size is 7, 14 and 21 grams respectively. The more formal names for these sizes are solo, doppio and triplo. These are the names in Italian.
Length is the other factor. This deals with the ounces of hot water put into the drink. The length can be ristretto (short), normale (normal) or lungo (long).
Furthermore, the drink mixes well with other ingredients, making a whole new drink. For example:
- Cappuccino – Frothed milk with a single shot of espresso.
- Caffé Latte – Steamy milk with a double shot of espresso and syrup.
- Caffé Americano – A shot of espresso topped with hot water to fill a big cup.
- Black Eye Coffee – A double shot of espresso combined with coffee.
Other Variations of Espresso
Outside of drinks, espresso can actually be used for making baked goods in the form of instant espresso powder. It is essentially just dried up grounds. It goes well with any kind of brownies, cakes or cookies.
A small amount can add pleasant coffee flavours to your goods, with larger amounts adding a stronger taste. You can use this powder to make espresso, but we do not recommend trying it. It does not have that full and rich flavour that regular grounds have. However, if you don’t have anything else then it can work.
Espresso Vs. Coffee Beans
There is no difference between espresso and coffee beans. When you see coffee bags labeled as “espresso beans” they are most likely dark roast beans. Roasters will recommend how to bring out the best flavour from the beans.
So when it says “espresso roast” it means the coffee is designed to taste good when ground super fine.
Is There More Caffeine in Espresso than Coffee?
A lot of people believe that this roast has more caffeine than coffee. Those people would be both wrong and right. To explain, a regular cup of coffee is about 8 ounces and a cup of espresso is 1 ounce. In a cup of coffee, there is around 130mg of caffeine, while it is only about 50mg in the other. So in a way, coffee does have more caffeine.
However, since a cup of coffee is much larger than a shot, it’s actually not true. A shot of the good stuff is more concentrated, so technically it has more caffeine. But it is all relative to size.
Tips for Making Espresso
Now that you have all of the information, it’s time to get practical. We have come up with a few tips that you will find helpful when making your own cup. There are many small things you can do to get that perfect cup that everyone raves about. Here are a few tips that will get you there:
- Grind your beans right before you brew. When you grind your beans, they start losing their aroma and taste right away. Therefore, make your shot just after grinding the coffee grounds to make sure you get the best taste.
- Use the best water you can. Do not use tap water. You will notice an unpleasant taste in your cup if you do. Try to avoid any kind of water with minerals in it if you can.
- Make sure your machine is clean. Coffee oils can stick to the inside of your machine and can make your next cup taste bad. Always stay clean.
- Serve immediately after brewing finishes. If you let it sit for a while, it will lose some of its taste. Try to serve promptly.
Putting those tips to use could make a big difference in your next shot. And now you know how different this drink is from brewed coffee. We hope any of your false beliefs are now clear. Want to learn more? Check out our blog on how to make stovetop espresso. Cheers!