I love espresso and have tried the various drinks that call for this type of coffee. That passion led me to build this guide covering everything about espresso.
To know everything about espresso, you’ll find:
Keep reading to learn more.
- Espresso is concentrated coffee made by forcing hot water through ground coffee
- It has 2 parts; crema (a velvety layer on top) & espresso
- You can only make espresso using espresso machines
- Different ways to prepare espresso shots include solo, doppio (double shot), ristretto (concentrated), & lungo (watered down)
What is Espresso & What is It Made Of?
|Ideal brewing temperature||195–205 °F (90–96 °C)|
|Caffeine content||63 mg per shot (on average)|
|Ingredient||Finely ground coffee beans|
|Serving size||1 ounce (30ml) for a single shot|
|Taste||Bold, rich, & concentrated|
Espresso is a strong, concentrated coffee. It’s made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans. The pressure creates a rich, bold flavor and a thick, velvety layer called crema. People love espresso for its intense taste and as a base for other coffee drinks.
Let’s learn about the different parts of an espresso shot.
Espresso Shot Anatomy
Baristas and coffee enthusiasts often drink and serve espresso in espresso cups. Otherwise, known as demitasse cups.
You may have looked at an espresso shot and wondered what it is. And what the light foam(y) stuff on the top is.
The next couple sections will clear up those questions.
Crema is the golden layer on top of an espresso shot. It forms when hot water—195–205 °F (90–96 °C)—passes through coffee grounds.
This process does the following:
- 9–15 bars of pressure rip the gasses out of coffee beans & removes carbon dioxide (CO2) trapped in the coffee roasting process.
- The sudden pressure changes help CO2 shatter espresso cell walls & bubbles.
- The accumulating forces create crema.
Bicarbonate ions (HCO3-) in water can affect coffee’s taste and extraction process. However, they don’t play a direct role in the chemical reactions responsible for crema formation.
The water’s hardness—determined by the calcium and magnesium ions concentration—influences the extraction process. And the quality of the espresso, including its crema.
Crema often lasts for 40 minutes.
The taste of crema is rich and bittersweet. It adds depth to the espresso. Some people even say crema is a sign of a well-made shot.
Here are some ways to tell whether you have good crema in your espresso:
- Color: Look for a layer of reddish-brown crema on top of the espresso shot.
- Thickness: It should be around 2–3 millimeters thick.
- Color: It should have a consistent reddish-brown hue without any visible bubbles.
- Take a sip of the espresso & note the flavor: It should have a smooth & slightly sweet flavor.
- Aroma: fragrant with a pleasant coffee scent.
- Watch the crema dissipate: It should take at least a minute or two to disappear.
- Texture: It should be creamy and velvety to the touch.
On to the liquid part.
2. Liquid (Espresso)
Aside from crema, you’ll have:
- Soluble gasses: presents the espresso’s aroma
- Invaluable solids: contributes to espresso’s mouthfeel
- Soluble solids: makes up your espresso’s brew strength & taste
When combined, these different states make up your espresso.
Here are some ways to tell whether you have good espresso:
- Taste the espresso & note its flavor: It should be well-balanced with a pleasant acidity, sweetness, & bitterness.
- Color: It should be dark brown with a reddish tint.
- Texture: It should be smooth, velvety, & not watery.
- Temperature: It should be hot but not scalding.
- Aftertaste: It should be clean & lingering, without any harsh or bitter notes.
- Watch the flow: It should be a steady stream that isn’t too fast or slow.
You’re likely curious about the caffeine in espresso.
Caffeine in Espresso
A single (solo) shot of espresso has 60–70 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. However, different ways of serving espresso have these values:
- Doppio: serves up to about 120–140 milligrams of caffeine
- Ristretto: has around 50–60 milligrams
- Lungo: contains about 70–80 milligrams of caffeine
Take those amounts as a grain of rice. Actual caffeine values will vary by coffee bean type and roast. For instance, Robusta beans have, on average, over 1.2% more caffeine than Arabica beans.
Light roasted coffee beans could sometimes have 8 mg more caffeine than dark roasts.
A shot of espresso contains these nutrients:
|Nutrient||Amount in Espresso||% Daily Recommended Value *|
|Niacin (Vit. B3)||0.5 mg||2.5%|
Nutrients found in a single shot of espresso, along with their amounts and percentage of daily recommended values.
* Daily recommended values may vary by individual and factors such as age, gender, and activity level. Nutrient content in espresso may also vary based on the type of beans, roast, and brewing process.
What is Espresso Roast?
Espresso roast is a dark coffee roast crafted for espresso drinks. It’s different from other roasts in a couple of ways.
Roasters roast espresso beans longer than lighter roasts. This longer roast brings out the beans’ oils, creating a rich, bold flavor. It also reduces acidity, so espresso shots taste smooth and balanced.
