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Techniques - | Written by Lewis Spencer

How to make espresso coffee

Espresso refers to a method of brewing coffee as well as the resulting drink itself. Espresso is an Italian word meaning 'forced' which comes from the brewing method. Very hot water (nearly boiling) is forced through finely ground coffee, under pressure. Espresso is often made by a machine which holds the coffee while the water is heated and forced through the beans, creating a thick syrupy coffee.

The thickness of the liquid is caused by the coffee dissolving into the water, and also by the fine oily layer found on good quality coffee beans dispersing evenly into the drink, taking with it aromatic compounds usually contained within the coffee beans and lost during other coffee brewing processes.

Espresso coffee is almost always served as a small drink of very strong coffee, using only an ounce of water. The best espressos have a thin layer of dense foam on top of the oil-black viscous liquid. The coffee is hot and strong, and the foamy layer adds texture to the drink that has a mouth-feel of creaminess.

To make an espresso, you will usually need something that can force hot water through the beans. The easiest option is to seek out a domestic espresso machine which uses manual (or electric) power to force the hot water through your ground beans. For any espresso machine, your beans should be ground fine or medium-fine (to the consistency of coarse salt) and you will need two generous tablespoons of the ground coffee for one shot (about an ounce) of espresso.

If your first pass with the espresso leaves you with a watery or weak brew, you can repeat the process two or three times to extract even more coffee from your ground beans. While the best espresso is produced under 9 bars of pressure, domestic machines can still reproduce a good shot of espresso for you to enjoy.

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