Category Archives: Espresso Coffee


The Americano

As the story goes, when the American fighting forces were in France in WWII, they complained that the coffee was too strong. The cafes added water to the espresso thus creating an Americano, made for the Americans who didn’t like that strong taste of straight espresso. Whether that is myth or not, it makes for an appealing story to add to the legends and myths of coffee history.


The Americano

Whether fact or fiction, at that time espresso had not made any strong inroads in America, and the young men fighting “over there” were accustomed to either stove-top percolator coffee at home (if they had started drinking coffee at all before being sent overseas) or the instant coffee packets in their rations. While the instant was fast, easy, supplied the much-needed caffeine boost, and was something hot to drink, compared to an espresso, it was quite weak.
But the Americano is not just for those who can’t handle strong coffee. It is also a great way to test your espresso. “Watering” it down a bit can allow you to get a better idea as to the quality of your espresso. It avoids having your palate overwhelmed by the strong flavors of a straight espresso. It is also a great way to enjoy a richer beverage than drip coffee can normally supply.


Pull your espresso as always, either a single or a double, but pull the shot into a cup (coffee cup, cappuccino cup, etc.). Then top off with the desired amount of hot water. You can also do it the other way round- pour the espresso into the desired amount of water (aka: a Long Black). This will tend to retain just a bit more of the crema. The taste will be about the same overall, but the presentation may be more pleasing to the eye.

What you may very well find is that your espresso is not quite a good as you thought. A hot, straight espresso can be so dynamic on the palate that it can be difficult to discern the flavors. This makes the Americano an excellent tool for evaluating your espresso.
On the positive side, when done right, it gives you a beverage to be sipped and enjoyed, and it makes for a nice change of pace.
Give it a shot (or two)!

The Crema of the Crop, It makes Espresso, Espresso

The Crema of the Crop

It Makes Espresso, Espresso


(above image used here with permission from

Crema certainly is something special. “True” crema only is created when espresso is made. As seen above, it is a viscous ‘foam’ that floats above the espresso liquid. During the extraction of a two-ounce espresso nearly 100% of the beverage may appear as crema as the extraction ends. After that the crema breaks down and becomes the dark liquid espresso, but a good amount of crema remains floating on top.

The crema is a combination of a number of components. It is mostly a colloid, which by definition is a suspension of insoluble components mixed in with other components. Good crema takes time to settle out into a liquid. The insoluble component of this colloid are microscopic plant fibers from the coffee beans along with oils contained in the ground coffee. We have all seen the oils on the surface of dark roasted beans. All coffee beans possess those oils whether you see them on the surface or not.

Most of us know that coffee beans, once roasted, release carbon dioxide gas (and some other gasses). It is the release of these gasses that causes a bag or fresh roasted coffee to “inflate” or a storage jar’s lid to “pop” or “whoosh” when opened. Take the tiny bubbles of this gas which is released during the extraction process and mix it with the oils, plant fibers, water, and other trace components of the coffee bean and you get crema.

Why Just From Espresso?

There are two major factors that make the creation of espresso different from most all other methods. The first is the pressure used to create the beverage. No other method of coffee making uses 9BAR (about 135 PSI) of water pressure. A home water system normally has no more than between 40 and 60 pounds. Most espresso machines produce two to three times that.

The second factor is that the coffee is ground very fine with particle sizes held in a fairly tight range. The only common form of coffee making that uses a finer grind is Turkish. Now take that finely ground coffee and pack it very tightly into a little metal cup with lots of tiny holes in the bottom (the filter basket). Lock that into the espresso machine and force the high pressure water at about 198 to 202 degrees through it. The force and heat extract all those previously-mentioned components creating the crema and the espresso.

The Category is Beverages, and the answer is, “Crema Means Good Espresso.”

” ‘What is False?’ Alex.”