The dark roast helps to create the perfect crema. Crema is that golden layer on top of an espresso shot. A well-roasted espresso bean will produce a thick, velvety crema that enhances the drinking experience.
Lighter roasts like city or full-city roasts showcase the beans’ natural flavors and acidity. They’re perfect for drip coffee or pour-over methods, but might not hold up as well in an espresso machine.
When you’re looking for beans to make a great espresso, choose an espresso roast. It’s designed to create the bold, smooth flavor that espresso lovers crave.
Here are examples of espresso roasts:
- Dark Roast Espresso: Roasted longer to produce a bold, full-bodied flavor profile.
- Medium Roast Espresso: Offers a balanced taste with moderate acidity and a smooth finish.
- Italian Roast Espresso: A dark, almost oily roast that delivers a strong, smoky flavor.
- French Roast Espresso: Characterized by a dark and intense flavor profile with a hint of bitterness.
- Single-Origin Espresso: Beans sourced from a specific region, highlighting unique flavors and characteristics of the area.
Now, how’s espresso different from coffee?
Espresso vs. Coffee
Here are four key differences between regular espresso and coffee:
- Brewing method: Espresso uses pressure.
- Coffee relies on gravity (e.g., drip coffee).
- Grind size: Espresso requires a fine grind.
- Black coffee uses a coarser grind
- Extraction time: Espresso takes 25–30 seconds.
- Coffee takes several minutes.
- Flavor and strength: Espresso has a concentrated, bold taste.
- Coffee offers a milder flavor.
Espresso delivers a robust and intense flavor in a small amount because of the high-pressure brewing process. Coffee, brewed using gravity, takes longer to extract and yields a more diluted flavor.
The differences in brewing method, grind size, extraction time, and taste make each drink a unique experience for coffee lovers.
History & Origin of Espresso
Espresso’s journey began in Italy in the late 1800s:
- 1884: Angelo Moriondo patented the first steam-driven coffee machine.
- 1901: Luigi Bezzera improved the design, creating a faster brewing process.
- He patented the espresso machine titled, “Innovations in the machinery to prepare & immediately serve coffee beverages.
- 1903: Desiderio Pavoni bought Bezzera’s patent.
- 1904: He introduced the first commercial espresso machine.
- 1947: Achille Gaggia invented a machine with a spring-driven lever, producing crema-rich espresso.
- 1850s: popularity grew among youth in the United Kingdom.
- 1980: espresso culture spread to the United States through Starbucks.
Let’s rewind to 1947.
This machine idea came to mind after seeing the piston engine of an American Army’s jeep that used a hydraulic system. The new patent applies a spring, loaded by a lever, that pushes the piston through the filter.
Hot water at high pressure passes through ground coffee, extracting all its aromas. The barista can now get a creamy espresso in 25–30 seconds .
Different Espresso Shot Types
Let’s compare different types of espresso preparation:
|Method||Coffee Req.||Water Req.||Brewing Time||Caffeine Content|
|Doppio||14–20 g||60 ml||40 sec||126 mg|
|Solo||8–12 g||30 ml||25–30 sec||50–70 mg|
|Long Shot||8–12 g||50–70 ml||35–60 sec||70–100 mg|
|Ristretto||8–12 g||15–20 ml||15–17 sec||25–30 mg|
Different types of espresso preparation compared.
I’ll cover more details throughout the following sections.
1. Single Shot (Solo)
|Point||Single Espresso Shot|
|Water to Coffee Ratio||1:1.5–1:2|
|Taste Profile||Strong, balanced flavor|
A single espresso shot, or “normale,” boasts a water-to-coffee ratio between 1:1.5 and 1:2, offering a robust flavor. This standard extraction sets it apart from ristretto and lungo shots.
Ristretto uses less water, resulting in a more intense taste. In contrast, lungo employs more water, giving a milder flavor.
2. Espresso Lungo (Long Shot)
|Point||Lungo Espresso Shot|
|Water to Coffee Ratio||1:2.5–1:4|
|Taste Profile||Milder, less intense|
A lungo shot, or “long,” uses a water-to-coffee ratio between 1:2.5 and 1:4. Resulting in a milder, less intense flavor compared to regular espresso.
The increased water amount extracts more from the coffee. Creating a taste profile that’s distinct yet enjoyable for those who prefer a less concentrated drink.
3. Espresso Doppio (Double Shot)
|Point||Doppio Espresso Shot|
|Water to Coffee Ratio||1:1.5–1:2|
|Taste Profile||Strong, intense flavor|
A doppio espresso shot, or “double,” follows the same water-to-coffee ratio as a single shot (1:1.5–1:2) but uses twice the coffee. Giving a strong, intense flavor.
