Espresso 101

A Brief History of Coffee

Coffee was first discovered in Eastern Africa in an area we know today as Ethiopia. A popular legendCup_of_Espresso
refers to a goat herder by the name of Kaldi, who observed his goats acting unusually frisky after eating berries from a bush. Curious about this phenomenon, Kaldi tried eating the berries himself. He found that these berries gave him a renewed energy. 

The news of this energy laden fruit quickly spread throughout the region. Hearing about this amazing fruit, Monks dried the berries so they could be transported to distant monasteries. They reconstituted these berries in water, ate the fruit, and drank the liquid to provide stimulation for a more awakened time for prayer. 

Coffee berries were transported from Ethiopia to the Arabian Peninsula, and were first cultivated in what today is the country of Yemen. From there, coffee traveled to Turkey where coffee beans were roasted for the first time over open fires. The roasted beans were crushed, and then boiled in water, creating a crude version of the beverage we enjoy today. 

Coffee first arrived on the European continent by means of Venetian trade merchants. Once in Europe this new beverage fell under harsh criticism from the Catholic church. Many felt the pope should ban coffee, calling it the drink of the devil. To their surprise, the pope, already a coffee drinker, blessed coffee declaring it a truly Christian beverage. Coffee houses spread quickly across Europe becoming centers for intellectual exchange. 

Many great minds of Europe used this beverage, and forum, as a springboard to heightened thought and creativity. In the 1700's, coffee found its way to the Americas by means of a French infantry captain who nurtured one small plant on its long journey across the Atlantic. This one plant, transplanted to the Caribbean Island of Martinique, became the predecessor of over 19 million trees on the island within 50 years. It was from this humble beginning that the coffee plant found its way to the rest of the tropical regions of South and Central America. 

Coffee was declared the national drink of the then colonized United States by the Continental Congress, in protest of the excessive tax on tea levied by the British crown. Espresso, a recent innovation in the way to prepare coffee, obtained its origin in 1822, with the innovation of the first crude espresso machine in France. The Italians perfected this wonderful machine and were the first to manufacture it. Espresso has become such an integral part of Italian life and culture, that there are presently over 200,000 espresso bars in Italy. 

Today, coffee is a giant global industry employing more than 20 million people. This commodity ranks second only to petroleum in terms of dollars traded worldwide. With over 400 billion cups consumed every year, coffee is the world's most popular beverage. If you can imagine, in Brazil alone, over 5 million people are employed in the cultivation and harvesting of over 3 billion coffee plants. Sales of premium specialty coffees in the United States have reached the multi billion dollar level, and are increasing significantly on an annual basis. 

Understanding the Coffee Bean

What is coffee? Coffee is the seed of a cherry from a tree, which grows from sea level toespresso_beans
approximately 6,000 feet, in a narrow subtropical belt around the world. Coffee trees are an evergreen and grow to heights of 20 feet. To simplify harvesting, the trees are pruned to 8 to 10 feet. 

Coffee cherries ripen at different times, so they are predominantly picked by hand. It takes approximately 2,000 Arabica cherries to produce just one pound of roasted coffee. Since each cherry contains two beans, your one pound of coffee is derived from 4,000 coffee beans. 

The average coffee tree only produces one to two pounds of roasted coffee per year, and takes four to five years to produce its first crop. The coffee plant first produces delicate clusters of white blossoms, resembling jasmine in shape and scent. These blossoms last only a few days. Small green coffee cherries then begin to appear and ripen to yellow... red... and finally almost black, within six to nine months. 

Once the coffee cherries are picked, they are transported for processing. The fruit is then removed from the seed by one of two methods. The cherries are dried naturally (in the sun) or in dryers. The fruit is then separated from the bean by processing them through a mechanical husker, or by a superior soaking method know as the wet process (known as the washed coffees). The green beans are then dried, sized, sorted, graded, and selected usually all by hand. The beans are then bagged and are ready for shipment to local roasters around the world. Few products we use require so much in terms of human effort. 

