Espresso is almost literally the cream of coffee, but it is more than that. While the cream in milk floats to the top of its own gravity, espresso needs to be coaxed.

When I think about my relationship with espresso and coffee, I am reminded of Mick Doohan when he announced that he would quit racing. He said that he didn't race motorcycles, he won motorcycle races, and if he couldn't win (due to his injuries) he wouldn't race. I feel similarly about espresso. If I couldn't drink espresso, I think that I wouldn't drink coffee. All other coffee brewing methods leave me flat!

The "Third Wave" coffees are palatable, I'll give them that, whereas a poorly conceived or executed espresso is a horrible experience. That's where I think the third wave comes from. Also, espresso doesn't travel well. Forty-five seconds after being made an espresso begins to get tired, a minute later it's borderline, another minute and you have to pour it out and start again. Cold filter coffee lasts at least a week if correctly handled.

Espresso is not so tame, you can do the same thing to the same beans twice in the same day and get a totally different result. Espresso, you have to chase. This frustrates people who try to control parameters to maintain consistency, it will only work to consistently produce a sub-par product. Espresso must be approached in a fluid manner. Teasing the body out of the bean with delicate adjustments in dose and tamp. Controlling the bitterness/acid relationship with overall group density or resistance.

A good espresso is a wonderful thing, an excellent espresso a rare delight, and a near perfect espresso a life-changing event. When I say espresso, I do not mean flat white or macchiato or cafe latte. I mean a neat short black espresso. Single shot preferred, somewhere between ristretto and espresso... but that is personal choice (small gripe here: cafés without pouring spouts who can only pour double shots, fine for folks who drink lots of milk with their coffee, but unsuitable for appreciation of the delicate pleasure of the single espresso). Where was I? Aaah, espresso.

Back to blog