Crema is just a mechanical result of forcing hot water through coffee prepared as outlined above. We can say that if there is no crema on freshly-made espresso then that is a problem. No crema most likely means one of two things:

1 – Some of the necessary components did not exist in the beans for reasons such as :

  • The beans were old and stale
  • The beans were improperly stored
  • The beans were of low quality to begin with
  • The beans were not properly roasted

2 – The preparation method was lacking in some way, such as:

  • Too low or too high of a brew pressure
  • Coffee ground too coarse
  • Water Temperature far too low
  • Not enough coffee was used
  • Poor water quality

So while crema can be a delicious component of espresso, depending on crema as a definitive indicator of the quality of the espresso is something that you learn is false very early on. I have personally been making espresso for well over a decade and can assuredly tell you that I have made some crema-topped espresso that caused me to feel sorry for the kitchen sink into which I had to expectorate the first sip and into which I then had to pour the rest.

If you find that crema on its own does not taste pleasant to you, try stirring it back into the espresso before sipping it. The combination of the sugars extracted which reside in the liquid below should combine with the crema to create a complex tasting beverage you can enjoy.

Bitter or Sour Espresso? There’s A Reason

Bitter or Sour Espresso? There’s A Reason Espresso is a very complex beverage. There are more identified taste elements in espresso than in wine, and we know how wine connoisseurs can be. Anyone who has spent any time studying espresso, even on a basic level, has read that there are tastes like chocolate, blueberry, citrus, leather, oaky flavors, and so many more in coffee.

SCAA Espresso Flavor Wheel

SCAA Flavor Wheel

You can check the SCAA flavor wheel for the vast variety of language used to describe espresso’s flavor and aromas. But taste is what I am discussing today.
The two described extremes of taste on the taste side of the wheel are “sour” and “bitter.” Sour is fairly easy- lemon juice or citric acid (often sold as sour salt) works as a good household example of that. A good example of bitter might be unsweetened chocolate or, if you have some handy, gentian root extract. The interesting thing about these two flavor extremes is that they both exist in coffee, and even more so in espresso because of the extreme level of extraction that is necessary to create an espresso beverage. So how could we even drink it?
Jim Schulman, a member at, recently created a thread called, “Balance in Espresso is Intense Bitter and Sour Cancelling Each Other Out.”

In this article he discusses an experiment he used to demonstrate to his students the relationship between these two flavors. He showed that when these two flavors are present and relatively well balanced, and particularly when accompanied by an amount of sugar, they cancel each other out. When something is wrong in the process (and the list of ways to get it wrong is tremendous), one or the other flavor dominates and an unpleasant taste is the result.
As an example, a very light-roasted coffee that was meant to be used as a pour-over will have a dominant acidic flavor that might be pleasant, like unsweetened oranges, when mixed with the other coffee flavors. But that same coffee, used to create an espresso, might be overwhelmingly sour and may be unpleasant to drink. That same coffee, roasted just a little darker to mute the sourness of the acid and develop the bitter taste a little further might work well as an espresso. Roast, blend, age of the roasted coffee, brewing temperature, the quality of the water, coffee:water ratio, and more can all affect the flavor balance between bitter and sour. Even culturally, some peoples are brought up to enjoy bitter flavors more than we tend to be in western cultures.
A local acquaintance, when I told him I was making espresso at home, said, “Ewww… That’s really bitter, isn’t it?” It is clear that his earlier (and maybe his only) exposure to espresso was not a good one. Has it happened to you? Don’t forsake espresso for a massive, fat-filled, hot milkshake. Seek out other local coffee shops and try again. Your best bet is a small, independent shop and not a large chain store. The independent shops cannot depend on wide scale advertising, Their existence depends on the quality of their espresso.
On the other hand, I often hear from home baristas statements like, “I can make espresso as good or better then any shop near where I live.” Like any culinary skill, it takes time, practice, and patience to hone your skill and amass the experience needed. But like any other fine skill, it will be time well spent because you will have that ability the rest of your life.
So, if you have been avoiding espresso, or know someone who has because of what they have heard or experienced, there you have the reason why as well as a solution. Get an espresso machine, practice, and invite them over!

