How to Drink Espresso (Like a Boss)
Have you ever wondered if there is a right way to drink espresso?
Come on, admit it. You have. Every coffee lover (who wasn’t born in Italy) probably has!
If you have ever had the experience of sitting in a café in Rome, Venice or Florence – it can feel like the Italians know a secret: how to properly drink espresso.
And really, don’t we all want to know how to drink espresso like an Italian?
Fear not, learning the art of how to drink espresso is right in front of your nose!
What You’ll Need
What you’ll need for this lesson will depend on where you’re planning to drink your espresso: at home, or at the cafe.
So choose a location and follow the steps below!
What You'll Need
- An espresso machine
- Espresso beans
- A ceramic espresso cup, or a demitass cup
- Sparkling water
- Lemon juice
- Lemon rind
- Lime rind
- Orange rind
At a cafe
Here’s Your Step-by-Step on How to Drink Espresso
Step 1. How to Pronounce Espresso
Before we get into the specifics of how to drink this beautiful beverage, it’s important to know a few things.
One of them is how to pronounce espresso.
It might seem like a silly thing, but if you are going to the effort of learning how to drink espresso properly, pronouncing it correctly seems like a good idea.
Phonetically, you say it “S-presso’ – not ‘X-presso’.
Step 2. Know the History
So, if the history of magical things like espresso isn’t important to you, you can skip this step. We hope you don’t, but you’re the boss.
According to the Smithsonian (that’s right, the history of espresso is important enough to be acknowledged by this prestigious institute), its origins go back a very long way to 1901.
This is when the first espresso was made in Milan, Italy.
The espresso machine was redefined in the 1940s when manual levers were introduced to the process. This is where the phrase, ‘pulling a shot’ began.
Just think about that for a minute – even though you can now get an espresso machine that is super-automated and light years ahead of what they used back in the 1940s, we still use the same phrase to describe what we are doing – and we’re all searching for the skills and tools to make that perfect shot.
If you’ve ever wondered – why drink espresso instead of coffee? – the rich history of espresso is one good reason, don’t you think?
Step 3. Warm Your (Proper Espresso) Cup
You likely know to do this – so this is just a reminder. It makes for a better shot.
And, make sure that you are using the right cup.
For the most part, in cafes around the world, espresso is served in an espresso cup that is ceramic and white.
Now, if you are at a spot that has that little extra edge when it comes to espresso, you will get a demitasse (pronounced dem-E-tas) cup.
Demitasse is French for ‘half cup” – not sure how a French cup became synonymous with espresso, which comes from Italy – but that’s the way the world works.
Step 4. Make Your Shot
For those playing along at home, now is the time to make your espresso shot.
And you might as well make it a double, while you’re at it. After all, you’re going to want to practice this!
You can either use your espresso machine, or if you don’t have one at home, you can actually make espresso without a machine, too.
For those of you going to a café, you can skip ahead to Option B below.
Step 5. Sip Your Sparkling Water
While this step is optional, it’s also highly recommended.
If you watch some of the best baristas in Italy and other places around the world, they serve a glass or a small bottle of sparkling water with an espresso.
This is to cleanse your palate so you can fully taste the rich, dark liquid gold of your shot.
Step 6. Skim Away the Crema
I realize that this sounds counter-intuitive.
We spend so much time trying to perfect crema and discussing it to death with other members of the coffee tribe... and it looks beautiful in the cup when done right.
But, it really doesn’t taste that great.
Step 7. Give It a Stir
Espresso needs a little stir to blend the thicker parts of the shot – which sink to the bottom of the cup – with the lighter notes, which stay on top.
Step 8. Add In the Stuff (Espresso with Milk, Espresso with Sugar)
Now, you might be asking, do you add sugar to espresso?... or maybe, do you add cream to espresso?
And the answer is: whatever works for you!
While purists drink their espresso straight up, we also know that other coffee lovers may want to have sugar in espresso drinks. Or perhaps even cream.
Step 8b. Have a Nibble
You might also be wondering what to serve with espresso – and what most people recommend is biscotti.
Step 8c. The Choices! Coffee with Espresso Shots, Anyone?
There are so many espresso drink recipes they could fill a book... or five.
You could use a drip coffee and add a shot of espresso (called a Red Eye), you could add booze to your shot (a favorite, but not too early in the am!), you could add ice cream…really, it’s up to you what to combine.
It’s important to note that different occasions call for different coffee choices.
However, there is nothing quite like going with the pure choice of a straight up shot of espresso.
Step 9. Sip and Enjoy
Whatever your choice of accompaniments, once prepared, take a moment and appreciate the moment.
Let this beautiful, rich dark liquid roll over your tongue. Taste the flavors of the bean, and the texture of the drink. Absorb the fragrance of this little cup of magic.
Certain characteristics of the bean will be magnified, giving you a real sense of its flavor.
A good espresso is bitter, but not too bitter. It is rich, but not overpoweringly so.
It will have a depth of flavor that is complicated by lighter, brighter notes. And it will have a substantial mouth feel comparable to a soft blanket covering your tongue with love.
OPTION 2: At the Cafe
Step 1: Step up and order: “One espresso for here please”.
Step 2: Go back to Step 5 if you are given water, or Step 6 if not.
Now You Know How To Drink Espresso!
What did you think? Do you feel like you have a handle on how to drink an espresso shot now?
And what your options are if you want to fancy it up?
The espresso culture can feel complicated and a bit intimidating sometimes.
Hopefully this tutorial will help you feel more confident in how to properly experience an espresso.
One thing to remember is that it’s really not as overwhelming as it feels – and most espresso veterans are happy to help guide you if you ask for advice. The coffee tribe is a kind one.
Let us know what you think in the comments. And if you know someone who might like this article, please share it!