What is Espresso? - Coffee Blog - Tin Cup Coffee Company

We’ve all heard of espresso. Many of us even regularly enjoy drinks containing espresso, but few people understand what is truly considered espresso. The term is thrown around loosely and has left the casual coffee consumer with a minimal understanding of what goes into making the popular beverage.

There is a multitude of factors that go into producing a quality shot of espresso, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s. Here, we will go over four of the main differences between brewing espresso and brewing coffee.


The temperature of the water while brewing should be between 192-198 degrees Fahrenheit. This ensures that the ground coffee is extracted correctly and will be finished brewing between 22-28 seconds of water flow. Too cold or too hot of water will leave the espresso with an unpleasant taste.


The coffee should be brewed over the course of 22-28 seconds. There can be dramatic declines in the flavor of the espresso when the shot is brewed too long or not long enough. It is important to begin counting as soon as the machine begins to brew, not only when the liquid begins to pour (which will take a few seconds).


The machine or device used to brew the espresso should exert 9-10 atmospheres of pressure. The consistent pressure of an espresso machine, as well as the consistent temperature, is extremely important in brewing a quality shot of espresso. Espresso machines must maintain 9-10 atmospheres of pressure while brewing in order for the liquid to truly even be considered espresso, according to the SCAA.


The coffee should be ground a bit finer than your average drip coffee. Many coffee grinders even come with an “Espresso” setting, but higher quality grinders will allow the user to make precise adjustments. The grind should end up producing about 45 mL (from 7-9 grams of grounds) of liquid over the course of 22-28 seconds of brewing. There are no concrete measurements for the size of the grind, but it must yield about 45 mL of liquid over the course of brewing.

Espresso and drip coffee is very different, but they are mostly different because of the method in which they are brewed. When a store sells “Espresso” beans, it just means that the beans are ideal for brewing in the style of espresso.

In short, espresso is a liquid that is produced from a very specific method of coffee brewing. Next time you hear someone ask “What is Espresso?”, be sure to share with them your newfound coffee knowledge! As always, stop in at Tin Cup to drink and talk espresso with us!

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