Understanding Your Espresso: Tastes, Brews, and Styles

If you have ever gone through the process of making an espresso, you potentially have wondered why exactly it didn’t come out quite the same as your café’s coffee. You’ve bought the same beans, used a top of the line brewing machine, and have even got a little espresso cup to sip out of, and yet it is still not quite as good. In this article, we are going to help you break down different components of taste, brewing espresso, and different styles that you can diagnose your cup or better yet just enjoy your first brew of the morning a little more.

To understand why the taste is a little different, you first must understand how a good espresso is meant to taste. While every barista, coffee aficionado, and even casual sipper of their favorite beverage will have an opinion of a good espresso. When you first taste an espresso you should be able to pick up the different aromas and complex flavors developed at the origin or location of the beans. Single-origin espressos are going to give you one of the fuller-bodied flavors and really give you a taste of the region. Aroma, texture, and flavor are the three indicators you will use to judge a good shot of espresso. If you are searching for the perfect pour, then we hate to tell you, there is no such thing as the perfect shot of espresso, it all depends on your preferred taste and your barista’s skill and preference as well. Below we will go into brewing ratios and styles that you can pick from in order to find your personal perfect cup.

When it comes down to creating your brew there are three factors that are essential for the perfect cup: ratio, time, and temperature. Ratio simply means the amount of grinds used for the amount of water. Most first-time coffee brewers will go with a classic 1:2, which is considered an espresso normale. There are two other main types of espresso brews, the ristretto, and the lungo. They are each named and determined by the type of roast you are planning on brewing with. If you are into dark roasts, choose the ristretto which has a smaller ratio, and for light roasts choose a lungo. Aside from grounds to water ratio, you are going to want to make sure that your espresso brews for the correct amount of time to create the smooth finish you want. Depending on the size of your grind, you are going to want to have a brew time between 25 to 35 seconds. If you notice that you are not within this time span, check your grind. If it is too fine, then your espresso will brew too quickly and have a strong acidic taste, if it is too slow, then your grind is too coarse. Now that you have the ratio and the time, you are almost there to the best cup of espresso. You will also need to test out the temperature you’re at home machine is set too. For almost all espresso machines you are going to want to have it set to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brewing gets a little more complicated after this, you are going to want to look at what kind of water you are using. Yes, even the water matters, if you think about it, coffee is boiling hot water pushing its way through ground beans. So the two factors to figure out why your roast doesn’t taste like the café’s coffee is the grind you are using and how you are filtering your water, if you are. Some espresso-in-home lovers will go so far as to test and then treat their water to make sure their cup is right. Water and ratio are often the two biggest mistakes the in home brewer will make that will keep them from having café cups. Finally, make sure that you have a proper machine that brews a good cup of espresso and then if your preferences go towards milk, have an attached milk frother. Making an espresso like the café will require the right equipment and of course, the right vessel to catch your now almost perfect espresso. Grab a shot glass, or something a little bigger for a latte or cappuccino.

Now you may be a straight shot of espresso kind of person, but if your preferences are more on the milk addition side, then there are a few options for how to prepare and enjoy your cup of espresso. There are a couple types of espresso and how they are prepared, that we mentioned before: ristretto, lungo, and normale. Aside from that there are espresso beverages with milk and form for you to enjoy, and while we will not cover the whole list that you already know about (or can check out here!), there are a few types of coffees that you can really enjoy. For instance, have you tried the Gibraltar, or sometimes known as the Cortado, which is half espresso, and half foam infused the milk. Very strong, as you pull a double ristretto, it will be both delicious but with a hint of the creaminess of well-frothed milk. If that doesn’t suit your fancy try the infamous, ‘Aussie Latte’ or better known as a Flat White. This often froth less beverage is a fan favorite because it is all smooth finish and high caffeine. Without frothed milk, you can have a very creamy beverage and a bright espresso taste, perfect for your first-morning brew. We all know and love the cappuccino, a steamy milk beverage with a heaping spoonful of foam. Well if you love the foam, then you can get a taste of the dry cappuccino, made essentially the same way, but with more foam to steamed milk. This is a tricky beverage to make as you want to give the coffee a smooth finish but still have heaps of foam.

Coffee making requires the appropriate tools, the right ingredients and of course the right technique to get your perfect cup. With a little experimenting, you too can make an espresso at home that has the same delicious finish as your favorite café beverage. Understanding espresso is only the first step, so know that you have a quick how to, go and enjoy the practice required for your perfect shot!

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