About illy Espresso and Coffee
What's a Good Cup of Coffee?
We've all watched wine tasters swirl, sniff, slurp and spit, and then pronounce their approval or disdain. Drinking a coffee is a complex experience, involving the same four senses used in evaluating wines. The drinker admires the appearance, smells its aroma, finally tasting its flavor, as the tongue feels its "body"the sensation of denseness that differentiates an espresso from all other beverages.
The task of tasting coffee to identify its characteristics and determine its quality is entrusted to professionals of the highest level, who might be called "coffee sommeliers." They work in groups, comparing their respective evaluations to reach a final joint decision. They are responsible for deciding which lots of coffee will be purchased, based on a sensory examination of samples of the lots of coffee being offered for sale. Consequently, the moment of the taste test is extremely important, requiring great attention and a high level of concentration.
Because the ability to taste varies throughout the day, the results of the taste test must be adjusted according to the time at which it took place. The tasting is also performed quickly, to facilitate the comparison between different samples. In order to prepare the coffee for testing, a small machine to roast the beans, another to measure the degree of roasting, a grinder and a boiler are all employed. The method most frequently used for tasting involves making an infusion by leaving approximately 10 grams of ground coffee in 150 cc of boiling water for about ten minutes.
The tasting is carried out using a rather wide, rounded spoon which is similar to the tastevin used by a sommelier. The coffee is tasted without the addition of sugar and is classified using specific terms that describe the characteristics, taste, and aroma of the coffee. The classification terminology used by the Brazilians is the richest, but it is not universally applied. In Italy, tasting samples are often prepared in such a way as to determine the specific uses they are best adapted to: making espresso, brewed coffee etc.
How to taste
The aroma of coffee comes from the volatile substances that are released during the roasting process as a result of a series of chemical reactions that take place within the bean. These transformations are known collectively as the Maillard reaction, after the French chemist who was the first to study and classify this process. These changes begin at a temperature of about 1600C and continue to occur until the roasting process is interrupted.
Over 1000 different coffee aromas have been identified. The following is a list of some of the most easily identifiable ones:
Characteristic aroma resulting from the transformation of
sugars that takes place within the bean during roasting.
Chocolaty: an aroma that is reminiscent of cocoa with a trace of vanilla.
Floral: an aroma that resembles the smell of fresh flowers in general, without recognizable single notes.
Fruity: refers to the scent of fresh fruit, especially that of citrus fruit.
Grassy, toasted bread: aromas that are pleasant within certain limits.
According to Dr. Ernesto Illy, "Quality is controlling, controlling, controlling. A perfect cup of coffee should never be bitter. It makes me happy when people recognize the flavor of our coffee. Our level of control is a single bean. That way, there is never anything but pleasure in a cup of illy."
The Story of Espresso
The word espresso means "made to order" and is used to describe food and drinks that are prepared at the customer's request. Over time in Italy, this became the most common way to make coffee, and eventually the word came to be used as a noun referring to the preparation itself.
This way of preparing coffee originated at the end of the 19th century, with the first espresso machine being presented at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1855. This new machine was developed to solve the problems that characterized other methods of preparing the beverage, such as their slow speed and the loss in flavor incurred when the infusion was prepared and kept warm until it was consumed. Therefore, the new machine had to be capable of preparing one or two coffees in a short time, upon the request of the customer. To speed up the passage of the water through the coffee grounds, a high-pressure system was invented, using steam delivered through a series of valves that were controlled by the bartender.
In 1935 Francesco Illy substituted compressed air for the steam, thereby creating the first automatic machine that was the prototype for the espresso machine used today.
Espresso is a lot of flavor in a very small cup. Espresso is not just a beverage it is not going to quench your thirst. It is an experience, a relaxed moment in a hectic day or the final tasting note at the end of a memorable meal. Dr. Ernesto Illy, who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of a perfect cup of espresso says, "A one ounce cup of perfectly brewed espresso provides an intense aroma and flavor experience, but no calories it's a guilt-free indulgence."
Espresso Myths Exposed
Espresso coffee, while apparently a simple drink, is in reality a complex product. It is derived from 1500 chemical substances (800 volatile and 700 soluble). When prepared correctly it involves 13 independent chemical and physical variables. There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding espresso. We'd like to debunk a few of them.
Myth #1: Espresso carries more of a caffeine jolt than regular brewed coffee.
FALSE: The illycaffe blend is obtained by carefully selecting from different sources the best Arabica beans, which have a richer taste and a lower caffeine content than the lesser prized (and less expensive) Robusta beans. Because a cup of espresso takes no more than 30 seconds to brew, less caffeine is extracted than in drip coffee which takes anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes.
Myth #2: Lemon peel is the proper garnish for a cup of espresso
FALSE: Lemon peel is not traditional in Italy. It is used to counteract the taste of over-roasted, bitter espresso. The oil in the peel blocks the bitterness. There is no need for lemon peel in a proper cup of espresso.
Myth #3: Bigger is better
FALSE: Large cups don't do espresso justice. The proper portion of espresso is one ounce, and the cup should be very small so that it holds the heat. Thick china cups are preferred. Large cups dissipate the heat and the crema (foam) which carries the aroma in a fine cup of espresso.
Myth #4: The darker the roast, the better the espresso.
FALSE: Over-roasted coffee loses all its complex flavors they go up the chimney and leave you only with bitterness. Illy carefully roasts its coffee to the optimum level to bring out all the flavors inherent in the bean. illy purchases only arabica beans for its blend and sorts the beans using electronic instruments which evaluate the color and automatically reject beans that are either too green or overripe. About 50 coffee beans are needed to produce one cup of espresso, and only one bad bean can ruin its flavor. In order to better balance the aroma, illy prepares the blend from nine different lots of arabica before roasting and uses an air-cooling system versus the more common water-cooling system.
Myth #5: Put your coffee for espresso in the freezer for freshness.
FALSE: Freezing the coffee coagulates the natural oils contained in the bean. In an espresso, those oils emulsify producing the wonderful body and satisfying mouthful of this special cup of coffee.
Myth #6: Espresso is hard to prepare.
TRUE AND FALSE: Traditional espresso preparation is complicated unless you are properly trained. That is why Dr. Ernesto Illy and his team developed the E.S.E. system. Their objective was to find a way to create a perfect cup of espresso, a happy outcome of that quest was a method that was also convenient and simple. So simple, in fact, that Dr. Illy's 4 year old granddaughter proudly prepares her grandfather a perfect cup of espresso when he comes to visit using the E.S.E. system.