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It's in every coffee bar in the country, and serves as the base for many beloved drinks like cappuccinos and lattes. It's espresso! This dark, delicious drink is made when hot water is forced through finely ground coffee at high pressure.
Espresso has its origins in Italy, and started making its way to the United States after World War II. With the opening of places like Seattle's Best Coffee and Starbucks, espresso has taken America by storm. Espresso is usually made in small glasses, and a "shot" is about one ounce. A typical latte or cappuccino takes two shots of espresso.
In the United States, darker roast coffee beans are preferred for making a dark, intense shot of espresso. In Europe, the type of roast varies depending on location. It is largely a matter of personal preference. The only real requirement is that the coffee is finely ground. This allows the water to squeeze through more easily.
While most people have their coffee drinks in a coffeehouse, made by an expert barrista, the espresso enthusiast can make the beverage and its sisters at home. He or she will need an espresso maker, not to be confused with a regular coffeemaker. Some coffeemakers feature espresso makers, incidentally. Many espresso makers also have a steam apparatus for frothing milk for cappuccinos and lattes. The starting cost for one of these appliances is about US$50, and they go up and up from there.
Recipes and methods for making espresso and other coffee drinks are everywhere. A trip to the local bookstore will uncover dozens of titles, and the Internet is crammed with Web sites dedicated to all things coffee-related. A person can even buy coffee beans online, to say nothing of espresso makers and supplies.
Americans have gained a real appreciation for truly good coffee in recent years. The prevalence of espresso has certainly been a major factor in this feeling. There's nothing like a freshly brewed shot of rich, dark espresso.