The Only Reason Why Espresso Is Served with Water


Different people and cultures have different rituals or expectations when it comes to drinking coffee. If you’re not familiar with a particular way of drinking a coffee or coffee-like drink, it can seem strange. Sometimes, espresso is served with a small glass of carbonated water, which confuses many people who aren’t expecting it.

Espresso is a very strong, concentrated drink. Some cafes and coffee bars, as a result, serve the espresso with a glass of sparkling water. This allows the coffee drinker to cleanse their palate as needed, either before, during, or after their espresso.

This practice’s exact origins and timing are debated, and espresso isn’t always served with water. To learn more about this practice and other things that are good with espresso, please keep reading.

What Is Espresso?

Espresso is a specialized variety of coffee that originated in Italy. Instead of regular coffee grounds, espresso uses dark-roasted, fine coffee grounds and pressurized brewing to create a rich, thick, concentrated drink that’s full of intense flavor. Because of how it’s made and how strong and bold it is, espresso is served in shots, with a double shot being the most traditional and often the most common.

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How Is Espresso Made?

Because espresso requires specialized machinery, the average consumer is more likely to have it made by a barista than to make it themselves. That being said, some people prefer to make their drinks at home, and some people like to know how stuff works!

Espresso is made using an espresso machine. What this machine does differently than a standard coffee maker is force the hot water through fine, packed coffee grounds. This then runs through a metal mesh or portafilter instead of through a paper filter.

The fine grounds, the pressure, and the lack of paper a filter all lead to a drink that has a lot more material from the coffee beans that is found in standard drip coffee. This means a lot more flavor and a thicker drink.

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Why Did Espresso Start Being Served with Water?

In short, nobody is entirely sure why espresso started being served with water. That doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of theories, though!

Everyone agrees with this: the water is served sidecar with espresso so that you can cleanse your palate and give your taste buds a reset. However, there is a lot of disagreement about the origins of this and exactly when you should cleanse your palate.

One theory, especially with espresso originating in Italy, is that, like with wine, Italians wanted to cleanse their palate before and between drinking so that they could experience the flavor without interference from other foods or drinks. However, water isn’t served with espresso as commonly in Italian cafes as in upscale cafes in the United States.

Another theory is that baristas used to serve the glass of water to show that the water they used for their espresso was clean. The practice then continued even after water was no longer commonly dirty because people realized how well it worked as a palate cleanser.

Some claim the water is served to wash down the thick espresso after you’re done with it. If you need to wash it down, though, you either didn’t get a very good espresso, or you should consider trying to find a different go-to drink.

Still, others believe the water started being served as a simple hospitality gesture, much as restaurants in the United States bring water before you’ve ordered anything to drink. It then became included in competitions, and because it was included in competitions, it became standard in fancier cafes and coffee bars.

How Should I Drink Espresso?

Espresso is traditionally served in a small, pre-warmed, demitasse coffee cup with a small glass of sparkling water, or soda water alongside it, so if you’re looking for directions, this is where to start.

Start by sipping the sparkling water. You don’t want to fill up on the water, but you do want to rid your mouth of any flavors that might interfere with your enjoyment of the espresso.

The next step is up for some debate. Who knew espresso was so debatable? You can either skim the crema off your espresso, or you can skip this step. So why the debate?

Some experts insist that the crema is bitter and detracts from the flavor. Others insist that the crema is sweet and gives the espresso a greater depth of flavor. Likely, the answer is somewhere in the middle; it contains more of the espresso’s bitter and intense flavors, but the foam gives the mouth the impression of lightness and sweetness. If you really want to focus on the espresso’s flavors by themselves, you can remove the crema.

Finally, sip the espresso, letting it wash over your tongue so you can enjoy the flavors. As a note, if you’re not a fan of coffee tastes, this might be a little unpleasant, so go slowly your first time, and maybe keep a bit of your water handy. It really does taste amazing, though, once you’ve learned to appreciate it!

Does It Matter What Kind of Glass the Water Is Served In?

It doesn’t really matter what kind of glass your water is served with. It will probably be a small glass, though, because unless the espresso is really bad, you’re not going to need a whole glass of water to either fill your stomach first or wash the espresso down afterward.

Does the Water Have to Be Sparkling?

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Some baristas serve espresso with sparkling water, while others serve it with still water. Some insist on mineral water, which can be either sparkling or still. In the end, though, it’s really down to personal preference. If you’re given a choice, choose the type of water that best cleanses your palate. Espresso aficionados most commonly recommend sparkling mineral water.

Why is Espresso Sometimes Served with a Lemon Rind?

Coffee has both acidic notes and bitter notes. Espresso skews heavily toward bitter rather than acidic as a result of the pressurized extraction process. For those who don’t care for the bitterness but still want to enjoy an espresso, a lemon rind can help balance out the bitterness with a bit more acidity.

What Can I Mix with Espresso?

Espresso is great for mixing with other drinks to create a variety of coffee drinks. There’s so much coffee flavor in such a small volume that it mixes quite well and presents virtually endless possibilities.

It’s very common to mix espressos with milk or cream. Cappuccinos, lattes, flat whites, macchiatos, Cortados, and many more drinks are all made by mixing espresso and steamed milk in varying amounts with different foam levels.

Adding milk plus a bit of chocolate syrup will create a delicious mocha. If you add milk, as well, it will be thick and creamy.

Mixing espresso with hot water results in a classic Americano. Generally, you’ll want to add enough water to make 6-8 ounces of liquid.

Those who enjoy alcohol might mix espresso with Kahlua and vodka. This is called an espresso martini. It’s sometimes served with a cinnamon stick or with a swirl of chocolate syrup.

Is Espresso Good with Chocolate?

Coffee and chocolate go well together, and espresso is basically concentrated coffee. Therefore, it goes well with multiple forms of chocolate.

If you order a cappuccino, it might be topped with chocolate powder. To create a mocha drink, you’d want to add milk and chocolate syrup. Chocolate-covered espresso beans are a popular treat. These flavors mix wonderfully, so they’re quite popular.

You can also have a chocolate bar alongside your espresso, though you may want to include some milk to help wash down the intense flavors without eliminating them entirely. Dark chocolate goes especially well with espresso.

Is Espresso Good with Honey?

Though honey is more traditionally used as a sweetener for tea rather than for coffee, some people love honey with espresso. Honey is a very rich sweetener, so it doesn’t dilute the taste as much as sugar can. It’s also rumored to be particularly tasty with a bit of milk and cinnamon mixed in.

What Is a Cortado?

Cortados are essentially small lattes. They’re also similar to macchiatos and flat whites in that they have little or no foam, and they won’t fill a standard coffee cup. However, they do have more liquid than a single or double shot of espresso, with a ratio of around 1:1.

What Is a Gibraltar?

A Gilbraltar is an espresso with just a splash of steamed milk. These are a good choice for people who really want to taste their espresso but still love the creaminess that milk adds to the drink.

What Is a Demitasse?

A demitasse is a little cup that’s used to serve espresso or Turkish coffee. It’s a French word whose roots literally mean “half cup.” It holds two to three ounces of liquid. It’s also referred to as an espresso cup.

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