Why is an espresso so small

Espresso: preparation and further information

An espresso describes the way of preparing coffee in such a way that it is very concentrated, which is why it is always served in very small cups that can only contain about 40 ml.

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Origin and history

Around 1900, the method of preparing coffee as an espresso (at that time only with steam) emerged in Milan, Italy. However, the espresso was only served in bars when the guest requested it. In addition, the espresso was only drunk at the bar. Such a caffè espresso was only prepared at the explicit request of the guests - and this is where its name comes from. Because the word “esprimere” means “to express” in Italian. So the name has nothing to do with the word “express” or its meaning “fast”, even if many people believe this. However, whether the name has anything to do with the production method using water pressure or steam is a matter of dispute. Then the name would be derived from the Italian "espresso" or "espressa", which means something like "expressed".

In this country, many people are initially very skeptical about espresso because the cups are so small. This has to do with the fact that the intensity in terms of taste and caffeine content is very high despite the small amount of coffee. The focus is on enjoying a small amount of coffee: It does not hit the stomach, is consumed quickly and still provides sufficient caffeine.


Espresso is prepared with high pressure. Finely ground and dark roasted coffee beans are used for the hot beverage - the so-called coffee grounds. The hot water is pressed through this flour and thus ensures the typical taste of the strong coffee. Thanks to the high pressure, the crema is created, the foam layer on the espresso that gives it even more aroma. The espresso beans are no different from the beans used for other coffee. They are simply roasted darker, which means that more caffeine is lost than with other coffee. However, because the espresso is prepared in such a concentrated manner, it in turn contains more caffeine than other coffee. We'll show you the basics of making espresso:

Barista Tutorial: 1. Basics of making espresso

If you want to prepare the perfect espresso yourself, it is best to attend an espresso seminar. Most people imagine it to be far too easy to prepare. The espresso is something special - for this reason there is also the espresso machine, which no longer has much in common with the classic coffee machine. In the following video we will show you how an espresso is prepared in the portafilter machine:

How to: Prepare espresso in the portafilter machine

In the end, however, it is not just about using the machine correctly - really good espresso requires the optimal coordination of various factors. It depends on fresh, perfectly roasted and high-quality coffee beans, but also on the fact that their grind is exactly right. The amount of ground coffee you use is just as important as a good espresso machine. The temperature, pressure and hardness of the water have to be right for the espresso to be really good. The espresso cup must be preheated so that the hot beverage does not get cold too quickly. It is precisely because of the variety of influencing factors that it is recommended to attend an espresso seminar. There you can find out what is important during preparation so that the best possible result is ultimately achieved. Only if you really know your way around will you be able to optimally prepare this coffee drink and, above all, enjoy it.

History of espresso machines

In the past, in its early days, espresso was prepared with steam, as there were no other preparation options at that time. The first machine was created in 1884. However, the pressure generated by the steam was far too low to produce the typical crema of espresso and the coffee therefore tasted rather unripe. However, the aim of this invention of a steam-powered machine was primarily to speed up coffee preparation, because filter coffee always took a long time in coffee houses, which meant that guests had to wait a long time because not so much coffee could be brewed at once. The first machines fixed this problem. The 2 bar pressure reached at that time, however, appears negligibly low compared to the 9 to around 15 bar used today.

Achille Gaggia invented a completely new version of the espresso machine in 1938, which significantly improved the taste of the drink. This machine now also created the typical crema. The machine no longer worked with steam, but with water - a spring piston generated 8 to 10 bar pressure. This spring piston was activated by pulling a lever. However, since not everyone who made the espresso always pulled the lever with the same force, the end result was always slightly different.

There were also other problems that needed to be resolved. This included, for example, the exact setting of the water temperature and the individual adjustment of the pressure to refine the respective aromas. In modern machines, the coffee beans are only ground immediately before preparation so that the aroma is retained as well as possible. Even today, espresso machines are constantly being improved. Portafilter machines achieve better results, especially with the crema. Therefore, fully automatic machines often have a rather low reputation among connoisseurs.

Further processing

Espresso is the basis of many other coffee specialties. A cappuccino consists of an espresso with frothed milk. A whole espresso is also added to a latte macchiato at the end - but not in Italy, where only a small amount of espresso is added, as the drink is intended for children there. The bicerin comes from Turin and consists of half hot chocolate and half espresso. The marocchino also consists of a little chocolate that is distributed in the glass. Then there is an espresso as well as milk foam and cocoa powder.