What Is An Espresso | What Every Beginner Should Know

what is an espresso

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What is an espresso?

This is one fundamental question that beginners should ask themselves before embarking on their espresso journeys.

If you’re ready to learn the basics of the espresso, you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s start off with the basics: what is an espresso?

The term “espresso” has been used to describe the coffee occasionally for centuries, but it’s only in recent years that we can attribute it to Giuseppe Angelo Moriondo.

The first espresso machines were invented by Luigi Bezzera and were based on his patented piston mechanism we see today in 1950s and later models.

It was not until 1963, when Giovanni Giacomo Caselli created his original uni-block system, that the modern-day espresso machine was born.

The Simple Definition of What Is An Espresso

This Italian coffee word is simply a coffee made using a single extraction in less than 20 seconds and in which the final coffee beverage contains more than 15g of solid coffee.

It’s a shot of intense, powerful caffeine-infused coffee, made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans at pressures high enough for the heat to extract all their flavor.

For beginner baristas or espresso snobs, it can be intimidating knowing what goes into making this potent drink.

Do not fret! I will guide you through this world of shot making with ease and pleasure.

Another definition would be a beverage made from high-quality coffee and extracted under high pressure by an espresso machine.

If we were to go deeper into the definition of what an espresso is, it is a more concentrated version of coffee than regular brewed coffee, which makes it stronger and thicker.

What makes an espresso different from other more commonly known coffee drinks that we usually see on a daily basis?

An espresso is made by finely grinding dark roasted beans into a powder-like consistency and then loading them into a portafilter where they’re tamped until all the air pockets are pushed out.

During this process, the mixture is heated to a temperature high enough to extract bitter flavors in a water-based extraction. It is then ready for serving.

All the bitterness in the coffee is extracted from flavoring agents such as caffeine and caffeine compounds, which are also powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory activity.

These bitter flavorings are usually absorbed in the coffee body, but after imbibing it, you will find that all its bitterness has been removed by the hot coffee experienced inside your mouth.

Flavorings in coffee are also called aromatic compounds, which are responsible for the aroma of coffee.

Espresso vs Coffee?

Want to know the main difference between espresso and coffee?

Espresso is not the same as coffee.

Espresso is made by forcing hot water through finely-ground dark roasted beans.

Regular brewed coffee, on the other hand, uses coarsely ground coffee beans.

Moreover, espresso tastes differently from regular brewed coffee because it contains more soluble solids that are extracted under high pressure by an espresso machine.

It has a thicker texture but less acidity due to its lower pH level.

It has a stronger flavor than regular brewed coffee because it’s made with more concentrated solutions of the essence of the bean.

The amount of espresso you drink will determine how much caffeine you absorb into your system.

What Is An Espresso Machine?

The job of the espresso machine is to force hot steam through a coffee filter containing ground coffee beans.

The pressure it exerts on the coffee, together with the hot water, is what makes it a concentrated version of coffee.

When the steam is forced through a portafilter, it will produce a thick and smooth foam that traps aromatic oils from the ground beans trapped in the filter.

During this process, it will disperse through water channels from different parts of your espresso machine into your cup or any container you want to put your espresso into.

Aside from extracting the flavor from the grounds, these channels also distribute heat evenly throughout all parts of your favorite drink.

This allows you to get a rich and creamy crema that is topped with your favorite foam.

What Makes An Espresso Good?

Now that you know what is an espresso and what an espresso machine does, it is important to know why they are good.

What makes an espresso good?

An espresso is good when it has a rich and creamy flavor that’s not too sweet and has a slight bittersweet taste.

The quality of the espresso depends on the quality of the beans used in making it.

The more flavors that are extracted from the coffee beans, the sweeter and tastier your espresso will be.

For a good espresso, you should use a blend of different types of beans on a medium-to-dark roast that suits your preferences on flavor intensity.

Heaven only knows how many flavors there are in good coffee beans, but one thing is certain – you can never go wrong with an espresso.

It’s Heaven In A Cup!

When drinking an espresso, you can really taste the true essence of the ground coffee beans.

That’s what makes it different from drinking any other coffee beverage in the whole wide world: you can taste how pure and unadulterated their flavors really are.

So, if you’re ever in doubt, don’t feel like drinking an espresso. Do yourself a favor and drink it.

Think how many times you make the effort to make coffee only to drink it right away but never delve deeper into its magical ways?

Well, that’s part of the problem. You can’t fully appreciate what an espresso is without making it yourself.

What Is The Difference Between A Latte And Espresso

A latte is not always served with a shot of espresso; neither is an espresso served in a latte glass or cup.

Espresso can also be enjoyed as a beverage in its own right.

