The Americano Aficionado.
How to Be an Espresso Aficionado
Hopelessly devoted to the rich and deep espresso style of coffee? If so, it's likely you're already familiar with the flavors of your favorite espresso style but are you aware of the broader family of espresso beverages and some of the fan knowledge relevant to making and enjoying espressos? Espressos are the coffee expert's preferred brew, so perk up your knowledge with these handy steps.
Learn the lingo.Before any thing else, if you plan on getting up close and personal with espresso machines, makers or espresso beverages as a lifelong hobby, you'll need to know the terms that go with them. There are many terms associated with coffee making and drinking but here are a few that every espresso aficionado should be aware of:
- BAR: This is the pressure rating that you'll find on most espresso machines.
- Barista: This is the person responsible for operating the espresso/coffee machine. It's Italian in origin.
- Breve: When someone asks for a breve, it's simply using steamed half and half or skimmed milk rather than regular milk.
- Coffee Pack: This refers to the tamped volume of coffee grinds in a filter basket before the shot of espresso is brewed.
- Demitasse: This is the cup that holds a traditional shot of espresso, namely a 3-ounce (or smaller) cup. Although these can be made from any range of food grade materials, the porcelain type is the most preferred. They need to be thick to retain heat.
- Dosage: The dosage means the amount of ground coffee that makes up a shot of espresso. It is usually measured as 7 grams per 1.5 ounce single espresso shots.
- Double: This is one option for ordering an espresso or the pour of the espresso. This is usually between 2.5 and 3 ounces of espresso total volume.
- Espresso: Another Italian word for the drink made using a pump or lever espresso machine, from 7 grams (+/- 2 grams) of finely ground coffee, producing 1-1.5 ounces (30-45ml) of extracted beverage under 9 bar (135psi) of brewing pressure at brewing temperatures of between 194ºF and 204ºF/90ºC-96ºC, over a period of 25 seconds (+/- 5 seconds and no less than 20 seconds) of brew time. The definitions may be hotly contested by many baristas, for espresso is a subjective pleasure. The age, quality, and origin of the coffee bean, the amount of grounds packed into the basket, the pressure with which the barista tamps, the water temperature, and many other factors all impact the end product.
- Filter basket: This is the metal, flat bottomed basket that sits inside the portafilter and holds the bed of ground coffee. It has mesh holes to allow the coffee to drip through to the demitasse.
- Froth: This is the result from steaming milk using the espresso machine's steaming wand. Milk froth is ideal when it can be poured rather than spooned onto the coffee.
- Ristretto: This is the Italian word for a "restricted" shot. In this case only around 1.5 ounces of espresso is poured; it's richer but harder to brew.
- Shot: This is simply another way to describe a brewed espresso.
Know your espresso
Know your espresso.There is a wide variety of espresso drinks available in any good coffee shops or cafès. This can make the choosing difficult but try to see this on the bright side. You can either remain in the same coffee shop for hours or you have a good excuse to return regularly. And even after you've tried out all of the espresso styles and have chosen your own favorite, don't limit yourself to just the favorite. Changes of barista, sourcing of the coffee and even new inventions of espresso styles should keep you curious to keep trying out other styles from time to time.
Be aware of what goes into making an espresso.Espresso styles have distinct measurement amounts that baristas use to come up with the final product. Excitingly for the intrepid barista or coffee drinker, if you're aiming to serve or drink coffee from country to country, you need to be aware that these measurements change because coffee styles differ from country to country. For example, in England a latte is a single shot of espresso with approximately 200mls of milk, having a very thin layer of froth. On the other hand, in New Zealand, this drink is a double shot with approximately 100mls (or so) of milk and a top layer of froth that is just under an inch (2.5cm) thick, also typically served in either a latte bowl or a pre-heated glass. Here are some of the more common espresso styles (the basic measurements provided are New Zealand in origin, adjust according to your own country's preferences):
- Ristretto: 70ml demitasse, 30ml double shot
- Flat white: 150ml cup, 40ml double shot, 110ml lightly textured hot milk
- Short black/ espresso: 70ml demitasse, 50ml double shot
- Caffe latte: 220ml glass or cup, 40ml double shot, 180ml lightly textured hot milk
- Long black: 150ml cup, 90ml hot water, 50ml double shot
- Cappuccino: 190ml cup, 30ml double shot, 170ml textured hot milk
- Macchiato: 70ml demitasse, 50ml double shot, a touch of textured hot milk
- Mochaccino or cafè mocha: 300ml cup, 50ml double shot, chocolate powder or syrup, 250ml lightly textured hot milk
- Bongo/piccolo latte: 100ml glass, 30ml double shot, 70ml lightly textured hot milk
- Affogato: 300ml cup, scoop of ice cream (vanilla) and 50ml double shot.
