ABC of espresso: how to tell the good from the bad

There are three key things to look for in an expertly prepared espresso Aroma, body and crema can help you recognise the good from the bad.

ABC of espresso: how to tell the good from the bad

There are three key things to look for in an expertly prepared espresso Aroma, body and crema can help you recognise the good from the bad.

A small, concentrated drink, espresso first came about when Luigi Bezzera placed coffee grinds under pressure and extracted what came to be known as espresso from a machine that he had pioneered. This happened around 1903 and that machine has since become the basis for espresso machine developments to the current day.

One way to recognise a good espresso is by judging the aroma, body and crema (ABC). Here’s what to look for:

A is for Aroma

Aroma is what should reach your senses first when it comes to good espresso. A wonderfully strong smell, its intensity is owed to the high concentration of volatile particles in such a small volume. The aromatic sensations are complex but can be described as floral, dry and fruity, or chocolate-like, among many others.

Next time you’re drinking an espresso, take the time to really inhale the aroma and enjoy its unique scent.

B is for Body

B is for Body

The ‘body’ of an espresso is another way to describe how it feels in the mouth – consistent and heavy, but ranging from light to full.

The taste of the coffee is determined by four basic profiles: bitter, sour, salty, and sweet, and the predominance of them depend on the composition of the blend. Beans from different origins will contribute varying taste characteristics to coffee.

Body, however, is solely a characteristic of espresso because the molecules are more concentrated and contribute to our taste experience. This can be described as ‘full-bodied’ in comparison to a filter coffee, which is less dense. The volume of water in filter coffee diffuses these larger molecules making ‘body’ an irrelevant characteristic of any coffee other than espresso.

The body is a result of the insoluble particles during the intense extraction process, namely solids and emulsified oils. This creates the dense viscosity we associate with espresso and is why espresso feels like it ‘coats the mouth and tongue’ when you sip it.

C is for Crema

Crema is what sets espresso apart from other coffee making methods. When drinking espresso, look for a thick, hazelnut cover that persists even when you run a spoon through it.

Crema is formulated through the emulsion of gas (Co2) and oils that takes place inside the basket of the portafilter during the high pressure process of extraction. As it pours, you’ll notice it looks like Guinness settling in glass, as the crema rises to the top.

Look for quality in the colour, the texture and the consistency, and you’ll know you’re about to enjoy an expertly prepared espresso.

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