I am passionate about GREAT COFFEE! I drink espresso, usually a couple of shots poured into my 3/4 cup of dark roast coffee, regularly. Truth be told, I drink this pretty much all day.
There are perks to owning your own coffee shop, and one of those perks is you get to drink great coffee pretty much whenever the urge hits you.
This urge hits me very, very often.
Great espresso is the foundation of great lattes and cappuccinos. Different coffee shops serve coffee differently. Let’s look at a little bit of the history of coffee in America.
The first wave period was when coffee was first marketed to the masses. This is where names like Folgers, Maxwell House, and Mr. Coffee became household names. The first wave is widely criticized today by lovers of specialty coffee because they sacrificed quality and taste for mass production.
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, though, because many of the advances which came from the first wave coffee revolution have contributed greatly to the way we enjoy coffee today.
For instance, vacuum packaging was introduced during the first wave, making it possible to keep coffee much fresher for much longer when it was packaged. Coffee is still vacuum packaged today.
Second wave coffee is the coffee industry’s response to the criticism for forfeiting all of that quality and artisanship during the first wave. Coffee Shops reintroduced the public to coffee drinking as an experience, much like that of wine drinking, not just another beverage.
This is when the use of espresso to make lattes and cappuccinos and alternative brewing methods for coffee like French Press became popular in America.
Second wave shops have been criticized for promoting drinking coffee as a social experience, and abandoning the artisan-preserving and education practices which made them different in the first place.
Third wave shops are known for getting back to what made second wave coffee come into light. The coffee, not the social aspects of drinking coffee, is the experience. Basically, third wave says the coffee is great and has plenty to offer on its own. You don’t have to be talking to your best friend to enjoy it.
The three waves of coffee, the second and third wave being centered about the social coffee shop experience and the coffee itself, respectively, lay the groundwork for a discussion of what goes into a great latte or cappuccino.
Whether you value the social experience, or the coffee experience, or both, the foundation for your drink is most often going to be espresso.
Okay, so what about espresso?
Let’s Talk Espresso
First, to clear up any confusion, espresso beans ARE coffee beans. The name “Espresso” simply qualifies what the beans are intended to provide in the mind of the person or company who roasted them.
Generally speaking, although there are certain trends which call for espresso beans to be lightly or very lightly roasted (Green Espresso), beans roasted with the intended purpose of making espresso are roasted in the medium-dark to very dark range.
Just look at your beans, the darker the color, the darker they are roasted. Darker roasted coffee beans tend to have a little more of a sheen to them as well, since some of the oils in the bean come to the surface during the roasting process.
Do you want to pull shots at home, in your kitchen? Check out the Rok Presso Manual Espresso Maker!
Are you looking for a blend of automatic Espresso making and the ability to control the most important qualities of your shot? You might like the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II.
What is a Shot?
One single short shot of espresso is defined as about a liquid ounce of espresso. Most coffee shops, including ours, pull double shots, which yield about twice the volume.
This is over-simplifying the the potential intricacies of this discussion, but normally shops pull two
short shots at once (a double short shot), as most lattes and cappuccinos call for this amount of espresso.
This is to cut down on the time needed to make drinks, so you get your latte faster.
Short or Long, What’s the Difference?
A shot of espresso can be pulled “longo”, think long (more volume) or “ristretto”, think restrained or short (less volume). We usually call them long shots or short shots.
Most often, especially for hot espresso beverages, short shots are used because they extract the full flavor of the espresso, without the more bitter attributes. The longer you pull a shot of espresso, the more bitter attributes of that shot are extracted.
Generally, the longer you pull a shot of espresso, the more bitter it will taste.
Sometimes, long shots are used in larger sized drinks, especially iced drinks to balance the greater amount of liquid, still providing a good “Coffee taste”.
In part two of this post, we will discuss the amount of time we expose the espresso to water, the grind, and tamping. These are some of the most critical variables to control to get that perfect shot. Stay tuned…
What is your favorite espresso drink? Comment and let us know!