• Cristiana

How to brew a proper espresso

Aggiornato il: feb 22

Today I'm going to talk about... coffee!

Since I'm italian, I know how to brew a proper cup of this glorious black liquid gold. And today, I'm going to exlain how we italian do. Super!

It is interesting how the word "coffee" evokes different images in each of us. There are those who think of a large cup of "morning caffelatte", some of an espresso ordered at the bar with a friend, the macchiato of the vending machine in the office, or even of the Nespresso pods that we forgot to buy for our coffee machine. There's a real universe behind it.

Coffee is part of our culture, it is a drink typically Italian but not only: known all over the world, it is nowadays drunk in all countries. There are international brands that have made it a real symbol, just think of Starbucks and the typical huge takeaway glass. But how do you prepare a perfect espresso? It's funny because the word "espresso" is not used in Italy, we simply call it ... coffee. That's it. But talking about coffee abroad, and I am not only talking about America, means talking about a different drink, watered down, someone would say "dirty water", and therefore lighter and more suitable to be consumed in larger proportions.

Talkin about the italian espresso, we mean an element of style typically from my country. It's a real ritual and, especially in southern Italy, each bar claims that its coffee is "the best". Personally I can agree: the best coffee I've ever tried right in a ramshackle bar to which I would not have given a penny, in a remote small town on the Adriatic coast of region Puglia (the heel of the boot, so to speak). Coffee is a pleasant way to enjoy a break, to kick off with the right sprint the morning or to energize yourself. But it is also a convivial element of our culture, it brings people together often not even noticing it.


But how many varieties of coffee exist? I asked myself this question when, entering a bar in my town, I noticed a series of containers arranged in a row of different coffee beans, which you could choose and have them grinded at the moment, to create your blend. So I did some little research and discovered there are 60 different species of plants belonging to the same family! However, only 4 varieties are normally consumed and so found on the market:

  • Robusta: originally from West Africa, it is a variety that is very resistant and adaptable to climatic conditions and parasites, hence the name from which it derives, and for this reason it is also cheaper. Quite recent, its cultivation in Europe only began in the 19th century. It is richer in caffeine, and therefore more bitter on the palate, characterized by greater body and density than Arabica, and a round coffee bean with the central straight furrow;

  • Arabica: 70% of the coffee grown in the world is made up of this family, originally from Ethiopia and Yemen, it is the type of coffee that was first grown and therefore the oldest. Its varieties are Moka, Tipica, Bourbon and Maragogype. It has small, flat coffee beans with an internal groove on the "S" shaped grain. Thanks to the more aromatic and delicate notes, it gives us a less bitter blend than that of the Robusta variety;

  • Liberica: this name gives us a hint to its origin, that is the Ivory Coast and Liberia forests. Very resistant to pests, this variety produces large, fragrant coffe beans but of a quality considered inferior to Arabica and Robusta. It is a less common variety, mainly grown in West Africa, Indonesia and the Philippines;

  • Excelsa: this variety also stands out for its extreme resistance to diseases and the most extreme climates, so much so that it is often used as a graft holder to favor the growth of the most delicate and valuable varieties. It produces fragrant and aromatic beans. It was discovered in 1904 and is now grown in Sierra Leone, Indonesia and Vietnam, although experts believe this is only a variety of Liberica.


I feel the need to explain in detail the steps for a correct preparation at home of the italian espresso, as there ain't nothing worse then waking up craving for a nice cup and making wrong doses and proportions, obtaining a drink that is way too bitter or too watery. Nope.

So these are the few, simple and easy-to-follow rules:

  1. The "Moka" pot: this is the one and only allowed coffee machine in the world to prepare at home your espresso. So if ain't one, just get it. It's cheap and there are plenty on Amazon. I recommend the brand "Bialetti". A warranty;

  2. Fill the little tank with clear water up to the small screw on one side;

  3. Gently place the filter and fill it with coffee mixture suitable for moka. Important: one teaspoon per person;

  4. Do not press it! Seriously, just don't. You dont' want your coffee to be so bitter you'd have to throw it away;

  5. Tighten the top part and you're done. Put it on the fire until you hear the classic noise like something "scratching". The coffee is ready. Mix it before pouring into the cups.

If you feel transgressive, pour some steamed milk to get a macchiato.

By the way, we never order a "latte". Latte means "milk". That's it.

P.s. these are just tips, you can enjoy your coffee the way you like as there are no fundamental rules but one: cappuccino is allowed only for breakfast! ;-)

And you? How do you enjoy your coffee? I'd love to know about that! :)

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