What is an Espresso?

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In the rich and diverse world of coffee, the espresso reigns supreme as the foundation for many beloved coffee beverages and a bold, concentrated drink in its own right.

The espresso captures the essence of coffee through its intense flavour, rich aroma, and silky crema.

In this Coffee Expert guide, we’ll explore the origins, characteristics, and variations of the espresso, helping you better understand and appreciate this powerful coffee classic.

The Origins of Espresso

Italian Beginnings

The history of espresso can be traced back to Italy in the early 20th century, where inventors sought to create a faster and more efficient method of brewing coffee.

The first patented espresso machine was designed by Angelo Moriondo in 1884, and subsequent inventors, such as Luigi Bezzera and Desiderio Pavoni, refined the technology to create the modern espresso as we know it today.

Global Expansion

Espresso quickly gained popularity across Europe and eventually around the world, becoming the cornerstone of modern coffee culture and the foundation for numerous coffee beverages.

The Components of an Espresso

Coffee Beans

High-quality, freshly roasted coffee beans are essential for creating a rich and flavourful espresso.

Espresso blends often feature a combination of Arabica and Robusta beans, with Arabica beans offering nuanced flavours and Robusta beans contributing to the bold, intense character of the espresso.

Grind Size and Consistency

The grind size and consistency are crucial for extracting the optimal flavour from the coffee beans.

Espresso requires a fine, consistent grind to ensure even extraction and a balanced flavour profile.


The extraction process involves forcing hot water through the coffee grounds under high pressure, which results in a concentrated, full-bodied coffee shot.

The ideal extraction time for an espresso is between 25 and 30 seconds, yielding approximately 30ml (1 oz) of liquid.


One of the defining characteristics of a well-prepared espresso is the crema, a golden layer of foam that forms on the surface of the shot.

The crema is created by the emulsion of coffee oils and gases, and it contributes to the espresso’s rich aroma and silky mouthfeel.

How to Make an Espresso

Prepare the Coffee Beans

Start by selecting high-quality, freshly roasted coffee beans and grind them to a fine, consistent size using a burr grinder.

Tamp the Coffee Grounds

Fill the espresso machine’s portafilter with the appropriate amount of coffee grounds (usually 18-20 grams for a double shot) and evenly tamp the grounds with a tamper, applying consistent pressure to create a level, compact coffee bed.

Brew the Espresso

Attach the portafilter to the espresso machine and initiate the brewing process. Aim for an extraction time of 25-30 seconds, yielding a 30ml (1 oz) espresso shot.

Enjoying and Pairing Your Espresso

Sipping and Savouring

When enjoying an espresso, take small sips to fully appreciate the intense flavour, rich aroma, and silky crema. Notice the nuanced flavours, bold character, and lingering aftertaste that define the espresso experience.

Pairing Suggestions

An espresso pairs well with a variety of sweet or savoury treats, such as biscotti, pastries, or a slice of dark chocolate. Feel free to experiment with different pairings to find the perfect accompaniment to your espresso.

Variations of Espresso


The ristretto is a more concentrated version of the espresso, using a shorter extraction time and less water. This results in a bolder, more intense flavour and a smaller volume of liquid, typically around 15-20ml (0.5-0.7 oz).


The lungo, also known as a long shot, involves a longer extraction time and more water than a standard espresso. This creates a larger volume of liquid, usually around 50-60ml (1.7-2 oz), and a milder flavour profile compared to the traditional espresso.


The doppio, or double espresso, is simply two espresso shots pulled in succession and served together. This creates a larger volume of liquid, approximately 60ml (2 oz), and a more intense coffee experience.

Espresso in Modern Coffee Culture

Specialty Coffee Scene

As the specialty coffee culture continues to evolve, the espresso remains at the heart of this movement.

The focus on high-quality beans, precise brewing techniques, and innovative espresso-based beverages has elevated the espresso experience to new heights.

Espresso vs. Other Coffee Brewing Methods

Espresso is distinct from other coffee brewing methods, such as drip or French press, due to its concentrated nature, high-pressure extraction process, and signature crema.

While these other brewing methods can produce delicious coffee, the espresso offers a unique intensity and complexity that sets it apart.

Our Conclusion on the Espresso

The espresso is a powerful and captivating coffee creation that encapsulates the essence of the coffee bean in a concentrated, full-bodied shot.

By understanding the origins, components, and variations of the espresso, you can better appreciate this delightful beverage and confidently order or create it at home.

Whether you’re a seasoned coffee aficionado or a newcomer to the coffee scene, the espresso offers an intense and rich experience that is sure to tantalize your taste buds and awaken your senses!