There’s a lot of variation in coffee, for many it is a passion, for some an addiction, and for others a passing fancy. Either way, we love our coffee, and to be honest, we’re sick of the rage that bubbles up when we hear people say ‘expresso’ as if that were a real thing – so we decided we best share some knowledge to reinforce yours, or educate the loathsome heathens. Espresso is a drink and a method of brewing in its own right, it isn’t just a really strong coffee.

Your guide to Espresso

History class first. Those delightfully inventive Italians conceived a way of brewing coffee faster than the average method, specifically for those people in a rush – who has more than 5 minutes to wait for a cup of coffee these days? After several decades of toying about with steam machinery and pressures, the more common method of brewing came into existence. A few minor bits and bobs have been added since to regulate temperature and pressures, all culminating in the classic machines you see in coffee shops. So, now 1 ounce of coffee is made with 7 grams of roast ground coffee beans, brewed at 9 bar pressure at around 94-97C. In recent years those wonderful little one-button machines have popped up as well for home use, and whilst they’re better than a bad barista, they aren’t as good as the real deal.

We’re trying to keep this easy to read and simple to digest, so we won’t delve into the newer ways of brewing espresso, the different effects it has on different kinds of bean from different climates, or the variation in opinions thereon.

A shot of espresso, when prepared by your barista, is the coming together of finely ground coffee beans and hot water under significant pressure. The hot water is forced through the coffee grounds, and as it passes through, it picks up some dissolved solids as well as pushing out the coffee’s oils. This ends up in the cup as a body of delicsiously hot and strong coffee, with a rather noticeable layer of ‘crema’ on top. That hot little shot is often drunk on its own for the quick hit, but also forms the basis for some of the most popular coffees out there:

Espresso – your classically pulled espresso, served in a small shot.

Ristretto – this transalates as restrained. It is a type of espresso, where the shot is made faster by increasing the pressure on the water passing through the grounds. Usually only a few seconds faster

Lungo – this translates as long. A type of espresso, where the shot is made slower, by forcing the water over a longer time, but never more than double. Can be anything from a few seconds, to almost double the length of time (we’re talking a maximum length of about 45 seconds here)

Double Espresso – double the espresso, double the shots, double the caffeine.

Espresso Macchiato – A classic espresso, served with a small volume of foam. Foam being steamed milk to the point of being mostly bubbles.

Cappuccino – A drink done in thirds. One part espresso, one part steamed milk, one part foam

Dry Cappuccino – Similar to your standard cappuccino, but this will have more foam than milk, typically then a third espresso, a sixth steamed milk and half foam.

Cafe Latte – espresso topped up with mostly steamed milk, with a touch of foam topping it all off if you’re feeling fancy.

Cortado – one part espresso to an equal part foam. Not the most commonly found though!

Americano – espresso with added hot water to make it fill a cup. You run the risk of having boiling water added, in which case we urge extreme caution when starting to drink!

Cafe Mocha – the one for the sweet toothed person who isn’t too sure about coffee yet. The cappuccino in method, although only add half that amount of foam, and replace it with cocoa.

Flat White – often confused with the latte: same parts espresso and milk. The difference being that the latte requires steamed milk, with little foam, but the flat white requires pouring a milky/foamy mix with a bit more abandon. Subtle to say the least.

Iced Coffee – espresso, sweetened, then chilled, then milk added, then when you’re ready, add it to that ice! Simple and much better than iced tea on a hot day.

Cafe Bonbon – A French variety here, where an espresso is topped with condensed milk. The milk sits perfectly, waiting for you to stir it in. This is a very sweet drink, hence the name (go figure!).

Cafe Creme – In essence, it is similar to the flat white and latte, but again requires less work on the milk front. This is just hot milk, typically 2 parts milk to 1 part coffee. Those French again!

Cafe Noisette – A very particular type of espresso, with just the right amount of milk added to get a beautiful hazelnut colour (hence the name).

There we have it your very own guide to coffee and Espresso, giving you the ultimate guide to impressing your mates when next in .. your favourite independent coffee shop!

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