Espresso gets its name from the quick method that’s used to prepare it; and while this type of concentrated coffee can be quickly brewed, the elements to a perfect espresso go so much beyond that. You want to make sure that you’re not only are you using the right tools, but also that your drink encompasses the 4 key features of the perfect espresso.
Even though espresso takes only about 30 seconds to brew, there are many factors that can affect the taste of your espresso, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the key features of the perfect espresso cup, and soon they will become consistent with every pour. These key features go beyond just the taste of your espresso, encompassing your sense of smell and even sight.
There are many ways to enjoy an espresso — some people like to drink the shots straight up, others love a delicious foamy latte. Nevertheless, there are certain key features that everyone looks for in their cup, and they are born right at the start of the brewing process.
To make espresso, you’re going to need an espresso machine, which works by forcefully percolating hot water through espresso grounds that have been tamped into a portafilter, and finally into your cup. A properly functioning espresso machine will force the water through the filter at the appropriate temperature and with the right amount pressure to evenly flow through the grounds.
Your espresso machine’s water pressure is an important factor that contributes to the flavor of your coffee. It is recommended that your machine be set to provide 9 bars of pressure — this information can likely be found in your owner’s manual. The temperature for the perfect brewing should be between 190 and 196 degrees.
Other essential equipment that you might want to have around to improve your espresso-making abilities is a grinder for freshly ground coffee beans and steam wand for adding that perfect foamy milk to your freshly brewed espresso.
The Right Grinds
Before you start brewing your perfect espresso, you must start with freshly roasted coffee beans. We recommend buying your beans in small batches, so that you only use the freshest beans possible.
When it comes to the grind, it is recommended for your beans to be somewhat coarsely ground to allow the water to percolate through it more evenly. Lighter roasters are known to be less permeable by water, while darker roasts become saturated easier. Therefore, it is recommended to use a coarser grind on dark roasted beans compared to light roasts.
And now for a breakdown of the essential key features of the perfect espresso…
Anatomy of an Espresso
The first key feature to seek out in the perfect espresso is its look. There are three key visual elements to an espresso: the crema, body and heart.
The crema of an espresso shot is a thin layer that looks golden-brown or brownish-red and is slightly foamy. Crema is where most of the espresso’s flavor and aromatic qualities can be found; made up of proteins, sugars and oils from the coffee beans.
The body of an espresso describes the area between the crema and the heart of the drink. This part of the drink is usually a caramel color.
Finally, the bottom layer of an espresso shot is the heart. Its color is typically rich brown and its taste is bitter. By the time you reach the heart, its flavor has melded with the sweetness from the crema and its delicious aroma …
Before the espresso hits your taste buds, the aroma will hit your nostrils. The scent that you’re aiming for is strong and full-bodied, refined and even sensual — it should really make an impression on you the second that you take a whiff. The scent of your perfect espresso will even last beyond that, after you’ve taken a sip; offering up a scent of toasted, warm fragrances.
There are three qualities to pay attention to when you taste your espresso — acidity, sweetness and bitterness.
The acidity is often described as the citrusy, tangy taste of your coffee. It’s sometimes compared to actual citrus fruit like lemon, orange and lime, as well as berries, apple and melon.
The sweetness of your espresso shows up in different ways, however it is most often reminiscent of sugar — whether white or brown — or molasses or honey.
The bitterness in an espresso is often a fine line between being too smoky and being just right! The perfect espresso will have enough bitterness to it that it combines perfectly with the sweetness and acidity of your drink.
The espresso drinking experience doesn’t just end once you’ve tasted it — there’s the aftertaste. It should still be full-bodied, and perhaps leave a spicy or floral hit of flavor in your mouth.
Now that you know the four key features for the perfect espresso, you’ll know what to look out for during your next sip!