• Tamarah Webb

How to know that you’re drinking a quality espresso

Would you like to uncover the secrets to the ideal espresso? Reading recipes will get you so far, but follow these tips to ensure quality in your next espresso coffee beverage thanks to Matt Potter—assistant store manager of Starbucks in Chicago's Dearborn Park. 


Photo via Google Maps.

The right roast.   

Although espresso brewing can be substituted with any roast, you need to know how much caffeine you wish to consume. “The longer the coffee is roasted, the darker it becomes, and just like alcohol, caffeine cooks out; therefore, the lighter the roast, the more caffeine. A quality espresso needs a medium to dark roasted coffee beans.


Better your beans.

Purchase coffee intended for espresso making is also an option. This ensures the intensity of the beverage. Using a basic coffee brand may give a low-intensity espresso. “Always store coffee beans in airtight packaging. When beans are purchased, they should be packed to prevent oxygen from entering the beans.”


Arabica vs. Robusta.

“Use 100 percent Arabica coffee for espresso brewing.” Arabica coffee is grown in high elevations of the Sunbelt and gives sweet, soft tones of fruit and barriers from countries of Latin America and Colombia. Regardless of the roast, Arabica coffee guarantees better quality over the strong grainy taste of Robusta beans, which grow in the eastern hemisphere of Africa and Indonesia. “Robusta coffee is easier to grow and can withstand various weather conditions; using Robusta may give a mild rather and strongly brewed espresso.” Take a visit to 7-Eleven, Robusta coffee will be provided.


What a fine grind.

“Coffee beans must become more of a powder for a flavor to be pulled out of beans.” Course coffee beans, which are found in a French press, will not give an ideal espresso taste and may cause your espresso to have an unsteady flow when brewing. Course beans are used in regular coffee. Extremely fine beans are required for quality espresso. NOTE: Use a barista to ease the espresso-making process.


Tamp. Tamp. Tamp.

“After grinding, beans should be compressed. Similarly to how brown sugar is measured and flattened, espresso grounds must be tamped.” Tamping gives full saturation and a superb brew.


Agua freshness and temperature.

“Using filtered water rather than water from the tap does matter.” There is a leafy aftertaste associated with tap water that could debunk a good-looking espresso. For the proper flavor extraction, water should reach temperatures between 165 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.   


If it’s bitter it’s a bummer. Exercise time management.

“A quality espresso will pour anywhere between 18-23 seconds.” Immediately after an espresso shot is brewed it must be used. “A shot of espresso that sits for 20-30 seconds is ruined. An expired espresso shot is extremely bitter and will ruin any beverage it is pouted into, no matter how much flavor is added.”


Pile on the layers.

“Three distinct layers should be produced before using an espresso shot.” The crema, body, and heart form the trio of a quality-fresh espresso. The base layer (the heart) is a black coffee color, the body is lighter, and the surface (crema) will reflect a coffee with creamer color. Within seconds the layers will bleed.


You can't beat a natural smell. 

Before mingling your espresso with milk, flavors, and toppings, check things out. “Cupping a hand around your nose and the top of a cup of espresso then inhale the aroma. This should deliver hints of nutty notes.”


Full body quality.

A quality espresso has a full body. “Dry out your mouth and coat your tongue with the fresh espresso drink. The heaviness of the coating will depend on your use of milk type or water. An espresso with a heavy body is like whole milk as it weighs down your tongue. Intern, skimmed milk has a lighter body. The more body the heavier it feels the less body the lighter.” The taste, of the espresso, should be intensely strong and caramelly sweet with a nutty aftertaste.  


Saliva is necessary.

“A good way to test the acidity of your espresso is to dry out your tongue and see how much your coffee makes you salivate. This process will deliver earthy undertones.” A quality espresso will cause salivation of the mouth. Medium acidity is a quality espresso.


Keep everything clean

Espresso making can make things oily. Cleaning machinery and tools after every use will prevent spouts from clogging. Residue from past uses will ruin the taste, quality, and flow of any future espressos.” 


Chocolate foods for pairing.

“The caramelly[sic] sweet and somewhat nutty aftertaste of a quality espresso makes it pair well with chocolate treats.”


Did you know?

Espresso con panna is Italian for “espresso with cream.”

Espresso Macchiato is an espresso topped with steamed milk.

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