April 28


Explore The Different Types of Espresso Coffee

By Hanson Cheng

April 28, 2023

Discover the world of espresso in this comprehensive guide, from its history and brewing process to the various kinds of espresso drinks and their global variations. Learn about the different types of espresso machines, grinding techniques, and the importance of extraction time and pressure in creating the perfect shot.

Uncover the art of milk-based espresso drinks like cappuccinos, lattes, and mochas and explore unique espresso variations from around the world. Finally, get tips on making espresso at home, from selecting the right equipment, keeping coffee beans fresh, and maintaining consistency in brewing techniques to cleaning and maintaining your espresso machine.

Understanding Espresso Coffee

Definition of Espresso

Espresso is a concentrated coffee beverage that is prepared by forcing hot water, typically just below boiling point, through finely-ground coffee beans under high pressure. The resulting liquid is a complex mixture of flavors, textures, and aromas, characterized by its thick, rich crema and strong taste. Espresso is the base for a wide variety of other coffee drinks such as cappuccino, latte, macchiato, and Americano.

One major distinction between espresso and other types of coffee is the method of extraction, which creates the intense flavor and thick crema that espresso is known for. Espresso is meant to be consumed quickly, usually in 1 to 2 fluid ounces (about 30 to 60 milliliters), making it a much smaller serving size than traditional brewed coffee.

History of Espresso

The history of espresso can be traced back to the early 20th century in Italy, where it was developed as a faster alternative to traditional coffee brewing methods. In 1901, Luigi Bezzera, an inventor from Milan, filed a patent for the first espresso machine, which used steam pressure to force water through coffee grounds.

Throughout the 20th century, advancements in espresso machine technology continued to develop. In 1938, Achille Gaggia introduced a more refined espresso machine that utilized a spring-powered lever system. This innovation resulted in increased brewing pressure, which in turn led to the creation of the creamy, thick crema that became the hallmark of espresso.

Further advancements, such as the introduction of electric pump-driven machines in the 1960s, helped to popularize espresso worldwide. Today, espresso is enjoyed by millions of people around the world, with an ever-growing appreciation for the craft and technology behind its preparation.

Brewing Process

The process of making espresso involves several key steps to ensure a flavorful and well-balanced end result. These steps include choosing the right equipment, grinding and dosing the coffee, tamping, and finally, extracting the espresso under the proper pressure and time. Each of these steps is crucial and can greatly influence the taste and quality of the espresso.

Types of Espresso Machines

Espresso machines come in a variety of different styles, ranging from manual lever machines to semi-automatic and fully automatic machines. Manual lever machines require the user to manually generate the amount of pressure needed for extraction, while semi-automatic machines use an electric pump to maintain constant pressure.

Fully automatic machines automate the entire espresso-making process, making them perfect for busy cafes and restaurants. When choosing an espresso machine, factors such as budget, space, and personal preferences should be considered.

For home users, a semi-automatic machine can be a good balance between control and convenience, while commercial settings may prefer the efficiency of fully automatic machines. Ultimately, the choice depends on individual needs and preferences.

Grinding, Dosing, and Tamping

One of the most critical aspects of making espresso is grinding the coffee beans to the correct consistency. Espresso requires a very fine grind, which allows for proper extraction of flavors and oils. The grind size should resemble the texture of powdered sugar.

After grinding, the coffee must be dosed into the portafilter, which is the basket that holds the ground coffee in the espresso machine. The ideal dose depends on the type of coffee bean and the desired strength of the espresso, varying between 18 to 21 grams for a double espresso.

Tamping is the process of compressing the ground coffee evenly in the portafilter. This ensures that hot water will flow through the coffee bed uniformly during extraction, producing a balanced and smooth espresso. Consistent pressure should be applied when tamping to avoid uneven extraction.

Extraction Time and Pressure

Finally, the espresso is extracted by forcing hot water through the tightly-packed bed of coffee grounds in the portafilter. The ideal extraction pressure is around 9 bars, creating a rich and flavorful result.

