Espresso connoisseurs familiar with Italian caffe often complain that more than 95 percent of North American espresso is poorly made and quite often undrinkable. Rather than extracting the “essence of coffee” (the key virtue of espresso), the majority of American espresso is weak, watery, bitter, burned, lacking aroma, unpleasant tasting, and generally unsatisfying. Most American espressos have little or no crema and look more like a strong cup of coffee than a true espresso. We believe this is a major reason why so many North Americans consume espresso in large quantities of milk and often with flavoring syrups.
European espresso, on the other hand, tends to be a dense, bittersweet brew with ample crema, intense and distinctive flavor profiles, and a persistent aftertaste. European- and Italian-style espresso will often taste as sweet as ground coffee smells.
Although there are differences in roasting styles even between Northern and Southern Italian espresso roasters, there exists a broad consensus among these artisans as to what constitutes a perfect espresso blend. Most European espresso blends are lightly roasted, use low-acid coffee beans, and incorporate a small amount of high-quality Robusta coffees.
The new trend among American “artisan” roasters of offering “single origin” espresso strikes those familiar with the Italian and European espresso tradition as nonsensical. No single bean can provide the special combination of rich flavor, creamy mouthfeel, and little/no acidity that characterize the original espresso. For this reason, authentic espresso needs to be a blend.
To learn more about Espresso Blending, review some of our published articles on the subject.