Espresso Basics For Beginners
Espresso Basics For Beginners

Espresso: es·pres·so, /e’spres,ō/: the brown beverage that gives folks around the world the “morning jolt” he/she/they need to get the day rolling. So what is espresso exactly? Let’s break it down. 

According to Merriam-Webster, espresso is “coffee brewed by forcing hot water through finely-ground roasted coffee beans.” Although the origins of espresso was founded in Italy in the late 1800s, espresso has rapidly evolved within the recent years since specialty coffee was born in the late 1970s (thank you Erna Knutsen!). Depending on which countries you visit to drink espresso, various coffee companies provide different offerings for customers to enjoy. 

Every coffee company has different recipes for how espresso is prepared. Why is that, you may ask? Coffee professionals have different schools of thought when it comes to roasting techniques, how much development goes into the coffee they source, the water quality of the region they’re serving coffee in, and so much more. If you go from one specialty coffee shop to another across the street, it’s almost guaranteed that the recipe in which espresso is prepared will be different. For example, let’s say you use 20 grams of coffee to 42 grams of water pushing through, with a finish time of 27 seconds, the coffee tastes bomb. Go to shop number two, and the specs can be something completely different that makes the coffee taste delicious too. Ratio and recipe is a crucial factor that makes a certain coffee taste a particular way. And, this is all to say that tamping pressure and the barista’s techniques are on par.

Espresso shot being pulled into Fellow's Monty Milk Art Cup
Now, when it comes to milk-based drinks, different named drinks mainly have to do with the amount of milk that is added to the espresso. Let’s take a look at the beverages!

Latte: Typically served in 12 ounces, 2 shots of espresso and milk

Cappuccino: Typically served in 8 ounces, 2 shots of espresso and milk 

Flat Whites: Typically served in 8 ounces, milk foam is thinner than a cappuccino, 2 shots of espresso and milk

Gibraltar/Cortado: Typically served in 4.5 ounces, 2 shots of espresso and milk

Macchiato: Typically served in 1.25 ounces, 2 shots of espresso with a dash of milk

Fellow's Monty Milk Art Cups with latte art
When espresso shots are pulled properly, you should see a separation of the brown liquid and a light brown foam floating on top. This is called the crema. Nailing down your espresso is crucial for overall taste and milk art! 

For the home espresso enthusiast, there are countless espresso machines to choose from. Fellow uses the La Marzocco Linea Mini in the Fellow Store + Playground. For tamping, the Barista Hustle Tools Tamper is a powerful tool to have behind bar. The Tamper is not only lightweight to minimize fatigue, but it also has a unique double flange to eliminate the frustrating vacuum effect.

Barista Hustle Tools Tamper tamping into a portafilter
For enviable latte art, milk pitchers can make or break your pour. With a precise fluted spout and unique sharp front crease, the Eddy Steaming Pitcher is literally “the barista’s paintbrush.” To pair with your pitcher, try the Monty Milk Art Cup. A hidden parabolic slope helps you Picasso your pour by lifting crema to the top without disruption. The double-wall ceramic cups come in latte, cappuccino, cortado, and demitasse sizes.

Eddy Steaming Pitcher and Monty Milk Art Cup
Ready to pull your first espresso shot? Fellow teaches Home Espresso 101 in their San Francisco Playground location. Find all of Fellow's classes and events here.

Emmeline Wang is a coffee blogger and creative writer, out of San Francisco. She advocates for the specialty coffee industry through her personal blog, EmmMeetsCoffee, focusing on featuring up-and-coming roasting companies. Aside from her life consisting of most things coffee, you can find her climbing hard at the crag with a pour-over in hand, or in coffee shops, curating new music playlists and ultimately cherishing the simple pleasures of life.