The two commercially significant species of coffee beans are: coffea arabica, and coffea robusta. Arabica beans grow best at altitudes over 3,000 feet. This species produces superior quality coffees, which possess the greatest flavor and aromatic characteristics. They typically contain half the caffeine of the robusta beans. Arabica production represents 80% of the world's coffee trade, however, only 10% of this meets specialty coffee standards. 

Robusta beans are usually grown at lower elevations. Robusta trees are easier to grow, produce higher yields, and are more disease resistant than the arabica species. Robusta beans usually possess a woody, astringent flavor. They are used when a lower price or additional caffeine is desired. A small percentage is typically added to many Italian espresso blends for the additional crema and complexity they contribute. In addition to the species of the coffee, many other factors contribute to the overall quality of the green beans. Seed stock, plantation location, soil composition, altitude, weather conditions, fertilization, cultivation, harvesting, and processing methods, will all have a dramatic influence on the finished product. 

Roasting and Blending

After quality coffee beans are obtained, the most important phase of the production of gourmet coffee begins with the roasting and the blending. A good roaster must be part artist, and part scientist, to maintain quality and consistency. 

It is during the roasting process that sugars and other carbohydrates within the bean become caramelized, creating a substance which is known as the coffee oil. Technically, this fragile chemical is not actually an oil (since it is water soluble), but it is what gives the coffee its flavor and aroma. Specialty coffees are generally roasted in small batches. The two most common roasting methods are: drum-roasting and hot-air roasting. 

Drum-type roasting machines roast the coffee beans as they tumble in a rotating drum that is typically heated by gas or wood. When the desired roast is achieved, the beans are poured into a cooling hopper to keep them from overcooking. 

The hot-air roaster, also known as a fluid-bed roaster, roasts the coffee beans as they tumble on a current of hot air. Most green coffee is roasted at approximately 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The roasting process causes the coffee beans to swell and increase in size to over 50%, while at the same time greatly reducing its weight. 

A lightly roasted bean may range in color from cinnamon to a light chocolate tan. Lighter roasts are generally not used for espresso since they produce a sharper, more acidic taste than do darker roasts. Darker roasts, in contrast, have a fuller flavor approaching a bittersweet tang. The length of roasting time is proportionate to the increase of the amount of oil drawn to the surface of the bean. As the roast darkens, caffeine and acidity decrease proportionately. Dark roasts can range in color from a medium chocolate brown with a satin-like luster, to an almost black bean with an oily appearance. The darker the roast the more you will taste the char, rather than the flavor of the bean. Extreme dark roasts will tend to have a smoky flavor, and are better suited for brewed coffee rather than espresso. 

Many roasters refer to the following terms concerning the degree of roast, from light to dark: Cinnamon, Medium High, City, Full City, French, and finally, Espresso or Italian roast. On the United States western coast, French roast is the term generally used to describe the darkest roast. It is important for you to understand that these terms have no relationship to where the coffee is grown or roasted. 

With more than 100 coffee-growing regions in the world, each producing beans with distinctive characteristics, Proper blending is essential to the balance of flavors necessary to create superior espresso. A single coffee bean will generally not possess the complexity necessary for great espresso. Many espresso blends will contain three to seven different types of beans. 

The experienced roaster, with his knowledge of each bean, artfully combines them to create the desired blend of flavors. The roaster's blending knowledge is usually a closely guarded secret. 

In the United States, 100% Arabica beans are generally used for gourmet espresso blends. As we mentioned earlier, in Italy, some robusta beans will oft-times be added for the additional crema, caffeine, and complexity they contribute to the blend. The Italians possess generations of expertise in the art of blending coffees for espresso. The argument still exists among roasters as to which should occur first, the roasting or the blending. Generally, roasting each varietal separately to maximize its flavor characteristics, and then blending, will produce the best result. Freshly roasted beans will release hundreds of chemical substances in the form of vapors. A day or two will generally be required for these gases to dissipate before the beans will reveal their optimal flavor characteristics. 

