Coffee is an important part of Italian culture. Caffe, or espresso, is served in a warmed demitasse cup, often at a bar. It is typically enjoyed after a meal and should be drunk quickly, in two or three sips. Italian demitasse, or espresso, is a simple beverage; it contains only coffee beans and water. As such, every decision in the brewing process, including the type of beans and how you grind them, has an impact on the final beverage.
Coffee is grown around the world in a variety of tropical regions, and each of these regions produces beans with specific flavor characteristics. Italian espresso or demitasse is usually brewed from a blend of Brazilian, Central American and Indian varietals. However, you can also make full-bodied espresso from single-origin coffee from any of these regions or from Hawaii or Africa.
Demitasse coffee is known for its dark, rich flavors. How the coffee is roasted is one factor that contributes to this flavor profile; however, darker is not always better. Coffees that are sold as espresso or Italian roast that appear glossy and deep black do not produce a better-tasting cup of demitasse than lighter Vienna roast coffee. In fact, making demitasse or espresso from coffee roasted to the Vienna level or even slightly lighter allows you to taste the subtle layers of flavors present in the beans.
The way you grind your coffee beans has a significant impact on the flavor of your demitasse. The grind should be somewhere between baby powder and fine sand. This is fine enough to increase the pressure in the espresso machine to create a good crema, or foam, on top of the coffee, but coarse enough not to block the filter.
There are two types of grinders available. Blade-style grinders are inexpensive, but can produce inconsistently sized particles that are not best for extracting flavor. A burr grinder can give you a more consistent, adjustable grind, but they are significantly more expensive than blade grinders. If you have a burr grinder, it has an espresso grind setting. If you have a blade grinder, grind the coffee for 10 to 15 seconds longer than you would for drip coffee, and check the texture periodically.
Brew and Serve
Brew your demitasse according to the instruction manual that came with your espresso machine. While the coffee brews, run very hot water over your demitasse cup to warm it. Serve the coffee simply in a 3-ounce demitasse cup on a small saucer.
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