It seems like there’s a Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Peet’s, Seattle’s Best, or Biggby Coffee shop on every corner of the planet. Some places, like Seattle, Starbucks can be across the street from another location of its own, and in most places, there’s at least one competitor nearby. We might have a slight obsession with this hot, caffeinated drink called coffee in our country. But do you know the ins and outs of the types of coffee you drink when you belly up to the barista counter?
What is Espresso?
Basically, espresso is a concentrated form of coffee served in small serving sizes. Espresso can also be used as a base for making blended coffee drinks, like cappuccinos and lattes. Espresso machines are designed specifically to brew this concentrated coffee by forcing nearly boiling water through the coffee grounds and filter at high pressures to create this thick concoction called espresso.
The Espresso Machine and Its History
The espresso machine has been around for more than a hundred years, and was invented in Italy, by Angelo Moriondo. Since then, improved versions, including the 1903 patented machine by Luigi Bezzera, have improved the espresso experience immensely. Espresso machines can be powered in a number of ways, including piston, steam, or air-pump, and can either be automatic or manual. Some are stove top makers, while others plug into the wall and work their magic while you go about the business of reading the morning paper.
The Art of Espresso
Usually, you’ll drink an espresso in the form of a shot, or in a blended drink like a Flat White. A shot of espresso is approximately one ounce, and very strong in both flavor and caffeine levels. The concentrated coffee has a higher caffeine count per ounce, but since you usually only drink a shot or two, you’ll actually wind up with less caffeine than a regular eight ounce cup of coffee.
Generally speaking, you’re going to enjoy a straight up shot of espresso in a demitasse cup. Demitasse literally means “half cup” in French, though the intent of this meaning is “half a cup of coffee” not the four ounces that would equate a half of a standard measuring cup. Demitasse cups and espresso cups are the same thing. The term espresso cup is the more common name for these dainty china items, but demitasse is the fully proper name for them.
Most demitasse cups come in a two to three ounce serving size. Often these cups at coffee shops will be white and thick, but fine china companies have made some beautiful patterns and designs over the years. Some famous people have actually made collections of these beautiful, small china pieces, including aviation pioneer, Jerrie Mock.
While drinking espresso, the use of a saucer can enhance your experience, as could a demitasse spoon. This smaller-than-a-teaspoon works perfectly for stirring in sugar, cream or other add-ins for your espresso experience.
Serving Sizes of Espresso
There are three basic serving sizes for espresso. There’s the single shot espresso, which is not always available in all coffee shops or cafes. This serving size isn’t necessarily as effective for quality control as others.
The double shot, or doppio, espresso is exactly that – a two ounce serving of the concentrated coffee. As mentioned before, most demitasse cups are designed for this size serving.
The larger and less flavorful shot, or lungo, is two ounces as well, but made with the coffee amount of a single shot and the water volume of a double shot. In other words, a lungo is made of two ounces of water pulled through coffee for a standard one ounce shot of espresso.
Types of Espresso Drinks
When you walk into just about any coffee shop on the planet, you’ll find an assortment of espresso drink options. Here are a few of the more popular choices you could find on a menu.
- Cappuccino — Made from espresso concentrate and frothed milk. Could be made from a single or double shot of espresso.
- Cortado — Made with a 1 to 1 ratio of milk and espresso, and has little foam.
- Galão — Made up of 2/3 espresso, 1/3 milk.
- Macchiato — Both traditional and modern macchiatos are made with milk, but the modern version has a 1 to 1 ratio while the traditional variety has only a small amount of the foamy milk.
- Latte — This drink has a much wider range of milk percentage. It can be made with anything from a 1:3 ratio, up to a 1:9 ratio between the espresso and milk.
Espresso is, in essence, a concentrated form of coffee served in demitasse cups in single, or double shots, and used to make drinks like cappuccinos and macchiatos. They’re a fascinating part of our culture, and have a more than century old history that we can thank the Italians for.