Extraction time is also crucial, with the recommended time for a double espresso being between 25 and 30 seconds. Too short of an extraction time may result in a weak, underextracted espresso, while too long of an extraction can cause an overextracted, bitter taste.

Understanding and mastering the various elements involved in the espresso brewing process, from choosing the right equipment and beans to perfecting grinding, dosing, and extraction, can create a truly exceptional espresso experience. As with any craft, practice and attention to detail are key to creating consistently great-tasting espresso coffee.

Classic Espresso Drinks

An espresso is the base for various coffee drinks and is created by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans under high pressure. This concentrated drink has a distinct flavor and aroma that many coffee enthusiasts strive to perfect. Here, we’ll discuss several classic espresso drinks, their preparation methods, and variations.


Espresso, sometimes referred to as a “shot” of coffee, is the foundation of many traditional Italian coffee drinks. It is served in a small demitasse cup and typically consists of one ounce of coffee with a rich, golden crema (a thin, aromatic froth layer) on top. A standard espresso is made by forcing hot water through 7-9 grams of ground coffee at 9 bars of pressure for about 25-30 seconds. The result is a bold, full-bodied, and slightly bitter coffee.

Espresso Lungo

An espresso lungo, also known as a “long espresso,” uses more hot water than a standard espresso, resulting in a larger, more diluted drink. It’s important to note that an espresso lungo is not equivalent to an Americano, which is an espresso with added hot water.

The key difference lies in the extraction process: for an espresso lungo, water continues to flow through the coffee grounds longer than a standard espresso, extracting more flavors and resulting in a less concentrated drink. The volume of an espresso lungo is usually around 2 ounces.


Ristretto, meaning “restricted” in Italian, is the opposite of an espresso lungo. It’s a shorter, more concentrated espresso using less water than a standard espresso. While the same amount of coffee grounds is used, only about half the usual amount of water is passed through them, resulting in a more intense taste.

The volume of a ristretto is typically 0.5 to 0.7 ounces, and the extraction time varies between 15 and 20 seconds. With a higher concentration of the coffee’s distinct flavors, many find the ristretto to be smoother and sweeter than a standard espresso.

Espresso Macchiato

An espresso macchiato is an espresso “stained” or “spotted” with a dollop of steamed milk or milk foam. The word “macchiato” means “stained” or “spotted” in Italian, making it a fitting name for this drink. The addition of milk softens the strong flavors of the espresso, but the drink remains bold and powerful. The volume of an espresso macchiato is usually around 1.5 ounces, with the milk or foam occupying a small portion of the total.

Espresso Con Panna

Espresso con panna, which translates to “espresso with cream,” is a single or double shot of espresso topped with whipped cream. Not only does the whipped cream add a decadent texture, but it also provides a rich contrast to the strong, bitter espresso.

Viennese Espresso

Viennese espresso is a variation of espresso con panna, usually made with a double shot of espresso and topped with whipped cream, powdered sugar, and sometimes chocolate shavings. A delicious indulgence, this drink combines the rich flavor of espresso with the sweetness of whipped cream and chocolate.


Originating in Spain, a cortado is an espresso-based drink containing an equal amount of espresso and steamed milk. The milk’s sweetness reduces the espresso’s acidity, creating a smooth, balanced coffee experience. While the cortado shares similarities with the cappuccino and latte, it has a unique taste attributable to the particular milk-to-espresso ratio. A cortado is typically served in a smaller glass or ceramic cup, with a volume of about 2-2.5 ounces.

Milk-Based Espresso Drinks

Milk-based espresso drinks are popular choices for coffee lovers who enjoy a rich and creamy beverage with a strong coffee flavor. These drinks are typically made with a combination of espresso and steamed milk, which can be mixed in various ratios to create a wide range of flavors and textures. 


A cappuccino is a classic Italian espresso drink made with equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and milk froth. The drink is usually served in a small cup and is characterized by its velvety texture and strong coffee flavor. The frothy milk on top of the cappuccino helps to balance the bitterness of the espresso, making it a popular choice for many coffee drinkers.

