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What is Espresso?

Amy Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at DelightedCooking. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By Comparables — On May 28, 2011

What is the best espresso coffee machine for under $300? I would like to hear people’s feedback and reasons why they believe the machine they mentioned is the best. I want to buy an espresso machine, but it is a daunting task to sort through all of the espresso machines on the market. My ideal machine would make the best tasting espresso in the least amount of time (clean-up, preparation, etc.) possible. Thanks to anyone who responds.

By ValleyFiah — On May 26, 2011

@GlassAxe- Espresso does taste stronger, but coffee does have more caffeine. It all comes down to the way that the espresso is made. A shot of espresso typically is drawn in 20-30 seconds. Coffee, on the other hand, takes about 5-10 minutes to brew. The short amount of time that espresso is brewed means that it only pulls about half of the caffeine out of the beans than a pot of coffee.

The reason that it gives such a good buzz is because a shot of espresso uses about 1.5 times to double the coffee beans as a cup of coffee. If you pull a triple shot off a professional espresso machine, you are receiving about the same amount of coffee as two to three cups of coffee, all in one drink.

By GlassAxe — On May 24, 2011

Why does espresso have less caffeine than coffee, yet taste so much stronger? I swear that I feel more of a buzz from my espresso drinks from my espresso machine than I do from a comparable coffee. Can someone help me either debunk this as a myth, or confirm it as truth?

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at DelightedCooking...
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