What we can all agree on: Coffee-brewing is not a quick process. Unless we’re settling for K-cups, it’s a methodical process that takes attention and occasionally some fast-acting reflexes.
Realizing this, the Europeans – Italians, specifically – invented the espresso machine at the height of the steam-powered industrial era in the second half of the 1800s – just when cafes were taking the continent by storm.
What they did, in essence, was discover that high pressure applied to water and coffee creates a quickly produced coffee-like drink called espresso. With 9 bars of pressure applied per square inch (“PSI” – you’ve surely heard the acronym), totaling 130.5 PSI, you have the bite-sized cup of caffeine gloriousness so many of us are now familiar with.
That pressure is why we have espresso machines to begin with. “It’s pretty hard to create that pressure by hand, which is why most espresso machines have pumps that build that pressure,” says Andy Pickle, TK ROASTER. “But they do now have lever machines where you manually apply the pressure, where the lever doesn’t require the full nine bars.”
Moreover, though we associate espresso with the darker Italian coffee roasts, there is no such thing as a true “espresso roast.” Remember that espresso is a brewing method, not coffee type.
“Historically, espresso beans have been a darker roast, but this is a misnomer,” Pickle says. “You can make espresso with any type of coffee or roast but to brew it in the correct amount of time and with the appropriate amount of pressure, it needs to be very fine — not quite like a powder, but finer than table salt, for sure.”
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