How to Drink Espresso

By Robert Parsons July 13, 2021

Have you ever wondered how to drink espresso? Do you take it as a shot? Do you sip on it? 

If you’re unsure of how to drink espresso, don’t be embarrassed. Every coffee lover has wondered this at some point. We are here to tell you there is a correct way to drink it, and learning this will make a difference in how you enjoy your coffee.

In this quick guide, we’ll walk you through how to drink espresso like a true Italian.

Step 1: Order Your Espresso 

Espresso is typically served in a small, ceramic, white cup. If you’re ordering it at a cafe, they may ask if you want a single or double shot. We always go for the double (unless you’ve already had a lot of caffeine that day). 

Now, it’s likely you’re making a shot or two of espresso at home. One of the best things about espresso machines is you can re-create an authentic shot from the comfort of your pajamas. You’ll have complete control over the coffee beans used, the strength of the brew, as well as the amount. 

Once you have your hot shot of brew, move onto step 2. 

Step 2: Drink Your Water

It’s likely your barista will serve you a glass of sparkling water alongside your shot. This is meant to cleanse your pallet. This step is optional; however, you are paying quite a bit for an ounce of brew, so you want to be able to actually taste it. 

This has probably happened to you where they serve you water with an espresso. Now you know what its purpose is! It’s to cleanse your palate so you can fully enjoy the rich taste of your shot.  

Step 3: Skim the Crema 

This next step is also optional but strongly encouraged. You said you wanted to learn how to drink espresso, right? 

Skimming the crema is part of the process. Freshly made espresso will likely have some crema floating on top. You can skim this off with your spoon if you wish. We recommend you do it because leaving it on will alter the taste. Thick crema signifies a good shot; however, it doesn’t actually taste very good. 

Step 4: Stir the Espresso

Get a balanced taste by stirring your shot of espresso. This will balance the brighter notes with the stronger ones. It will also get rid of any leftover crema flavors. Once it’s stirred, you can finally enjoy it.

Step 5: Enjoy 

Bring your cup to your tongue and take a sip. How does it taste? Is it sour or sweet? Pay attention to the flavors you’re receiving to better enjoy your cup. Espresso accentuates the characteristics of the coffee used. For new drinkers, the taste may be overbearing at first. However, just like all the good things in life, you’ll grow to love it.

Note: Espresso is NOT for sipping. It’s best at its serving temperature; therefore, divide it into 2-3 sips taking a moment between each sip to enjoy. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Before we wrap up this guide, let’s go over some commonly asked questions. If other people had them, chances are you may too. 

Is Espresso Stronger Than Regular Coffee? 

A shot of espresso contains 62 mg of caffeine. A 12-ounce cup of coffee contains about 120 mg. Therefore, you could take two shots, and it would be almost equivalent to a 12-oz cup of java. So, if by “stronger,” you’re wondering about the caffeine strength, one shot is about half the strength of a cup of brewed coffee. If you’re referring to taste, a shot of espresso will be much stronger because it’s condensed. 

Can You Add Milk To Espresso?

Adding milk to an espresso turns it into a macchiato. If you want to add milk, you definitely can, and it will taste wonderful. Just know that you’ll no longer be drinking espresso but a macchiato. 

Can You Add Sugar To Espresso? 

If you enjoy sweet coffee, add some sugar. There is nothing wrong with this, and it’s not a reflection of the type of coffee drinker you are. Some people just enjoy their coffee sweet!

Why Do Some Cafes Serve Espresso With Lemon?

Lemon with your espresso is an American trend. If you ask for lemon at an Italian cafe, you may just be asked to leave. It’s important to note this isn’t the way they drink their espresso in Italy! However, in American restaurants, it’s not strange to serve it with a twist of lemon. The point here is to add some aroma to the shot and serve as a garnish and pop of color. If you want to sweeten it up a bit, you can add it to the coffee itself.

Final Thoughts 

Now that you have a better handle on drinking espresso, go out there and give it a try. The espresso culture may seem a bit intimidating, but as you can see, it’s not as complicated as it seems. Just follow the above 5 steps, and you’ll be well on your way to drinking espresso like a pro.