In its pure form, espresso is more popular in Europe than America, particularly in Italy. Though catching in America, derivatives and misconceptions are spreading like cream in coffee. For instance, many hold the misconception that espresso is a dark, bitter to burnt-flavored roast of coffee.
In fact, espresso is not a roast at all; it is a method of preparing coffee. Espresso coffee is often blended from several roasts and varietals to form a bold – not bitter flavor. The finely ground coffee is tightly packed or tamped into a “portafilter”; high-pressure water is then forced through the grounds and extracted in small, concentrated amounts. Intensity is the key here. Why do you think they call it a “shot?”
This is the intense experience of coffee that most Europeans prefer and believe Americans are too scared to try. Proper Espresso is served in small demitasse-style cups and consumed promptly after extraction in the following types of servings:
The “short shot” is the first ¾-ounce of espresso in an extraction, which many believe is the absolute perfect espresso.
A 1-ounce shot of espresso.
Otherwise known as the “long shot”, this is a 1 ½-ounce shot of espresso.
This is not merely a 2-ounce shot of espresso; this shot uses twice the amount of coffee in the portafilter, whereas the lesser shots use the same single serving.
Despite Starbucks’ popularization of the term Macchiato as a brand name, this is a very simple drink devoid of the flavored caramel and chocolate treatment better suited to an ice-cream parlor. It is simply a shot of espresso with a layer of foamed milk
Espresso con Panna
A shot of espresso with a layer of whipped cream.
A shot of espresso with steamed half and half, a.k.a. light cream.
Another drink warped by misconceptions! Cappuccino, named for its similarity in color to the robes of Capuchin monks, is simply a shot of espresso with steamed, wet milk, not necessarily slathered with a frothy, dry foam.
This is very popular drink in America probably due to its sweet, mellow flavor. One shot of espresso is mixed with 6 to 8 ounces of steamed milk, then topped with foam – if you prefer. Without the foam it’s officially known as a Flat White. Since it’s hard to find a latte in the super-sized United States smaller than 12 ounces, a double shot of espresso is common. If you prefer greater amperage via caffeine, up the number of shots!
With a few minor variations, this also goes by the name Café con Leche or Café Au Lait, depending on whether your coffee spirit is channeling Spanish or French.
This is essentially a watered-down shot of espresso with the resulting flavor arriving very close to simple, brewed coffee. One espresso shot (1 ounce) with 6-8 ounces of hot water.
Flavored Espresso Drinks
These are essentially the same drinks listed above with flavored syrups added somewhere in the process. For instance, Café Mocha is simply a latte with chocolate syrup added with the steamed milk.
Like Sasquatch and Yeti, the perfect iced coffee is very elusive. Coffee with ice cubes makes for watery, cold coffee. Begin with strong coffee – stronger than you would normally brew hot. Try bolder tasting, dark roasts. Brew it strong. You can double brew by pouring hot coffee back onto fresh grinds – like pouring the coffee back into the coffee maker and brewing again. Add sugar or spices like cardamom before chilling so they dissolve thoroughly. You can add ice then, but it’s best to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or even overnight so the ice doesn’t melt so fast.
Once chilled, pour over ice and mix with whole milk or, even better, half and half, to taste. Favorite syrups, like chocolate for an iced mocha, can go in to the mix now. Just be sure to use all of that energy or an afternoon workout.