Specifically in Italy, everyone has a similar mental picture when they hear “espresso.” It’s a small heavy china cup whose capacity is around 50ml. It is half full with a dark brew and then topped by thick, reddish-brown foam of tiny bubbles. Millions of cups are sold worldwide each day, every consumer finding a place for it in their day; morning eye-opener, capping off a meal later in the day, or perhaps offering a sense of revival at the end of a long day.
Naturally, most people concern themselves with the simple act of consuming the espresso. A closer look at the process demonstrates a fusion of qualities of this multi-sensory experience. Breakdown the process of consumption and begin to consider the visual, smell, mouthfeel, taste, and after-taste.
Foam is the indicator of perfection in the espresso preparation. Any error in the preparation process will be presented in the espresso’s frothy layer: color, texture, and persistence. It also seals the aroma of the liquid, trapping the odors of the espresso brew beneath.
To complete the experience, the consumer must be able to distinguish between fragrance, flavor, mouthfeel, taste, and after-taste. Espresso is unique in the way that it melds touch, taste, and smell. Taste buds are specialized and perceive mainly four pure taste sensations: acid, salty, sweet, and bitter-sensitive buds. Fragrance is a characteristic linked to the sense of smell involving the detection of volatile aroma molecules. These molecules are also released in the mouth upon consumption of food and drink, in this case espresso. This is the process of sensing flavor. After consumption, the brew is trapped by the taste buds, where oil droplets have fixed themselves to the mucus membrane and thus defining the espresso’s after-taste.
A fine espresso should taste bittersweet with an initial slightly acidic note. It should have a strong body and an intense aroma and should be pleasantly persistent.