In Italy espresso isn’t just a gourmet drink, it’s an art form and a tradition. Italian inventor Angelo Moriondo patented his espresso machine in 1884, but he didn’t create the drink. Moriondo’s machine, which is what modern day espresso makers are modeled after, was created to easily service patrons in cafes. True Italian espresso is about creating drinks that meet the tastes of individuals. The traditional way to make authentic espresso is with a three chamber aluminum pot, but electric machines are now more common.
Just as the type of equipment used to make Italian espresso is important (this site has a nice selection: Littlecoffeeplace.com), so is the quality and type of coffee. Not just any beans will do — go for ones that are roasted in Italy. If you can’t find an Italian brand, such as Lavazza or Illy, choose the best ground espresso that you can find locally.
Types of Espresso
Italian espresso is served in small cups because it’s bold and has a strong flavor. Cups of espresso are often referred to as shots. Single, double, and triple shots are common, with the double shot being the most popular in the US. Single shots typically use 7 grams of coffee, while double and triple shots use 14 and 21 grams of coffee, respectively.
The length of an espresso shot refers to how much water is used during extraction and low long the extraction lasts. Ristretto, which means reduced, is a shot that has less volume than a normal shot of espresso. Normale, or standard, shots have a volume of about two ounces. Lungo, or long, shots have a larger volume, and the Italian espresso shot with the largest volume is the caffe crema. It ranges from four to eight ounces, and a coarser grind is used to make it. It’s important to note that all of the water in an espresso must be used during brewing rather than added after the coffee has been brewed, otherwise it can’t truly be called authentic.
Whether an espresso is ristretto, lungo, or somewhere in between, the taste of each will still be rich and flavorful if made the authentic Italian way. It should also be topped with a luscious layer of crema, which is the result of the oils from coffee beans being emulsified during the extraction process.
The most important part of Italian coffee culture is enjoying the experience. While espresso should be served hot and drank immediately, you should still savor the moment, engage all of your senses, and relax — that means putting down the phone and temporarily setting aside distractions. A delicious, authentic Italian espresso truly can help make your day just a bit brighter.