Espresso is a distinct style of coffee beverage that is extracted using the best commercial espresso machine. People can enjoy this aromatic drink on its own because it is packed with strong and rich coffee taste. It is also the foundation of many flavorful coffee drinks, including lattes and cappuccinos. Most beverages you’ll find in coffee shop menus are created from espresso. Although it has become fairly common outside of Italy, a lot of coffee drinkers still ask “What is an espresso?”Let us dive deeper into the world of this strong little cup of coffee that embodies the real nature of coffee bean.

Espresso is a punch of flavorful coffee concentrate that is typically served in shots. It is carefully made by driving pressurized, hot water into finely ground coffee beans. This process is popularly known as “pulling a shot.”

Dissimilar to most form of coffee drinks, espressos contain “crema.” This is a reddish-brown froth that builds up when air bubbles mix with the soluble oils found in ground coffee beans. The crema creates a distinct flavor and pleasant smell of espresso. Most of the time, the crema indicates if the espresso is prepared by an expert barista using quality and finely ground coffee. Moreover, the cream and the espresso’s fast extraction procedure give espresso its compact flavor, lingering aftertaste, and less caffeine content that you can’t find in a regular coffee drip.
canarian espresso

What is an Espresso Shot and the Best Way to Drink it

Espresso is served in shots and every shot measures at least 1 ounce. “Doppio” is the term often used to denote double shots of espresso and are popular when compared to single shots. Generally, espressos are poured using demitasse cups, regardless of its size. Demitasses cups are white, little cups that you often see in restaurants and coffeehouses. Each cup can hold two to four ounces of espresso. To maintain the quality of the espresso, the majority of coffee shops only serve double shots. Some coffee shops still offer lungos and single shots. Even if espresso is served in shots, note that it is not meant to be consumed in one go, like what you would normally do when drinking tequila. The appropriate way of drinking espresso is sipping it slowly so you can savor its rich and strong taste.

Popular Espresso Drinks

Since espresso is enriched with flavor, it is the perfect foundation for combining coffee drinks. The best espresso machine works non-stop in bustling coffee houses. The thing about espresso is it still stands out even when it is mixed in a 12 or 16-ounce coffee cup full of steamed milk and another beverage component. Menus in coffee houses continue to improve and expand because of the comprehensive list of drinks to choose from. Most of these drinks originated from a single or double shot of espresso.

  • Caffé Latte – this tall drink is created from a double shot of espresso and steamed milk. It is usually drizzled with syrups to add more flavor.
  • Caffé Americano – served in a 6-ounce cup, this drink is a concentration of one shot of espresso and hot water. This is a great alternative if you are looking for a large yet flavorful coffee drink.
  • Cappuccino – this short drink is made up of frothed or steamed milk with a single shot of espresso.
  • Red Eye – this is the premier cup of caffeine drink that’s made of one shot of espresso and regular coffee.
Capuccino with Glass

Single vs. Double Shots

A single shot of espresso utilizes 7g of finely-ground coffee beans and produces at least 30 ml of espresso or about 1 ounce. Weighing espresso shots is a new practice in the field of coffee making. In the past years, baristas simply estimate when the espresso is ready. In 1990, Starbucks introduced a double shot or doppio in the United States. Generally, a double shot is made from 14g of coffee and it creates almost 60 ml of espresso or at least 2 ounces. Today, double shots are the standard coffee drink in the US and other parts of the world. If you request for a single, the barista will still pull a double and divide it in half using a portafilter.

Talking about flavor, there’s no significant change between a double and single shot. The only reason why double shots are introduced is to make the lives of busy baristas easier. According to experts, an ounce of espresso contains about 30 – 50mg of caffeine. This means that double shots contain at least 60-100 mg of caffeine.

How to Measure Caffeine

Coffee is a vital part of everyday life. People from all ages drink it usually in the morning to stimulate their body to get through the day. Its rich and flavorful taste is well-loved by everyone. Coffee houses also take pride in serving caffeinated drinks to their customers, from espresso to cappuccino. Most of these drinks came from espresso and blended with other ingredients to come up with a whole new caffeinated beverage.

As of today, there are no studies regarding the effect of shot recipes on caffeine. But here’s a general truth, caffeine appears early in the shot. This means that the overall yield only impacts a limited portion of the total amount of caffeine. The most essential element is the amount of coffee found in the portafilter.

 If the alternative double shot has about 60 – 100mg of caffeine, then the modern double shot that’s made with more ground coffee will have a higher amount, since the majority of coffee houses utilizes 16-20g of coffee in their double shots.

