Coffee-to-English Dictionary, Part II: Espresso


[Photographs: Meister]

Do you ever feel like you could use a little translation at your local coffee shop, or while perusing the bags of beans at your favorite market?

Presenting the second in a multipart Coffee-to-English glossary, which will hopefully help you navigate the sometimes-complicated coffee lexicon. (Now all you have to do is work on perfecting your fake coffee-snob accent.)

Americano: A beverage created by diluting the espresso concentrate with hot water in order to approximate the texture, flavor and body of an American-style drip coffee.

Bars of Pressure: A "bar" is the equivalent of the atmospheric pressure on the surface of the Earth at sea level, and the number of "bars" indicates how many times that base level of pressure something is operating at. The preferred pressure for extracting espresso coffee is between 8.5 and 9.5 bars of atmospheric pressure, as controlled by the espresso machine's motorized pump system.

Blend: Any brew-ready coffee that comprises beans from more than one origin, producer, or roast level. Typically, coffee roasters will create a blend specifically with the espresso extraction in mind, to create a balanced flavor profile in the cup.

Crema: A bed of aromatic foam that forms on the top of a properly extracted shot of espresso. An indication of the beans' freshness, the foam is created by the marriage of carbon dioxide gas and aromatic compounds from within roasted coffee, with the highly pressurized water used to extract it.

Demitasse: A small cup (literally "half cup," in French) commonly used for serving espresso or other low-volume coffee brews, such as Turkish coffee.


Dialing In: Adjustments made by a barista to any or all of the factors that affect the way an espresso extracts, including (but not limited to) coffee-particle size, coffee dose, brew-water temperature, and/or length of extraction.

Espresso: A coffee extraction that creates a concentrated beverage by forcing hot water under pressure through a compressed cake of finely ground coffee beans. Each espresso is made individually and to order, and should be both served and drunk immediately upon completion.

Pressure Profiling: The act of changing the water pressure with which a barista is brewing a shot of espresso during the course of the extraction.

Pulling a Shot: The act of creating a serving of espresso, performed by a barista. The phrase originated with the appearance of the first lever-operated espresso machines in the 1940s, on which the barista literally had to pull down on and then release a lever in order to create the water pressure used to extract the coffee.

Ristretto: Literally "restricted" in Italian, this refers to an espresso shot through which the barista has run less water than would be called for in a typical espresso extraction, thereby creating a more intensely concentrated beverage.

Single Origin: Any brew-ready coffee that is from a single country, washing station, producer, or farm. Single-origin coffees extracted using espresso techniques will often have very pronounced or perhaps even exaggerated single flavor characteristics, as opposed to the more balanced profile typically drawn from a blend.

Coming next, Part III: Milk-Based Drinks.

Go back to Part I: The Plant.