What is Espresso?

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Espresso is a type of coffee made by forcing hot water under high pressure through finely-ground coffee beans. It’s known for its robust and bold flavor and is typically served in small quantities, often the base for other coffee drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Espresso is a type of coffee made using high pressure to force hot water through ground coffee beans.
  • It is known for its intense and assertive flavor and is typically served in small amounts.
  • Espresso is often used as the base for other coffee drinks, such as cappuccinos and lattes.
  • It is made using a specialized machine called an espresso machine
  • Espresso is topped with a layer of foam called “crema,” which gives it a creamy texture and rich flavor.
A Double Espresso In A Demitasse Cup
A double espresso in a demitasse cup | Source

What is espresso?

Espresso is created by using high pressure to force hot water through finely ground coffee beans. This process extracts the flavor and aroma compounds from the beans, creating a concentrated, full-bodied drink.

The crema, a layer of foam on the surface of the espresso, is formed by the emulsion of the oils in the coffee beans and the hot water used to extract the espresso. It has a sweet, nutty flavor and helps to preserve some of the aromatic compounds in the coffee.

The pressure, temperature, grind size, and tamping technique all play a role in the final flavor of the espresso. Espresso is not only enjoyed on its own but is also frequently used as the base for other espresso-based drinks like mochas and lattes.

The origins of espresso

Espresso originated in Italy, where it was first created to quickly extract the flavor and caffeine from coffee beans. The name “espresso” is Italian and means “pressed out” or “forced out.” The first known reference to espresso was in a document from Milan in 1884, but it was not until the early 20th century that the modern espresso machine was invented. Since then, espresso has become a staple in coffee shops and kitchens around the world

The Roasting Process

Espresso beans are typically roasted at temperatures between 410 and 428 degrees Fahrenheit (210 to 220 degrees Celsius). This range of temperatures allows the beans to develop the flavor and aroma characteristic of espresso, as well as the dark color and oily surface typical of well-roasted espresso beans.

Roasting Espresso Beans
Roasting espresso beans | Source

The exact temperature used for roasting will depend on the specific beans being roasted, the desired flavor profile, and the preferences of the roaster. Some roasters may roast at slightly lower or higher temperatures to achieve specific flavors or aromas in their espresso beans.


To make a shot of espresso, an espresso machine forces hot water through ground espresso beans at high pressure, also known as “pulling a shot.” The hot water helps extract the flavor and aroma from the beans, and the resulting shot has a natural layer of foam called “crema.” This crema is made up of oils from the coffee beans mixed with carbon dioxide gas and gives the espresso a creamy texture and rich flavor.

The water quality used to make the espresso is essential, as minerals can affect the final product’s taste. The grind of the beans is also essential, as a fine grind will extract more flavor and aroma than a coarse grind.

Finally, the tamp, or the way the ground coffee is pressed into the espresso machine’s portafilter, can also impact the quality of the espresso. A consistent tamp will produce a more balanced flavor, while an inconsistent tamp can lead to uneven extraction. Overall, making a great espresso requires attention to detail and careful consideration of all these factors.


The flavor and taste of espresso can vary depending on the type of beans used, the roasting process, and the extraction method. In general, however, espresso is known for its bold, intense flavor and rich, complex taste.

Pulling Shots Of Espresso
Pulling shots of espresso | Source

When tasting espresso, you may notice notes of dark chocolate, nuts, and caramel, as well as hints of fruit and floral flavors. The mouthfeel of espresso is typically thick and syrupy, with a slightly bitter finish. The crema, the foamy layer on top of the espresso, adds a sweet, nutty flavor to the overall taste of the drink.

In coffee lingo, the flavor and taste of espresso are often described as “full-bodied” and “robust,” with a “rich” and “complex” taste. The crema is often referred to as the “crowning glory” of the espresso, adding depth and sweetness to the flavor. Overall, the flavor and taste of espresso is known for its bold, intense characteristics and rich, complex taste.


There are several variations of espresso shots, each with its own unique flavor and characteristics. Some common variations include:

  • Blonde Espresso: Blonde espresso, also known as light roast espresso, is a type of espresso made with coffee beans that have been roasted for a shorter time than traditional espresso beans.
  • Ristretto: A ristretto is a “restricted” or “limited” espresso made with the same amount of coffee but less water than a regular shot.
  • Lungo: A lungo is the opposite of a ristretto, made with more water and a longer extraction time to create a larger, less concentrated shot of espresso.
  • Doppio: A doppio is a double espresso made with twice as much coffee and water as a regular shot.
  • Traditional Macchiato: A traditional macchiato is a coffee drink with one shot of espresso and a small amount of steamed milk & foam. It is around 35-40 milliliters in size.
  • Modern macchiato: A modern macchiato is a coffee drink with one or two shots of espresso and an equal amount of milk. It comes in two sizes: 60 milliliters or 120 milliliters.

Overall, there are many variations of espresso shots, each with its own unique flavor and characteristics. Common variations include ristretto, lungo, doppio, macchiato, and even blonde espresso.


