What Exactly Is Espresso?

We all love a well-made espresso, with its familiar aroma yielding to that first sip early in the morning (or mid-afternoon, or late at night). But what is it exactly, and how is it made? Luckily, our friends at ChefSteps are here to tell us all about it. It's simple enough: Espresso is finely ground coffee that's brewed under pressure. But there's also a lot more to it — tweaking and refining the brewing process is a craft, like cooking, that requires knowledge, dedication and talent.

Espresso is made by forcing a small amount of near-boiling water through finely ground coffee under pressure. When a shot of espresso is pulled, all of the components of the crushed coffee beans are extracted by the percolation of hot water through tightly packed and finely ground coffee. The pressurized water extracts soluble and insoluble solids and oils found in the coffee beans and deposits them in the cup. There are two layers to a shot of espresso — the crema (made up of carbon dioxide bubbles surrounded by water and oils) and the liquid (made up of soluble solids, gases and insoluble solids).

Got all that? Either way, take a look at the video below. It's got some basic yet informative insight about the tricky little beverage that just might make you respect your local bearded hipster barista that much more tomorrow morning.

ChefSteps comprises a team of award-winning chefs, filmmakers, scientists, designers and engineers focused on revolutionizing the way people cook by inspiring creativity and encouraging expertise in the kitchen. The site is currently offering a free online class called Cooking Sous Vide: Getting Started, as well as a $10 class called Cooking Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics.

Check out these ChefSteps videos on Food Republic:

  • Why Cooking With A Scale Is The Way To Go
  • How To Cook Sous Vide With Only A Ziplock Bag And Boiling Water
  • What Exactly Is Sous Vide Cooking All About?