Unlike lungo shots, which have a higher water-to-coffee ratio for a milder taste, doppio shots pack a powerful punch in a compact size.
4. Espresso Ristretto (Concentrated Shot)
|Point||Ristretto Espresso Shot|
|Water to Coffee Ratio||1:1–1:1.5|
|Taste Profile||Intense, concentrated|
A ristretto shot, or “restricted,” features a water-to-coffee ratio between 1:1 and 1:1.5. Producing an intense, concentrated flavor.
With less water in the brewing process, the ristretto shot extracts the coffee’s most desirable qualities. Creating a bold and rich taste for those who crave a more powerful coffee experience.
On to comparing different espresso beans.
What is Blonde Espresso & How It Differs from Regular Espresso
Blonde espresso is a lighter roast of coffee beans, resulting in a smoother, sweet flavor. It offers a gentler taste compared to regular espresso.
Here are four key differences between regular and blonde espresso:
- Roast level: Regular espresso uses a dark roast.
- Blonde espresso uses a lighter roast.
- Flavor: Regular espresso has a bold, intense taste.
- Blonde espresso has a smoother, sweeter profile.
- Acidity: Blonde espresso often has higher acidity than regular.
- Caffeine content: Blonde espresso contains (on average) 6–11% more caffeine than regular espresso 
Regular espresso provides a strong, bold flavor that’s perfect for those who enjoy a robust coffee drink. Meanwhile, Blonde espresso offers a milder alternative.
Now that you have a hold on beans and preparation methods. Learn what the machines are and how they work.
What is an Espresso Machine & How Does It Work?
An espresso machine is a device that brews strong coffee. It forces hot water through finely-ground coffee beans under 9–15 bars of pressure. The result is a bold, concentrated shot of espresso, ready to enjoy or use in other drinks.
The process starts by heating water to the right temperature. Next, the machine pushes the hot water through the coffee grounds.
The pressure and heat extract the flavorful oils and create a rich, velvety espresso.
Now, let’s explore different types of espresso machines:
- Manual Lever: these machines let you control the pressure by pulling a lever.
- You’ll need a bit of skill to make the perfect shot.
- Semi-Automatic: with semi-automatic machines, you start & stop the water flow.
- You grind, tamp, & time the shot, but the machine controls the pressure.
- Fully Automatic: They control water volume, pressure, & shot timing
- You will need to grind & tamp the coffee
- Super-Automatic: it grinds, tamps, & brews the espresso with a button press.
- Capsule Machines: capsule machines use pre-packaged coffee pods.
- They’re simple to use & offer consistent results, but you’ll have limited coffee choices.
You have a machine. But how do you brew an espresso shot?
How to Make Espresso (Solo Shot)
- 8–12 grams coffee grounds (fine grind)
- 30 ml softened water
- Use this type of water to extend your espresso maker’s life, since it doesn’t contain as many minerals that build up in appliances 
- Espresso maker
- 25–30 sec
- Choose high-quality, fresh coffee beans.
- Grind beans finely, like powdered sugar.
- Measure 18–20 grams of coffee grounds.
- Preheat espresso machine & portafilter.
- Tamp grounds evenly in the portafilter.
- Attach a portafilter to the machine.
- Place a cup under the portafilter.
- Start the shot, extracting for 25–30 seconds.
- Stop extraction, remove the cup.
Accessories to consider:
- Pressure gauge: A device that measures the pressure of the water in the machine, ensuring optimal extraction.
- Dosing funnel: A tool used to direct coffee grounds into the portafilter basket without spilling.
- Bottomless portafilter: A portafilter with no spout that allows for a clearer view of the espresso extraction process.
- Water filter: Used to improve the quality of water used in the espresso-making process.
Is there any special way to drink it?
How to Drink Espresso
Take a small sip to savor the flavors, and then feel free to drink the rest quickly. It’s a great way to get a quick caffeine boost and appreciate the taste of espresso.
