For some, there is nothing better than a freshly-brewed espresso. Perfect for a quick pick-me-up or post-food palette cleanser, those new to the concept of espresso should read our complete beginner’s guide.
What is espresso?
Espresso is a single shot of brewed coffee produced when boiling water is steam pressured through finely-ground beans. A normal Americano – black coffee – is an espresso with about two-thirds hot water added, so imagine this at triple the strength, one-third of the size, and with a thicker consistency. This smaller coffee is popular in Italy, where it takes the place of the English/Irish ‘cuppa’.
Getting it right
As with everything else wonderful created by Italians – pasta, pizza, Porsche – there is a wrong way and a right way to enjoy this drink. It must be made freshly – and expressly – for you. Drink it fast, as the emulsion ‘crema’ at the top holds the beautiful aromas and will evaporate after a few minutes. If you are given an espresso without a crema, don’t accept it. Ideally, an espresso will be ordered and enjoyed quickly at the bar.
Only accept an espresso that you have watched someone brew in front of you, using a proper Italian coffee machine. The best Italian food and drink is always made using equipment manufactured in the country.
Espresso must also be made from quality beans. This does not always mean local, artisanal or organic; instead, it means they must come from a trusted supplier that can consistently maintain top levels of quality. If they happen to be local or organic, then even better. If you are in Italy, ask the locals; if you are anywhere else, use travel guides to find the best coffee shops in London or Italian restaurants in Dublin, such as http://www.forno500.ie/.
When to order an espresso
Unlike a milky latte or cappuccino, both of which are reserved for breakfast, an espresso can be enjoyed at any time of day; however, an espresso macchiato – an espresso with a dash of foamed milk – should only be enjoyed at breakfast.
There is more to espresso ordering than meets the eye. Make sure the establishment you visit is well regarded and uses a proper espresso machine. Watch out for the aroma-locking crema and drink it fast to get the best from it.