In a small serving size of about 3.5 ounces (100 milliliters), espresso has a good amount of the mineral magnesium and the B vitamins niacin and riboflavin. It also has about 212 milligrams of caffeine, a stimulant that can help you feel more awake and alert.

Cafe vs. Home Preparation of Espresso

Cafe preparation of espresso typically involves using a commercial-grade espresso machine, which is larger and more powerful than those typically found in a home kitchen. These machines are designed to handle the high volume of espresso drinks typically served in a cafe.

Delonghi Espresso Maker
DeLonghi espresso maker | Source

On the other hand, home espresso preparation can be done with a smaller, home-grade espresso machine or even a manual espresso maker. Making espresso at home is generally more time-consuming and requires more attention to detail, as the home barista is responsible for all aspects of the espresso preparation.

Making Espresso with an Espresso Machine

To make espresso at home, follow these steps:

  • Start by grinding your high-quality coffee beans to a fine consistency.
  • Place the ground coffee into your espresso machine’s portafilter, and tap it gently to level out the surface.
  • Place the portafilter into the espresso machine, and make sure it is securely in place.
  • Heat the water to the right temperature, typically around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Begin the extraction process by activating the espresso machine. The hot water will be forced through the ground coffee, extracting the flavor and aroma.
  • Once the desired amount of espresso has been extracted, stop the machine and remove the portafilter.
  • Serve the espresso immediately in a small ceramic cup (demitasse) or mug.

To get the best flavor, use high-quality coffee beans and purified water. Heat the water to the optimal temperature and tamp the coffee evenly in the portafilter for even extraction. These steps will help you make delicious espresso at home.

4 Ways to Make Espresso at Home

There are several ways to make espresso at home, and in this section, we will discuss four of the most common, along with my personal recommendations for each.

Espresso machine: Espresso machines are the most common and traditional way to make espresso at home. They use high pressure and precise temperature control to extract maximum flavor from finely ground coffee beans. (I have a Breville Barista Express, and I love it).

Breville Barista Express 2

Moka pot: A Moka pot, also known as a stovetop espresso maker, is a simple and economical way to make espresso at home. It uses steam pressure to force hot water through ground espresso, producing an incredibly strong coffee. (I use a Bialetti-brand moka pot & I swear by it).

Moka Pot

French press: A French press is a coffee maker that steeps coarsely ground coffee in hot water before pressing down on the plunger to filter out the grounds. It is not a traditional method for making espresso, but it can produce a strong, concentrated coffee similar to espresso. (I recommend Bodum brand).

Bodum French Press Sale

Aeropress: An Aeropress is a manual espresso maker that uses a combination of air pressure and manual pressing to extract the maximum flavor from coffee beans. It is a portable and convenient option for making espresso at home.

Aeropress On Sale 1


Can I make espresso without a machine?

Bialetti - New Brikka, Moka Pot

Yes, it’s possible to make espresso without a machine using methods like a Moka pot or French press, but it’s more complicated and may not produce the same results as using a machine.

Is it pronounced Espresso or Expresso?

The correct pronunciation is “es-PRESS-o.” The spelling “expresso” is incorrect and not widely used.

What’s the standard espresso-to-water ratio?

Espresso Vs Lungo

The proper espresso-to-water ratio is generally considered to be 1:2, meaning that for every 1 part espresso, there should be 2 parts water. This ratio can vary depending on personal preference and the strength of the espresso beans being used.

Are espresso beans and coffee beans the same

Espresso beans and coffee beans are the same until they are roasted. Espresso beans are roasted longer and at a higher temperature, giving them a darker color and stronger flavor. Regular coffee beans are roasted to a light or medium roast, resulting in a lighter color and milder flavor.

Can espresso be decaf?

Yes, espresso can be decaf. Decaf espresso is made using coffee beans that have had most of the caffeine removed through decaffeination. It has a flavor and appearance similar to regular espresso but with less caffeine.

Does drinking espresso break a fast?

Espresso may or may not break a fast, depending on the fast being followed. Consult with a healthcare professional and understand the guidelines of the fast before making any changes to your diet or caffeine intake.

What is espresso powder?

Espresso Powder

Espresso powder is a fine powder made from concentrated espresso coffee. It is used to enhance the flavor of desserts and baked goods. It has a stronger and more intense flavor than regular ground coffee and is typically used in small amounts in combination with other flavors.

The End

In summary, espresso is fancy coffee made with high-pressure and finely ground beans. It’s strong and creamy and the foundation for many yummy drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. Thanks for reading this guide on espresso!

Avatar Of Kelsey Todd
With over two decades in the coffee industry, Kelsey is a seasoned professional barista with roots in Seattle and Santa Barbara. Accredited by The Coffee Association of America and a member of The Baristas Guild, he combines practical expertise with a profound understanding of coffee's history and cultural significance. Kelsey tries his best to balance family time with blogging time and fails miserably.