What is Espresso?
Originating in Italy, espresso is the heart of the European-style café. The popularity of espresso has spread around the world. This drink is created by forcing hot water through tightly packed, finely ground coffee at high pressure that extracts a thick, flavorful essence in a concentrated form. This "espresso" (quick) method of brewing can produce a shot between 18-25 seconds.
When serving espresso, each cup is prepared fresh to each individual order. The best straight espresso is no more than 1 fluid ounce of coffee, brewed into a warm demitasse (small cup). A cup filled with more than one fluid ounce produces an over-extracted brew that is thin and bitter.
Four Important Aspects to Espresso
The type of coffee used can change the espresso dramatically. Some single origin coffees contain enough character to make a well-balanced espresso, but blends are more commonly used. When creating the espresso blend, several factors determine the desired flavor including - acidity, body, aroma, and taste. Blending coffee is an art form and creating a combination of beans that enhances the coffee’s best desirable flavor characteristics takes skill and patience. It really does not matter whether a single origin type of coffee or a blend is used in the making of the espresso as long as the flavor profile pleases the drinker’s palette.
The correct particle size is critical to espresso flavor. When the coffee is correctly ground and packed into the espresso machine filter basket, the resulting essence will trickle out like honey dripping off a spoon. Too coarse a grind will result in "instant" espresso (watery but bitter) and too fine a grind may result in a bitter brew, clog a filter, or result in no coffee at all.
Because of the critical importance of correct temperature and pressure, the quality of the machinery plays a much more important role in espresso than in any other method of coffee brewing. High quality espresso machines need to consistently deliver water at the proper temperature (192-198 degrees Fahrenheit) and pressure (9 atmospheres).
Espresso is truly a hand-made coffee, and the skill of the barista plays a decisive role in determining cup quality. He or she must choose the right blend and grind of coffee, determine the correct amount of coffee to be dispensed, make sure the espresso machine is working properly, and keep it clean. Our role at Alakef is to supply the finest espresso, but making a quality beverage is up to the barista.