At 1418, the majority of our drinks are espresso based,
yet espresso is one of the most misunderstood elements of coffee. Some believe espresso to be a specific roast style or type of bean. In reality, espresso is simply another brewing method like pour overs or immersions, and in this post we will look into what makes it so confusing.
Espresso comes to us from Italy and can be traced back all the way to the 19th century when Angelo Moriondo invented the first machine that controlled steam and water separately to quickly produce a large amount of coffee. Though these machines were never mass-produced, and the design has changed, Moriondo’s invention laid the foundation for espresso machines in the future.
In the early 1900s, Luigi Bezzera, with the help of Desiderio Pavoni, improved upon Moriondo’s work, but it was not until Achille Gaggia’s 1948 “lever group” machine that espresso began to look like it does today. Since then, people have made small modifications, but the machines used today largely operate in the same way as they did back then.
Since we have established that espresso is just a way to brew coffee instead of a specific type of roast or bean, we can look at what makes it so special. The biggest differences between espresso and other brew methods are the grind size, the compactness of the grounds before they are brewed, and the pressure of water.
Espresso’s grind is much finer than other common brew methods. The ground coffee comes straight from the grinder into the portafilter basket, and then the barista compresses the loose coffee mound into a compact puck using a flat metal tamper. Once the coffee is tightly held in the portafilter, the barista locks it into the espresso machine, where the brewing begins.
The machine disperses hot, pressurized water onto the coffee puck, which begins the “extraction” process. The tightness of the puck makes it so the water can absorb more of the flavor from the ground coffee creating the richness and intensity of espresso. At 1418, we like to use this formula to help us remember:
Finely ground, compact “puck” of coffee + Hot Water + Pressure = Espresso
A standard espresso will come as a double shot that is roughly two ounces. Pulling a shot that is larger or smaller will affect the extraction of the coffee and will result in either a bitter or sour shot. This is why there is only one size for espresso. However, by adding milk a barista can create a latte, cappuccino, cortado or machchiato. The tricky thing to remember here is that a larger drink does not mean more espresso. All of our drinks come with two shots, though you can add more if you’d like.
Many variables affect the taste of espresso, such as grind size, weather changes and type of coffee used which makes it such a tricky method to master. Every morning our baristas take an hour to get the espresso just right before we open, often making small changes that make big differences. We call this process “dialing in” the espresso. Despite its difficulty, at 1418, we love espresso, and we want our Plano and greater Dallas community to love it too! That is why we train our staff to put so much care into every shot, and why we want to clear up any confusion for people who may not fully understand it. This post is just a starting point, so if you want to know more, keep an eye out on our blog or just ask a barista here at 1418! I promise we all love getting to geek out over this stuff.