Today, many quality roasters are packaging their beans in air tight bags with a one way valve, which allows the gases to escape, without the beans being exposed to the damaging air. This type of packaged should help retard flavor deterioration. If beans are not packaged this way, or once beans packaged air tight are exposed to the air, they will begin to deteriorate. Roasts where oils are exposed on the surface of the bean are much more vulnerable. 

Once exposed to the air, and if properly stored, beans will stay reasonable fresh for 7 to 10 days. We recommend storing beans in a clean, dry, air-tight container, in a cool dark place. We do not recommend storing beans in a refrigerator, because coffee tends to absorb flavors. Freezing coffee beans can also have a damaging effect, and is not recommended, unless the the beans must be stored for a prolonged period of time. Ideally, you should strive to purchase and use-up your supply of roasted beans on a weekly basis. 

Extracting Perfect Espresso

The Italians have a word for it - Machelli. It means that four distinct factors have worked in espresso_comparisoncombination to provide the perfect cup of espresso. 

The 4 "M's" of espresso success are:

  • La Macchina (the machine)
  • La Miscela (the blend of coffee)
  • La Macinadosatore (the grind and dose)
  • La Mano (the barista or operator)

The perfect cup is hot and always absolutely fresh and made to order. The espresso will be 1 to 2 ounces in size, unless it is ordered ristretto, where it may be less than 1 ounce. The perfect espresso will be dressed in a thick mantle of delicate, reddish-brown foam known as crema. The crema should be thick enough to crawl up the sides and cling there when the cup is tilted and the liquid swirled around. 

The flavor is balanced, somewhat sweet, never burnt, sour or bitter. This is the result of skillful blending and roasting of the beans as well as careful preparation of the brew itself. A blend is desirable because no one variety of coffee beans has the full range of taste characteristics that contribute to good espresso. 

A good blend for espresso should have body, acidity, flavor, and aroma. The aroma is rich but never acrid or bitter. True espresso gives a taste sensation that is pleasing and of substance. It provides a rich and satisfying burst of flavor with a pleasing aftertaste. The taste of a truly excellent espresso is a special experience and when recalled, it is always with pleasure and anticipation. The perfect espresso is a small but brilliant jewel of flavor. The quality of the flavor is more important than the quantity. 

Preheating It is extremely important to preheat the portafilter handle and filter basket. Otherwise, the crema will not be achieved because the loss of heat will not allow a proper extraction. The espresso beverage will have a cooler, weak, and/or bitter flavor profile. 

Tamp Pressure

If you are using an espresso machine with a standard handle and filter basket, a 30 lb tamp should be applied. After tamping, the coffee should be compacted into a "coffee puck". It is important to maintain a level surface in the basket. An un-level surface will create a path of least resistance for the water being pumped into the filter basket. In essence, the same result would occur as if the fineness of the coffee grind was inconsistent. 

Grinding Tip

Never grind more coffee than you will use for immediate brewing. Once the beans are ground, the flavorful oils are exposed to the damaging air. As these oils dissipate, so will the flavor of your coffee. Once ground, coffee will begin to lose its flavor almost immediately. Different methods of brewing will require different grind consistencies. Typically, coffee used for drip brewing should be ground to a consistency similar to granulated sugar. 

The complete drip cycle should occur within four to six minutes. If the drip cycle is completed in less than four minutes, grind your coffee finer. If the cycle takes longer than six minutes, grind your coffee coarser. When using a French press, the coffee will need to be ground extremely coarse. Espresso requires an extremely fine grind...almost powder-like with a slight grittiness. 

The key to the proper espresso grind is the extraction time. After the proper dose and tamp, one ounce of espresso should be extracted in approximately 25 to 30 seconds. Like drip coffee, if the one ounce extraction occurs in less than 25 seconds, grind your coffee finer. If the extraction occurs in longer than 30 seconds, grind your coffee coarser. 

