Skip to main content

A Brief History, Introduction & Common Myths Surrounding Espresso

20th Jul 2018

Arguably, the most universal form of coffee is espresso. Not only does it have a rich history, but it’s still an immensely popular drink on its own and it’s used in various milk based beverages like, the latte, cappuccino, macchiato and flat white. So, how did espresso come to be? When it comes down to it, people were simply looking for a faster way to brew their coffee and get their caffeine fix. With efficiency in mind, they began brewing coffee with steam instead of water, and came up with the drink we now call espresso. Because the steam used was so high in temperature, the coffee back then didn’t taste so good. Thankfully, espresso machines of today have replaced steam with pressurized water and also brew at lower temperatures of around 195-205 degrees to ensure the coffee grounds are not overheated, therefore preserving their flavor.

Espresso is made from very finely ground coffee, which is typically dosed in 7 gram portions for a single shot and 18 grams for a double shot. The coffee grounds are then placed inside a filter basket held by a portafilter and compressed or “tamped” down using a tool called a tamper. Water is then brewed to somewhere between 195 - 205 degrees and forced through the coffee grounds under a great deal of pressure. In this case, the level of pressure is measured using “bars”. 1 bar refers to the atmospheric pressure at sea level and is equal to about 14.5 pounds per square inch. When brewing espresso, the coffee grounds will ideally be put under 8 to 9 bars of pressure, which is roughly equal to 125 pounds per square inch of pressure. The reason grind size is so important is because it directly affects the amount of pressure that builds up. A finer grind will restrict the water flow and therefore build more pressure, whereas a coarser grind will allow too much water to seep through resulting in sour flavored coffee. This is why so many coffee aficionados swear that the quality of their coffee grinder is more important than that of their espresso machine.

Although espresso drinks are increasingly popular, there are still a lot misconceptions regarding espresso floating around. Below, we debunk a few of these myths.

  1. Espresso is a type of coffee bean
    One misconception is that espresso is it’s own unique variety of bean. While you may see “espresso” listed on bags of coffee beans, espresso is strictly a brewing method, not a specific type of coffee. In fact, Espresso can be made from any kind of coffee bean desired.
  2. Espresso is always from a dark roast
    While espresso has traditionally been made from darker roast coffee beans, as mentioned above, espresso can be made from any type of coffee bean. Recently, coffee trends have been moving towards exotic, medium roast varieties with more unique flavor profiles.
  3. Espresso is highly caffeinated
    When considering standard serving sizes, there is actually more caffeine in your 8 ounce cup of coffee than a typical shot espresso. Surprisingly, the national coffee association states that an 8 ounce cup of regularly brewed coffee has about 65-120 milligrams of caffeine, while a shot of espresso contains just 30 - 50 milligrams.
  4. Espresso is very bitter
    Back in the old days when espresso was made with high temperature steam and low quality coffee beans, it probably was extremely bitter. But, with today’s technology and readily available high quality beans, this is no longer the case. As long as it’s brewed from quality beans, most espresso prepared today possesses rich, delicious chocolate flavors. Although, with so many different kinds of beans currently available, you can find an array of unique bean varieties with flavor notes like, citrus, berry, floral and caramel.