June 23


Learn The Role of Espresso in Making a Latte

By Hanson Cheng

June 23, 2023

Espresso is a powerful, concentrated coffee extract that serves as the foundation for many popular coffee drinks. One of the most famous and beloved espresso-based drinks is the latte. This frothy, milky beverage is a staple in coffee shops around the world, and it owes its unique flavor and texture to the role of espresso in its creation. Understanding how espresso interacts with the other ingredients in a latte can deepen your appreciation for this beloved beverage and may even inspire you to try making one at home. In this article, we will explore the key role that espresso plays in producing the perfect latte.

Understanding Espresso

The definition of espresso is a concentrated coffee beverage that is brewed by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans. The term espresso comes from the Italian word “esprimere,” which means “to express” or “to force out.” Unlike regular brewed coffee, espresso is made with a special pressure system that extracts the flavor and aroma from the coffee beans in a matter of seconds. The resulting shot is thicker and creamier than regular coffee, with a layer of froth on top called “crema.” Espresso is the basis for many popular coffee drinks, including lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos.

Its History

The history of espresso traces back to the early 20th century when coffee-making technology and culture began to spread throughout Europe. The term “espresso” originated in Italy, where it was first introduced in the early 1900s as a stronger and more concentrated form of coffee. The invention of the espresso machine in 1901 by Luigi Bezzera was a key milestone in the evolution of espresso, allowing for a quicker and more efficient brewing process, and enabling it to become popular in cafes and households worldwide.

Over the years, the process of making espresso has been refined and perfected, with variations in roasting profiles, grind sizes, and brewing techniques. Today, espresso is an integral component in numerous coffee drinks, such as lattes and cappuccinos, and continues to be a beloved coffee beverage worldwide.

Espresso Machines

Espresso machines are specialty machines designed to make espresso, which is the base for many coffee drinks, including lattes. There are several types of espresso machines, each with its unique features and benefits. One common type is a steam-driven espresso machine. These machines use steam to force water through the ground coffee beans and produce the espresso shot. Another type is a pump-driven espresso machine. These machines use a motor to power a pump that forces hot water through the coffee.

This type of machine provides more consistent pressure and is a better choice for commercial use. Super-automatic espresso machines are the most convenient type, as they grind, tamp, and brew the coffee automatically with a single push of a button. Finally, manual espresso machines require the user to manually grind the coffee, tamp it down, and operate the machine manually, making these machines the most challenging to operate but also offering the most control over the finished product. Regardless of the type of machine used, the quality of the espresso shot is critical in making a great latte.

The Role of Espresso in Making a Latte

The strength of the espresso plays a vital role in the flavor profile of a latte. The espresso shot forms the base of the latte, and the strength of the shot affects the overall taste of the drink. A stronger espresso shot will result in a more robust and bold flavor, while a weaker shot will result in a milder flavor. The strength of the espresso shot is determined by the amount of coffee and water used in the extraction process.

Espresso shots are typically extracted using 7 grams of coffee and 1 fluid ounce of water, which results in a shot that is between 25-30ml in volume. The water is heated to between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is forced through the coffee using high pressure. The pressure used in the extraction process is typically between 9-10 bars, and the process takes between 20-30 seconds.

The strength of the espresso shot can be adjusted by changing the amount of coffee or water used in the extraction process. Increasing the amount of coffee used will result in a stronger shot, while increasing the amount of water will result in a weaker shot. However, it is important to note that adjusting the strength of the shot also affects the crema, volume, and flavor profile of the espresso, which in turn affects the overall taste of the latte.

When making a latte, a shot of espresso is poured into the cup, and the milk is steamed and frothed before being added to the cup. The steamed milk and frothed milk form the top layer of the latte, and they help to balance out the strength of the espresso. As a general rule, the more milk that is added to the latte, the milder the flavor of the drink will be.

Brew Time Affecting Espresso in a Latte

The brew time is an essential aspect of making a latte. It refers to the time taken for hot water to pass through the compressed coffee grounds, which determines the strength and flavor of the espresso. Typically, the longer the brew time, the stronger and more bitter the espresso. Conversely, a shorter brew time results in a weaker espresso with less flavor and crema. The optimal brew time for a latte is between 20-30 seconds, with a longer brew time recommended for a more robust flavor.

However, a longer brew time can also result in over-extracting the coffee, which can lead to a burnt taste and bitterness. The brewing method determines the brew time – a standard espresso machine produces a shot of espresso in 20-30 seconds. However, other brewing methods like pour-over or French press require a more extended brew time. The grind size of the coffee is also a crucial factor in determining the brew time – finer grind size extract faster than coarser grind size, and thus the espresso brews for a shorter duration.

