What is an Espresso? Things you ought to know.

Espresso by Cartera Veaceslav
First of all we need to make sure you get the name correct! What is an Espresso? not What is an ExpressoYou’d be surprised at how many people think that espresso has an X hidden in there somewhere.

So… What is an Espresso?

The word espresso can mean two things, one resulting in the other. It is both a coffee brewing method and the drink produced by the process.  It is not a type of coffee bean, blend of beans nor a roasting process.  If you see espresso beans for sale you can be sure that they are actually another type of bean, probably arabica, that is suited to the espresso process.

The Espresso Process

Espresso by Mojo Coffee
Espresso by Mojo Coffee

An espresso coffee is produced by forcing a small amount of almost boiling water through some finely ground coffee beans to produce a coffee beverage. The resulting espresso drink has more caffeine per volume than other standard coffee drinks.  Firstly the coffee beans need to be finely ground. Finer than you would use in a French press or cafetiere.  The coffee then needs to be compressed and compacted into the filter, this ensures that the water is evenly distributed through the grounds.  Finally the brewing process then takes less than a minute to produce the espresso.

What makes a good Espresso?

What is an Espresso?
Espresso by Leigh Klotz

That’s down to individual taste and a whole lot of different factors.  It is widely regarded that you must have a crema on the top of your espresso.  This is a creamy foam that is produced when the oils in the coffee bean emulsify during the brewing process.  This is unique to the espresso process and is perhaps the answer to what is an espresso.  The type of bean used, the size of the grind, the water temperature and pressure all combine to affect the final taste of the espresso.  Most of all finding the combination that works best for you is part of the joy of making espresso at home.

The espresso shot as it has become known is the basis for many other coffee drinks including cappuccino, latte, long black and macchiato.

Header Image Credit: Espresso by Cartera Veaceslav