Flavor or Fuel
The invention of espresso is awarded to a man named Luigi Bezzera, who created it as a quick way to produce a single serving of coffee to customers. Flavor, at the time, was put on the back-burner in favor of supplying a jolt of caffeine quickly. As the technology of espresso advanced, it became the preferred method of producing coffee in Italy. Throughout the country, customers lined out the doors for their quick shot at the bar. They downed their daily energy boost in under a minute & quickly headed out the door. The espresso, was made traditionally from Robusta beans, often thought to be inferior in quality, & packing a strong punch of caffeine. It wasn’t until espresso was brought to other countries, that espresso started to be coveted for its different flavor attributes. In the modern coffee world, micro-roasteries are searching for new and exciting flavors. The coveted & often thought to be higher quality Arabica beans, used in the specialty espressos they produce, offer a myriad of complex flavors & come in any type of roast.
Arabic vs. Robusta
With over 120 species of coffee existing in the world, Arabica & Robusta are the two major species of coffee beans sold & consumed. Arabica beans (from the Coffea Arabica plant) have a higher sugar, acid, & oil content, producing sweeter flavors & more smooth, supple textures leading to the general consensus that it produces better coffee. While Robusta beans (from the Coffea Canephora plant) can pack twice the caffeine content & produce a thick, stable crema when used for espresso. The lower sugar, acid, & oil content often produce less palatable flavors. Around 60% of the coffee commercially produced in the world is Arabica, with the remaining 37-40% being Robusta. In a world where specialty coffees are on the rise & flavor seems to reign supreme, Robusta may continue coming in at a close second because of our need for that extra caffeine boost. Throughout the world, in majority Arabica espresso blends, Robusta is often used as a filler giving you that added caffeine content, while still holding on to some of the flavor profile of Arabica beans.
As we continue our search of what more espresso has to offer, the culture around this awesome drink will continue to change. It’s rare to see someone guzzling their espresso on the run. Often we are moving in slow motion while we enjoy that blissful moment as the first sip of crema hits our pallet. It’s more about the experience, often taking the time to inquire about the origins or roast as we watch a barista pull our shots, sitting down at a table with friends and discussing the flavor profiles. The perpetual improvements on this refined drink are creating a culture similar to that of a wine tasting room. However, as we continue to enjoy the energy boost that espresso provides, it will always have its place in the on-the-move, go-getters of the world asking “Can you throw an extra shot in that?”.
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