The espresso is many things
to many people. For some, it marks the epitome of coffee, and is the
basis of serious debate to discover the perfect method for creating
the beverage. Of course, on the flip side, it is regarded by others
as little more than a little bitter cup of brown water. Whatever your
thoughts on it are though, there is no denying the espresso's
prevalence and stature in coffee culture.
The earliest espresso
machine is said to have been created by a French man by the name of
Louis Bernard Rabaut, but the first patent for such a machine is
attributed to an Italian named Angelo Moriondo, who patented his
design in 1884. He kept the machine a closely guarded secret, to
serve as a draw to his own establishments. However, Moriondo's
machine produced coffee only in batches, and it took the innovation
of another Italian named Luigi Bezzera to develop the concept in 1901
and produce the first single serve espresso machine, the precursor to
those used today.
Espressos were first the
domain of the Italian working class, serving as a quick pick up in
the middle of a worker's shift. The speedy production and consumption
of the drink, combined with the worker's increased energy when
returning to their job afterwards was a great boon to employers, and
is a practice that still goes on to this day.
An espresso consists of
little more than a typical make up of hot water and ground coffee,
but it is the process that lends the drink its unique qualites. A
method known as percolation is used, which involves forcing near
boiling water under pressure through a bed of evenly and finely
ground coffee beans. There is a certain amount of mastery involved
with pulling the perfect espresso- a balance of the water temperature
and pressure, the fineness and uniformity of the grind, along with
the shot's volume and the time spent filtering through the ground
coffee- a complex set of variables, I'm sure you'll agree.
The crowning glory of the
espresso is the crema- the
creamy foam that lays on top of the coffee. Its presence serves to
enhance both the visual appearance of the drink, along with the taste
characteristics, such as the aroma, mouthfeel and after taste. The
forming of a perfect crema is one of the major topics of discussion
between espresso enthusiasts, as it is perhaps the defining
characteristic of the drink.
espresso's home country of Italy, the beans used are typically a
strong roast, but there is no one particular type of bean or roast
level specific for making espressos- essentially any bean and roast
can be used, to cater towards certain desired flavours and for
personal preference. There is a tendency towards darker roasts for
espressos, but as said, this is by no means a rule.
as being consumed as is, there is a tendency to create variations,
typically through the addition of something sweet like sugar or
syrup, but also with ingredients like spices. Along with those more
low key varieties, an espresso serves as a base for a number of other
drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos.