As a local Melbourne roaster, the majority of our customers are ‘espresso’ drinkers (whether they know it or not!) Served up at every cafe, on every street-corner and gaining in popularity in the home, espresso is becoming the most common way Aussies enjoy their coffee.
Let’s take a closer look at this fascinating beverage that fuels our 9-5 and brings us together in cafes and kitchens from Perth to Potts Point.
So, what is Espresso?
Espresso is a brewing method; not a roast profile or a type of bean either. Put simply, a shot of espresso is a concentrated form of coffee created by forcing hot water through super-fine coffee grounds at a high pressure.
The result is a liquid stronger than a pot of brewed coffee, topped with a brown foam called crema. Crema forms when air bubbles combine with the soluble oils of fine-ground coffee and sits on top of a properly pulled shot of espresso. The crema adds to the rich flavour and lingering aftertaste of espresso.
Espresso is made using the exact same plant as coffee, and is grown, processed, and roasted the same way. Any origin and roast coffee can be used to make espresso. The difference between coffee and espresso is in the grind and the treatment of the beans. The beans are ground to a finer consistency than coffee and firmly packed before hot water is forced through, using an espresso machine. This results in a shot of espresso, which can be enjoyed straight or used to make a long list of other beverages.
History of Espresso
The first idea of an espresso style machine was invented in 1884 by Angelo Moriondo, who lived in the city of Turin in northern Italy. In 1901, a Milanese inventor, Luigi Bezzera patented his own improved version of the espresso machine which (believe it or not), is very close to the espresso machines that we know and love today. It was showcased for the first time at the World’s Fair in Milan, Italy in 1906.
Over the first few decades since their invention, espresso was a niche coffee variety mostly confined to espresso bars in Italy - these were typically ‘boys clubs’ where gents would get together to discuss current events, make business deals and tell tall stories.
During the 1950’s, Espresso drinkers across the Atlantic were working-class Italian expatriates living in cities like Boston, New York, and San Francisco.
Now, from Starbucks and McDonalds to your favourite main street cafe and even your own kitchen, the espresso style of extraction dominates the modern Australian coffee landscape.
Preparing A Shot of Espresso
A shot of espresso is extracted fast. 7-24 grams of finely ground coffee, extracted under 9 bars of pressure for 20-30 seconds. The sugars are more difficult to extract, and the acids come out easily. Because of this, we often roast coffees intended for espresso darker (allowing them to develop more sweetness and tone down the acidity), when comparing to coffees roasted for filter. A darker roast develops a caramelisation on the surface of the bean which adds to the overall sweetness.
Here at Bermuda Coffee, we believe even the strangest extraction technique will attract a fan base because everyone has different taste buds! Some people enjoy and even prefer a lighter roast with their espresso. With a lighter roast, you should expect a very fragrant cup, with a lot of sour, bitter and intense aromatics.
The concept of an espresso grind is simple, but unfortunately, the application is not. Espresso requires a very fine grind to have any chance of success.
Hot water flows through the compressed puck of ground coffee at an extremely hot temperature (85-95C) and at an incredible pressure. A coarse grind will leave a large amount of room for water to flow (think filling a sieve with rocks and pouring water over it) which means the extraction goes too fast and the flavours are ‘under extracted’.
Now imagine putting very small pebbles in a sieve and seeing the difference in flow.
Furthermore, if you put dust or fine sand in the sieve and pour water through it, it may pool at the top and not even flow through. So, you can see that grind is tricky! We suggest to start with a very fine grind and then keep turning it coarser until your drips turn to a steady flow. When the flow is even and flicks like a little mouse's tail, you’re going to be pretty close.
Every grinder and espresso machine will have a different relationship to the bean it is given. There is a lot of fine-tuning with coffee grinding and it will all depend on your grinder and machine, as to the outcome. Have fun playing around with the settings - art meets science!
Generally, espresso runs to a coffee-water ratio. So, if you hear terms like 1:2 or 1:3 that means 1 gram of coffee per 2 grams of water. 1:3 means 3 grams of water for every 1 gram of coffee. If your basket is meant to take 9 grams of coffee, then you would start with a ratio of 18 grams of water (a 27mL shot) and adjust from there.
