How to recognise a perfect Espresso

The pleasure of drinking a great Espresso is such a ritual. Still, several aspects factor into this enjoyable experience that is the end destination of a journey where coffee beans are masterfully transformed into a great in-cup result.

Espresso is made up of two layers: a thick and persistent golden crema floating on top of a dark and dense liquid. Yet, for all its simplicity, preparing a good Espresso isn’t easy. The perfect Espresso by De’Longhi reflects the Art of Transformation, which starts with high-quality beans that subsequently undergo three stages: grindingtamping, and brewing. To discern if the result in the cup is a success, coffee lovers just have to glance inside their cups to examine a few aspects that characterise a perfect cup.

The heart of the drink 

The core of Espresso, the dark liquid, contains dissolved sugars, acids, salts, caffeine, and other substances, packing the rich, delicious flavours and aromas that coffee drinkers love. The crema acts as a stopper that restrains any volatile aromas the underlying liquid contains. Both are crucial in determining the quality of an Espresso.

The four components

Four characteristics determine the perfect Espresso beginning with the look of its crema: it should be 3-4mm thick with an even surface and hazelnut hue. Next, the taste should markedly balance acidic, sweet and bitter. For the Coffee Expert Andrej Godina, the taste has “not to be persistent but balanced between the flavours of espresso, sour, sweet and bitter.”

The Espresso should also have a dense, full, and rounded body, another way to describe how it feels in the mouth. It should be consistent and heavy but ranging from light to full. Positive body descriptors are soft, syrupy, creamy, buttery/oily, and silky while dryness and astringency characterise are not good. 

Lastly, the aroma is essential. Intensity and quality are the two characteristics taken into consideration when the nose approaches the cup and the olfactory receptors come into contact with the aromas released by the drink. According to the Coffee Expert Andrej Godina, “the aroma should be complex” meaning that it should be potent and nuanced, not one-note.

Focusing on the crema

How to spot the perfect crema? By evaluating its colour, texture, consistency, elasticity and persistence. The colour should be hazelnut, which indicates a perfect extraction. For texture, look at the thickness of the bubbles: Arabica lightly roasted coffee typically produces a fine texture, while dark roasted beans and Robusta have a coarser texture. The consistency reflects the crema’s ability to remain compact like whipped cream. Usually, the best consistency is obtained from medium/dark roasted blends of Arabica and Robusta. Elasticity is characterised by whether or not the crema stretches back over the coffee if broken with a spoon. Lastly, persistence refers to the crema’s ability to endure until the last drop.

Coffee temperature and cup style

Coffee isn’t the only element of a perfect Espresso. The cup also has a noticeable influence on the sensorial quality of the drink, not only due to its shape but also because of its ability to maintain the perfect temperature. The same coffee at different temperatures tastes completely different, so temperature control is essential. The ideal coffee cup should have an inverted and truncated cone shape with an egg-shaped or curved bottom to facilitate the creation of noticeable streaks on the cream. Ideally, the temperature of the internal surface of the cup must be around 45°C to allow the drink to be tasted at a temperature of about 65°C.

Now you know what characterises a perfect Espresso: now it’s your turn to be a real coffee expert. The next time you make one with a De’Longhi machine, taste and enjoy it by appreciating the texture, body and aroma as well as the inimitable art of transformation guaranteed by De’Longhi.

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