Sometimes, espresso can seem like a mystery, even to those who enjoy it. There’s so much flavor in such a little package, and it’s not as cheap and easy to make at home as a regular drip coffee.
Because of the pressurized way it’s brewed, espresso contains more than five times the amount of coffee bean solids than drip coffee does. This gives it a much more intense taste, making it great for coffee lovers or as a base in a mixed coffee beverage.
There are other ways that espresso stands out. There are standard ways to make it at home, creative ways to make espresso-like drinks, and debates regarding the complexity of coffee versus espresso. Read on for much more information about the amazing drink that is espresso.
What Exactly Is Espresso?
Espresso is a coffee beverage that is made via a pressurized brewing method. This makes the brewing faster. Combined with the finer grounds used for espresso and lack of paper filter, the high pressure also puts a lot more of the beans’ content into your cup without being gritty.
The near-boiling water doesn’t have time to extract the overly-bitter flavors that might otherwise come with the very dark roasts favored in espresso.
These intended side-effects of the pressurized brewing method make for a concentrated coffee drink with an intense taste and rich flavor and a thicker consistency than normal coffee. It’s served either in shots (traditionally in double shots, specifically) or as the base for coffee drinks mixed with other products.
What Makes Espresso Special?
Espresso’s concentration makes it fantastic for people who enjoy the type of rich taste it offers. The concentration also makes espresso great for mixing into other beverages or even foods while maintaining a strong, distinctive coffee taste.
The pressure and lack of filter mean that espresso contains many more oils and bean content than a standard coffee. This makes it a good choice for those seeking the benefits of coffee, especially if they don’t want to drink too much liquid to achieve those benefits.
Self-proclaimed coffee experts frequently maintain that the intense flavor makes espresso by far the most superior coffee drink. This is very similar to other beverage categories, such as beer or wine, where experts reward the extremes of intensity and subtly.
Why Does Espresso Taste Sour?
If your espresso tastes sour, chances are it wasn’t percolated at a high enough temperature. Coffee beans release different compounds at different points in the extraction process.
For drip coffee, a sour note often means the coffee was percolated too quickly. For espresso, however, there’s generally a set, much faster brewing rate.
Therefore, if only the first, more acidic notes were well extracted, then either the water wasn’t hot enough or the coffee grounds were too coarse for espresso’s quick, pressurized brewing.
What Is The Best Way to Make Espresso at Home?
Espresso machines used to be too expensive for the vast majority of people to afford at home. They’ve come down a good deal in price, but most good ones still run well over a hundred dollars for even the simplest models.
This might be acceptable if you like espresso daily and don’t have a need for a standard coffee maker, but it will depend on your budget.
Most average Americans still tend to have a drip coffee maker at home, and they go out to a cafe or coffee bar for espresso drinks, but if you want to make espresso at home, the best way to do it is still to buy an espresso machine.
Can I Make Espresso Without An Espresso Maker?
Espresso machines use so much pressure to brew their product that it’s not really possible to duplicate the process perfectly without one.
That said, there are a few cheaper brewing tools that can let you get pretty close. An AeroPress or French press makes a coffee beverage that’s darned close to espresso by using just their default instructions. It’s rich and thick and can even get a hint of crema, which is a distinct espresso feature.
However, it’s not going to have quite as much body to it as an espresso, especially since it does use a paper filter, and recipes claiming more than a hint of crema seem to take more work than they’re worth.
A Moka pot is a little more expensive than an AeroPress machine, but it’s simpler to get an espresso-like beverage out of it once you get the hang of it. It seems a little less flexible than the AeroPress, but it also offers an appealing visual to your kitchen.
A French press is common in many coffee lovers’ households and can be used to make an espresso-like brew. Like the AeroPress, it can be a little complicated to get just right (or as close as possible), but like the Moka pot, it gets easy enough with practice. It also makes a fair bit at once and is much closer to standard coffee than the other two workarounds.
Which Has More Complex Flavors, Espresso, or Drip Coffee?
Whether espresso or drip coffee has more complex or sweet flavors really depends on who you ask. However, if your coffee has more complex flavors, it’s because it has more thorough extraction.
The time it takes for a standard cup of coffee to brew allows for a wider range of compounds, all with slightly different flavors, to be extracted from the coffee grounds.
However, this does mean that coffee captures more of the sourness associated with the lower amounts of extraction and the bitterness associated with the higher ends of extraction. A good brewing method does a great job of balancing this.
What Drinks Can Be Made With Espresso?
There are many, many different drinks made with espresso. Most are made by mixing the espresso with some amount of milk, often steamed or frothy.
Some of the most popular with milk include cappuccino, mocha, latte, and macchiato. One of the most popular espresso drinks without milk is the Americano, which is very similar to drip coffee but is made by mixing water and espresso.
What Types of Beans Are Best for Espresso?
Espresso is made with either Arabica or Robusta beans. Arabica beans tend to work really well with the flavors of espresso, and Robusta beans have an extra kick of caffeine, so which type of coffee bean depends on what you’re looking for in an espresso.
After you’ve got the type of bean decided, things get a bit more standardized. Espresso is nearly always made with a very dark roast. This enhances the rich, caramelized flavors that can be so sought after in an espresso shot.
Then, the roasted coffee beans are ground very finely. The fine coffee grounds allow for extraction to happen a little faster, which works well with the short brewing time for an espresso. It also allows more of the bean’s compounds to be pulled into the viscous drink.
Is Espresso Better Hot or Cold?
By itself, espresso is generally served hot. However, in mixed drinks, it really is up to personal preference. One visit to Starbucks proves just how popular their iced, espresso-based drinks are, with various lattes and macchiatos often topping their menu. Cappuccinos, however, because of the lower volume, are almost always served hot.
How Do I Make Espresso-Based Beverages Vegan?
Whether you’re making the espresso drink at home or ordering it at your local coffee shop, it’s not very hard to make your beverage dairy-free.
Coffee beans themselves are already vegan, so it all comes down to what’s added to it. Please double-check if you’re on a strict diet, but many of Starbucks’ flavorings are vegan, including their Frappuccino base, and most coffee shops carry at least one non-dairy milk.
At the time of this article, Starbucks carries coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, and oat milk. At home, simply use your favorite of these milk alternatives.
Can I Add Sugar to Espresso Drinks?
You can add sugar to espresso drinks! Sugar isn’t a standard ingredient in most traditional espresso drinks, but if you like your drinks a little sweeter than the normal drink, feel free to add it! Be aware that stirring can disturb the crema or foam on top, so the drink might not be as pretty, depending on the sugar’s timing.
Syrups are a great way to make an espresso drink very sweet. They can be swirled around the mug or glass before the drink is added for a splash of decoration and of flavor. Coffee shops often use both syrups and whipped cream.
What If I Like Coffee Better Than Espresso?
It is okay to like coffee better than espresso! Coffee is easy to make and presents nearly endless options for customization so it’s me of a preference than anything else.
Most people already know how to make coffee, so it’s less daunting, and it’s a better choice for people who aren’t sold on the taste but like the caffeine.
- What Exactly Is Espresso?
- What Makes Espresso Special?
- Is Espresso Better Hot or Cold?
- Why Does Espresso Taste Sour?
- Can I Add Sugar to Espresso Drinks?
- What Drinks Can Be Made With Espresso?
- What Types of Beans Are Best for Espresso?
- What If I Like Coffee Better Than Espresso?
- How Do I Make Espresso-Based Beverages Vegan?
- What Is The Best Way to Make Espresso at Home?
- Can I Make Espresso Without An Espresso Maker?
- Which Has More Complex Flavors, Espresso, or Drip Coffee?