Some variations of this drink include the “dry” cappuccino, which has more frothed milk and less steamed milk, and the “wet” cappuccino, which has more steamed milk and less froth.


A latte is another popular milk-based espresso drink that is similar to a cappuccino but has a larger ratio of steamed milk to espresso. Typically served in a larger cup, a latte consists of one or two shots of espresso and is topped with steamed milk and a small amount of froth. This creates a creamier texture and a milder coffee flavor compared to a cappuccino.

Flavored Lattes

Flavored lattes have become increasingly popular, with coffee shops offering a wide variety of syrups and sauces that can be added to the drink. Popular flavors include caramel, vanilla, hazelnut, and pumpkin spice. These flavors can give a unique twist to the traditional latte and are often enjoyed as seasonal specialties or indulgent treats.

Latte Art

Latte art is the process of creating intricate designs on the surface of a latte using the milk froth. This is typically done by carefully pouring the steamed milk over the espresso in a specific way to create patterns or shapes, such as hearts, leaves, or swirls. Latte art has become an admired skill among talented baristas and is often seen as a sign of a well-made latte.


An Americano is not technically a milk-based espresso drink, but many people choose to add milk to this beverage. It is made by diluting a shot of espresso with hot water, resulting in a longer, milder coffee drink that resembles drip coffee. With the addition of milk, an Americano can be transformed into a creamy and satisfying beverage that retains the bold flavor of espresso.

Flat White

The flat white is an Australian and New Zealand variation of the latte that has grown in popularity around the world. Made with a double shot of espresso and a smaller amount of steamed milk than a traditional latte, the flat white has a more pronounced coffee flavor and a velvety texture. This is achieved through the use of “microfoam,” which is created by steaming the milk in a specific way that results in a consistently creamy and glossy finish.


A mocha is a delicious blend of espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate syrup, often topped with whipped cream. This rich and indulgent drink is a favorite for those who love both coffee and chocolate, as it combines the two flavors in a harmonious and satisfying way. Variations of the mocha include the white mocha, which uses white chocolate syrup, and the peppermint mocha, which adds a hint of mint flavor to the beverage.


An affogato is a unique and indulgent espresso-based dessert that consists of a shot of hot espresso poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream or gelato. The combination of the hot, bitter coffee and the cold, sweet ice cream creates a delightful contrast in flavors and textures, making it a popular choice for those looking to enjoy a post-meal treat. While not a traditional milk-based espresso drink, the ice cream adds a sweet and creamy element that pairs perfectly with the bold taste of espresso.

Espresso Variations Around the World

Espresso has evolved through time and has become a popular drink in many countries all over the world. With the rise of globalization, different cultures have slightly adapted their espresso recipes and techniques, giving birth to a plethora of espresso variations.

Cuban Espresso

Originating in Cuba, Cuban Espresso, also known as Cafecito, is a strong and sweet coffee drink that combines dark espresso with sugar. To make a Cuban espresso, brown sugar is typically placed at the bottom of the espresso maker or mixed with the coffee grounds before brewing. This results in a sweet and slightly caramelized flavor, which balances out the bitterness of the coffee.

Upon serving, the Cuban espresso is poured into a small demitasse cup. In Cuba and Cuban-American communities, Cafecito is typically enjoyed during social gatherings and as an afternoon pick-me-up. To make a Cuban espresso, a moka pot or stovetop espresso maker is commonly used instead of a traditional espresso machine.

Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee is a strong and unique coffee drink that is deeply rooted in the Turkish culture. Unlike espresso, it is made using finely ground coffee beans that are boiled along with water and sometimes sugar in a special pot called a cezve or ibrik.

The brewing method results in a thick and frothy coffee with a strong and velvety flavor. Because the coffee grounds remain in the cup, it is customary to allow the coffee to settle for a short period before drinking.

