When you’re preparing your morning cup of joe or grabbing your caffeine fix from a cafe, it is easy to forget what truly goes into the drink and the process.
One thing is for sure, however, when someone mentions coffee, espresso often comes to mind. It originated in Italy during the late 1800s to early 1900s and has become a staple in our drinks from lattes to mochas.
But what is espresso exactly? Is it a type of coffee? Is it a brewing method?
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What is espresso?
Espresso (pronounced es-Press-so) is both a type of coffee and brewing method.
It can be used in many ways. It can be drunk as it is in small shots or served as the base to your favorite drinks, including cappuccinos and Americanos.
As a beverage, espresso is a concentrated form of coffee brewed with high pressure, hot water and finely ground coffee beans. Espresso is thicker than regular coffee and has a layer of “crema” on top, which results from air bubbles mixing with the coffee’s oils.
However, espresso does not refer to the type of coffee bean used. You can use any type to make espresso.
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How to make espresso
If you want high quality espresso at home, you’ll need an espresso machine.
The brewing process is what truly makes an espresso. The machine uses nine bars of pressure to push hot water through the finely ground coffee beans, according to Craft Coffee Spot.
Espresso is “pulled” from the machine when the lever is pulled down, which starts the aforementioned process.
The method of making espresso is fairly easy once you have the right tools. Just follow these steps from Craft Coffee Spot:
Finely grind the coffee beans of your choice.
Add the ground coffee to the portafilter and tightly press them down until it is even and flat.
Place the filter in the machine, press the start button and pull the shot (Tip: For the best quality espresso shot, the pull should last around 25 to 30 seconds).
Once the espresso is dripped in the cup, enjoy.
If you do not have an espresso machine, you can still make espresso at home with a French press and these tips from A Couple Cooks:
Again, the first step is finely grinding your beans.
Then heat water until it is hot, not boiling (between 200 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit).
Add the hot water and ground coffee to your French press and allow to steep for 4 minutes.
Slowly press the lid down and pour into a cup.
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Is espresso different from regular coffee?
There are differences between regular coffee and espresso, the first being the brewing method. Regular coffee is made by dripping hot water over ground coffee. This is a very different process than making an espresso.
Another difference is caffeine content. A regular cup of drip coffee can have anywhere between 80 to 200 milligrams of caffeine, while a shot of espresso has around 29 to 100 milligrams of caffeine, according to The Spruce Eats.
Lastly, the two beverages do not taste the same. Espresso is known for its rich flavor, which is considered bolder than regular coffee.
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Is espresso healthy?
Like other coffees, espresso does have health benefits.
Drinking espresso can decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, according to recent studies. Espresso also has antioxidants and caffeine, which aid metabolism and help boost mood.
Espresso is not inherently healthier than regular coffee, but drinkers can skip out on excess sweeteners and sugars often added in other coffee drinks since it can be enjoyed as is.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is espresso? A type of coffee and a method of making it.