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5 Essential Tips for Espresso Rookies

The world of coffee can seem like an intimidating one to newcomers branching out from the basic cup of joe. However, it's a world well worth exploring. Just ask any ardent espresso devotee. To help you get started on...

The world of coffee can seem like an intimidating one to newcomers branching out from the basic cup of joe. However, it's a world well worth exploring. Just ask any ardent espresso devotee. To help you get started on your sipping, we've combined this handy list of tips and techniques aimed at maximizing your enjoyment of this beloved Italian beverage.

Espresso making

1. It's not a bean.

Many people mistakenly believe that "espresso" is a type of roast. It's not -- it's a kind of beverage. More specifically, espresso is the result of a particular finishing technique which forces hot water through finely ground coffee in an abbreviated amount of time thanks to high pressure -- 132 pounds per square inch, to be exact. The result? A significantly higher concentration of dissolved solids and the rich flavor people love.

Our picks for achieving dream-worthy espresso? The new Cuisinart Buona Tazza Single Serve Espresso and Coffee Machine and the ROK Espresso Machine.

One side note: many people assume that a shot of espresso contains more caffeine than drip-brewed coffee. Ounce for ounce, this is true. However, because a standard cup of coffee contains approximately four times the volume of a double-shot, your espresso order actually has less caffeine than a regular cup of coffee.

2. There's no roast, but there are ideal blends.

While there is no one espresso roast and any bean or roasting level can be used to authentically produce a shot of espresso, there are blends which lead to a better taste in espresso's concentrated finished form. In some case, different regions have different preferences for whether a darker or lighter espresso roast is preferable. Others prefer a wide-range. Because a balanced blend factoring in everything from acidity to body, a consummate espresso blend should not be bitter.

Also, an espresso blend can also be used to brew standard drip coffee, even though it might have been created with espresso in mind.

3. It's made to be drunk quickly.

The average cup of espresso takes 25 seconds to make and only slightly longer to drink. While a cup of coffee is meant to be savored slowly, espresso is intended to be a quick pick-me-up, and so mandates a different drinking technique, at least according to the example of Italian drinkers who drink their espresso standing at the bar. How quickly? Before the "crema" on top disappears.

Don't see this frothy emulsion covering the espresso? Don't drink it. Lack of crema indicates that it's either decaf, stale, or has been sitting around. Any one of these three scenarios is unacceptable to an espresso purist.

One caveat: Some people object to the flavor of the crema, so skimming it off is entirely acceptable.

4. It's pronounced "Espresso."

While you may have heard others saying "espresso," and assumed it was the proper Italian pronunciation, it's not. It's much simpler than that: pronounce the word "espresso" exactly as it is spelled.

When ordering, simply state, "One espresso for here please." You may be asked whether you want a single or double-shot, which is your preference. Stir before drinking to get the full flavor.

Espresso making
Crema means quality.

5. Hold the milk.

Unlike cappuccino which is widely seen as a "breakfast drink," espresso can be enjoyed any time of the day. One exception? If you add milk, it becomes an espresso macchiato, which Italians would never drink after 11 in the morning. After noon? Feel free to add liquor to make a caffe corretto.

Ultimately while espresso is rich in both flavor and tradition, is not seen by Italians as something "special" to be reserved merely for special occasions, but is instead interwoven with the Italian way of life. If you're ready to start doing the same, let Cilantro the Cooks shop help you get started with our collection of espresso making and drinking supplies. And don't forget to register with Cilantro to start earning loyalty points for future purchases.