What is this glorious thing we speak of?
Well quite simply it is a shot of straight coffee, brewed from tightly packed coffee through an espresso machine with high temperature water (92-96 degrees Celsius). A single shot of espresso is generally in the range of 30ml of liquid and will generally have a delicious thick crema on top.
The espresso or short black is the basis for almost all coffee drinks on the cafe menu. One thing before we get too deep, it is pronounced ES - PRESS - O! Please don't be that guy saying expresso at the cafe, your street-cred for ordering a straight shot just bounced right out the door when you said that :)
Espresso is the basis of coffee that is used in lattes, flat whites, cappuccinos and long blacks, just to name a few. By starting with a quality shot of espresso, the entire drink is vastly improved. Milk may mask the flavours of a poorly extracted espresso shot, but starting with a quality base of espresso, the drink should be smooth and tasty, certainly not bitter! Many a coffee purist will argue this is the best way to judge the true performance of an espresso and we agree. If the coffee is not extracted correctly, the espresso will be almost undrinkable .
Ok so you want to start playing with the big boys and drink your espresso straight up?
Well for most people it comes as a process of gradually building up to this. I like to compare the process to drinking alcohol. Most people don't start drinking straight whisky when they begin to drink alcohol, they start with drinks like bourbon and coke or vodka cruisers. Going straight spirits is intense and powerful, and often takes time to learn to enjoy the flavours. Drinking espresso is much the same, start out with your larger milk based drinks and gradually add less milk, to get closer to that straight shot of espresso.
A process of drinks may be something like this; latte, piccolo, macchiato and then espresso. The intense and rich flavours of espresso can take a while to appreciate, but once you appreciate those flavours it's something to marvel.
Once you are enjoying your espresso shots on their own, single origin coffees really start to shine as espresso and one can really appreciate the nuances and individuality of higher quality single origin coffees.
So there you have it, espresso in a nutshell. Don't be scared of it, it's a whole other ocean of flavors that's worth diving into!
We recommend our Smooth Criminal (available here) blend as our current pick for espresso!
Stay tuned to the newsletter for updates on our new single origin coffees on the way!