Near as caffeinated historians can tell, espresso arrived in Italy near the mid 1880’s when some coffee drinker who didn’t know cocaine was coming decided they really needed a jolt to get their heart to try to climb out of their chest. After molti esperimenti and countless nights without rest, the simple formula of espresso came into being: 7 grams of coffee beans ground up, brewed at about 200 degrees under 130 psi (9 bar) of pressure to make a single glorious shot of something like coffee that’s been hitting Bane’s Venom. It was crafted both as a way to brew coffee as well as the name of the drink itself, with the very word implying speed, meaning it’s supposed to be drank swiftly, as with any shot.
Anyone can easily make a basic espresso, but it takes a lifetime of chasing the holy grail of baristas – the god shot – to master pulling the ideal cup of espresso. The beans, grind, pressure, temperature, roast, pack, time, and the mechanics of the pull itself all contribute to how good an espresso mix is. Variations on espresso are endless, with mixes being thought up as quickly as cocktail recipes. To help anyone understand what they’re getting in the wide world of espresso, we made this guide to the most common espresso drinks ever to fill a demitasse.
The basic, unadorned 7 grams of coffee in a portafilter using a single ounce of liquid. There’s variations on how you pull it, but if you have those components, you’re making the nectar of the wild-eyed gods.
1/6 cocoa layered on the bottom – a La Colombe goes with unsweetened cocoa for a more bitter bite – topped with a double ristretto espresso shot in 1/3 the demitasse, 1/3 steamed milk, with 1/6 foam. Sweet and sassy, this is what you want in the girl next door.
Flat White/Australian Latte
An incredibly basic 1/3 espresso with the rest steamed milk, there should only be the slightest hint of foam, with a perfect balance required so the milk doesn’t hide the espresso shot.
Smooth and strong, but not overpowering, the Gibraltar sings a creamy tune made of half milk and half espresso, intended to ease the sharp taste of the coffee for those with sensitive tongues who aren’t looking for a Reveille-style wakup call.
Only the true sweet fanatics will want this in the morning, since it’s a scooop of vanilla ice cream with a single shot of espresso poured over it. Forget that hot chocolate and go this route instead.
A splash of hot water starts the Americano, which is then topped off with a double espresso shot given a nice, long pull. The name comes from its similarity to American obsession with weak drip coffee.
Here’s where real junkies get their fix. 14 grams of coffee go into the portafilter, 1.5 ounces of fluid come out. It’ll wake you up or give you a cardiac episode. These should always have a stiff, rich crema on top.
Similar to an Americano, a Long Black is when an espresso is brewed inside a cup with hot water. The intent here is to add in more flavor and get the crema floating on the head, rather than mixed in the way it is with an Americano.
Espresso in its purest form, the Ristretto is a standard single shot of espresso that is pulled up short, filling about 2/3 of a demitasse. It’s a dense shot that is meant to be drank quickly with a glass of ice water, since it is hot, strong, and sharp, inviting you to taste every bean and enjoy the subtle power of the blend.
A glossy drink that is 1/3 espresso, 2/3 seriously heated milk, you’ll find these have a glossy finish with a slim layer of foam drifting atop it. Those who are new to espresso and like to drink drip coffee with a bit of milk are usually happiest with a Latte, since it has a creamy consistency that’s easy on a palette that has not yet been properly indoctrinated to the espresso world.
This is the foamiest espresso beverage you can get, favoring foam over steamed milk, for people who want a thick head to buffer them from their powerful poison. Made with a single or a double shot, if you order it La Colombe style, you’ll get two ristresso shots for more verve with your froth.
A quick way to chop a milder espresso drink into thirds, the standard Cap begins with a shot of espresso making the first layer of three. It is topped with milk which is then topped with a third of foam. There should be no bubbles on the top, and it should bear a milky, glassy top thanks to blending of the milk and foam.
Espresso con panna
This is a fun, simple drink that is hard to get wrong. Rather than mucking about with milk, a shot of espresso is adorned with loads of whipped cream, creating a gourmet delight that cuts the sharp taste of the coffee without watering it down or milking it for all it’s worth.
The Lungo is a step down in power from a standard espresso, but hasn’t quite gone the way of the drip-like Americano. Instead of one ounce of water, two ounces are used with the same 7 grams of ground beans for a slightly less harsh experience that saves you sipping on ice water with your morning cuppa.
A so-called “sipping shot” a Doppio pull is a standard espresso that uses the traditional 7 standard grams of ground beans, but gives you a double shot amount of coffee, so you won’t simply slam it down and demand another to stop your shaking hands.
A Breve has much in common with a Latte, but rather than using strictly steamed milk, it uses half-and-half or a 1:1 ratio mixture of milk and cream. The resultant outcome is thick and heavy, with that coffee goodness laden with fats to fight off that winter chill.
A nice wake-up, the word macchiato means “stain” which describes the stain of milk put atop a shot or double shot of espresso. Like a milky Doppio, it’s tough yet tender at all the right times.
Drip coffee served with ice, then topped off with a double espresso shot, those who prefer to run cold, or who want to get a jolt on a hot day will find this to their slow pleasure.
Drip coffee topped with espresso, few people find this enjoyable, since it’s a confusing beverage that mixes two great tastes into a mediocre simulacrum of both. Not bad by any means, it’s worth a try, particularly if you already like to dress your drinks up with cream and sugar or pumpkin spicing.