Storage Tip

Never store your coffee in the refrigerator. Coffee will absorb flavors and aromas from other food products in your refrigerator. Freezing coffee can also have a damaging effect, and we do not recommend this practice unless you will not use-up your supply of coffee for a prolonged period of time (two weeks or more). Coffee should be stored in a clean, dry, airtight container, in a cool, dark place. 

Dosage Tip

For espresso, allow 7 to 8 grams for a single shot, and 14 to 16 grams for a double shot. 

Tasting Terms

While tasting the coffee, you should try to discern whether the flavor, body, acidity, and aroma of the coffee is pleasant, or unpleasant. Listed below are the criteria that most tasters use to judge coffee: 


Acidity is a desirable characteristic in coffee. It is the sensation of dryness that the coffee produces under the edges of your tongue and on the back of your palate. The role acidity plays in coffee is not unlike its role as related to the flavor of wine. It provides a sharp, bright, vibrant quality. With out sufficient acidity, the coffee will tend to taste flat. Acidity should not be confused with sour, which is an unpleasant, negative flavor characteristic. 


Aroma is a sensation which is difficult to separate from flavor. Without our sense of smell, our only taste sensations would be: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The aroma contributes to the flavors we discern on our palates. Subtle nuances, such as "floral" or "winy" characteristics, are derived from the aroma of the brewed coffee. 


Body is the feeling that the coffee has in your mouth. It is the viscosity, heaviness, thickness, or richness that is perceived on the tongue. A good example of body would be that of the feeling of whole milk in your mouth, as compared to water. Your perception of the body of a coffee is related to the oils and solids extracted during brewing. Typically, Indonesian coffees will possess greater body than South and Central American coffees. If you are unsure of the level of body when comparing several coffees, try adding an equal amount of milk to each. Coffees with a heavier body will maintain more of their flavor when diluted. 


Flavor is the overall perception of the coffee in your mouth. Acidity, aroma, and body are all components of flavor. It is the balance and homogenization of these senses that create your overall perception of flavor. 

The following are typical flavor characteristics:

General flavor characteristics

  • Richness

    - refers to body and fullness

  • Complexity

    - the perception of multiple flavors

  • Balance

    - the satisfying presence of all the basic taste characteristics where no one over-powers another

Typical specific desirable flavor characteristics

  • Bright, Dry, Sharp, or Snappy

    - Typical of Central American coffees

  • Caramelly

    - Candy like or syrupy

  • Chocolaty

    - An aftertaste similar to unsweetened chocolate or vanilla

  • Delicate

    - A subtle flavor perceived on the tip of the tongue (typical of washed New Guinea arabica)

  • Earthy

    - A soily characteristic (typical of Sumatran coffees)

  • Fragrant

    - An aromatic characteristic ranging from floral to spicy

  • Fruity

    - An aromatic characteristic reminiscent of berries or citrus

  • Mellow

    - A round, smooth taste, typically lacking acid

  • Nutty

    - An aftertaste similar to roasted nuts

  • Spicy

    - A flavor and aroma reminiscent of spices

  • Sweet

    - Free of harshness

  • Wildness

    - A gamey flavor which is not usually considered favorable but is typical of Ethiopian coffees

  • Winy

    - An aftertaste reminiscent of well-matured wine (typical of Kenyan and Yemeni coffees)

Typical specific undesirable flavor characteristics

  • Bitter

    - perceived on the back of the tongue, usually a result of over roasting

  • Bland

    - neutral in flavor

  • Carbony

    - burnt charcoaly overtones

  • Dead

    - see "flat"

  • Dirty

    - a mustiness reminiscent of eating dirt

  • Earthy

    - see "dirty"

  • Flat

    - lack of acidity, aroma, and aftertaste

  • Grassy

    - an aroma and flavor reminiscent of freshly cut lawn

  • Harsh

    - a caustic, clawing, raspy characteristic

  • Muddy

    - thick and dull

  • Musty

    - a slight stuffy or moldy smell (not always a negative characteristic when in aged coffees)

  • Rioy

    - a starchy texture similar to water which pasta has been cooked in.

