What is Espresso?

Smithsonian has a wonderful article on the history of espresso but this concluding paragraph summarizes what espresso is:

Over more than a century, the espresso machine has been drastically improved, with electrical components, computerized measurements, and portable pneumatics. But as with the finest objects of design, science and technology is not enough. There is an art to the espresso as well. The talent of the barista is as important as the quality of the beans and the efficiency of the machine. Indeed, it is said that a good espresso depends on the four M’sMacchina, the espresso machine; Macinazione, the proper grinding of a beans –a uniform grind between fine and powdery– which is ideally done moments brewing the drink;Miscela, the coffee blend and the roast, and Mano is the skilled hand of the barista, because even with the finest beans and the most advanced equipment, the shot depends on the touch and style of the barista. When combined properly, these four Ms yield a drink that is at once bold and elegant, with a light, sweet foam crema floating over the coffee. A complex drink with a complex history.

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  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Amen. Since my wife is an assistant manger at a Bistro, having started as a barrista, I can attest to the importance of the art. The same 2 people can use the same machine, same water, same beans, and yet the end result will be vastly different.

  • This is what A Mother’s Milk, the cafe we went to in Adelaide, have mastered.

    In many ways coffee has become a social statement like enjoying a good wine. I agree with the statement re. Barista. I am amazed at how much difference they alone make to the espresso.

  • I used to work as a Barista and spent two weeks on steaming milk, and took another year to feel really comfortable with it. I still listen to the sound when I’m at a cafe to see if they’re going to screw up my latte …

  • Mike M

    It’s a small, very small, cup of coffee. Give me a venti Pike Place anytime. How much do you think an espresso is per gallon?

  • AJG

    I worked for three years as a barista in college. I was kind of known as the “Soup Nazi” of our shop because I could make a brilliant espresso but I had zero tolerance for most customers. 🙂