Espresso has 3 taste profiles as it extracts, split into 3 parts. The first phase of extraction is the sour phase, lasting for about 25-30% of the shot. The middle phase of the shot provides the sweetness. Up to about 50-60% of the extraction (so 13-15 grams of water if we’re looking at a 1:2 ratio in a 9 gram single shot). The final phase is bitterness - but don't stop the shot just because you know there is bitterness coming - it’s an important part of the flavour! Think about ginger, broccoli, beer, wine, chocolate, citrus fruits… they can all feature a strong bitter flavour, but we still love them! Without the bitterness, you have a very ‘unripened’ flavour profile in your espresso shot. But the final phase is tricky. Stick to the ratios and taste. If you can only taste a burnt flavour, then your shot has gone too long. If the shot tastes ‘green’, sour or ‘earthy’, you’ve probably under-done the shot. More experimentation = more fun and the perfect shot for your individual tastes!
Espresso Based Drinks
There are dozens of ways to enjoy a shot of espresso. But let’s look at some of the most popular:
Short Black: Short black espresso is the 25-30 ml extraction of coffee beans ground for the espresso machine with a pour time of 15-30 seconds. The short black espresso is the foundation part to every espresso based coffee drink. Short black is traditionally served in a preheated small ceramic cup.
Doppio (Double Espresso): It’s an espresso shot, done twice! About 60ml of coffee served in a small ceramic cup.
Macchiato: The word Macchiato is Italian for ‘stained’. Macchiato coffee is usually 1 shot of espresso topped off with milk foam. It consists of three different coloured layers. The bottom dark layer represents the 1 shot of espresso, the middle layer mixes the espresso and the milk, and the top layer consists of the steamed milk foam. The milk foam helps to soften the bitter espresso taste.
Ristretto: A Ristretto Espresso made with the same amount of coffee but half the amount of water. It is usually a very strong coffee. A very popular drink as a base for milk drinks in well-frequented cafes around major cities in Australia.
Long Black: Long Black is very simply an espresso shot topped up with hot water. Best technique is to add boiled water to the cup first, then the espresso shot on top, as this practice preserves the crema.
Cafe Latte: Café latte or ‘latte’ for short, is an espresso based drink with steamed milk in a 1:3 to 1:5 ratio, with a little micro-foam added to the coffee. It is generally served in a glass.
Cappuccino: A nearly identical beverage to the Cafe Latte, with 2-3cm of micro foam on the top of the drink and sprinkled with chocolate powder. Served in a cup or a mug.
Flat White: An Aussie staple, much like a latte but with very little micro foam at the top of the cup. 1 shot of espresso of around 75ml topped with steamed milk in a flat ceramic cup.
Piccolo Latte: A piccolo latte is a shorter version of the café latte. It is quite specific with 30ml of espresso to 70ml of silky warm milk, served in a tiny cup.
Magic: Did you think we forgot Melbourne’s famous Magic? The hipster’s calling-card served in back-alleys in Melbourne’s pop-up cafes and laneway eateries. A magic is steamed milk poured over a double ristretto and served in a smaller 160ml cup giving it the optimum coffee to milk ratio. So yeah, you could call it a ‘strong flat white’ or a ‘long piccolo’ but where’s the magic in that?
So, why should you drink espresso?
While consuming too much caffeine carries certain health risks, just the right amount of espresso has a number of health benefits.
- Heart Health
Studies have shown that the right amount of caffeine helps improve cell functionality, acting as a preventive measure against things like heart disease. In fact, regular coffee drinkers may be up to 19 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
- Liver Health
A number of studies have shown that regular coffee consumption can greatly reduce the risk of cirrhosis, a liver disease often caused by heavy use of alcohol.
- Brain Health
Drinking espresso may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or dementia. A number of studies about brain health and caffeine consumption conclude that regular, moderate coffee or espresso intake reduces the risk of cognitive decline.
So, there you have it - an introduction to the wonderful world of Espresso! Hit us up with any questions you might have at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our range of blends and single origins roasted and ready for the magic to happen!