I am convinced, based on years of observation, that most coffee drinkers who talk about espresso actually do not like the drink. Espresso, that is.
Espresso has a reputation for being the absolute best coffee drink there is, and for espresso lovers, that’s true.
But when I watch people’s reactions when you serve them a shot of good espresso, I can only conclude that few like it.
Mind you, I am talking about an excellent espresso made by an experienced barista with the best coffee and equipment.
It’s true, for most coffee drinkers, espresso is an acquired taste. After all, the drink is far from the “cup of coffee” from the kitchen, adulterated with or without milk and / or sugar.
You have to learn to love real espresso.
Restaurant Quality Coffee
I say real espresso because much of what is served as espresso these days is not espresso at all, but a bad (and often downright awful) misinterpretation of real espresso.
Back in the day, real espresso was hard to come by unless you were lucky enough to be born in Italy (and live in a relatively civilized area big enough to run a real espresso bar). Either that, or you had to be rich enough to afford one of those huge, shiny, copper-clad, steam-powered machines that you could use to make espresso at home.
Fortunately, today everyone can afford to make restaurant-quality coffee, espresso, and other coffee drinks at home.
Take, for example, this affordable 15-bar pump espresso machine from Italian manufacturer DeLonghi.
Not only does it look good (the company is known for its design esthetic), but it produces fantastic espresso and other coffee drinks. Restaurant quality, indeed – and at a very reasonable price.
Reasonable, especially considering how much money you save by not having to buy those outrageously overpriced drinks at Starbucks and similar stores].
Genuine Espresso vs the next best thing
The next best drink to espresso – and a staple in almost every Italian household – is the beverage prepared in a stove top espresso machine. That’s the colloquial name for what the Italians (who invented the thing) call a macchinetta (literally, “little machine”).
To call a macchinetta an espresso machine is incorrect. Here’s why: There is no universal standard that defines the process of espresso extraction. However, there are several precise definitions that describe the amount and type of ground coffee used, the grind, the exact temperature and pressure of the water, and the extraction speed – the time the water is forced through the coffee grounds.
Although the definitions are not exact, stovetop espresso machines are not capable of producing the correct pressure to meet even the lowest standard for making espresso. After all, according to the Italian National Espresso Institute (Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano), an espresso must be made at an exact extraction pressure of 9 bar. The maximum pressure that can be achieved with a macchinetta is 1.5 bar.
For this reason, the coffee used in these machines must be ground somewhat coarser than in professional espresso machines. If you were to use an espresso grinder in a stovetop, the machine would either clog or take far too long to force the water through the grind, resulting in a small amount of bitter brew.
While the Italians refer to the machine as a macchinetta, elsewhere it has become known as a ‘moka pot.”
The most famous mocha pots are those made by Bialetti Industrie (Italy), which calls the device “Moka Express.”
Of course, the company’s marketing department has adapted to public perception, and so the machines are sold as ‘Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Makers.’
Although, as mentioned above, the Moka Express cannot make a true espresso, from my observation, it has been found that most coffee drinkers prefer the ‘espresso” produced by this small machine to a true espresso made with a much more expensive machine.
If you are one of those coffee lovers who have tried espresso but did not like it, you will most likely like the coffee produced by the Macchinetta – especially if you add sugar and/or milk as usual.
I use my Moka pot at least once a day and add some sugar and frothed milk to the brew. Friends and guests who have tasted the result often ask for coffee from the pot the next time they visit, and many of them have bought the little machine themselves.
Try it out for yourself. You will be thrilled!