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What Is An Espresso? The True Definition

What is an Espresso? This article will get both technical and philosophical. Get inside the sensual side of espresso as well as understanding the science behind a true espresso.

What is an Espresso? Technically speaking:

A single shot of Espresso requires 1/4 ounce (7grams) of finely ground coffee to be tightly packed (tamped) into a filter holder so that hot water (not-quite-boiling water) between 195F and 205F or 88C and 92C). This water is forced through the tamped coffee grounds under at least 9bar of pressure (at least 130PSI). It will take 20 to 30 seconds to extract exactly one fluid ounce (30ml) of the richly aromatic and flavorful espresso coffee.

What is an Espresso? Philosophically speaking:

As we all know Espresso is Italian in origin. Loosely translated, Espresso means a cup of coffee brewed expressly for you.

Francesco Illy calls Espresso "a romantic, remarkably aromatic, and complex liquid. It is at once a solution of sugars, caffeine, acids, and proteins; a suspension of tiny particles of coffee beans and minute bubbles of gas; an emulsion of oils and colloids....all concentrated into a small volume and covered with a light, brown-colored foam known as crema".

What is an Espresso? What does it look like:

Espresso should dribble from your group (handle with basket) in a thick brown-honey colored stream displaying with the viscousity of warm honey. In the trade it is described as the tail of the mouse for the way it curves from the group an falls into the wait demitasse cup. This is true Espresso. Not the watery coffee that many of us get served.

What is an Espresso? What does it smell like:

The Espresso should have a rich aromatic smell that fills the room. This is helped by using the freshest beans. The particular smell will depend on the beans and the roast. But once you have experienced that fresh coffee smell, there is no mistaking it when someone is brewing a fresh Espresso.

What is an Espresso? It's a sensory invasion.

One more thing, the word is pronounced Es-press-o. Not X-press-o. Xpresso is more likely to be our poor attempt at asking an Italian for details about the xpresso train that runs straight into the heart of Rome without many stops....

What's Crema I hear you ask? Well, crema is that wonderful creamy almond colored foam that is produced when making a great Espresso. The crema sits on the surface of the Espresso. It is actually the rich flavorsome oils that where trapped within the coffee beans. These oils rise to the surface of the Espresso creating a rich foamy texture. But be aware that this crema will not remain for long. So, if you are serving straight Espresso to people, a quick delivery to your guests, once the Espresso has brewed is recommended.

So there you have it. Espresso by the numbers and Espresso by the senses.

Now you need to know what style of espresso to make. There are many to choose from, so experiment a little and enjoy the journey.


Submitted by:

Craig Barista

My website contains a wealth of coffee knowledge. Everything from how to make an espresso and grinding coffee beans to the latest recipes.



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