Another thing worth noting is that a traditional espresso does not have any milk frothing on top of it, so you can’t call it a latte.

A latte has milk spiced up to the usual volume and consistency.

If you want to drink an espresso or ristretto, you should ask your barista for a shot of foam on top of your drink.

What Are The Benefits Of Espresso?

It has been shown that caffeine drinkers have better mental performance than non-drinkers.

That’s why coffee lovers take their morning cup with them wherever they go — to work or school or even partying.

Drinking espresso on a daily basis doesn’t only give you a good mood, but it also increases your mental energy and stamina.

In addition, studies show that those who drink coffee regularly have a smaller chance of getting heart disease or some kind of cancer compared to those who don’t drink it at all.

In fact, some studies even show that people already diagnosed with cancer have a better chance of survival if they drink coffee regularly.

Drinking an espresso slows down cancer growth by triggering cancer-destroying enzymes and antioxidants in the body.

It’s not only the caffeine but also the antioxidants found in coffee beans that fight against free radicals in your body.

The brain of the person who drinks espresso every day actually works better than an average brain in general.

When you drink coffee, your body releases hormones that reduce stress and anxiety.

Studies show that people with high blood pressure have an 80 percent reduced risk of further developing high blood pressure after drinking coffee on a daily basis for two weeks.

It’s not just the caffeine in the coffee that makes it good for your health, but also its ingredients.

Theobromine is one of them that are highly effective against heart diseases and cancer, which are two of the most common causes of death in adults around the globe.

Now let’s go down further by exploring the different types of coffee drinks that are made from espresso.

Espresso Drinks

Espresso Latte

As a drink, a latte is a mixture of espresso and steamed milk. Some people like to include ice cubes in their latte as well.

A latte can also be served on ice since it has less milk than a cappuccino.

Pros: It’s made from espresso and steamed milk, which is low in calories and fat content. It tastes good and has a creamy texture that goes well with the coffee taste.

Cons: It takes a lot of work to prepare a good latte. The milk has to be heated and then steamed.

The espresso should be prepared as well by adding water and steam together before serving it to the customers.


Cappuccino is an Italian coffee drink that is made by combining espresso with steamed milk.

Its name literally means “cap” because of the cap on top of the cup, which makes it a creamy drink.

Its taste differs from a latte but somewhat resembles it.

Pros: It’s a healthy drink that’s low in fat content, low in calories, and has no caffeine content at all, unlike the usual espresso.

The flavoring is usually done with cinnamon or cocoa powder. It tastes good and has a creamy texture.

Cons: Because of its consistency, it can be quite difficult to make it well. It needs practice to make it the way you like it.

Espresso Mocha

A mocha is comprised of espresso that’s mixed with hot chocolate or coffee flavor.

It’s made with half-and-half or whole milk and comes in either small, medium or large sizes.

Pros: It’s quite easy to make an espresso mocha because it doesn’t require you to prepare milk separately before making the whole drink.

You can either add vanilla, cocoa, or hazelnut syrup to add flavor to the drink.

Cons: It’s one of the higher calorie coffees so you have to take extra effort in watching your daily calorie intake when you order one.

A mocha usually contains chocolate syrup or powder, which has a substantial amount of fat in it.

Espresso Macchiato

The espresso macchiato is an espresso shot with a dollop of foam on top of it.

Its definition literally means “marked” in Italian, hence the name.

It’s widely used in most American coffee shops like Starbucks or McDonalds because it’s easier to make without having to use different equipment for one cup only.

Pros: An espresso macchiato can be made quickly because it doesn’t require you to use different tools to make the drink. It has a very light foam on top, which is just enough to give some texture.

Cons: The espresso itself that touches the milk is slightly diluted, which affects the taste of the whole drink.

An espresso macchiato also takes away the bite of coffee, so you have to adjust your taste for this kind of drink.

Espresso Con Panna

A con panna drink is basically an espresso with whipped cream added on top of it. It’s used as an alternative to sugar or vanilla syrups.

Pros: You can add whipped cream with your drink so you can have a better texture in your espresso. It has no caffeine but it still gives you the coffee taste.

Cons: The space between the cream and the foam is usually large, so it’s quite difficult to get a portion of them in one sip.

Espresso Alla Panna

This is basically an Espresso with whipped cream poured on top of it.

It can be used as an alternative to sugar or vanilla syrups when preparing the usual latte or cappuccino drink.

Pros: You don’t have to add sugar or vanilla syrup with this drink because it already contains some in itself.

Cons: The whipped cream can make the texture of the drink feel mushy.

Espresso Caffe Latte

The espresso caffè latte is an Espresso with steamed milk.

It’s typically foamy on top to give it a good texture like that of a normal latte.

