What Is Espresso? Your Ultimate Guide To This Popular Coffee

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Espresso is one of those fancy names you commonly see on the menu when you go to a coffee shop. But not a lot would dare order this coffee either because they are not familiar with what it’s made of or they have heard about it being too bitter and strong.

If you are looking to expand your coffee palate and try to discover new flavors, you have come to the right place. In this article, we are going to introduce you to one of the coffee classics, the espresso, and its wonders.

We are going to show you that espresso is more than a bitter coffee, as a lot of people would describe it. An espresso can give you a lot of flavors that will make you wonder why you haven’t tried it before.

What is Espresso?

Espresso is most commonly defined as a concentrated coffee drink made by pushing 1 or 2 oz of heated water through a tightly packed finely ground. It is served in small shots.

When you order one, you will be served a cute tiny cup of coffee with some cream on top.

What is an Espresso

Espresso is made from the same coffee beans as a regular coffee. The main difference between a regular coffee and an espresso is not so much on the coffee beans but particularly in the brewing method.

Espresso machines take pressurized hot water and then force it through tightly packed coffee grounds. After the brewing process, you will get a concentrated coffee with a rich aroma and flavorful taste.


Espresso has its origins from Italy. The first espresso machine was invented in 1884 by Angelo Moriondo. In 1901, Luigi Bezerra, a Milanese inventor, made his own patented, improved version that’s close to the espresso machines we have today.

Before, espresso machines were mostly confined and served only in espresso bars in Italy. But during the 1950s to the 1990s, together with the rise of the latte, espresso has also gained traction, particularly in the United States.

Until today, espresso can be found on the menu of a lot of cafés and coffee shops enjoyed by people of all ages.

Espresso and Crema

The crema on top of an espresso shot is one of the distinct characteristics of espresso. Not every single coffee brew can achieve that beautiful crema after the brewing process. But what exactly is the crema?

The crema is the foamy layer that you see on top of your espresso shot. This forms during the brewing process. When the pressurized hot water is forced through the tightly packed coffee ground of espresso, the pressure and the heat cause a reaction when the coffee oils mix with the water.

After brewing and serving the espresso from the machine, the sudden change of pressure from high to low concentration causes the carbon dioxide molecules within the coffee oils to escape and the result of which is the bubbling, foamy crema on top of your espresso shot. If brewed perfectly, the crema should be foamy and thick creating a rich shot of espresso.

Sizes of Espresso

Espresso comes in a lot of different sizes. Among the most well-known espresso shots are the doppio, ristretto, and lungo.


Doppio is simply a double shot of espresso measuring 60 milliliters. It tastes as strong as a single shot of espresso but just differs largely in the volume.


Ristretto is only about half the size of a single shot of espresso but has a strong taste, double that of a regular shot. It is made using the same amount of coffee grounds but only with half the amount of water of a regular shot of espresso. This, therefore, creates a thicker, stronger taste.


Lungo, on the other hand, is the opposite of ristretto. It still uses the same amount of coffee grounds but uses double the amount of water thereby creating a weaker espresso shot.

How does an Espresso taste like?

Probably one of the main reasons why a lot of people refuse to try even a single shot espresso because of the misconception that it tastes strong and too bitter. Although admittedly, a lot of espresso recipes out there are mostly bitter, espresso does not necessarily have to be bitter.


An espresso shot can taste bitter, sweet, chocolatey, or smooth. But because espresso is essentially a full cup of coffee packed in a small one-shot cup, its concentrated flavor can taste too strong for our taste buds. If you take an espresso for the first time, it is natural to notice its intense flavor.

But after several times trying an espresso, that’s when you’ll notice the sweet and smooth flavor of a well-brewed espresso.

If espresso is brewed properly with consistency, it will give you that sweet, rich aroma of a coffee. Its slight bitterness will balance the acidity. You will notice the sweetness of the shot that will impress your taste buds.


Another misconception that a lot of people have regarding coffee, is that coffee is bad for health. But recent studies would tell you otherwise. Drinking coffee, particularly espresso have some recognized health benefits.

It is safe to say that as long as you stay within the recommended level, an espresso shot can help maintain your health. Here are some of the health benefits you can get by drinking espresso.

  1. Drinking espresso reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease

According to studies, the right amount of caffeine is good for the heart. The caffeine is said to help with the proper functioning of the cells acting as a preventive measure against heart disease. Studies show that regular coffee drinkers have a 19 percent less chance of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to non-coffee drinkers.

  1. Drinking espresso helps the liver

Studies were made showing how regular coffee affects the health of the liver. According to these studies, drinking coffee can help reduce the risk of cirrhosis, a type of liver disease associated with drinking too much alcohol.

  1. Drinking espresso reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Alzheimer’s is one of the most notorious degenerative diseases with no discovered cure yet. You can protect your brain and protect your memories by drinking coffee. Studies have shown that drinking coffee reduces the risk of cognitive decline with regular coffee drinkers having 65% less chance of getting Alzheimer’s.


Espresso is also commonly used as a base to create a variety of coffee drinks such as Americano, Cappuccino and Caffe Latte to mention a few. You might have been ignoring espresso these past few years without knowing that your favorite drink uses espresso shots for that rich, aromatic flavor your love.


Your favorite cappuccino is a combination of equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. 


Cappuccino is 2 ounces of espresso shots topped with two ounces of steamed milk and finished off with two ounces of foamed milk.



Americano is one of the more well-known classic variations of an espresso-based drink. It is made by mixing two ounces of espresso and three ounces of hot water for that smooth, flavorful taste.


A Latte is another popular espresso-based drink. It uses the same ingredients as that of a cappuccino but with different measurements. A latte uses two ounces of espresso topped with ten ounces of steamed milk and with 2 milliliters of foamed milk.


Flat White

If you are not a fan of a strong-tasting coffee, you can try making a flat white coffee. This coffee is a mixture of two ounces of espresso and four ounces of steamed milk.

Flat White


If you like the sweeter variety, you can always go for a mocha drink. It is a blend of 2 ounces of espresso and 1 ounce of steamed milk with 2 ounces of liquid chocolate, perfect for your sweet tooth.


Those are only some of the few coffee drinks that use espresso in them. As you can see, espresso is more common in coffee than you think.

Final Thoughts

coffee espresso

If you have read this far into the article, certainly you have a more knowledgeable view of what an espresso is. It is more than just a tiny shot of concentrated coffee. It doesn’t necessarily taste bitter. Espresso is a rich, flavorful variant of coffee. 

Espresso can be sweet, smooth, and creamy.  There can be an espresso for everyone! What’s yours? 

So, the next time you stop by your favorite coffee shop, order that espresso shot that has always interested you. Discover new flavors and if you can, you can also try to make your own at home and come up with your kind of espresso.  Enjoy every drop!

Did you like this article? Share it with friends on social media and keep them informed about their favorite coffee drink today!


Charles Vallena
Charles is the author and managing editor of Cuppabean.com. A self-admitted coffee addict, he drinks 2-4 cups of coffee a day to get his fix. In the morning, you'll often find him brewing his freshly grounded arabica coffee beans on his french press coffee. Read more about the site here.


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