From Tiramisu to gelato, the versatility of coffee has no doubt spurned its universal appeal over the centuries. The same can be said about coffee’s numerous brewing methods, each with a different focus, flavour profile and intensity. The espresso shot is arguably one of the most popular methods of coffee brewing with cafes often forking tens of thousands of dollars to land the right espresso machine.
Patented by Italian Angelo Moriondo, the espresso is made using a machine powered pump which pushes pressurised water through ground coffee. One of the most versatile methods of brewing, the intricacies of creating the perfect espresso shot lies in correct water temperature and pressure, ground bean coarseness and quantity (varies based on coffee blend) and correct tamping method. Additionally, the espresso machine was instrumental in the popularity of the cappuccino which introduced the addition of hot milk and steamed milk foam. This is an added layer of complexity to coffee making where the margin for error increases; not enough steam and the coffee is cold, too much and the milk gets burnt.
Modern café espresso machines are often complex, precise pieces of equipment that carefully control water pressure and temperature for consistent results. Despite technology having come a far way, there is no doubt that making a good espresso lies in correct technique and execution. Although there are now quality, home style espresso machines, the espresso method can be seen as more technically demanding, cumbersome and complex than other methods of brewing. However, compared to other methods such as drip and filter coffee, it is argued that the espresso method aids more in retaining oils and flavour profiles. This is because paper filters trap oils and minerals that the espresso allows to flow through into the final product.
So although each brewing method has its benefits, the espresso makes a strong case. There are around 800 distinct aromatic compounds in coffee and it is suggested that the espresso’s short brewing cycle of (the shortest of all brewing methods at 25-30 seconds long) retains the most flavour while preventing bitterness.
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