- Note that the "milk" can be of dairy, legume, nut or other origin. If substituting other types of milk for dairy milk, you'll need to know the different heating and other properties of the milk being used. Do some reading up beforehand or expect trial and error to teach you as you go.
Enjoying the espresso
Enjoy your espresso.Drinking an espresso is an experience in and of itself. And to help you make the most of this pleasure, here are a few tips:
- Look at the espresso. Ideally, a shot will be rich brown in color with some speckling or flecking of copper or dark gold. The top layer is called crema, a rapidly-evaporating compound of coffee oils and solids. The thicker and richer the crema, the better the shot is likely to be. The heart of the shot is a dark, almost black, syrup-like layer beneath the crema.
- Drink fast! Espresso begins to deteriorate within fifteen seconds of extraction.
- Take the tiny cup, or demitasse, and slurp to throw the espresso against the back of your palate. Expect a shock. Espresso is one of the most astonishing taste sensations in the world, but if done right, is never bitter.
- Keep slurping, tasting for elements such as spice, fruit, wood, or smoke. Every shot is slightly different.
- Discuss your findings with your barista to see what he or she “gets” from the shot. Making an espresso is an art form for many baristas and you can learn a lot by engaging them in a discussion.
Making espresso beverages
Pulling a shot of espresso
For help in knowing how to pull an espresso shot in a coffee machine, see How to pull a shot of espresso.Make sure that you have the proper equipment. An adequate machine should be capable of heating water to desired brew temperatures (approx 192-200ºF, or 90-96ºC) and be capable of delivering the water at least 9BAR (130PSI) in a consistent manner. For those on a budget, Coffeekid.com recommends the Rancilio Betsy, Saeco Classico, or Gaggia Coffee.
QuestionThe barista at Starbucks suggested I try an americano but with breve(?) and white chocolate mocha syrup and water. It was really good but, what is this drink called?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere's no name for that particular drink. At Starbucks a "white mocha" is espresso, milk, and white chocolate syrup. An "americano" is espresso and water. Breve is a type of milk (half and half). So you could try ordering a "white mocha" and it will be similar to what you got, or just order an "americano with breve and white mocha syrup" and you should get the same drink again.Thanks!
- Always use or demand fresh beans! Beans begin to oxidize almost immediately after they're roasted. The longer you wait to use them, the more stale they become, and the less they will be capable of producing crema. If you can't get your hands on some freshly roasted beans, you can still pull decent shots from pre-roasted blends offered by such popular brands as Lavazza, Java Joe's, Malabar gold, Cafe la Semeuse, and Illy. Many North American chains, like Starbucks, push dark roasts which many people complain produces a burnt taste. However, personal preference is a big factor and you never know until you've tasted it.
- Other ways of making coffee are considered to pale into insignificance against the espresso by the coffee connoisseur. However, if you find the espresso isn't to your liking, don't fret. You can still try other methods, such as the drip method, French press or plunger method, vacuum method, the Arabic or Turkish method of using a jezve, the Neapolitan flip-drip, a percolator, the cold water method and sin of all sins, a teaspoon of instant coffee with boiled water added. Some people really like the last option, so go easy on the insults!
- If you're planning on making your own espressos as opposed to simply sampling and sipping all over town in many pleasant establishments, you have two options at home. You can purchase either a stove-top espresso maker (this works by heating water in the bottom chamber until it is forced up through the filter where the espresso grounds are located) or an electric espresso machine (a fair bit more expensive but a worthwhile investment for the espresso aficionado). There are cheaper and more expensive versions of both and for those who truly love, adore and worship their coffee, only the most refined and expensive coffee machines will suffice, at least a machine that somewhat approaches the quality and strength of commercial machines. If you're a coffee purist of that standard, start saving up now!
- Should you return an espresso that isn't ideal? Yes. There are definite standards to be maintained when making espressos and baristas need to be aware when they've fallen short. As with returning anything in life, be polite, assertive and non-confrontational – a smile and a polite request will get you further than lambasting the barista with "how to make coffee 101". They may have made a very simple mistake and they'll usually be more than happy to undo the error to keep the happy and polite customer satisfied.
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