What is espresso?

Espresso coffee explained!

What is espresso

In this article, I will go over what exactly espresso is.

The word espresso refers to the way the drink is made, i.e. the brewing method.

The first step is to grind 17-20g beans finely, this is typically done directly into the espresso machine’s portafilter, after which it is lightly pounded to a firm mass.

If you have an automatic or fully automatic espresso machine, the machine does this itself.

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After tamping, put the portafilter back in the machine and start brewing.

Now the machine presses a mixture of hot water and steam through the solid mass, after which the espresso runs down into the cup.

Usually, it will be 40 grams of water to 20 grams of beans, so approx double up.

Due to the high pressure during brewing, you will see a layer of dense “foam” on the surface.

This is called “the crema”, which is formed from the essential oils of coffee, making it incredibly creamy to drink.

The quality of crema depends a lot on which coffee beans you use and whether the brewing has taken place correctly.

If you have ground the coffee too coarsely or not stamped enough, you will also experience a smaller crema.

There are many suggestions on how many coffee beans to use for espresso, but between 17-20 grams per cup is very normal.

With some fully automatic espresso machines, it is possible to choose a higher dose and get a stronger coffee.

The espresso "Golden Rules"

Brewing an espresso on a semi-automatic espresso machine requires a little practice and understanding of the factors that come into play, and therefore these rules of thumb are good to keep in mind.

  • Single shot: 30-45ml water is run through approx. 7 grams of ground coffee in 20-25 seconds


  • Double shot: 60-75ml water is run through approx. 14 grams of ground coffee in 20-25 seconds

What coffee beans should I use?

There are countless coffee brands on the market, and basically, you can use all types for brewing espresso.

Common to all coffees on the market is that they consist of arabica, robusta or a mixture of the two.

These are the two main types of coffee used in coffee production worldwide. 

Arabica and robusta are grown in the coffee-growing belt along the equator, and their characteristics change depending on the country of origin. 

What is espresso coffee?

Espresso coffee or espresso beans is a slightly misunderstood term because, in fact, coffee beans used for espresso are no different from regular coffee beans.

Espresso can be brewed from all coffee beans types, regardless of the relationship between arabica and robusta or the roasting.

Espresso is a brewing method and not a bean type – as long as the coffee is ground finely enough, it can be used for espresso.

Which coffee bean or coffee blend is used for espresso is clearly a matter of taste. 

Some people prefer dark-roasted coffee with a blend of arabica and robusta because it usually gives a stronger and more intense espresso, but a 100% arabica can also taste heavenly!

What drinks can I get out of espresso and my machine?

Espresso is in itself a fantastic cup of coffee, which can be varied in countless ways, and most famous are of course the milk drinks, which are served in the cafes – among others—cappuccino, latte and cortado. 

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