What Is Espresso? How To Make Espresso

What Is Espresso? How To Make Espresso

A cup of espresso


Coffee is one delicious energy fuelled drink that comes in different shapes and sizes, consumed by millions of people across the world. Coffee has been played around with to create some popular brews we drink today like your strong black coffee "espresso" that is brewed under intense pressure. 

Find out more about that strong black coffee you love or might have heard of.

What is Espresso? 

Espresso is a full-flavored concentrated form of coffee that is usually served in shots. It is made from the same beans as coffee but it is stronger and higher in caffeine. Espresso is made by forcing pressurized hot water through very finely ground coffee using an espresso machine. You can make espresso coffee with a variety of coffee beans and different roast degrees. 

Espresso shots are common in Europe especially Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Bulgaria, etc. 

Quick Facts 

  • Origin: Italy 
  • Temperature: 90-96 Degree Celsius 
  • Type: Hot 
  • Colour: Black 
  • Introduced: 1901 
  • Main ingredient: Ground coffee beans 
  • Caffeine content: 62-100mg per shot

Espresso is generally thicker than coffee brewed by other methods because it has a higher concentration of suspended and dissolved solids and crema (a brown foam that forms when air bubbles combine with soluble oils of ground coffee. Crema adds to the rich flavour and lingering after-taste you get when you drink an espresso. In other words, due to the pressurized brewing process, the flavours in a typical cup of espresso are very concentrated. It is dispersed in 3 phases (that's what makes the drink unique). The first dispersed phase is an emulsion of oil droplets, the second phase has suspended oils, while the third is a gas bubble. 

There is something interesting you should know, the oil droplets in espresso is what preserves some of the aromatic compounds that are lost in other brewing methods. 

Your favourite drink also has a great history: Read on to find out

The word espresso means "pressured coffee" in Italian but it also carries a connotation of speed (Yea, this explains a whole lot). Espresso was invented in Venice, Italy back in the early 20th Century. The drink was created by Luigi Bezzera who was doing experiments with coffee to see how he could make his brew faster. He owned a manufacturing business and he found it frustrating that making a cup of coffee took so much time. 

He then discovered that adding steam pressure to the machine was the solution. It not only cut the time to create the brew, but it also created a much stronger drink. The new method he discovered drew out all the best qualities of the coffee beans and Luigi named the machine "Fast Coffee Machine". Although Luigi Bezzera was very smart and ahead of time by creating the fast coffee machine, his marketing wasn't so successful.

In 1905, he met with Desidero Pavoni who purchased part of the machine rights from Luigi Bezzera and then had it patented. That's how Pavoni's name became associated with the espresso. So, even though Bezzera was the original inventor of the brew, it was Pavoni that changed the way we drink coffee due to his marketing skills.

Development of the espresso machine

Bezzera and Pavoni worked together to improve the espresso machine. After working for two years, they created the "Ideale" which was released at the 1906 Milan Fair. Pavoni took charge of the business venture and went solo after "Ideale" was released. Then, the machine was branded with the name "espresso" and was advertised as being able to produce 1000 coffees per hour. Although the machine was successful, it was far from perfect so, competitors saw an opportunity to improve it.

The modern-day espresso

The man responsible for shaping our modern-day espresso machine was Achilles Gaggia, a former barista turned inventor in 1947. His machine could increase steam pressure from 1.5-2 atmospheres to 8-10 atmospheres. What this means is that the machine could exert more pressure than its predecessors over the coffee puck which squeezes the essential oils and creates espresso's signature features "crema". 

The espresso machine made use of a strong piston to increase the pressure of the water in the boiler. The process works when a barista pulls down the strong piston lever that would increase the force of water inside the cylinder, then the machine would begin to pour the espresso. His machine didn't leave espresso with a burnt bitter taste as other previous models did. Gaggia continued to build more machines and also formed a company. Since Gaggia, more individuals and companies have further developed the espresso machine to what we all know today. Drinking an espresso is not just about tasting coffee for the Italians, it brings up memories and it is a way to express pride in their country. 

So, the next time you have an espresso, remember that you are not just enjoying a cup of coffee, you are taking part in a great tradition. So start making that espresso!

