Espresso is a black, Italian style coffee that literally means "made on the spot for someone who orders it". It is served in a small, demitasse (3 oz) cup of strong coffee produced on a machine designed just for that purpose. Coffee is placed into an espresso machine and hot water is forced through the coffee at very high pressure - extracting all the flavour possible.

Over the years brewing espresso has certainly been made easier with the advancement of more automated and sophisticated machines. However, preparing the "perfect" cup of espresso is still an art that must be learned.

A 1 to 1¼ ounce shot of espresso should brew in 19-23 seconds. The espresso should flow out of the machine at a slow, but steady dribble. If your espresso has been perfectly brewed, the surface will be covered with a thick, foamy, golden brown crema. A sign of good crema is that when you pour sugar in your espresso it will float on the surface for a few seconds. Any error in grinding or in the percolation phase, such as temperature or extraction level mistakes is immediately shown by the colour, texture and persistence of the crema.

Manual stove-top espresso pots work by steam and water being forced, under pressure, through the pot to the grounds. Unscrew the lid and base and remove the filter funnel. The base is filled with water and the filter container with finely ground coffee. Screw the top and base together and place over the heat. A bubbling noise will indicate that the coffee is ready. Electric espresso machines apply the same principles.

Espresso coffee, despite being a sublime experience on its own, is the foundation for a wide variety of speciality coffee drinks such as the Cappuccino and Frappuccino.