Coffee is the most popular drink in the world. Over 50% of grown-ups in the world consume coffee daily, making it by far the most frequently consumed beverage globally. The most common and pure type of coffee is espresso. However, it only has one ingredient – coffee. That makes a lot of people wonder, why is espresso always served with a spoon?
Although there’s only one ingredient, espresso is an emulsion, which means it separates into layers. Stirring it with the spoon will give you the best all-around taste, instead of having different textures through the espresso shot. Also, it’s used to mix in sweeteners.
Espresso is simple, but I’ve tasted so many different ones, from excellent to horrible. If you’re wondering what makes an espresso good, how you should drink it for the best experience, and how you can make good espresso at home even if you don’t have an espresso machine, keep reading this article to find out.
What Is an Espresso?
Coffee shops around the world sell espresso in a variety of forms. However, there’s only one type of coffee that’s real, traditional espresso. It’s a small shot with no milk – just pure coffee with water.
While the size of espresso can vary, it is the brewing method that highlights the list of essential characteristics that make it so unique. It would be best if you had water that’s almost boiling (around 90 degrees Celsius) and a lot of pressure to force it through a filter containing ground coffee beans.
The technique extracts most of the taste, aroma, nutrients, and caffeine from the beans, making espresso the purest form of coffee in existence. Although the brewing method is very similar, the taste and texture of the espresso will depend on the size of the cup, amount of water, type of beans, and the degree to which the beans are roasted.
Compared to other common types of coffee, such as cafe latte, macchiato, and others, espresso has a much higher viscosity, meaning it’s a thicker liquid. The reason behind it is the high amount of dissolved solids derived from the coffee beans.
However, that makes espresso an emulsion, meaning it gets layered when sitting in a cup. As a result, the density varies from top to bottom. On the surface, you have a smooth, foamy crema. The liquid in the middle is the best part of the brew, while the bottom is usually where ground bean residue falls (if the filter lets some of it pass through).
The robust nature of espresso combined with the fact that it needs the least liquid makes it an excellent base for virtually any other type of coffee. Thus, you can get macchiato, cafe latte, mocha, cappuccino, and a whole additional spectrum of coffee beverages that use espresso as the foundation.
Why Is Espresso Served with a Spoon?
As you now know, there’s a big difference between espresso and just plain coffee. However, the difference doesn’t lie in the coffee beans themselves but rather in the brewing method. As espresso is brewed under very high pressure with near-boiling water, it extracts a lot more nutrients from the ground beans.
Although espresso is served only in 1-2-ounce cups, it’s much more dense and viscous than other coffee types due to the before-mentioned high-pressure extraction from the beans. The thickness makes it an emulsion, though, meaning the ingredients separate when sitting. This is where your demitasse spoon kicks in.
The barista will serve the espresso with a spoon for several reasons. Still, all of them play a part in making your espresso shot taste perfect.
Remember how I told you that you usually get three layers in your espresso: the crema on top, the mild, bright notes stay in the middle, while the thick, syrupy parts where most of the flavor and aroma lies sink to the bottom.
That’s why you need a spoon – instead of tasting every component separately, give your espresso a quick stir to get the whole experience and the best taste.
Also, some espresso lovers say you should take off the crema when you’re doing espresso. If it’s brewed well, the red-brown puffy foam will lie on top. While it’s an indicator of a good espresso shot, the crema itself doesn’t taste that good.
So, there are two things you can do with it – either stir it in the shot or skim it off with your spoon, leaving only pure liquid espresso in.
Finally, suppose you love espresso’s effects (energy boost, intense aroma, etc.) but don’t enjoy the robust and bold taste of dark coffee. In that case, you might want to add some sweeteners to your shot. Whether it’s brown sugar, white sugar, honey, or something else, you’ll need your spoon to stir it in and prevent it from just lying on the bottom of the cup.
How to Make Espresso at Home?
If you want a fine espresso at home, you don’t have to have a high-end espresso machine at home. While it is the ideal solution, there are other ways to get that perfect thickness and aroma of a real espresso shot.
Note that espresso is made under 9-10 bars of pressure, and without the machine, it would be nearly impossible to get the same. You don’t need to get that kind of pressure, though – you need a different brewing method.
If you do opt for an espresso machine, there are several options. A manual espresso maker gives you all the control over the pressure, quantity, etc. However, they can be tricky if you don’t know how to operate them. That’s why you can also get an automatic espresso machine that uses capsules – you turn it on, and the machine does the rest.
If you don’t want to invest in a machine, don’t worry, you can still get espresso-like coffee. While it won’t be authentic espresso because you’ll brew it differently – and the brewing method is what makes it an espresso – you’ll get a similar taste.
The first method is to use a Moka pot. There’s a reason why it’s called a stovetop espresso maker. It uses the pressure of boiling water to go through a filter filled with coffee and extracts all the nutrients out of it. So you get strong, espresso-like coffee without spending a lot of money on a machine.
Another excellent method to get an espresso at home is to use an AeroPress. It’s a device that uses a plunger that creates high pressure in the apparatus, forcing the coffee through a filter and into the cup. The coffee is not pure espresso, but it’s close enough.
You could use other methods, but the most crucial part is to add enough coffee grounds. The more you have, the stronger the coffee will be and more similar to an authentic espresso.
How to Drink Espresso Properly?
If you want to get the whole barista experience, there is a “right” way to drink espresso. First, you might get a glass of sparkling water with your espresso. Drink some to clean your palette completely, enabling a full taste of the espresso.
Next, if you don’t like the bitterness of the crema (red-brown foam on top), take it off with a spoon. If you prefer to add sweeteners, do it now. If you like the crema or don’t need sweeteners, skip this step.
Now, take the espresso spoon and give it a few stirs. It’ll connect all the layers beautifully, giving you the perfect tasting experience. When you finally take a sip, let it spread over your tongue. Keep in mind that every coffee has an aftertaste, and the aftertaste of the espresso is where the magic happens.
It might be overwhelming at first if you’re used to simple regular coffee, but this is what coffee is all about. When you taste great espresso a couple of times, every other coffee will taste mild and weak.