How to make espresso at home 

You don't need to have to invest in a luxury machine to get your espresso shot. You can try out an automatic or capsule espresso or a Neo press machine. You can also get an espresso-style coffee with a stove maker or Aeropress. 


freshly roasted beans from coffee heroHere's how to get started on espresso preparation at home. If you are using an espresso machine: You need

  1. A coffee grinder to get a fine espresso grind 
  2. A kitchen scale: You'll need a scale to weigh your coffee if you want to get the perfect espresso shot
  3. Filtered water 

  • Measure and grind your coffee beans: Grind enough beans to make one or two espresso shots. An average single espresso shot will require between 7-9 grams of coffee and a double shot will require 14-18 grams. This measurement can be adjusted to what you like best. Your coffee grounds should be powdery and fine. Just to be sure you measured correctly, you can weigh your grounds. 
  • Distribute and tamp your shot: Just make sure you take out the portafilter first. When you have the quantity of grounds required in your portafilter, distribute grounds evenly with a finger.  

A barista tamping coffee grounds

  • Next, place the portafilter on the countertop, use the tamper to tamp down the grounds. 
  • Pull your shot: Before you do this, run the machine briefly without a portafilter in place to clear the ground head. Then lock the portafilter into the machine, position the demitasse glass or any other vessel underneath, and start the shot. 
  • Your espresso should be in 15 to 30 seconds. If you did it correctly, your final product shouldn't be too light or too dark in colour and it should have crema. 

Espresso machine pouring coffee

There are 3 fairly inexpensive ways to make bold espresso-style coffee (without a machine), that is using an Aeropress or a Moka pot.

How to make espresso with an Aeropress

An Aeropress is a machine that brews a single cup of espresso with 3 different pieces- a brewing chamber, a plunger, and a filter cap. This machine works by pressing the plunger to create air pressure, forcing coffee through a filter and into a cup. 

An Aeropress is commonly used for espresso but it's not necessarily the best way to go for it but it can brew a strong flavourful cup that's close. 

To start, 

  • Rinse the Aeropress filter and place it on the filter cap. 
  • Place the Aeropress plunger to be halfway inside the main chamber. 
  • Heat the water you want to use (177ml) till it boils to 90-96 degrees.
  • While the water is heating, grind your coffee beans to a fine consistency using a burr grinder. You'll need 2 tablespoons of grounds for this. 
  • Add the grounds into the chamber, add hot water and stir.   
  • Insert the plunger and position the spout above your cup. 
  • Push the plunger down gently until it reaches the coffee grounds.

How to make espresso on the stove with a Moka pot 

If you are craving an espresso that's close to authentic, then the Moka pot can do the trick. A Moka pot brews strong espresso-like coffee by passing boiling pressurized by steam through coffee grounds. It is an inexpensive option for home brewing. 

  • Fill the lower chamber of the Moka pot with water, up to the full line. 
  • Put finely grounded coffee into the filter-basket, make sure it is even but not too compact. 
  • Brush off any loose coffee grounds around the edge of the filter basket. Then place it on the bottom compartment and screw on the spouted top. 
  • Put the pot on the stove (set to medium heat) 
  • Remove the pot from the stove as soon as you hear a gurgling sound, then pour into any vessel of your choice.

How much caffeine does your espresso have? 

A shot of espresso has 62.8ml of caffeine. Because an espresso packs quite a bit of caffeine in one shot, you'll want to be cautious of how much you drink. Know your caffeine limit while you enjoy your espresso so you won't experience a jittery feeling throughout the day. 

These are some espresso tips to keep in mind 

  • Use filtered water to get the best results. Don't use tap on the water as they may contain dust or particles that can spoil the taste of your brew 
  • Always remember to prime: All espresso makers need to be primed before using it for the first time or if you haven't used it in over a month. Priming often requires running 3 cycles of clean water through the machine (with no coffee grounds) to remove any dust that may have accumulated over time.
  • Grind your coffee just before brewing so it doesn't loose its fresh flavours. Also, use a fine grind, the finer the grounds, the stronger the flavour. 
  • Use a clean portafilter always. 

Now you know everything about espresso. Hopefully, you enjoyed learning so much about the drink. 

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