It is time to dive into one of the most expansive, complicated and interesting aspects of the coffee industry: espresso. I say complicated because there are so many factors that come into play to make the perfect espresso drink. Let's start by explaining what an espresso is. The term “espresso” simply refers to the type of brew method (either by an espresso machine, a stove-top espresso maker, etc.). The most important part of creating the perfect espresso is the actual coffee beans you start with. You must start with the highest-quality Arabica coffee beans possible, consisting of the right blend and roast colors, to realize an espresso’s true potential. You can run any coffee through an espresso machine and call it "espresso," but not all coffees will come through well. For example, if you run our Kenya AA medium-roast, or our Yemen Mocca dark-Viennese roast through an espresso machine, they will be extremely winey, acidic, and bitter.
At McLaughlin Coffee, our three most popular espresso blends are: Espresso Blend, Double Espresso, and Espresso Maximo. My dad created our first one back in the late 1980's, which he simply called Espresso Blend. This blend is roasted dark, and is slightly acidic with a relatively smooth finish. In the 90's, he created Double Espresso with the specific purpose of creating an espresso blend that both came through the milk well but also had a relatively smooth finish, similar to our Espresso Blend. By having medium, Viennese, and dark beans in Double Espresso, he accomplished that goal. I believe that our Espresso Blend is a little smoother than our Double Espresso when drinking the espresso shot straight up. As is the case with drip coffee, when drinking espresso-style coffees, the darker the espresso beans, the smoother the finishes tend to be.
A few years after I started working for the family business, my dad and I created Espresso Maximo, which has quickly become our most popular espresso offering. It seems there is always a goal in mind when creating any new blend, and in this case, we were searching for the smoothest espresso possible. We wanted a coffee that you could drink as a straight shot and not be overwhelmed by acidity and bitterness. Espresso Maximo has a smooth, chocolate-like finish, which I find very appealing. This is why it is my espresso blend of choice. The process of creating Espresso Maximo took over six months of refining both the origin coffees and the roast color. It was exciting for me, after the amount of time we spent getting this blend to where we thought it was in its best possible form, to see how quickly our customers switched over to it. Change is never easy for coffee drinkers, but the feedback on this blend has been nothing but positive.
As you can see, a lot goes into just getting a coffee into the espresso hopper at your local coffee shop, or into your espresso grinder at home. The next section of this multi-part blog will cover other aspects of espresso including: the perfect grind and how to pull a proper shot out of an espresso machine. The final section will include: how to properly steam milk, the different types of espresso drinks, and the future of espresso-style drinks. Until next time!