Is espresso the ultimate coffee? It’s very essence? Ken Davids titled a book thataway — but you have to wonder if that speaks more of espresso, or of marketing a book. There is, of all things, a Jehovah’s Witness tract entitled “Espresso: the essence of coffee“. I can’t claim to know how it’s inspired, except as a general call to sobriety.
I like espresso. A lot. At the same time, I have a problem with the idea that espresso is the pinnacle of coffee flavor. Espresso is not only about the coffee — it is at least as much about the process — and the machine. Without a seriously capable machine, you simply can not produce espresso. And, given a superbly capable machine, you will not have good espresso without a very particular blend of beans. There are precious few single origin coffees that will withstand the rigors of the espresso process, and result in even a fair tazza of espresso, much less a good one.
For the truly great beans — the grand crus — there is really only one way to extract the essence of coffee: brew them. Strong. And black. Only then will you witness [aha, the link?] the subtleties of aroma, of flavor and body…. That, my friends, is the essence of coffee.