Saturday, January 10, 2009


There's nothing like a steaming hot shot of espresso.

An espresso aficionado is not your average coffee drinker. Almost everyone drinks coffee. But most coffee drinkers could not endure the bold explosion of flavor in a shot of espresso. Espresso attracts a more adventurous soul. One who drinks espresso is one who's taste buds are not easily charmed, one who likes a little extra spring in their step. It is more than just the flavors in a shot that makes a good shot of espresso such a sublime experience. Its rich creamy texture, its thick crema top, the complexity of its aroma all are part of the experience. Take in a shot of espresso and observe its effects. The eyes widen, brighten a bit. The heart rate quickens. You're ready for anything.

This is what a shot of espresso should look like

Unfortunately espresso is not always good. Getting espresso just right takes more than just flipping a switch. Bad espresso is a waste of time and money, and just plain makes me sad. Good espresso is a product of a good bean, good equipment and a skilled barista.

Let's start with the bean. When we think of espresso beans we picture a very dark roast with a shiny coating of surface oil. This is the type of bean traditionally used for espresso. Actually espresso can be made from any coffee bean. Some World Barista Championship winning brews have come from medium roast beans.
Espresso Beans

Crema is the thick creamy layer of foam that occurs when a shot of espresso is pulled. Crema is made up of oils, proteins and sugars, and exudes a major part of the espresso aroma. Crema is absolutely essential to making a decent shot of espresso. If a barista hands you a shot with no crema, hand it back... it's not a good shot of espresso.

This is The Ideale, the first successfully marketed espresso/cappuccino machine. Designed around 1905 for use in restaurants and cafes around the world. It spawned the popularity of fashionable and sophisticated espresso and cappuccino beverages.
The Ideale

The design of the espresso machine has evolved over the years. Modern espresso machines are computerized and designed to give consistently high quality servings of espresso.

A Modern Espresso Machine

The variations of espresso drinks are many. The most popular include: the Cappuccino (1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, 1/3 foam), the Caffè Latte (espresso topped with steamed milk and a thin layer of foam), and the Caffè Macchiato (an inverted latte with the espresso on top).

A Cappuccino

Espresso is a way of life, but be warned, once you've acquired a taste for this magnificent beverage there's no turning back. Regular drip coffee just won't do anymore.

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