Turkish coffee is often served with a glass of water to cleanse the palate before taking a sip. It can also be accompanied by a sweet treat like lokum or Turkish delight. In recent years, Turkish coffee has also been incorporated into espresso-based drinks such as Turkish Latte, which combines a shot of espresso with steamed milk and a hint of cardamom.

Ethiopian Macchiato

The Ethiopian Macchiato is a unique espresso-based drink that is widely popular in Ethiopia, where coffee is thought to have originated. The Ethiopian Macchiato is made with a double shot of espresso and a dollop of frothy milk foam, resulting in a less creamy and stronger tasting macchiato than the Italian version.

Ethiopian Macchiato is commonly served in a small glass cup accompanied by a popcorn or traditional bread known as Himbasha. Coffee plays an integral role in Ethiopian culture, and coffee ceremonies are a common practice that gathers friends and family together for a social experience while enjoying this unique and delicious espresso-based drink.

Australian Long Black

The Australian Long Black is a popular espresso-based drink, known for its distinct flavor and strength. The Long Black is made by pouring a double shot of espresso over hot water, which maintains the crema on top and gives the drink a bold and robust flavor. It is comparable to the Americano but generally packs a stronger punch due to the ratio of coffee to water.

The Australian Long Black is often enjoyed on its own without any milk or sugar, allowing the true taste of the espresso to take center stage. This drink is a great option for those who prefer a strong and intense coffee experience without the added richness of milk-based espresso beverages.

Spanish Carajillo

The Spanish Carajillo is a delightful combination of espresso and liquor with roots in Spain. Traditionally, the Carajillo is made by pouring a shot of hot espresso over a shot of liquor, such as brandy or rum. The heat from the espresso helps release the aromatic flavors of the alcohol, resulting in a harmony of strong coffee flavors and warm alcoholic notes.

In recent years, variations of the Carajillo have emerged, with some recipes calling for the addition of citrus zest or spices like cinnamon. This daring and flavorsome espresso-based drink is a favorite after-dinner beverage that is enjoyed all across Spain and in many parts of Latin America, where it has been embraced and adapted into local cultures.

Tips for Making Espresso at Home

Selecting the Right Equipment

To make the perfect espresso at home, you need the correct equipment. There are several factors to consider when investing in an espresso machine and grinder.

Choosing an Espresso Machine: There are three main types of espresso machines:

1. Manual: Manual machines provide complete control over the brewing process but require a skilled hand and patience to master.
2. Semi-Automatic: Semi-automatic machines offer a decent balance between control and ease of use. The user controls the shot time and grind size, while the machine maintains consistent pressure.
3. Fully Automatic: Fully automatic machines do most of the work for you, often featuring programmable settings for producing consistent shots. These machines are ideal for those new to espresso making but offer less control for the user.

Consider your budget and skill level when purchasing an espresso machine. Entry-level machines can produce satisfactory espresso, but investing in a more advanced machine will result in a higher quality and more consistent brew.

Espresso Grinders: A crucial component of espresso-making is an even and consistent grind. Look for a quality burr grinder specifically designed for espresso. These grinders produce a uniform grind size, which is essential to optimize extraction. A cheaper blade grinder will result in an inconsistent and uneven grind, leading to a subpar espresso shot.

Features to consider when buying an espresso grinder include:
1. Grind Settings: Ensure the grinder has a range of settings for fine-tuning the grind size
2. Speed: Slow grinding speeds yield less heat, preserving the flavor and aroma of the coffee.
3. Capacity: Choose a grinder with a hopper capacity that suits your daily usage.

Fresh Coffee Beans and Proper Storage

The quality of the coffee beans you use directly affects the taste of your espresso. Always opt for fresh, high-quality beans from reputable roasters. Look for roast dates on packaging, and try to use beans within three weeks of roasting.

To maintain the freshness of your beans, store them in airtight, opaque containers away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture. Do not store coffee beans in the refrigerator, as the fluctuating temperatures and humidity can damage the flavor.

