The world of coffee can get pretty complex, and it’s easy to get mixed up on the basics. We’re here to clear up a very common confusion: the difference between “coffee” and “espresso.”
“Espresso” simply means “pressed out” – it’s finely ground coffee that is brewed quickly under pressure, usually served as a “shot” in a small cup or demitasse, or mixed with milk into a specialty drink. A lot of folks think that espresso is made from a special kind of coffee bean, but any variety coffee can be turned into an espresso. Some roasters make blends or single-origins designed for this method, roasting them a certain way to get specific flavors or body when brewed on an espresso machine.
The espresso brewing method was invented in the late 1800s in Italy (of course). Early espresso machines were manual, featuring a lever to help apply the necessary pressure to brew. Traditionally, espresso shots were taken immediately after brewing, with the customer standing at the bar for a quick sip before continuing with their day. Espresso bars provided a place for people to meet and mingle, as well as take a small pause and enjoy a small, hot, energizing drink during their hectic day.
When espresso caught on in the United States in the mid-1900s, milk-based espresso beverages became wildly popular, starting with the most famous: the cappuccino. Something about the strong coffee flavor and heavier body of espresso pairs beautilfully with milk, and the foam just adds to the luxurious experience. Nowadays, many casual coffee lovers are drinking espresso every day in the form of lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, etc., without even realizing it.
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