  • Rough

    - a sensation on the tongue reminiscent of eating salt.

  • Rubbery

    - an aroma and flavor reminiscent of burnt rubber (typically found only in dry-processed robustas).

  • Soft

    - see "bland"

  • Sour

    - tart flavors reminiscent of unripe fruit.

  • Thin

    - lacking acidity, typically a result of under brewing.

  • Turpeny

    - turpentine-like in flavor.

  • Watery

    - a lack of body or viscosity in the mouth.

  • Wild

    - gamey characteristics.


The Art of Steaming and Foaming Milk

Ice Point Thermometer Calibration

  • Fill container with crushed ice.
  • Add cold tap water and mix.
  • Place thermometer in with wrench into ice water.
  • Wait for needle to stop.
  • Adjust needle by turning dial until needle is on 32�F.


All About Milk

Milk should be stored between 35-40 degrees. Check the temperature and always rotate milk. Allowmilk_carafe for air circulation in your refrigerator. Be sure milk does not freeze.

Milk types:

Whole, 2%, and non-fat milks are used in espresso drinks. Half & half is used to make the espresso drink Breve.

Milk Type

Milk Fat Content




3.2% 150 8 gm


2.0 120 5 gm


1.0 100 2 gm


0 90 1 gm

The lower the butterfat content of the milk, the faster it will foam. Thus, non-fat milk steams a lot quicker than whole milk. Proper storage and handling of dairy products is very important. Steaming pitchers containing milk should always be refrigerated when not in use. Steam wands on the espresso machine should be wiped clean with a bar towel reserved for that purpose only after each use. Keep the spoon cup filled with ice water and change frequently. 


Milk is foamed for cappuccinos. Since foaming is trickier than steaming, it will be dealt with first. steaming_milkThe foaming/steaming process should only take from 10 to 15 seconds on a commercial machine. Start with a clean stainless steel pitcher filled one third full with cold milk (hot milk won't foam). Keep the tip of the steaming wand just under the surface of the milk, turn the steam on all the way, and lower pitcher as the milk rises. Keep feeling the temperature of the milk with your hand on the side of the pitcher. Stop when the pitcher is almost too hot to handle. The milk will nearly triple in volume. Make sure to submerge the nozzle completely to heat the milk properly (it is possible to foam properly without getting the milk hot enough). If you hear a jet-like howling sound during the foaming and steaming process, the steam wand is too far below the surface of the milk. This sound lets you know you are scalding the milk. Due to the air being incorporated in the milk during foaming, foamed milk should be cooler than steamed milk (no more than 140�F). Although milk can be steamed twice, it can only be foamed once. Leftover milk can be re-steamed if it is immediately refrigerated and if new milk is added to regenerate the protein content that creates the foam. Cold "shaving cream" foam should never be served. Foam only as much milk as you need for the cappuccinos ordered, and discard any excess cold foam. 


When steaming milk, begin with a stainless steel pitcher full of cold milk. Always foam (insertingNuova_Simonelli_Espresso_Machines nozzle just below the surface to start) momentarily to incorporate some air into the milk and eliminate the squealing sound produced by just plunging the nozzle to the bottom of the pitcher and turning it on. 

Indicators of the proper 140-160 degree temperature include:


  • The sound progressively lowers in pitch; listen for the dull roar which indicates scalding.
  • The pitcher gets too hot to touch.
  • The steaming thermometer needle crosses the 140 degree mark. Never serve scalded milk unless the customer specifically requests that the milk be scalded. Clip-on dial thermometers that attach to the steaming pitcher are a must for the professional. Only a few seasoned professional baristas are able to steam the milk to the proper temperature by feeling the heat from the pitcher's surface.

Be sure to clean the steam wand with a shot of steam and wipe with a clean sanitized bar towel. 