Different Drinks You Can Make with Espresso
Let’s compare many specialized drinks you could make with espresso:
|Americano||Espresso shots, hot water|
|Latte||Espresso, steamed milk, milk foam|
|Red Eye||Coffee, espresso|
|Black Eye||Coffee, double shot of espresso|
|Dripped Eye||Coffee, triple shot of espresso|
|Lazy Eye||Coffee, quadruple shot of espresso|
|Cappuccino||Espresso, steamed milk, milk foam|
|Manilo Long Black||Espresso, hot water, lemon peel|
|Flat White||Espresso, microfoam (steamed milk with small, fine bubbles)|
|Cubano||Espresso, demerara sugar|
|Café Crema||Espresso, hot water, crema (a layer of foam that forms on top of the espresso due to pressurized brewing)|
|Zorro||Doppio, hot water, steamed milk|
|Cortado||Espresso, steamed milk, small amount of milk foam|
|Café Breve||Espresso, steamed half-and-half|
|Espresso Romano||Espresso, lemon peel|
|Guillermo||Mocha, orange peel|
|Irish Coffee||Coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, heavy cream|
|Vienna Coffee||Espresso, whipped cream, chocolate shavings|
|Galão||Espresso, steamed milk, foam|
|Macchiato||Espresso, dollop of milk foam|
|Long Macchiato||Double espresso, dollop of milk foam|
|Mocha||Espresso, chocolate syrup, steamed milk, milk foam|
|Marocchino||Espresso, cocoa powder, steamed milk, milk foam|
|Rápido y Sucio||Espresso, Mexican coffee liqueur|
|Freddo Cappuccino||Espresso, cold milk, ice cubes, milk foam|
|Affogato al Caffe||Espresso, vanilla ice cream|
|Café Medici||Double espresso, orange peel, chocolate syrup, whipped cream|
Ingredients in popular espresso-based drinks compared.
Potential Health Benefits of Drinking Espresso
Compare the potential upsides and downsides of drinking espresso:
|Potential Health Benefit||Explanation|
|Antioxidants||Espresso contains antioxidants that help fight free radicals & protect cells|
|Improved cognitive function||Moderate caffeine consumption from espresso may boost alertness & focus|
|Lower risk of type 2 diabetes||May reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes|
|Reduced risk of Parkinson’s||Consuming espresso may decrease the risk of developing Parkinson’s|
|Enhanced physical performance||The caffeine in espresso can increase physical performance|
Potential health benefits of drinking espresso and explains why espresso contributes to these benefits.
Restaurants with Espresso-based Drinks
To know where to get drinks made with espresso, check out this list::
|Business *||Coffee Beans Used|
|Panera||Caribou Coffee Blend|
|Tim Hortons||Tim Hortons Espresso Coffee|
|Costa Coffee||Costa Coffee Beans Signature Blend|
|Dutch Bros||Private Reserve|
|Einstein Bros. Bagels||Caribou Coffee Blend|
Restaurants that serve espresso-based drinks.
* Drink availability will vary by restaurant. Not all countries serve the same drinks.
Most of these places don’t specify their blend. They only say “we use 100% Arabica beans.”
Here are some frequently asked questions on espresso.
What Type of Coffee Beans Are Best for Making Espresso?
Use medium to dark roasted Arabica beans or a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans. They provide a balanced flavor and crema.
What is the Ideal Grind Size for Espresso?
The ideal grind size for espresso is fine, resembling the texture of powdered sugar. This grind allows for optimal extraction and flavor.
How Does the Brewing Time & Pressure Affect the Taste of Espresso?
Brewing time and pressure impact espresso taste; a 25–30 second extraction under 9 bars of pressure yields a balanced flavor. Shorter or longer times may result in under-extracted (sour) or over-extracted (bitter) shots.
What is a Single, Double, & Triple Shot of Espresso?
A single shot is a 1-ounce serving. A double shot, or doppio, contains two 1-ounce servings. A triple shot consists of three 1-ounce servings.
How Should I Store My Espresso Beans for Maximum Freshness?
Store espresso beans in an airtight, opaque container at room temperature to protect them from light, air, and moisture. Avoid storing beans in the fridge or freezer. Temperature fluctuations can affect their quality.
Can I Make Espresso at Home Without an Espresso Machine?
Yes, you can make espresso-like coffee at home without an espresso machine using methods like AeroPress, Moka pot, or a manual espresso maker.
While not identical to machine-made espresso, these methods can produce an espresso-like taste.
Is There a Difference Between an Espresso Shot & a Ristretto or Lungo Shot?
A ristretto shot uses less water and a shorter extraction time, resulting in a sweeter, less bitter taste. A lungo shot uses more water and a longer extraction time, creating a milder, more diluted flavor.
What is the Ideal Water Temperature for Brewing Espresso?
The ideal water temperature for brewing espresso is between 195 °F and 205 °F (90 °C and 96 °C) to ensure optimal extraction and flavor.
Is Espresso Stronger Than Regular Coffee in Terms of Caffeine Content?
Espresso has a higher caffeine concentration per ounce (approximately 63 mg/oz) compared to regular drip coffee (about 12–16 mg/oz).
A single 1-ounce espresso shot typically contains less total caffeine than an 8-ounce cup of coffee.
Espresso isn’t the same as black coffee. It’s a concentrated, more robust version that baristas and enthusiasts have blended into many drinks.
Are you considering learning how to make espresso? You’ll need a good coffee bean grinder to ensure a consistent grind texture and great taste. Read our guide on finding a great grinder.