The Anatomy of an Espresso Shot
Traditionally, an espresso shot is a dark brew served in an espresso cup and is topped with a thick layer of brown, bubbly crema, also known as coffee foam. It is finely ground coffee that is brewed under pressure and plays a big part in coffee culture. To pull the perfect espresso shot you will need a quality espresso machine, grinder, portafilter, tamper, fresh coffee beans and an espresso cup.
The cream is a top layer of foam that acts as a visual indicator of a well-extracted shot of espresso. Crema is a flavourful, aromatic froth that rests on top of a shot of espresso and is formed when air bubbles combine with fine-ground coffee oils. It is also known as the “Guinness effect” because it mimics the head on a pour of the Irish stout.
The presence of the crema indicates a quality, well-ground coffee giving it a long aftertaste and an ultimate coffee experience. If you have too much crema in the cup, you will have less espresso. The goal is to pull a shot of espresso with a crema that is not too thick, or too thin and lingers for about two minutes.
The extraction process from a quality espresso machine should take between 15 and 30 seconds.
Factors that Affect Crema
Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans – Are the coffee beans you are using roasted to perfection? Freshly roasted beans form more crema on an espresso because the coffee bean oils are still out-gassing from the roasting process.
The Colour of your Coffee Beans – The darker the bean, the less crema you will have due to the oils rubbing off while handling packaging and grinding.
How They Are Processed – Naturally processed coffee beans will produce the best cream because more coffee oils are left intact.
The most important part of the anatomy of an espresso shot is of course, the espresso. The espresso under the crema will have a unique, rich taste and aromatic scent. The shorter period of water exposure draws out less acid than other brewing methods while still retaining between 60 and 70 percent of the caffeine in the final cup.
The espresso shot is also made up of soluble liquids that make up the brew and taste, soluble gases make up the aroma of the espresso and insoluble solids that contribute to the mouthfeel of the espresso.
The Consistency of an Espresso Shot
The high pressure used during the extraction process results in an excellent concentration of flavours, meaning the espresso shot works well for blending into speciality espresso drinks and shots, such as cappuccinos and lattes without loss of flavour due to dilution.
The Types of Espresso Shots
If you are interested in being the ultimate coffee connoisseur then you will be wanting to know the types of espresso shots available to you to make.
- Doppio – A double espresso shot that contains two ounces of espresso.
- Ristretto – Made using just under an ounce of espresso with half the amount of water used in an espresso shot. A short, intense coffee experience.
- Lungo – Contains two ounces of espresso with twice as much water.
- Macchiato – Two ounces of espresso with a dash of foamed milk.
- Cafe Noisette – Two ounces of espresso and one ounce of steamed milk.
Now for the important part, the types of espresso-based drinks you can create using a quality espresso machine. Here are a list of drinks you can try:
- Double Espresso – Two shots of espresso prepared with 14 grams of ground coffee in a double portafilter. A double espresso shot is a more concentrated shot with a thick, rich crema.
- Espresso Macchiato – A single espresso with a touch of foam.
- Cappuccino – This beloved drink is two ounces of espresso topped with another two ounces of steamed milk and finished with two ounces of foam.
- Dry Cappuccino – This drink contains equal parts espresso and foamed milk, leaving off the steamed foamed milk at the end.
- Latte – A popular blend of two ounces of espresso and two ounces of steamed milk topped with foamed milk.
- Flat White – Two ounces of espresso and four ounces of steamed milk if you are not such a big fan of strong coffee.
- Americano – A strong combination of two ounces espresso mixed with three ounces of hot water.
- Affogato – This coffee is more like a dessert than a morning drink and is made with two ounces of espresso and three ounces of vanilla ice cream.
- Breve – A rich and creamy blend of two shots of espresso and three shots of half and half.
- Mocha – A chocolate lover’s dream, with 60 ml of espresso, 50 ml of chocolate and 30 ml of steamed milk.
- Cafe Con Hielo – An iced coffee version of espresso, with 50 ml of espresso served over ice.