What is Espresso?
Espresso is constantly evolving and changing from how it’s created to how it’s enjoyed. Most people think of espresso as an intense kick in the pants when, compared to your regular cup of joe, it is actually a specific method of brewing coffee. Espresso translates from Italian to mean “express”, or “to force out”. Before the invention of the espresso, it took up to five minutes to make just a couple cups of coffee! Who has time for that?
Coffee as Chemistry…
Though many people have incorporated espresso into their morning routine, there is a lot of confusion circulating around this type of coffee. As mentioned above, espresso is a method, not a type of roast, bean, or blend. Espresso is a preparation method in which very hot, highly pressurized water, is forced through finely ground coffee (between 18 and 21 grams), which has been pressed evenly and tightly into a filter basket using a tamper. This brewing method results in a balance of sweet and bitter; acidic and full-bodied. Coffee is chemistry. For the best results, the aim is precision and consistency. Finding the perfect balance consists of the right grind size, water pressure, and temperature.
Thanks to Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy, the espresso machine was first introduced in 1884. Moriondo’s invention allowed coffee drinkers and connoisseurs alike to cut their brewing time in half to create a bold and concentrated elixir, full-bodied and delicious. Moriondo’s machine, however, required heating by flame. This drawback resulted in inconsistent espresso shots. While his invention laid the ground work for an entire industry to begin, the espresso machine that we recognize today came about in the 1960’s.
Its all in the crema.
Achille Gaggia transformed the old-style machinery, which looked more like the nose of an airplane, into the sleek design we love today. Gaggia’s invention was the first lever-driven machine. Invented after World War II, Gaggia’s design heats water in a boiler and sends it into a cylinder that further pressurizes the steam from a spring-piston lever, which is operated by the barista. The term “pulling a shot” was coined by Gaggia, in reference to the motion of pulling down the manual lever in a steady fashion. More importantly, due to the high pressure of his machine, the discovery of crema was made. Crema is the rich, creamy foam that sits on top of the espresso shot.
Espresso has come a very long way since Angelo Moriondo’s first steam driven espresso machine. New recipes and technology help us to create the best coffee and espresso based beverages to date. Popular drinks such as lattes didn’t grace the main stage until the 1980’s. While California claims the “invention” of the latte, espresso with milk (caffe latte) has been a standard in Italy since the 17th century. All European countries have some variation of the latte, but they all have one important thing in common: enjoying a flavorful and lovingly crafted cup of good espresso.
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2/25/2018 by Leslie Creedon.