Measuring Caffeine in Espresso

Most people would say that espresso has a lot of caffeine compared to typical drip coffee. The regular serving size of coffee during the late ’50s was between 118 - 177 ml or approximately 4-6 fl oz. As time passed, the serving size has increased and it multiplied by eight times. According to the National Coffee Association or NCA, a normal cup of drip coffee - which is 8 oz - contains at least 65-120 mg of caffeine. But it’s hard to determine how much caffeine you are drinking in a normal cup of coffee.

measuring caffeine

Caffeine is the most consumed drug substance and this is due to excessive drinking of coffee. Health professionals suggest that people limit or avoid this due to several health risks. Even decaffeinated drink can cause a feeling of discomfort. If you consume five to ten cups of decaf a day, your caffeine intake can reach the same amount that’s present in just two cups of caffeinated coffee.

Others would say that the amount of caffeine in a regular cup of drip coffee and a shot of espresso is approximately 92.5mg and 40.0mg, respectively. The 92.5 mg present in drip coffee contains a much higher concentration of caffeine compared to 40.0 mg in espresso. It is safe to say that drip coffee contains more caffeine compared to espresso.

The most appropriate way to measure the caffeine content of a certain coffee beverage is per ounce (oz). For instance, espresso has only one-half to one-third less caffeine and it is found in only 1 oz of liquid or 30-50mg/oz. 1 oz of the espresso is approximately 30-50 mg of caffeine in concentration.

In beverage viewpoint, espresso is consumed in smaller servings, thus it contains less caffeine but in a volume viewpoint, espresso has a lot of caffeine than drip coffee, mainly because it has a higher mixture of solubles in 1 oz of coffee. The majority of the population might think that espresso has a lot of caffeine than drip coffee because caffeine is a bitter ingredient and espresso – being roasted darker - is packed with bitter compounds. This might sound true but clearly, it is not.

The reason why espresso has bitter compounds is not because of the caffeine but due to the Maillard reaction during the roasting process. Even if Italians consume as much as 10 shots of espresso every day, they don’t experience any jittery feeling since espresso has less caffeine content.

When brewing coffee, several factors need to be considered, including its grind size, type, dwell time, brew time, water temperature, and many more. All of these factors greatly impact the final caffeine extraction. However, there’s no such thing as standard caffeine concentration because of the following components:

  • Blends – roasters can produce their blends from different coffee beans that result in different caffeine content.
  • Grind – there’s a fine, ultra-fine, and coarse grind.
  • Milk – milk dilutes the caffeine concentration.
  • Beverage size – it can be 24oz, 12oz, 5oz, or 4 oz.
  • Bean type – is it Robusta, Arabica, or a mixture of both?
  • Water temperature – the suggested temperature range from 195-205 Fahrenheit.

12 oz brewed coffee has 120 milligrams of caffeine while 2 oz double shot espresso has 80 milligrams. One cup of brewed coffee only has 10 mg per ounce while a single shot espresso has approximately 40mg per ounce. When it comes to concentration, espresso has more caffeine. This is because caffeine is instantly assimilated if it is taken in a concentrated form. It targets your central nervous compared to drinking from a drip cup for an hour. Furthermore, caffeine acts as a solvent when extracted with hot water during the brewing process.

All brewing procedures have different caffeine percentage because of the following:

  • All caffeine is relinquished at the first minute of extraction. Espresso only has 10-30 seconds of brewing time.
  • The appropriate water temperature is 95-105 degrees Celsius. Temperature can impact how fast the caffeine is released from the bean.
  • The grinds need be 100% saturated to remove all the caffeine in it. The finer the grinds, the faster the caffeine extraction takes place.

Espresso is created by using pressurized water and a higher amount of ground coffee, which results in massive caffeine percentage. It is easy to separate the caffeine from coffee, so if there’s more caffeine, there should also be more ground coffee.

As mentioned previously, espresso beverages have 3 milligrams up to 15.8 milligrams of caffeine per shot while brewed coffees contain 12 milligrams to 13.4 milligrams of caffeine concentration per 16-ounce serving. Even the average caffeine percentage can heighten anxiety, agitation, blood pressure, and heart rate.

If you are fond of homemade espresso, you should try experimenting with different grind sizes and coffee-to-yield ratios. You’ll be surprised at the taste of each blend when pulled in various ways.

Difference between Espresso and Coffee Drip

coffee drip

There is a substantial amount of caffeine that could be extracted in ground coffee, so why do caffeine concentrations vary? Furthermore, how do you extract caffeine from coffee?

Caffeine is soluble in water. During the brewing process, caffeine is extracted by hot water, which acts as the solvent. Each brewing method leads to a unique caffeine percentage, here are the factors that affect it:

Saturation. The grinds have to be 100% saturated to extract all the available caffeine.

Time. All available caffeine is immediately released at the first minute of the extraction process. In the case of espresso, its brewing time only lasts for 30 seconds.

