Can you brew espresso like coffee? You’ve probably wondered if it’s possible to make that delicious and tempting treat using regular coffee brewing methods. After all, it’s not always possible to lug around an espresso machine; they’re generally big, bulky, and require electricity to operate. Compare that to a coffee maker that’s small and portable, and some of them can be brewed up on a campfire!
If you love drinking espresso regularly, you’re probably looking for a way to brew espresso even while you’re on the go. You also have most likely picked up a portable coffee maker or two, hoping that it says “espresso” on the label.
In this article, we’ll see whether it’s possible to brew espresso-like coffee, and if so, whether it’ll taste like a shot brewed by an authentic espresso machine.
A Short History of the Espresso
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, the machine and method used to create the first espresso were invented by an Italian named Angelo Moriondo. He created what was essentially the first espresso machine: a contraption that consisted of a large boiler that heated up water and used steam to push the water through coffee grounds. Even with a rudimentary heating and pressure system, the machine was able to produce 1.5 bars of pressure. The result was a rich and dark brew that’s similar to espresso, but without the distinct layer of crema as the machine lacked the pressure to extract coffee oils.
Although it is a far cry from the standard 9 bar pressure systems of today, Morindo’s machine is considered to be the forerunner of all espresso machines. Through the years, the design and technology of the espresso machine improved and became the modern, sleek, and precise machines that people are familiar with today.
What Makes an Espresso an Espresso?
There are three important aspects of espresso that you need to learn to make it properly, namely the roast, the grind, and the pressure. Let’s tackle each of these aspects to see how they contribute to the final shot of espresso.
Traditionally, the beans used to make espresso is dark roast beans. The long roasting process gives the bean a smoky, almost burnt taste, and gives the brew a deep and rich flavor. The roasting process also opens up the pores of the coffee and brings the oils to the surface.
However, the subtle notes of the beans are often sacrificed during the roasting process, which is why you won’t get the layered flavor profile in espressos that you might find in coffee.
After the roasting process, the beans used in making espresso are ground finely. The fine consistency of the grounds slows down water penetration, allowing for more extraction of flavor. Since the grounds prevent water movement, the pressure is necessary to push the water through the grounds and into your cup.
The fineness of the grounds must be precise. If the grounds are too coarse, your espresso will taste weak and under-extracted because the water moves through too quickly. If the grounds are too fine, the water will not push through quickly enough, and the espresso will taste bitter and unpleasant.
The minimal pressure required to produce an espresso shot is 9 bars. However, today’s machines generally produce at least 12 bars. Higher-end machines can produce pressure up to 15 bars, and these are the espresso machines that you would generally find in coffee shops.
What Makes Up an Espresso Shot?
A genuine shot of espresso that’s been correctly pulled has certain anatomy. The first layer in the rich coffee. It’s dark, rich, and full of flavor.
On top of the coffee sits a layer of crema. Crema is the oily layer on top of the coffee, and it’s said to contain the concentrated flavor of your shot. Think of crema as icing on a cake no shot of espresso is complete without it, and it brings the whole experience of drinking espresso together.
Why Is Espresso Considered Different from Coffee?
Now, you might be wondering, “if you make espresso from the same beans as coffee, does that mean that you can brew espresso-like coffee?”
Aside from the specific brewing process that we’ve mentioned above, there are two other aspects of espresso that makes it different from regular coffee.
- Serving Size – espresso is served in smaller quantities compared to regular coffee. Espresso is either served in single 1oz shots, which is popular in Europe, or in double 2oz shots, which is the typical serving size outside of Europe.
- Flavorings – a traditionalist will not accept any kind of additional flavoring or ingredient in a shot of espresso. Even the addition of water will change an espresso shot into a café Americano. For coffee, however, the term is much more relaxed and covers a wide range of coffee styles. Even if you add flavorings such as chocolate, caramel, or milk, the resulting beverage will still be called “coffee”. A traditionalist will not accept any kind of additional flavoring or ingredient in a shot of espresso. Even the addition of water will change an espresso shot into a café Americano. For coffee, however, the term is much more relaxed and covers a wide range of coffee styles. Even if you add flavorings such as chocolate, caramel, or milk, the resulting beverage will still be called “coffee”.
The Coffee Culture Surrounding Espresso vs. Coffee
Finally, we get to the last two aspects that differentiate espresso and coffee. First, the manner by which espresso is served and how espresso is drunk. Yes, even the way espresso is served and consumed is governed by tradition!
How it is Served
Espresso is usually served in small, white cups made of china or porcelain called demitasse cups. Coffee, on the other hand, can be served in any mug or cup. Serving espresso in demitasse cups is traditional and is practiced both inside and outside Europe.
How it is Drank
If you try gulping down your espresso, you’re probably going to get some horrified looks, especially if you do it in Europe. Espresso is made to be sipped slowly so that you can savor all the flavor and aroma of each cup.
Coffee, on the other hand, does not have any restrictions when it comes to how it is consumed. Whether you want to sip it, drink it with a straw, or just gulp the whole thing down quickly, it’s your choice. Find out more about espressos brew.
Some Final Thoughts From the Earl
Now it’s time to go back to the original question: can you brew espresso-like coffee? Technically, no, you can’t. If you brew espresso like regular coffee, you’ll end up with a beverage that might look like espresso, but it will be weak and under-extracted because you don’t have the pressure and heat required to achieve its taste and aroma. What’s more, you won’t be able to produce the crema! If you want espresso on a regular basis, you should either purchase a regular espresso machine or use portable espresso makers such as Wacaco Minipresso.