A few more common misconceptions about espresso
In my previous post about Espresso myths and tales of coffee woe I discussed a few myths about espresso and its process. Here are a few more morsels of information about what espresso isn’t and how to spot a cup of faux espresso.
1. Nescafe is not a Barista
Much like a cup of strong coffee cannot be equated to an espresso, those sugary packets of instant cappuccino mix you keep at the office also don’t fit the bill. That’s like comparing spray cheese with vintage cheddar or bringing Manischewitz to a wine tasting party.
Also consider the coffee you buy. You’ll notice on many pre-ground coffee packs an image or statement that the blend is appropriate for everything from a cafetiere (French press) to an espresso machine. This simply isn’t true; you use a different grind of coffee for an espresso machine than for a drip machine, another grind again for a cafetiere, and still another for Turkish coffee. And so forth.
Yes, this means the espresso blend you used in your French press isn’t in fact espresso. It’s just as it sounds: finely ground coffee beans in hot water. It’s a cup of coffee, a cup of inefficiently brewed coffee.
2. Some things were never made to be super-sized
…and good coffee is one of them. Sure we all like to indulge from time to time, but with most things in life I find I will both remember and savour something more if the portion is sufficient and the product is divine.
My personal thought is that you lose out by super-sizing espresso drinks because the proper ratios are thrown out the door. A cappuccino, for instance, should be 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 milk froth. Using double espresso shots, that’s 2 ounces (60 ml) each of espresso, milk, and froth. With those proportions in mind, Starbucks should use 6.6 shots/ounces of espresso in their 20 ounce drink. They use two.
And I don’t think I would want to drink nearly 200ml of espresso in one sitting anyway.
Do yourself a favour and find something more authentic, just to give it a try. With good coffee, less genuinely is more.
3. When an espresso machine is not an espresso machine
There are several types of espresso machine, but for the purpose of this post I’m breaking them into two basic categories: those which make real espresso and those which don’t, my focus being on the latter.
My first gripe is with the stove top moka pot. Sure they may have roots in the original process behind the drink, but don’t expect its end product to mimic the shot your local [skilled] barista pulls. It’s another producer of strong coffee and nothing more. I have a feeling most people realise this.
Then there’s the steam powered espresso machines. These operate on the basic principle of boiling water (and espresso is not in fact made with boiling water) and using the steam to push out the coffee. Keeping that process in mind, the drink produced by steam powered machines will be closer to one from a stovetop espresso maker than to a modern day shot. True espresso is crafted using a pump process, one which doesn’t boil the water first and one which uses a minimum of 9 bar pressure.
While it’s maybe a bit snobbish to say the steam powered machines cannot produce espresso, it’s certainly reasonable to say you simply cannot obtain professional results using one.
But don’t despair. If you love your venti caramel latte and what comes out of your Delonghi machine then that’s what really matters, right?.
I am by no means a professional, so I’ve only touched on the very outskirts of machines. If you’re interested in reading more, the topic of machines is explained in detail elsewhere by people who really know what they’re talking about and with good espresso machine advice to offer.
Stay Tuned: Ingredients for successful espresso
It’s clear to most people that espresso involves the use of a coffee bean (no, there is not an espresso plant) coupled with equipment of some sort. Stay tuned for the next part in the series to learn why the espresso machine is arguably one of the least important tools in the process.
All posts in this series
- There’s No “X” in “Espresso” and Other Tales of Coffee Woe
- What Espresso Isn’t: A Primer
- Ingredients For Successful Espresso
- The Coffee Shop Menu, Simplified