American Espresso Drinks – Everything You Need to Know

Meta: Espresso is a familiar beverage to millions worldwide. But have you ever wondered how American espresso drinks differ from other countries? Click here.

Who hasn’t heard of espressos – even if he is a non-fan of coffee? For decades, espressos have dominated hundreds of countries worldwide (including their hometown Italy) thanks to the strong and lingering aroma. It will take a few decades – or even centuries – before some other beverages can take over its throne!

Nevertheless, this drink is not entirely identical from region to region – and America is the most notable example. Hence, it is no surprise that American espresso drinks might taste different from their original Italian counterparts.

So what do American espressos entail, and which features make them so special? Our insightful article will cover it all. Click here for more guidance and tips!

A. Why Are Italian Espressos Not Popular In America? Differences in The Two Countries’ Preferred Tastes

The difference between two countries (Source: Pix4free).

1. The Coffee Culture Difference
Coffee is quite ritualistic for most Americans. At around 7 or 8 a.m. daily, it’s easy to see long build-up lines in Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks drive-throughs, with people waiting for the first espresso cup of their days. These coffees are often brewed in traditional, mainstream methods, those you can see almost anywhere in restaurants and diners.

That said, only 7% of Americans drink espressos in Italian styles for their caffeine rush – which is surprising, considering that espressos are Italy-originated and more than 62% of American adults drink coffee. Why does that happen? Is there any cultural distinction at play?

Experts have deduced that the reason lies in America and Italy’s palpable differences in working cultures. America is notorious for its capitalistic and highly competitive work culture.

Most Americans have fast-paced lifestyles, struggling to balance work and family responsibilities. So they prefer to drink quickly-made espressos/coffee in the morning as a type of self-meditation or energy boost.

On the other hand, life in Italy is slower, with a much lower-stress pace – a cornerstone in Italian culture. Thus, espresso drinkers here have more chances to enjoy their drinks in a relaxed and social fashion (though, of course, they also view this drink as a wonderful energy boost). Here is probably where the line between American and Italian espressos is drawn.

2. How Does This Culture Difference Reflect in Espresso Taste?
Since Italians are higher-maintenance in coffee-drinking habits, they often love to drink espressos with a smoky (or almost burnt) flavor.

Their American counterparts, meanwhile, need quick digestion and consumption, which is why they prefer mildness, smoothness, and balance. In rarer cases, sugar and milk can be welcomed (though they should not be too much, mind you.)

The coffee-making process does not differ much from each other. However, Italian espressos utilized robusta beans in 20% of the cup. At the same time, the American versions tend to use Arabica beans, which are more expensive and bring in milder fragrances.

B. How to Make Typical American Espresso Drinks At Home

Step-by-step instruction (Source: Flickr).

As we just mentioned, aside from the types of beans used during the process, there are not that many distinctions between American and Italian beverages. Still, we will gladly summarize the steps for people who get into this drink for the first time.

1. With A Machine
Using a machine is the only way to produce espressos as good as those from professional shops and baristas. Here are simple steps to do so:

Step 1. Weigh and Grind Your Coffee

Use coffee beans (dark roast and preferably Arabica) and quality grinders to grind the beans for some espresso shots. ( A single shot calls for 6-8 coffee grams, while double shots are about 15).

The grounds must be fine and powdery, so we suggest you set the grinder to the finest settings. For weighing, place the portafilter on scales and tare, then add and adjust till they reach your desired weight.

Step 2. Tamp and Distribute Your Shot

Move the filled portafilters to a flat surface or counter. Once done, use your fingers to distribute these grounds evenly, and tamp them down via a tamper to establish compact espresso disks within the portafilters.

Step 3. Pull The Shot

Now purge your machine. Run it quickly with no portafilter to clean the head ground. Next, lock the portafilters tightly into your machine – before placing a demitasse glass (2-3 ounces designed for espressos) or any other vessel below to start the shot.

Your espressos should get done after 30 seconds. However, practices and specific machine models (some will regulate short lengths for their customers) might be required over time until you can discover your true preferences.

Our final result should neither be too dark nor too light, neither too bitter nor too acidic. There should also be some fine layers of crema (caramel-colored) on the top.

Step 4. Add In Milk (If Necessary), And Enjoy Your Hard Work

Do you want to have your espressos dripped with milk? Then steam the milk using a frother (most coffee machines often have this feature). Otherwise, stopping at step 3 is enough.

Remember to dry and clean your portafilter and wipe the frothing wand to keep the machine in its best condition.

2. Without A Machine
Your cup might not be a true American espresso without a high-quality machine. Nevertheless, settling down with an espresso-like coffee via other production methods is not half bad. Here are some of our favorite techniques:

a. Using AeroPress
1. Put paper filters into the AeroPress’s filter cap. Use hot water to wet the cap and filter before dumping the water out.

2. On the AeroPress chamber, twist the cap several times. Place it safely over a carafe or mug.

3. Pour your desired coffee ground amount (fine-to-medium) into this chamber. Drop in some hot water and start stirring.

4. Now insert the plungers. Push them down gently until your plungers reach the grounds. You are all set!

b. Using Stoves and Moka Pots
1. Locate the Moka’s lower chamber and fill them with water. Keep pouring until it hits the filling line.