Similarly, tamping pressure affects the brew time – under-packed coffee results in a shorter brew time than correctly packed coffee. Water temperature too affects the brew time – hotter water extracts faster than cooler water, hence the brew time is shorter. The ideal brew time for a latte is a balance between strength, flavor, and consistency.

To achieve this balance, it is recommended to use freshly roasted coffee beans, with an appropriate grind size, tamping pressure, water temperature, and brew time. Additionally, it is crucial to maintain consistency in the brewing process by regularly cleaning and maintaining the machine to ensure the perfect latte every time. The brew time is a critical factor in determining the quality of the espresso, and getting it right is essential in achieving the perfect latte.


Key Points

The importance of espresso in making a latte cannot be overstated. A latte is a coffee drink made using a shot of espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk. Espresso is a concentrated coffee that is made by forcing pressurized water through finely ground coffee beans. The espresso shot used in a latte provides the base of the drink and gives it its unique flavor profile. The crema, or the frothy layer that sits on top of the espresso shot, adds depth and complexity to the latte.

Additionally, the texture and taste of the espresso shot are essential in balancing the flavor and richness of the steamed and frothed milk. Therefore, a high-quality and perfectly extracted espresso shot is essential in making a latte that tastes great and has the right texture. While the role of espresso in a latte may seem straightforward, there are many variables involved in making a perfect shot.

Variations in the type of coffee beans, the grind size, the brewing temperature, and the amount of water used can significantly affect the taste, texture, and crema of the espresso shot. Therefore, baristas need to have a deep understanding of the espresso-making process and use high-quality equipment to ensure consistency, precision, and taste.

Future of Espresso in Coffee Culture

The future of espresso in coffee culture is bright. Espresso has become the foundation for various coffee beverages, and this trend will continue. Consumers are increasingly looking for specialty coffee shops, which serve high-quality espresso-based drinks. The future of espresso lies in the ability to adapt to changing consumer preferences. The popularity of specialty coffee drinks will continue to grow, and consumers will seek out unique and innovative ways to enjoy their beverages. This trend is driving innovation in the coffee industry with new techniques for brewing and serving coffee.

Technological advancements are also playing a significant role in shaping the future of espresso. Espresso machines and grinders have become more advanced, allowing for greater control over the brewing process. This control translates into greater consistency, which is essential for producing high-quality espresso shots. Additionally, automated brewing processes have made espresso more accessible to consumers who do not have the skills to prepare it manually.

The future of espresso also lies in sustainability. As consumers become more aware of the environmental impact of coffee consumption, demand for sustainably produced and sourced espresso will increase. Sustainable coffee practices will become more prevalent in the coffee industry, which ensures that farmers receive fair compensation for their labor and that biodiversity is preserved. The use of renewable energy sources and environmentally friendly packaging will also become more common.

Finally, the future of espresso lies in the hands of baristas and coffee shops. Baristas who are skilled in preparing espresso shots and crafting espresso-based drinks will continue to be in demand. Coffee shops that provide a unique experience will attract and retain customers. The use of innovative brewing techniques, creative drink combinations, and unique interior design and aesthetics will differentiate coffee shops and give them a competitive advantage.

The Role of Espresso in Making a Latte – FAQs

1. What is the significance of espresso in making a latte?

Espresso plays a significant role in making latte since it serves as the base of the drink. It forms the foundation of the latte’s flavor, aroma, and texture.

2. What type of espresso is ideal for making a latte?

The type of espresso used in making a latte should have a balanced flavor, medium-to full-bodied body, and mild to medium acidity. Dark-roast or Italian roast espresso is the most commonly used espresso for lattes.

3. What is the right amount of espresso to use in making a latte?

The right amount of espresso to use in making a latte depends on the customer’s preference and the size of the cup. However, the standard recipe calls for two shots of espresso, which is approximately two ounces.

4. How does the quality of espresso affect the taste of a latte?

The quality of espresso highly affects the taste of a latte. A high-quality espresso produces a rich, smooth, and flavorful base, whereas a low-quality espresso makes the latte taste bitter and sour.

5. Can a latte be made without espresso?

It is technically possible to make a latte without espresso, but it alters the drink’s traditional taste. Alternative substitutes for espresso include using matcha, chai, or turmeric latte powder as a base.

6. What is the origin of espresso and how did it become popular in making lattes?

Espresso originated in Italy in the early 20th century and was intended to provide a faster brewing method for coffee. Over time, espresso became popular in making lattes as it provided a strong, concentrated base for milk-based drinks popularized by cafes around the world.

Hanson Cheng

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