4 Metro Phoenix Espresso Blends to Try -- and 1 to Avoid
Scott Schiller/ Flickr Perfect espresso extraction can be hard to come by.
Espresso may very well be the tequila of the coffee world. To some, the word alone evokes memories of late nights in college spent guzzling bitter, amber liquid, not for the flavor, but certainly for its desired effects. To others, appreciating the drink is a mark of sophistication. Despite the small proportions of the beverage itself, espresso plays an enormous role in the coffee world.
I would argue that espresso is a lens through which all other elements of the coffee industry (including green coffee quality, service standards, proficiency in roasting, and skill in preparation) are magnified. Here is an introduction to four fantastic espresso blends available at your favorite Phoenix area cafes -- and one that you should go ahead and pass on, forever.
Before we start, let's clarify a couple of things. First, "espresso" refers to a method of preparing coffee. It does not refer to a particular type of coffee bean, and it has nothing to do with how "dark" or "light" a coffee is roasted. Simply put, espresso is any coffee that is brewed by applying pressure. Espresso beans are usually ground fairly fine, which allows tiny coffee particles to dissolve more readily in hot water. The force of the water applied to the coffee, plus the increased solubility of the coffee particles, result in an intensely flavorful cup.
A "blend" is any conglomeration of coffee beans that do not come from the same general growing region. As with wine, unique soil conditions, temperatures, elevations, and cultivars of coffee plants produce wildly different cups of coffee. Pulling a coffee as espresso essentially turns its volume up to eleven; if a particular bean from a particular region has a tendency to be sweet and fruity, pulling it as espresso may emphasize its more acidic qualities. Similarly, if a coffee possesses any defective traits, those negative qualities will be amplified in the espresso. Blends allow roasters to balance sweetness, acidity, and bitterness within the espresso shot.
One last thing -- sweetness is absolutely crucial when it comes to analyzing coffee quality. I could write about where sweetness in coffee comes from and how it can be enhanced (or destroyed) for days -- but for now I want to emphasize that good coffees have sweetness, inherently. Bad ones don't. More about this a different day. Let's get to the goods.
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