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What Exactly is Espresso?

When it comes to versatile drinks, espresso is on the top of the list, since you can make several espresso-based drinks. Mix a shot of espresso with steamed milk, and you get a flat white. Even the popular Espresso Martini is, well you guessed it, espresso-based. But what exactly is espresso?  

Many people actually get confused when it comes to espresso and coffee. The two are actually very different. But even cultural aspects can confuse the two, for example, if you order a coffee in a French restaurant, you might be brought an espresso as that’s what the locals drink as “coffee”. Even though this is technically wrong.

So let’s actually take a look at what exactly is espresso.

Related article: Is a latte stronger than coffee?

What Exactly Is an Espresso?

An espresso is a coffee brewing method where hot water is passed through coffee grounds at high pressure. This process is done relatively quickly to extract the coffee flavors for your drink.

To set the record straight, espresso is not a coffee bean nor is it a roasting style. Espresso is just one way of brewing coffee, there are several different brewing methods like using a percolator, drip coffee maker, French press, pour-over, and so much more. 

The espresso has been linked back to originating in Italy and is a popular drink for most Europeans, where a huge espresso culture has developed. This is mainly because people look for a caffeine boost and want to enjoy a strong coffee that is hot.

It is also worth noting that espresso has more caffeine per unit compared to other coffees. 1 shot of espresso contains around 65mg of caffeine.

Related: Best portable espresso makers.

The Process of Extracting Espresso

To extract espresso is to force hot water through a finely ground coffee under intense pressure.

Back in the day, in order to extract espresso, people needed steam power to force out hot water through ground coffee, but this method often created a bitter espresso.

Thanks to mankind’s endless innovation and desire for perfection, the process of extracting espresso and the steam-powered espresso machine evolved into a hand-operated pump, which was invented by Achille Gaggia. This is where the term “pulling a shot” came about.  

Nowadays, espresso is made through a high-grade coffee machine. That is because only a machine can generate the pressure required to extract the coffee flavors from the grounds. 

In order to extract the perfect flavors, the coffee beans must be finely ground and tamped into the portafilter (small attachment where the coffee goes into a machine). The water temperature should be around ​​190 °F as it passes through the ground coffee. The pressure is usually at around 10 Bars, which is optimum for an Espresso.

What Drinks Can You Make with an Espresso

Espresso can be used to make a variety of drinks. These include the latte, flat white, cappuccino, cortado, and many others. Whilst the espresso is a strong-tasting drink by itself when added to these other drink varieties, it is not as noticeable. 

That is why people order lattes and cappuccinos, where the coffee taste isn’t as strong, but they still get the coffee hit. A typical choice for those who don’t like the raw coffee taste. 

Espresso Myths

Espresso is Not a Coffee Bean and Other Mistakes People Think of About Espresso

Now that you know more about espresso and how to create properly create, you now will learn what espresso is not. 

Espresso Isn’t a Coffee Bean

Don’t be fooled if you see a coffee bag in the supermarket that says “espresso”. Essentially, espresso can be made from any type of bean but espresso is not a coffee bean at all. 

Some beans have these labels stamped on their packaging since most coffee roasters cater to roasting their coffee beans specifically for espresso which creates their signature blend.



Espresso Isn’t a Roasting Style

Just because a coffee bean is roasted darker than the usual, it does not immediately imply that it is an espresso roast. Contrary to what other people might think that when you make an espresso, you don’t need a darker roast to get that strong espresso flavor.  

The main reason why coffee roasters tend to roast their espresso blends a bit darker since dark roasted beans create a consistent brew compared to light roast coffee beans. 

Espresso Can’t Be Brewed Using Moka Pot nor AeroPress

As opposed to what most people think, a true espresso can’t be brewed using a Moka Pot or AeroPress.

Despite the fact that a Moka Pot is known as a stovetop espresso maker, it does not give you the same strength, consistency, and flavor as a true espresso drink. Remember that in order to extract espresso, you need intense pressure to extract it. With a Moka Pot, you sure get some steam to push water through the grounds, but it’s not as powerful as the pressure of an espresso machine. 

Another coffee maker that is thought to brew real espresso is an AeroPress. Even though an AeroPress is sometimes called an espresso maker, and it does use manual pressure to extract coffee, it doesn’t give out the necessary pressure needed to extract espresso. 

How Does Espresso Taste?

When it comes to espresso taste, people often mistake that it has a very bitter taste. This is the reason why most people don’t dare to drink espresso by itself, but instead choose espresso-based specialty coffees, since the drinks are sweeter. 

However, this is all dependent on the type of coffee beans used, the barista making the espresso, the roast, and many other small factors. There are many things that can influence the taste of an espresso, as it is basically a chemical reaction and should be done precisely.

So if you have had a bad espresso before, don’t hesitate to try one in a new location.

Why Is Espresso Better Than Any Other Coffee Drinks?

Extracting espresso is a form of art. It only takes less than a minute to brew espresso, but the result produces a highly aromatic and strong coffee.

What makes it better than any other coffee drink is that it is less acidic, and it is very flavorful all thanks to the aromatic oils being preserved during the highly pressurized brewing process. Usually, aromatic oils in the coffee bean are lost during a longer brewing process that’s why you’ll notice that espresso is more aromatic and flavorful compared to regular coffee. 

The Final Sip

So what exactly is espresso? It is a coffee brewing method where coffee grounds are combined with high-temperature water & intense pressure. This produces a shot of coffee that is less acidic, has more caffeine per unit, and helps to create many other drink types.


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