Un Espresso Per Favore
-By Diana Maiola
Lavazza! Kimbo! Sant’Eustachio! Illy! Bialetti! Mauro! Barbara! Barbonne! Segafreddo! These are just a few of the names of delicious Italian Espresso coffee.
Espresso is a method of brewing coffee. Literally translated, espresso means express. Originally conceived as something that could be prepared quickly and of Italian origin, it involves a small amount of water on the verge of boiling which is forced under 9 – 10 bars of pressure though finely ground coffee beans. Each brand of espresso coffee can be made with a large variety of coffee beans and varying degrees of roasting.
For those more accustomed to drinking American coffee, a first sip of espresso may seem like a shock to the taste buds. However, this full-flavored variety of coffee, actually has less caffeine than the regular fare. To explain further, espresso is stronger tasting because it is highly concentrated. The true strength of espresso is not in the way in which it is brewed, but rather in the way it is roasted. Each bean is roasted longer and therefore releases natural oils that cause the flavor to have a bitter edge.
Size matters……….….How much espresso is included in a serving and what kind of cup is used? First of all, the size of an espresso cup is important for a myriad of reasons. If the cup is too large, the espresso will cool down way too fast. Warming an espresso cup before pouring in the coffee helps to maintain the heat. That being said, ideally, the cup should be 2 ounces in size and only be filled about half way per serving. Porcelain is the best cup material. When correctly made, an espresso will have a delicious crema on top. Crema is the light-colored foam/liquid that appears when the espresso is first being extracted. This creamy layer then rests on top of the espresso once it is brewed. The crema adds to the overall structure of the espresso. If the espresso is well-made and the crema is full-bodied, when sugar is gently sprinkled on top, it will rest for several moments on top of the fluffy cloud of crema before slipping down into the rest of the cup. Amazing!
Many versions of espresso can be found all over the world. Some are good, but most are bad as the true technique of making espresso gets lost in translation when it travels beyond the borders of the boot. Italians settle for nothing less than a true and genuine version of their beloved caffé and as a result, Italians drink an average of 4 coffees per day. 260 euros is the average that an Italian spends per year on coffee made at home, ordered at the café and in the work place. Worldwide, about 3 billion cups of espresso are consumed daily and almost 10 thousand workers are employed in this industry.
More to come in upcoming blog posts about espresso etiquette here in Italy!!