Coffee House Lingo



Refers to use of non-fat milk in specialty coffee drinks.

Half Caff

Drink order is made of half decaf and half regular coffee.

Why Bother

This drink is a non-fat, non-carb, decaffeinated order.


Usually in Americanos; drink is heavy on the half and half.

Wet Cappuccino

Drink has more steamed milk than standard cappuccino.

Dry Cappuccino

Drink is made with little or no steamed milk, filled with dense foamed milk.


Name given to espresso.


Breve with orange syrup and cinnamon.


Another way of saying a double.

A Glossary of Espresso Drinks


A hot drink made by forcing hot water through finely ground, dark-roasted coffee beans. Has one-half the water and twice the coffee as regular drip coffee. Comes in Single (Espresso Solo) or Double (Espresso Doppio) Shots. A single espresso shot should produce 1 to 1.5 ounces in approximately 25 seconds of brewing time. A good espresso has a fine layer of foam - called crema - on top of the drink.


A very popular drink traditionally made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk and frothed milk.

Caffe Latte

A very popular drink originating in Italy, the Caffe Latte - or Italian Latte- is a single shot of espresso combined with steamed milk. A Caffe Latte should have approximately a 3:1 ratio of milk to coffee. Can include a small dollop of frothed milk on top, plus a light sprinkling of cinnamon, chocolate or nutmeg.

Caffe Mocha

Basically, a Caffee Mocha is a caffe latte with chocolate powder or chocolate syrup added. Mochas are often topped with whipped cream.

Cafe au Lait

Not an espresso drink, but a drink made with equal parts drip coffee and steamed milk. Coffee should be a dark roast (preferably a coffee-and-chicory blend.) and brewed strong. This is more of a New Orleans drink than a European drink.


A single shot of espresso with 6 to 8 ounces of hot water added. Results in a stronger brew than normal drip coffee. Not a particulary popular drink in Italy - the term apparently was originally devised as an insult to Americans who wanted their espresso diluted. Also known as a Caffe Americano.

Cafe Macchiato

A shot of espresso (served in a small espresso cup) topped off with a dollop of frothed milk. The ratio of cafe/latte is approximately 80/20. Most Italians drop a teaspoon of sugar in this elixir. Can also add a light sprinkling of chocolate powder.


This is a very strong, restricted shot. Only about one-half of the water is allowed to come through the coffee grounds, but the shot should take the same amount of time as a normal pull. Should be about a .75 ounce pull. Grinding the coffee finer is the prefered method for achieving the slower brewing time.

Cafe Breva

A cappuccino made with half & half instead of whole milk. This should have a very rich creamy flavor. Half&half is a bit of a pain to foam, but it most definitely can be done.


This is an extra long pull allowing approximately twice as much water through the same amount of coffee as normally used for a single shot. This will be somewhat over extracted. It's about a 2-3 ounce shot.

Espresso Con Panna

A shot of espresso topped with whipped cream.

Cafe Creme

1.5 ounces of espresso combined with one ounce of heavy cream.

Cafe Con Leche

1.5 ounces of espresso with enough steamed milk to fill an eight-ounce cup.

Cafe Corretto

Espresso "corrected" with a shot of brandy, cognac, or liqueur.

Cafe Romano

Regular espresso with a twist of lemon or lemon peel.

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This information is not intended as an offer to sell, or the solicitation of an offer to buy, a franchise. It is for information purposes only. An offer is made only by a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). Cuppy's Coffee franchises will not be sold to any resident of any state until the offering has been exempted from the requirements of, or duly registered in and declared effective by, such state and the required FDD (if any) has been delivered to the prospective franchisee before the sale in compliance with applicable law. Currently, certain states and countries regulate the offer and sale of franchises. In the U.S., states that regulate the offer and sale of franchises include California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. If you reside in one of these states, or even if you reside elsewhere, you may have certain rights under applicable franchise laws or regulations.