When making espresso, it’s crucial to dial in your grind size properly. The extraction time for a shot of espresso should be approximately 25-30 seconds for a double shot. Adjust the grind size accordingly to achieve the desired extraction time and taste. Note that factors like age of the beans, room temperature, and humidity can also affect the extraction time.

Consistent Brewing Techniques

A consistent brewing technique is essential for producing superb espresso. Here are some tips for improving your technique:

  1. Warm-Up: Preheat your espresso machine and portafilter to ensure temperature consistency during the extraction process.
  2. Distribution: Distribute the ground coffee evenly in the portafilter basket to ensure even water flow and extraction.
  3. Tamping: Apply steady pressure (approximately 30 lbs) when tamping the coffee to create an even coffee bed. This helps water flow evenly through the grounds.
  4. Timing: Monitor your shot time, aiming for 25-30 seconds for a double shot. Adjust your grind size to achieve this optimal extraction time.
  5. Experiment: Practice and adapt your technique, taking note of variables like grind size, shot time, and tamping pressure, and how they affect the final taste.
  6. Taste: Sip and savor each espresso, noting the flavors and mouthfeel, and adjust as needed.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Keeping your espresso machine and grinder clean will ensure you consistently create delicious and high-quality coffee. Regular cleaning and maintenance include:

  1. Flushing: After each shot, flush the group head with hot water to remove coffee residue and oils.
  2. Portafilter: Clean the portafilter basket with a brush and warm water. Remove and wash the basket, handle, and spring at least once a week.
  3. Grinder: Periodically clean the burrs and the grind chamber of your grinder using a specialized brush or vacuum.
  4. Descaling: Follow manufacturer guidelines for descaling your machine to remove mineral buildup.
  5. Regular Servicing: Have your espresso machine serviced annually or according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Incorporating these tips and maintaining your equipment will help you produce delicious, cafe-quality espresso in the comfort of your own home.

Types of Espresso Coffee – FAQs

1. What is the difference between a single and double espresso?

A single espresso contains one shot of espresso, approximately 1 ounce (30ml) of coffee concentrate. A double espresso, also known as a doppio, contains two shots of espresso, equal to approximately 2 ounces (60ml) of coffee concentrate, offering a stronger flavor and more caffeine (Civitello, 2017).

2. What distinguishes an Americano from a regular espresso?

An Americano is made by adding hot water to a single or double espresso, diluting the coffee concentrate and creating a milder flavor. It has a similar strength and taste to drip coffee, but retains the rich crema associated with espresso-based drinks (Castillo, 2021).

3. How is a macchiato different from other espresso drinks?

A macchiato is an espresso-based beverage with a small amount of frothed milk or foam, added to the top of a single or double shot of espresso. The name macchiato, meaning “stained” or “spotted” in Italian, refers to the espresso being marked by the milk, resulting in a stronger taste than a cappuccino or latte (Lopez, 2017).

4. What are the key differences between a cappuccino, latte, and flat white?

A cappuccino consists of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. A latte has more steamed milk and less foam than a cappuccino, creating a creamier texture. A flat white is the same as a latte but typically uses a double espresso shot and has minimal milk foam on top, resulting in a more intense coffee flavor (Aboutman, 2017).

5. Can you explain the difference between a cortado and a piccolo latte?

A cortado is equal parts espresso and steamed milk, served in a small glass without milk foam, aiming to reduce the acidity of the drink. A piccolo latte, also known as a piccolo, includes a single shot of espresso and a small amount of steamed milk, served in a small glass with a touch of foam (Manfred, 2020).

6. What is an espresso lungo and how is it different from a regular espresso?

An espresso lungo, or just lungo, is a longer espresso, prepared by passing more water through the coffee grounds, typically around 3 oz (90ml) instead of the regular 1 oz (30ml). This creates a more diluted coffee concentrate, with a slightly lower caffeine content and potentially more bitter flavors than a standard espresso (Jensen, 2018).

Hanson Cheng

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