The first time I tried an espresso, it was an awakening of sorts. It opened up a totally new way of looking at coffee. At first, I thought it would be too bitter for my liking. But it turned out surprisingly delicious.
As they said, once you have tried espresso, you will always look for it. The bittersweet, creamy and aromatic flavor of espresso will haunt you. And on those days when you need that extra kick, a good shot of espresso is the best thing to have in the morning.
I thought that espresso is just another kind of coffee. However, I was lectured on by a coffee expert and emphasized that espresso is a method of brewing coffee.
And while we are at this espresso talk, did you know that there is another type of espresso method called lungo?
Lungo? Yes, we are not very familiar with this because it’s more of a European trend. The same thing as espresso.
Europeans love their coffee the espresso way. Not the typical watered down version or flavored version we have in North America. They love to preserve the aroma and distinct bittersweet, and varying flavorful notes extracted from ground coffee beans.
Does it mean that lungo and espresso are just the same? What are the similarities and differences? Let’s find out.
A closer look at Espresso
As already mentioned, espresso is not a different kind of coffee beans or something. Rather, it is a special method of preparing coffee with one key factor – pressure.
In order to make a perfect shot of espresso, a small portion of water is forced through a tightly packed, fine ground coffee with a high pressure of around 9 bar. This pressure is equivalent to 130 pounds of pressure in one square inch or roughly twice the pressure in an average truck tire.
Yes, pressure is important in yielding espresso. This pressure creates that distinct crema on top of your espresso drink.
Espresso is a favorite among coffee lovers because it’s concentrated and full of flavor.
On the average, the popular espresso recipe includes about 7 grams of finely ground coffee per 25-30 ml of water.
The key to achieving a good shot of espresso requires three elements: roast, grind and, pressure.
- Espresso roast – There is a special way of preparing coffee beans for espresso. Often, these beans are roasted to a darker finish to create a stronger and bolder coffee taste than regular drip or brewed coffee. If you are planning to make espresso at home, opt for espresso beans and grind them on demand.
- Espresso grind – Regular brew is coarse. But espresso beans need to be ground to a fine powdery texture. This kind of grind slows down water penetration and requires pressure to extract the perfect espresso shot. It will be a good investment to have a burr grinder for your homemade espresso.
- Espresso pressure – This is the third and most important element because pressure is what makes espresso so creamy and flavorful.
It is impossible to create a real espresso at home, unless you have an espresso machine or a nespresso. The pressure is a key factor to ensure that you get the concentrated, flavorful and special crema that is the trademark of espresso
Lungo coffee 101
Lungo is not as popular as espresso. But among Europeans, lungo and ristretto are known variations of the espresso method. Now, if you hear this inside a coffee shop or you see this on the menu of your favorite café, it will surely make you curious.
What exactly is a lungo coffee?
Preparing lungo also requires an espresso machine. In French, this is called ‘café allonge’. The name lungo sounds like the English word “long” and yes, something is long or extended when it comes to lungo coffee.
In a sense, lungo coffee is a “stretched” espresso. A typical espresso is called a shot. It is minimal and often drank in one shot, like your vodka.
With lungo, the water used for making espresso is doubled. This means that more caffeine will be extracted and it will have a deeper coffee flavor. Imagine a cup of espresso, that’s already a lungo.
It is impossible to make a cup of espresso. The real espresso only needs 25-30 ml of water. It can barely fill a cup of coffee.
By doubling this amount of water, the 7-gram finely ground coffee can yield twice the amount of coffee with the same thick bittersweet flavor.
Following this, a typical lungo coffee recipe requires 7 grams of finely ground coffee per 50-60 ml of water. This can yield about 45 to 50 ml of lungo.
However, do not confuse lungo with the typical coffee Americano, the Italian style coffee with added hot water. Nor the long black, or hot water added with short black coffee.
Lungo is totally different from Americano and long black. Do not make the mistake of ordering lungo and asking for hot water. The barista will frown upon you.
Lungo and Espresso: The Similarities
Lungo and espresso are similar in the following aspects:
- Method of preparation
Both lungo and espresso requires an espresso machine. You cannot make a perfect lungo or espresso using ordinary coffee brewing machines like moka pots, automatic drip or the French press.
These machines lack the needed pressure to yield the espresso and lungo.
Others will argue that you can make an espresso with a French press. If you do this, what you will get is an espresso alternative. There will be no crema on the surface of your coffee and you can achieve that rich, bold flavor or espresso.
Most super automatic espresso machines have options for lungo and espresso. This will make it easier for you to create one or the other.
- Type of roast and grind
Lungo and espresso requires dark roast, fine ground coffee. These two elements are important so that pressurized water passes through tightly packed ground coffee. It will exert pressure between the particles and extract the coffee. This helps in getting the right flavor and taste that coffee lovers enjoy the most.
Lungo and Espresso: The Differences
At first glance, lungo and espresso look the same. It’s thick, with a distinct white foam at the surface. However, there are differences between the two that sets them apart and established different sets of coffee patrons.
- Coffee flavor
The main difference between espresso and lungo is the coffee flavor. Since different amount of water is used, naturally, the extraction time will be different and it will yield different flavors as well.
Espresso flavor is more intense, darker, nuttier and earthier. Often, an espresso shot has that cocoa, chocolate-like flavor. Depending also on the type of beans used, you will note that some espresso shot tastes like melted dark chocolate. Plus, the distinct cream on top blends well with the strong espresso flavor.
Lungo flavor, on the other hand, is less intense but more fruity. You can definitely taste the strong earthy flavor but you will also get some sweet and fruity notes thanks to the longer extraction time.
- Caffeine concentration
Espresso may be darker but it has less caffeine compared to lungo. In order to get more caffeine, a longer extraction time is needed. And since lungo has twice the amount of water, it can yield more caffeine in the process.
If you want more caffeine out of your morning drink, a cup of lungo will be your best choice. But if you prefer richer and more flavor, go for a nice espresso shot.