Pros: The space between the steamed milk and foam is quite large, which means that you can get all kinds of flavors in one sip.

It’s also healthy because it contains less fat than other drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas.

Cons: The foam can easily overpower the taste of the espresso.

Blended Coffees

Espresso Frappuccino Blended Coffee Drink

A frappuccino blended coffee is basically an espresso blended with the usual ingredients found in a Frappuccino drink.

It can be made with either chocolate flavor or vanilla syrup flavor, so it’s easier to distinguish between the two.

Pros: It tastes just like a normal Frappuccino drink but without the calories that come with it.

You’ll have to use all kinds of equipment to prepare one pump, which makes it easier for you to handle this drink.

Cons: You have to use an espresso machine to make the frappuccino blended coffee, so it’ll take some time before you can serve it.

If you don’t want to use an espresso machine, you can also buy the ready-made Frappuccino powder for faster preparation.

Espresso Chai Latte

A chai latte is a drink made from a mixture of chai tea and espresso.

Dirty chai is a similar kind of drink but makes it more enjoyable by adding some frothy milk on top.

Pros: It’s great for the health, since it’s low in calories and fat content. Chai lattes are usually made with whole milk, which is healthier than the normal skimmed milk.

What Is An Espresso With Milk Called?

So what is an espresso with milk? Is it the same as a latte, mocha or Frappuccino?

Well, these drinks do have some similarities and can be considered as espresso with milk variations.

For instance, a latte and Frappuccino drink also has foam on top of it. You can easily tell them apart by their taste and texture.

A latte usually has cream on top to give it a rich texture while a frappuccino has the flavors of chocolate or vanilla syrup added to give it a creamy consistency.

But they can also be made with milk and syrup as well.

The herbal tea latte is made with plain bottled water and iced brewed herbal tea, which has a light and refreshing taste.

Some of the most popular flavored iced drinks include mango, peach and lychee.

Licorice coffee is an espresso with milk that’s normally used as a beverage for children since it’s low in caffeine content.

In case you want to avoid adding coffee to your drink of choice, go for the chai latte or caffè latte instead.

They both have steamed milk added to them to give it a creamy texture similar to a latte but without the frothy milk.

Chai lattes and caffè lattes can also be made with hot and frothy milk.

What Is An Espresso Lungo?

While we normally say a lungo, don’t blame yourself if you’ve typed in “espresso lungo” to get there.

The word “lungo” literally means long in Italian, so it’s easy to guess what this coffee type is all about.

This coffee is simply a longer version of the usual espresso shot.

It’s usually made to be served in a mug and not in a demi-tasse cup which is normally used for normal espresso shots.

It differs from the macchiato because the latter has steamed milk added to it while an espresso lungo has no milk added to it at all.

This also differs from the demitasse shot because it’s made to be served in a larger cup.

An espresso lungo is usually served with chocolate powder, sugar or caramel syrup.

You can also use cinnamon, almonds, or hazelnuts to make the drink more enjoyable.

An espresso lungo is also perfect for people who want to take their coffee on the go because it’s easy to drink even without using a saucer.

It has a stronger-tasting espresso than the other types of coffee you can find in cafes or restaurants.

What Size Is An Espresso Cup?

Usually, coffee and espresso cups and mugs can be classified into two: demitasse and espresso cups.

The sizes of the cups often depend on the type of drink that you order, so they can differ slightly from each other.

Espresso cups are typically used for espresso shots while cappuccinos and mochas use a large cup instead.

The demitasse is a small coffee cup that’s about 2oz in size on average, so it’s only good enough for one espresso shot.

You can pour your demitasse into a larger cup if you want to add some whipped cream or frothy milk on top of it.

Most coffee bars will have a little demitasse cup set aside for you so you can serve yourself.

An espresso cup is usually 3oz in size, which is enough to prepare a regular-sized shot.

This does not mean that the other sizes are less than that though since sometimes a large size cup can even be used for an espresso lungo.

When it comes to cappuccino and mocha drinks, a medium-sized cup normally holds 3 1/2 oz while a large size cup can hold up to 4 oz of hot chocolate drink.

Final Thoughts on What Is An Espresso

An espresso is simply the regular yet more most flavorful way to prepare coffee.

It’s different from latte and mocha because it has a stronger flavor and contains no milk on top of it.

Making an espresso at home is not impossible if you have some equipment for that purpose.

Read more about the different brewing methods you can use to make your own espresso at home.

If you use a drip coffee machine rather than an espresso machine, it will still taste great because all you have to do is add the coffee beans and water together.

So there’s no need for an espresso machine to be used.

But if you want a more flavorful drink with frothy milk or a different flavor of syrup on top, then an espresso machine would be best for your choices.

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