The Art of a Good Espresso – Four Reasons Why Yours Are Bad

When you brew that reviving espresso in the morning, or have that pick-me-up Cafe Mocha in the afternoon, have you ever stopped to think what goes into getting that product to you?

Moreover if you work in the hospitality industry, are you aware of how important the correct procedures are for maintaining coffee beans and coffee machines to ensure your customers and clientele get the best quality drink possible? Following incorrect procedures in production of coffee-based drinks can be extremely detrimental to business and, surprisingly, so many coffee houses and hotels get it wrong.

I’ve visited a countless number of hotels and restaurants in my time in the food and beverage world and upon drinking that long-awaited espresso, I have experienced a full range of emotions, going from extreme disgust and almost being horrifically sick to “Wow, that was amazing, give me another, pronto!”.

An espresso is the lifeblood of any coffee house and the base of all coffee drinks, as any coffee connoisseur will tell you – it is on first glace the easiest drink to make, but for a demanding Italian like yours-truly, one that can easily go wrong. Fortunately I’ve worked in the industry long enough now to know what the top reasons are for dispensing a bad espresso, and hopefully my thoughts will provoke you to try your own and test it.


Before I even talk about what can go wrong, we must have a clear definition of what is generally become accepted as a what constitutes as a “good espresso”; a good espresso can be subjective to the person who is drinking but my years of training from industry experts have generally lead me to say that a good espresso generally has the following characteristics:

Has a crema that is both thick and dark reddish-brown – the crema on the top of an espresso is a clear sign of how fresh the beans are. With time, the naturally occurring oils that are present on the in beans oxidise (i.e. dry up) – and it’s this oil that gives an espresso its beautiful crema. The “sugar test” should be good enough to determine how fresh the beans are – simply lightly pour some sugar on the top of the espresso, if the sugar stays afloat then the crema is sufficiently thick enough, even for the most discerning of Mediterranean coffee-lovers.


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