How you drink espresso is the same as how you drink any other coffee-based beverage–it’s all a matter of personal preference. Sure, there will be people who insist you drink any coffee–including espresso–in a particular way. But you should never feel pressured to do so. That said, when it comes to espresso, there are two popular ways to drink it. One is the traditional way that most Italians drink it, and then there is a way that could allow you to experience more of the complex flavours with each sip. The second way of drinking espresso can be neatly broken down into five simple steps.
Order Your Espresso
To truly appreciate the flavours of a good shot of espresso you must be prepared to spend a bit of time at your favourite coffee spot. You don’t need to spend an hour there, but you be ready to sacrifice 10-15 minutes of your time. If this is your first time having an espresso, order a single, otherwise try ordering a double espresso for a more complete experience.
Cleanse Your Palate
This is an important step, and also a great way to tell how much of a purist the barista is–though it is unlikely to happen in high-volume coffee bars. If your barista wants you to savour the flavours of an espresso, they will serve it with a small glass of sparkling water. Take a few sips of the sparkling water before you touch your espresso. The water helps to cleanse your palate, washing away any flavours lingering in your mouth. And the bubbles help to stimulate your taste receptors.
Remove the Crema
The crema is an important part of a really good shot of espresso. It adds visual appeal, and purists will be able to discern the quality and freshness of the beans from the consistency and colour of the crema. The crema also helps to hold the aroma in. Smell is an important part of how we experience and appreciate flavours, so you wouldn’t want the aromas disappearing as your espresso makes its way to you from the barista station. However, the crema can be extremely bitter, and leaving it on will obviously affect the flavours and taste of the espresso. So, use your spoon to carefully scrape it off the top, and then enjoy the aromas that are released from the espresso. Don’t wait too long though, as the crema can begin to sink into the espresso, adding bitterness.
Stir the Espresso
This step is a little divisive. Some espresso drinkers prefer not to stir, while others insist on stirring. Espresso separates after brewing, with heavy syrup-like parts settling at the bottom, and lighter elements floating to the top. Stirring obviously blends the two parts, giving the espresso a balanced flavour. If you’ve been drinking espresso like this for a while, you might want to try not stirring it to see how that influences the flavours you experience. If you handle your cup carefully, the first two sips of your espresso will have very different flavours to the last two sips.
Sip the Espresso
While we talk about a shot of espresso, it shouldn’t be consumed the same way you might drink a shot of alcohol–in a single gulp. But you also don’t want to drink it too slowly and allow it to cool. So, while you do sip it, it should only take two to four sips before you are finished–two if you’re in a hurry, and four if you want to savour the flavours.
If you love coffee and want to learn more about how to fully appreciate the flavours and tastes of different coffee drinks, enrol for a coffee appreciation course. This short course will not only show you how to brew coffee in different ways, but it will also introduce you to the art of roasting coffee beans, and how bean selection and roasting further influence the flavour of coffee.