Temperature. Hot water acts as a solvent for ground coffee. Ideal water temperature is between 95 to 105°C. Temperature plays a significant role when extracting caffeine from coffee. The speed of the extraction process depends on the temperature of the water. A cold brew takes longer to extract.

Grind. Grind can impact how fast caffeine is extracted from coffee. If you have a finer grind, it will be easier and faster to extract. This is because water can saturate the grind instantly and it has a greater contact area to the surface. If the grind is too coarse, it will be under-extracted and if the grind is too fine, it will be over-extracted.

These factors affect how fast caffeine is extracted from coffee. You can simply take an entire bean and soak it in water. That would remove the caffeine, but how long will that take?

Espresso is created by using pressurized water and ground coffee. Compared to drip, espresso uses a lot of coffee that results in higher caffeine concentration. If you want to consume more caffeine in your drink, the best thing that you can do is to add more ground coffee.

The Difference Between Coffee and Espresso

Imagine this, you ordered black coffee but you are given a shot of espresso. Wouldn’t you be disappointed?

One cup of drip coffee is completely different from one shot of espresso. But what is exactly the difference between the two? After all, they are both coffee beverages and they came from the same type of coffee bean. The distinction very much lies in the mode of preparation. For espresso, coffee beans are roasted for a long period, much longer than the beans used for drip coffee. In terms of the grinding process, espresso beans are finer, more like sand than gravel. For most people, the type of coffee bean makes a lot of difference when it comes to flavor, however, the primary difference between coffee and espresso has to do with how the drink is prepared. Generally, you can utilize dark roasted coffee beans to create espresso and espresso-roasted beans to create drip coffee, provide that you ground the beans appropriately and you have the right equipment to prepare it.

If you want to make an espresso, you need to have an espresso machine. This is because if you define espresso, it is a rich black coffee, prepared by pulling hot water unto tightly packed coffee grounds. This specific extraction method provides each shot of espresso its signature layers: a small layer of cream or foam on top and a shot of coffee at the bottom.

If you want to make drip coffee, you have tons of brewing methods to choose from. Since the process involves combining coffee grounds with water for a long period, the grind can be less fine than espresso. To prepare the coffee, use a drip or pour-over brewing method. You can also opt for the immersion route. Regardless of the brewing method, the coffee you will make will technically have a gentle taste compared to a shot of espresso. It won’t have any crema as well.

The difference between brewed coffee and espresso has a lot to do with how it is prepared. The method of preparation influences the flavor of the drink, and not the beans used. Using the right technique, one can create a regular cup and something incredibly tasty.

How to become a Real Espresso Fancier

There are a lot of things that you can do to get past the Starbucks menu. But first, you have to fine-tune your palate. You can attend "coffee cupping" seminars where you will compare and contrast various types of coffee. You will list down all the flavors that flash in your mind, as well as the scent. Study the different characteristics of each and learn how to differentiate Robusta from Arabica beans.

Then, you should invest in an espresso machine. You don’t have to splurge since there are affordable machines that work just fine. If you have full knowledge of what you are making, you can create the perfect espresso shot. But if you don’t, you’ll probably create a terrible espresso. Start experimenting to finally learn how to make a good one.

You need to grind the beans at the ideal granularity. If the beans are too fine, water won’t pass through them right away. If the beans are too coarse, water will pass through it too quickly and extract a lot of coffee from the beans, resulting in a bitter taste. Use a burr grinder to grind the beans properly. But if it’s too expensive for you, you can manually grind the beans, which cost less amount of money. Moreover, you need to utilize the exact amount of grinds. If you do it too much, you might ruin the screen on top of where the water passes through. Once it is damaged, water won’t flow right through it properly. If you grind too little, the water will go through it too fast.

This being said, you need to get the right timing. Paying attention to timing will help you take advantage of the full value of your beans. You should also prepare your coffee beans properly. It should be roasted by someone knowledgeable in coffee making. Always remember that even if it has a strong flavor, that doesn’t indicate that it also has strong caffeine, so don’t use that as an excuse to over-roast the beans. To determine if the roaster knows what they are doing, find out if they are consistent in their job. After roasting the beans, store them properly in a bag that has a one-way gas escape valve. The beans should be ready to use after a couple of weeks. Also, once the coffee beans are grounded, it should be fully utilized to make espresso shots. Once the espresso is prepared, it should be consumed instantly.

Water is another vital aspect when making espresso. It should taste pure and clean or your coffee won’t be as good as you expect it to be. Bottled, filtered, or distilled water works fine. Don’t worry about adding milk because espresso is not bitter. It has a subtle hint of sweetness when pulled properly. When you have mastered the art of making espresso, you should also study how to achieve that silky smoothness of a perfect microfoam in cappuccinos. You can even try latte art and other techniques that could sharpen your skills in coffee making.
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