gainesville's brew

what's espresso?

what espresso is not.

Essentially, espresso is a method of extracting coffee from the grinds. But perhaps the best way to talk about what espresso is is to talk about what it is not. Here are several popular misconceptions about espresso:

#1 espresso, not expresso:

Espresso is the Italian word for express or expressed, since the espresso is made especially and immediately for the customer. Expresso is simply wrong.

#2 espresso is not a sort of bean:

Any coffee bean can be used to make espresso. Popular marketing tactics have severely misconstrued the nature of espresso. "Coffee and Espresso" signs have become a popular mark for coffeehouses, and this in turn has led the majority of people into thinking that coffee and espresso are different. But remember this: IT IS ALL COFFEE. Espresso is merely one method of extraction. With that said, growers and roasters have found that certain beans and roasts provide a much more flavorful espresso. That is why some beans are advertised as espresso beans, but they're not. They are coffee beans that provide the best flavor as espresso.

#3 espresso is not a specific roast:

Espresso can be pulled from any roasted bean. This becomes appropriately subjective. Some prefer a darker roast while others prefer a light roast like a cinnamon roast. Good espresso is not particular to a specific roast.

so, what makes espresso espresso?

There are certain requirements for espresso to be, well, espresso:

#1 pressure:

The term espresso is placed on coffee brews that aren't truly espresso. This, in most cases, is a marketing technique because in most people's minds espresso has the connotation of gourmet while "coffee" is the stuff people make at home. What these fake espressos lack is the appropriate amount of pressure. True espresso requires water to be forced through the coffee grounds at 135 pounds per square inch at the least. A good sign that a good shot of espresso is pulled is whether the top creamy layer, or crema, is a dark, golden-rust color. Appropriate pressure and good crema are necessary for quality espresso.

There are "espresso" machines that aren't truly espresso machines. If you're planning on purchasing an espresso machine, ensure that it is truly an espresso machine: one that pushes water at least 135 psi.

#2 temperature:

At the moment of extraction, the water should be between 190-204 degrees Fahrenheit. This also means that the cup into which the espresso is poured should be warmed so that the temperature change doesn't, in a sense, shock the espresso.

#3 grind:

There are five main grinds which significantly impact the extraction of coffee.

A coarse grind consist of larger-than-sand grounds which work best in French press and percolators.

A medium grind, about the size of rough sand, is best suited for drip coffee.

A fine grind is a tad finer than granulated sugar and is ideal for stove-top coffee.

An extra-fine grind is finer than sugar but not yet a powder. Quality espresso machines require an extra-fine grind.

A Turkish grind is a powder-fine grind used in an Ibrik, a device used to boil coffee in water. The result is thick Turkish or Greek coffee.

misconception about caffeine content:

Espresso has been thought to contain more caffeine than drip-brewed coffee. And this is true in one sense but wrong in another. It is true that per ounce espresso contains more caffeine than drip coffee. However, because the typical amount of espresso per beverage is about 1-3 oz., and the typical amount of drip coffee runs from 8-12 oz., according to, you're more likely to get a higher caffeine level by drinking a mug of drip than an ounce of espresso.