What is a Short Black?

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Coffee Expert explores a coffee type that is both distinctive and essential in the world of coffee: the short black.

In its intensity and rich flavour, the short black encapsulates the very essence of coffee, celebrating both the potency of its taste and the craft of its making.

Known for its robust character, the short black is proof that dynamite comes in small packages!

What is a Short Black?

In Australia and New Zealand, a ‘short black’ refers to a single shot of espresso served in a small, demitasse cup. This title is a direct result of its concentrated strength and compact serving size.

Internationally, this brew is widely recognised as an ‘espresso‘, but ‘short black’ is a term that has become an integral part of the distinctive coffee culture and lingo in Australia and New Zealand.

Being the backbone of most espresso-based drinks, the short black is a versatile coffee drink in its own right. It also forms the base of a ‘long black‘, where the espresso is diluted with hot water.

The Process: Crafting the Perfect Short Black

The creation of a short black is no less than an art form, demanding a refined skill set, precision, a top-notch espresso machine, and, of course, high-quality coffee beans.

The beans must first be ground to a fine consistency. Once the grinding is completed, the grounds are firmly packed or ‘tamped’ into a portafilter.

Following this, hot water, usually at a temperature range of 93-95°C, is forced through the grounds under high pressure. This process, known as extraction, should ideally take between 20-30 seconds.

If the coffee extracts too quickly, the short black may taste weak or sour. If the extraction takes too long, the coffee can taste overly bitter.

The result is a small, potent shot of coffee marked by a thick layer of golden crema. This crema signifies a well-extracted espresso, contributing to the rich flavour and sensory experience of the short black.

Tasting and Enjoying the Short Black

Savouring a short black is an experience meant to be relished slowly, one sip at a time. Its concentrated nature lends itself well to a thorough appreciation of the coffee bean’s complexity and the barista’s skill.

When you take a sip, you will first encounter the crema – a creamy, frothy layer that should be smooth and full-bodied.

Beneath this is the espresso itself, a burst of intense flavour that should strike a fine balance between acidity, sweetness, and bitterness.

Despite its strength, a well-made short black should never taste burnt or overly bitter.

Variations of the Short Black

While the short black is a classic espresso drink, there are a few variations on the theme. For example, a ‘double shot’ or ‘doppio‘ is simply two shots of espresso served in a larger cup, offering a more intense coffee experience.

A ‘ristretto‘ is an even more concentrated form of espresso, using the same amount of coffee but less water, which is extracted for a shorter time. This results in a smaller, more intense espresso shot.

In contrast, a ‘lungo‘ is a ‘long’ espresso, using the same amount of coffee but more water, resulting in a less concentrated but larger volume of coffee.

Conclusion: The Powerful Short Black

The short black, or espresso, represents coffee in its purest form. Its intense aroma and flavour showcase the coffee bean’s inherent characteristics and the barista’s craftmanship.

Ordering a short black at an Aussie or Kiwi coffee shop gives you a taste of this intense coffee experience in a compact form. Its strength, depth of flavour, and invigorating aroma make the short black a delight for true coffee connoisseurs.