Espresso 101

Published on: 8/2/19

Espresso is widely known as one of the most popular drinks among coffee lovers and coffee connoisseurs across the US. It packs a huge punch in a small cup, but can also be a little deceiving. When people think about how to get the most caffeine out of their coffee, they typically gravitate towards a shot of espresso. It has an intense flavor in only a few ounces, but we’re here today to debunk some of the most popular espresso myths out there. Let’s get started.

Espresso is a unique method of brewing coffee. Lots of variables come into play when pulling a shot. But before we dive into what it takes, it’s important to define where the idea of espresso came from. Espresso is a traditional coffee beverage, served in a demitasse cup usually 2-3 oz in size. Originally, espresso was created as a way of preparing coffee quickly and efficiently, when you didn’t have the time for something more time intensive. It was also used with hot water to create a variation of a drip coffee (called an Americano in the United States). Something else you may not know is that espresso is the action of brewing under pressure, not a specific type of coffee. Any coffee has the ability to be brewed as an espresso as long as it is prepared properly, however many coffee roasters do showcase an espresso roast or blend that they may label as an espresso whole bean. This is merely a naming scheme to show customers which types of beans that roaster prefers to use on espresso. 

Brewing coffee under pressure allows us to accentuate subtle tasting notes that may be muted when brewed with another method like drip or pour over. It also allows the coffee to pack a huge flavor punch. It is important to do the following when brewing espresso:

• Use fresh whole bean coffee.
• Grind coffee very finely, using an espresso grinder if possible.
• Always measure out your coffee. Typically a shot of espresso is measured at 17-22 grams.
• Evenly distribute your coffee in the portafilter basket for an even extraction.
• Evenly tamp the coffee using 30 lbs of pressure in a downward motion.
• Brew your coffee for 25-35 seconds using up to 9 Bars of pressure.
• Enjoy it! You should yield 30 – 60 grams of coffee.

Each of variables, as well as the coffee type and the equipment used, can have an effect on taste. The best part about espresso is playing with these variables and seeing what you like best. The possibilities are endless.

Finally, let’s chat about the caffeine. Although the caffeine per ounce ratio is higher because the coffee is more concentrated, it doesn’t actually offer more caffeine than a normal cup of coffee. If you think of each in terms of quantity of coffee used—a shot of espresso is 17-22 grams and a drip coffee is 20-40 grams (dependent on size). Obviously, the more coffee you use, the more caffeine. Therefore, a shot of espresso is served in 1.5 – 3 oz sizes will include the same amount of caffeine as a small cup of coffee. But as you can see from the numbers above, a larger cup of coffee will actually contain more caffeine that a shot of espresso. If you enjoy the idea of espresso, but you are not ready to transition to the full flavor of a shot, you have the ability to add steamed milk to mellow the flavors a bit, without eliminating the caffeine. A great way to enjoy the sweetness of steamed milk and the flavor of espresso is to drink a cappuccino, traditionally 1 part espresso to 2 parts milk. This allows the drink to be balanced with the sweetness from milk while still being able to enjoy the bright flavors of a shot of espresso. 

Espresso, or coffee brewed under pressure, is an exciting way to enjoy coffee. It will bring out stronger tasting notes than other brewing methods would and allows you to enjoy the same amount of caffeine in a smaller size. Next time you join us at Indie Coffee Roasters, make sure to ask us more—how the espresso is prepared, what coffee we use, and what tasting notes you’ll get out of it. We always love educating you more on what you’re drinking!

Ready to learn more? Sign up for our upcoming ICRU Espresso 101 Class, Aug 10th from 7-9pm. Learn more here!

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