Espresso is a tiny coffee beverage prepared by forcing hot water through a finely ground, compressed coffee cake and served in a warm demitasse, each one a ~1.5 oz concentrated, ephemeral experience to consider. At its best, espresso is a meditation on balance, revealing in stages or all at once aroma/flavor complexity, body, acidity, and subtle sweetness.
It seems obvious, but maybe it’s not—delicious espresso begins where it grows. Without well-grown, well-processed and carefully handled green coffee, we would never know the genius of good espresso. We work hard to continue our relationships and to develop new ones with farmers who operate with the same quality bent.
Once we identify a coffee that can sing as an espresso, we go to work on dialing in. We dial in the roast profile. We dial in with grinders, scales, and know-how. We put back a lot of espresso. And we take new knowledge from this process and loop it back to dialing in the roast profile, rest time, extraction parameters, and our expectations of the coffee itself. All of this, before an espresso gets anywhere near your lips.
Ultimately, for espresso to consistently wow, it has to be pulled by trained and practiced baristas on quality, maintained, manual espresso machines. Without a barista's eye, experience, or understanding of coffee, complexity and beauty in many cases gets obscured or lost somewhere in translation. So the next time an espresso or espresso-based drink blows your entire mind, consider acknowledging the hard work and skill of the person who prepared it.