2. Place the coffee (finely ground) into a filter basket, ensuring it’s even without being excessively compact. Remember to brush away loose grounds (often pooled around the basket’s edges).

Once done, place the basket inside the bottom compartments. Screw the spouted tops.

3. On burners of medium heat, you place the Moka pot there. Remove the pot immediately when hissing, bubbling sounds emit (often within 5 minutes).

4. Pour the espressos into preferred vessels (a cup, a glass, etc.) and enjoy it.

c. Using French Press

French press (Source: Wikipedia).

1. Take off the lid, then place coffee grounds (two tablespoons of medium-fine dark roast) at the carafe’s bottom. Fine coffee grounds are also acceptable, though they can be difficult to work with the French press. Over-extracting issues might occur, resulting in a sour or overly bitter taste.

2. Splash a little water (of 200°F) on the carafe’s coffee grounds. Wait for 30 seconds until they bloom, hydrate, and warm. Then fill in the remaining hot water.

3. Tighten the lid on the cylinder, ensuring the plunger stretches straight up. Next, let the coffee steep for four to five minutes. Longer periods are fine – but remember to keep it from over-extracting.

4. Press the plunger with even force. When the plunger has been pushed down halfway, move it to the head once more and push it all down to the base. Keep the plunger there and pour your drink into a carafe or mug.

C. Extra Tips to Pull The Best Brewing Results

Extra tips (Source: Stocksnap).

a. Only buy fresh coffee to yield the purest flavor.

b. The coffee must always be freshly-ground. Never use anything else other than that.

c. If Espresso Blend is not to your taste, choose Vienna or Full City Roasts.

d. Pull your shots at the appropriate temp. Espressos are usually brewed from 195 to 205 °F (or 90 to 96 °C).

e. Single, regular shots often use 7 to 8 grams of coffee ground. Of course, some adjustments are fine, but newcomers should always begin with the standards first. Once more familiar with the technique, they can experiment with their ways later.

f. The common brew ratio is from 1:2 to somewhere under 1:3. For 14 grams of coffee ground, the shot should stop when you have poured in 30 grams of water.

g. In order for you to achieve the perfect ratio, the pulling process should occur up to 30 seconds and no less than 20, depending on the grind sizes and your taste preferences.

Periods longer than 30 seconds will accumulate water heat, burning the coffee. You will end up with a bitter cup. Meanwhile, a too-short process will render the extraction incomplete, resulting in sour flavors.

h. The tamping pressure should fluctuate between 20 and 30 LB. For beginners, tamp on the scale’s top to get the hang of things. Check out some Youtube instruction videos to establish practicing benches.

i. Grinding sizes decides your tamping force. Adventurous coffee makers can apply light tamping to finer grinds. But over all, to ensure nothing goes wrong, baristas often keep their tamping at around 30 LB – and change the grinds accordingly until they hit the best spot!

j. One more note for beginners: purchasing specialized espresso blends will be a safe move, guaranteeing your results are at least drinkable.

D. Ways to Order American Espresso Drinks At DriveThroughs or Restaurants

Ways to order (Source: Pixnio).

Suppose you don’t have time for homemade coffee (which is common, by the way, for most Americans). Then ordering one is your best bet. Check this quick guide to ensure you know the right terms and phrases for each variant like a pro:

At drive-throughs, people often order a shot (single shot). But, of course, you may also order doppio (double shot) or triple.
Lungo (long pull) is no different from regular shots, except the water amount is double.
Americano is similar to lungo, but baristas will add five extra ounces of water once the shot is pulled. Long black americano comprises double the espresso.
Ristretto is contrary to lungo – with half the amount of water for regular shots.
Red-Eye espressos are produced by adding an espresso shot to a brewed coffee cup. Black-Eye has two shots, while Dead-Eye has three.
Espressos Plus Milk
Cappuccino: it combines 1/3 espresso and 1/3 steamed milk. Topping them is 1/3 milk foam.

Latte: Baristas make a latte with 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk, with some layers of microfoam on the top. Flat Whites have little or zero microfoam – a similar feature in all American, French, and Spanish variants.

Mocha: Similar to a latte, but with added chocolate. White mocha requires white chocolate, while mocha breve utilizes half-and-half rather than milk.

Macchiato (full name: Espresso macchiato) is one or two espresso shots that are “stained” with steamed or foamed milk. Another version, latte macchiato, is often layered with foam, espresso, and hot milk.

Of course, there are still many more alternatives, and this short article cannot cover all. Not to mention, baristas also like to experiment with different flavorings and syrups to give their beverages a more exotic feel.

Still, the above-mentioned options are more than enough for most beginners or average coffee drinkers.

1. Are American Espresso Drinks The Same As Americano?

Just to clarify, not really. You can understand it like this: Americano is a type of espresso, but not all espressos are Americano. Learn the differences!

2. American Espressos vs. American Coffee: Which One is Stronger?

Espresso is stronger, having 63 mg of caffeine in one ounce. Meanwhile, regular American coffee only has 12-16 mg.

Our detailed article has discussed all relevant facets of American espresso drinks – including their recipes, distinctions compared to the Italian counterparts, and different variants. At this point, even a 100% newcomer should have a basic grasp of how these beverages work!

You are always welcome to write to us for more clarifications or guidance.