What comes to mind when you hear the word “espresso?” For many, it’s strong, bitter flavors, or extra caffeine perhaps? If you’re from Italy, espresso is coffee and coffee is espresso. It’s also just part of life. Sitting along the side of the road sipping on a shot of black creamy goodness, is not a bad way to start anyone’s day. If you’re a Starbucks barista, espresso is what you smell like when you come home and it’s typically a condiment for milk and sugar in some form. I personally love espresso. Espresso by itself, with steamed milk, hot or cold, over vanilla ice cream, double shot or quad shot, I like it all.
While there are some espresso aficionados out there who wouldn’t mind a hot double shot handed to them every hour on the hour, most coffee drinkers aren’t drinking espresso straight up. From my experience as a professional in the coffee industry, most people aren’t drinking espresso straight or espresso-forward drinks because of what I call espresso myths. Espresso myths are our preconceived assumptions about espresso. Often these ideas are from valid experiences, but they also are often because of hearsay, forming a reputation of this little black drink that is misinformed. Let’s dive into some of these espresso myths.
Espresso Myth Number One - Espresso has to be bitter.
Many think coffee and bitterness tend to go hand in hand, let alone the concentrated coffee we call espresso. But that does not have to be the case! In fact, properly cultivated, and skillfully roasted coffee can be bright, and naturally sweet, nutty, or fruity. Now take that naturally sweet and bright tasting coffee and brew it as espresso. The result? An even more concentrated strupy burst of flavor ready to coat your mouth with heavenly goodness! You might be wondering if I am talking about the same espresso you might have decided to try one day at Starbucks. Yes and no. Like mentioned before, how coffee or espresso is prepared and selected makes all the difference. Most espresso beans are over-roasted which results in carbonized, burnt, and smoky flavors, thus the bitterness. Then when it comes to preparation, espresso is brewed with an end drink in mind that is much more a mix of milk and syrup flavorings than coffee. Bitterness is mitigated by the sweetness in milk and sugar, so in the end it doesn’t matter if the double shot is overly bitter when most people slurp it down in a Caramel Macchiato. And there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what you enjoy, but my point is bitterness doesn’t have to define espresso. I’ve had many guests over try espresso in my kitchen that is properly brewed, amazed at the potential array of flavors found in that little demitasse cup.
Recommended Espresso Products:
• Gaggia RI9380/46 Classic Pro Espresso Machine
• Gaggia Replacement Pressurized Filter Basket
• Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
• Quickmill QM67 Dual Boiler Espresso Machine
• Nespresso Pixie Espresso Machine
• Nespresso Capsules Variety Pack
Espresso Myth Number Two - Espresso has more caffeine.
Fun coffee fact: A standard double shot of espresso has less caffeine than your standard 12 oz cup of filter brewed coffee. Espresso, because it is more concentrated than coffee, might seem like it gives you more of a kick of energy due to how fast it is consumed. It’s typical to use the same dosage of coffee grounds for a double shot of espresso and a 12 oz cup of coffee. The difference is that there is more water passing through the coffee bed, and more time spent brewing a cup of coffee that more caffeine is extracted from the grounds themselves. Moral of the story? If you want to drink more coffee but have a problem with caffeine, espresso might actually be a better option.
Espresso Myth Number Three - Espresso has to be strong.
Technically, this isn’t a myth. Espresso will always be strong. By definition when coffee professionals talk about coffee strength we are referring to the yield of extracted coffee solubles (whatever is taken from the beans in the brewing process) in relation to the amount of water in the final product. For example, when comparing espresso to coffee, the strength is between 7% and 12% for espresso and between 1.2% and 1.8% for filter brew. Meaning, 7 - 12% of what is in a shot of espresso comes directly from the grounds. The rest is water. By default, espresso is always stronger than coffee. But when most coffee drinkers refer to a drink being strong it has more to do with flavor, and texture than coffee soluble percentages. Thus, getting to my original point, according to the definition that most use, espresso doesn’t have to be strong. Espresso can have notable floral flavors, berry notes, and even hints of tomato (thanks Kenya). There are also many different ways to prepare espresso. There’s something refreshing and bright drinking a crisp shot of espresso brewed over ice then mixed with tonic water. Or just plain over ice can be really light and enjoyable.
READ MORE: So You’re Thinking About Roasting Your Own Coffee?
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