So, you are a coffee connoisseur. You have mastered the java-speak at your local favorite coffee house and know how to order your favorite mocha frap-something beverage right from your phone. Yet your knowledge of the coffee bean does not extend into the realm of Espresso; its dark mysteries elude you. You have heard worldly businessmen and women order their Espressos. You may have seen them with their miniature cups, basking in the sun in front of a quaint café on your last trip to Rome or Paris. You are intrigued but intimidated. If this sounds like you, not to worry, we can remedy that and put you on the express path to Espresso expert.
Espresso is another form of coffee, just produced a little differently than your typical brew. While special grounds are sometimes chosen specifically for the production of Espresso, they are still made with coffee beans; only these are ground more finely and shaped into a cake form. The cake is injected with 190-200-degree water at high pressure, and the end result is a swiftly produced concentrated caffeinated beverage usually served in one ounce shots. Many choose to consume something called a “doppio”, which means “double” in Italian and applied here refers to a double shot of Espresso. Despite Espresso being a concentrated form of coffee, it’s minute size actually means you are getting less caffeine than a typical cup of your favorite brew, even if it is more potent on a per ounce basis. Consuming a doppio will assure that you get a slightly higher kick of caffeine with a fraction of the liquid.
That tiny cup you see the café crowd sipping from is called a “demitasse”. This is a French word meaning “half cup”. Even that is being generous as these cups only have a 2-3-ounce capacity. The demitasse is often paired with a small spoon known as a “demitasse spoon”. Each shot of Espresso has what is called the “crema” laying across the top layer of the beverage, a tan-red froth consisting of a mixture of air bubbles and oils from the coffee beans. This is the most bitter and flavorful part of the shot and can either be sipped with delight or mixed in with your spoon depending on your taste. Additionally, at a proper café, a small glass of sparkling water is often served along with your beverage. This is intended as a palate cleanser so that you may indulge in your espresso with a blank slate.
Espresso is not just served as a stand-alone beverage; it acts as the core ingredient in several other caffeinated concoctions. The café latte, for instance, is a double shot of Espresso drowned in a large bath of steamed milk. A cappuccino is a doppio with an equal portion of steamed milk layered on top. The Mocha is a 6 ounce beverage consisting of one part Espresso, two parts hot chocolate. There are actually countless iterations of espresso, milk, and water mixed together that fill out the menu at coffee houses and cafes across the world. Hopefully, now that we have explored the deeper mysteries of Espresso, you will feel at home enjoying a doppio on the boulevard or ordering a Café latte for your next pick me up.