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How to Drink Espresso Like an Italian

For all the coffee lovers across the globe, the term espresso refers to more than just a strong caffeine boost. Instead, it refers to one of the world’s most flavorful and purest caffeine experiences that you will ever have. And if you ever find yourself in Italy, where espresso is more than just a beverage, you will feel out of place if you drink it wrong.

Plus, if you don’t know how to drink espresso, you may find it quite bitter and wonder why you wasted money on it. Knowing your way around an espresso shot can make a huge difference to your experience. After all, an espresso is the best option for individuals looking for a reliable and quick caffeine boost.

Learn How to Pronounce the Term Espresso Correctly

Before we dive into more detail on how to drink and appreciate this beverage, let’s first be clear about how to say it. “Espresso” is one of the most mispronounced beverages on the planet. It may seem silly, but if you’re going to learn how to drink espresso, you should also learn how to pronounce it correctly.

Phonetically, the term espresso is pronounced “eh-spress-o” and not “ex-press-o.”

How to Drink Espresso

man drinking a cup of coffee in a bar

Espresso aficionados love their drinking rituals and also argue a lot about which method is superior. After all, there are numerous ways you can enjoy this drink. So if you want to try different methods of drinking espresso, you’ll need to cleanse your palate before every shot. When drinking a cup of espresso, you should do the following:

1. Warm Your Cup of Espresso

I am sure you already know how to do this, so it’s just a reminder. Warming your cup makes a better shot—and make sure you’re also using the right cup to serve espresso. After all, it can be very disappointing to prepare a great cup of espresso only for it to lose some of its heat when poured into a cup.

If you are preparing the drink at home, place your cup in warm water first. This shouldn’t be a problem if you are using a nice espresso machine with a cup warmer on top.

Most cafes on the planet serve this drink in an espresso cup that is usually white and ceramic. A ceramic cup can help keep your espresso as warm as possible. Some fancy places serve espressos in a “demitasse,” which is a French word for “half cup.”

2. Inspect the Crema

Any fresh cup of espresso must have crema on its surface. Most enthusiasts consider the presence of crema to be a sign of a high-quality and well-prepared espresso. To some, the crema can tell them about the freshness of the coffee beans and how well the espresso is made.

3. Sip the Sparkling Water

Even though this step is optional, it is highly recommended, especially if you want to enjoy the hidden flavors of the coffee. Many of the best baristas serve an espresso with a small bottle or glass of sparkling water. The sparkling water will help cleanse your palate and ensure that you enjoy the rich taste of this dark beverage.

4. Start With the Crema

woman smelling the aroma of coffee

Lift the cup of espresso and put it near your nose and appreciate the coffee aroma with a slow and long draw. Remember, the scent is part of the flavor so taking it in before sipping the crema can improve your experience.

The light-brown layer, commonly referred to as crema, on your espresso is the bitterest part of this drink. Traditionalists love tasting the crema, but beginners tend to avoid tasting the crema straight away. Luckily, there are numerous ways you can approach the crema. You can:

  • Stir it using a spoon or swirl your cup to mix it with the cup of espresso: Make sure you don’t lick the spoon if you don’t like the bitter taste of the crema.
  • Skim it off and discard: Most traditionalists don’t like this option, but even some baristas and chefs prefer this drink lighter and sweeter. So if you don’t like the taste of the crema, then you should try this option.
  • Sip it first to get the bitter introductory blast of the espresso to start you out: Some people mix it with the rest of the drink while others drink it separately.

5. Try Different Drinking Methods

Try Gulp Method

The taste of a shot of espresso starts changing within half a minute of extraction and as the crema dissolves. Therefore, drinking your cup of espresso straight up or in two shots is worth trying to fully take in the flavor. But you should expect an intense caffeine punch when you do this. Make sure to test the temperature of the drink before trying this drinking method. You can try mixing in the crema, or sip the bitter crema first for different layers of flavors.

Try Enjoying the Espresso in Sips

man holding a cup of coffee espresso

If you want to enjoy the flavor changes in your cup of espresso, you should try sipping the drink without mixing it. For a consistent flavor, you can stir your espresso before drinking it, but make sure you drink it before it cools as cooling will alter the flavor of the espresso.

Let the drink roll over your tongue and taste the texture of the espresso and the flavor of the coffee beans. Some characteristics of the coffee beans will be magnified to offer a real sense of their flavor. An excellent cup of espresso shouldn’t be too bitter even when it’s rich in flavor. What you would want to look for is a balance in bitterness, sweetness, and acidity in the coffee.

Other Ways to Enjoy an Espresso

Many stay away from espresso because it’s usually not mixed with sugar. However, adding sugar is a great idea for people who are newbies in the espresso world. You can start with some sweetened espresso and then gradually reduce the amount of sugar added over time. You can add some vanilla ice cream to your drink to make an affogato. You can also bolster it with coffee liquor or vodka.

Numerous Italian cafes serve a cup of espresso with pieces of chocolate. So you can eat your chocolate after finishing your cup of espresso. But try to avoid strongly flavored accompaniments like cookies and biscuits.

Final Thoughts

An espresso is a unique caffeine beverage with high caffeine levels and flavors. And that is because it’s prepared under high pressure and temperature within 20 to 30 seconds.

It comes as no surprise to most coffee lovers to discover that there is a specified method for enjoying this drink. If you want to learn how to drink and truly enjoy espresso like an Italian, you should try the above method.

The fact that it’s prepared under high pressure and temperature means that it’s flavorful. Unfortunately, the colder it gets, the more flavors it loses, so it is important to remember to drink it while hot. Drinking it quickly in one or two sips will ensure that it doesn’t lose its intrinsic flavor.

There’s no need to be intimated if you are a beginner. If you know the proper way of drinking this caffeine beverage, you will be rewarded with the ability to fully appreciate the layered flavors of the coffee, starting from the aroma, the bitterness of the crema, and sweetness that’s meant to be discovered.

Avatar for Giada Nizzoli

Born in Italy but currently brewing from the UK, Giada is a highly-caffeinated coffee expert with a soft spot for espressos. She worked in cafés for years and has recently fallen in love with the practical Kalita Wave (just don’t tell her Italian moka pot!).

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