Espresso Roast – The Sasquatch of the Coffee World

I could end this as one of the shortest articles I have ever written by simply saying, “Like Sasquatch, there’s no such thing.” You can call an elephant a dining room table, but that doesn’t make it a good place to set a dinner service for eight (even though there would be room for it).

Espresso Roast

Espresso Roast

We often see the very dark roasts in the grocery store plastic bins, covered in oil, labeled as “espresso roast.” These very-dark roasted coffee beans have a tradition that is said to have come from Italy. During the early part of the last century, during hard economic times when quality coffee was difficult to procure, low quality coffee beans were often used. Unfortunately, their taste matched their price point. To overcome that, the roasters pushed the roasting process darker and darker. Eventually they found a roast that was dark enough to remove or mask the actual taste of the coffee beans and create a taste that was overwhelmingly of the roast itself.

There are two main types of coffee beans, genetically speaking: Arabica and Robusta. A lot of that low-quality coffee mentioned above was cheap Robusta. It’s a good thing that it was dark roasted. While there are some quality Robusta coffee beans out there, the majority of them have an aroma and after taste of burnt bicycle inner tubes. It was that taste that the French roasters were working to destroy. Robusta is still used today, of course. When quality Robusta is used sparingly in a blend it increases the crema in espresso.

While some beans do like a darker roast, in today’s coffee market there are a lot of very high quality beans and roasting them that dark destroys a lot of the flavor that the growers, processors, and roasters work to develop. These beans offer a wide range of flavors. Not like the artificially flavored coffee beans, but subtle sub-flavors; nuances if you will. Roasting these beans to that dark, “espresso roast” level would be like ordering blackened filet mignon.

So what to look for in beans to be used for espresso?

  • Beans that have, at the most, a few drops of oil on them. Avoid those that look like they have been stored in a used oil pan of a ’58 DeSoto.
  • A nice medium to dark oak color. Some beans like to be a bit darker and some lighter, so don’t be afraid to try different roast levels.
  • Even when you find a bean you like, experiment! There is no reason to stick yourself in such a rut, only purchasing one specific bean origin, brand, or espresso roast level.

I am often asked which espresso coffee beans are the best. The simple answer is that no one can answer that for you, and you will never know unless you try them all. That is surely not possible, but variety is certainly the spice of life so don’t get stuck in a rut with just once coffee.

Read more: What is Espresso?

Havana The New Culinary Destination: How To Make Cuban Style Coffee


Bialetti Moka Express Stove Top Espresso Maker 3 Cup: $24.99, 6 Cup: $34.99, 9 Cup: $44.99

There are two methods to making coffee the Cuban way: the traditional method using a metal stovetop espresso pot, or with an electric espresso machine.  While the stovetop method takes longer, it’s certainly the authentic method; you can find a stovetop espresso maker at most online at

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Jura Capresso E9 Super Automatic Factory Refurbished $599.

 1. Using an espresso machine, add the desired amount of finely ground coffee. You can also purchase fresh whole coffee beans any of the very dark roast. Do not store your ground coffee in a freezer, but do keep it in a cool place away from sunlight. 

2. For every demitasse cup of coffee you plan on making, use a teaspoon of sugar. The key to Cuban style coffee is that it be very sweet. The trick here is to put the sugar into the glass carafe before you even brew the coffee.

3. Brew the coffee just as you would an espresso. The coffee will pour over the sugar in the carafe as it begins to brew. After it is finished filling the carafe, stir it briskly as there will still be a little undissolved sugar. Pour the coffee into several demitasse cups and enjoy.

* For Cafe con Leche, simply use 2 parts Coffee to 1 part steamed milk.

At 1st In Coffee we feature espresso beans, espresso machines, coffee grinders, frothers and the finest espresso beans - illy and Lavazza.
1st In Coffee also carries other brand name like-new factory refurbished espresso machines.

1st In coffee offers a 30 day guarantee, free shipping on espresso machines and coffee makers purchased over $50, lowest price guaranteed, sales tax not charged, except in New Jersey. 

Contact us toll free at 800.709.8210, if you need more information on any espresso machines, coffee grinders, coffee makers or coffee supplies.


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