As a Barista, standing behind a cafe counter day after day you tend to notice patterns. A few weeks ago one of our observant Barista’s, Hayden Clifford, mentioned a pattern that he recently picked up on. Hayden noticed that some of our customers stir their espressos while others don’t. He then suggested that I write a post about why espresso drinkers should stir their espresso. I thought that was a great idea, and this is what I came up with.
So why should you stir?
This is a great question, but before we get to that, I need to explain what is actually in an espresso for us to appreciate why it’s good to stir.
Espresso brewed coffee contains three major parts.
Part 1. The crema
The crema is made of the natural CO2 gases of the coffee that were developed during roasting. The crema is an important part of an extraction and adds a delightful creamy texture to the body of the coffee. However, the crema can also contain the most potent and intense flavours of the coffee as it is a concentrated element of the malic, quinic, chlorogenic, phosphoric, acetic and citric acids contained in every cup of coffee. How’s that for a coffee nerd-out! All this to say that the crema can be harsh at times. Ok, so that’s part one.
Part 2. The oil
When light reflects off your black coffee on a certain angle, you will notice a slight oil slick across the top. This is known as the oil which is actually the natural sugars manifesting in the coffee. It is understood by food scientists that sugar molecules break down at 190 degrees celsius in roasted coffee, thus helping the natural sugars to caramelize. When coffee is roasted correctly there should be an inherent sweetness to it. This is why you should not have to add sugar to a correctly roasted and brewed espresso.
On that note, I’d like to encourage people who add sugar to their coffee to try and reduce or remove sugar from their espresso. Added sugar masks a lot of the discernable flavour in the cup and you will miss out on some of the finer flavours on offer.
Part 3. The coffee solids
The third and last element in an espresso are the soluble coffee solids which are the coffee grounds. The grounds are extracted into the brewed coffee liquid and much of the coffee’s flavour is drawn from the cell structure of the grounds.
Ok, so now you understand the three nerdy elements of what’s in your espresso.
How stirring enhances the flavour
After coffee is brewed it begins to settle and form a head, similar to a glass of Guinness. The coffee starts to separate in the cup and so stirring recombines all the essential elements and therefore creates a more balanced and full flavoured experience.
Stirring also reduces the temperature of the beverage which further enhances the flavour. Just like a white wine from the fridge that tastes better as it warms up, coffee tastes better when it cools down. Espresso is brewed at 93-95 degrees and stirring helps cool the beverage down to a temperature that allows you to better discern the beautiful flavours in the cup.
Lastly, our sense of smell and taste are so closely aligned that they strongly influence each other. Remember that science experiment at school where you ate an apple while smelling an onion? It tastes a lot like an onion. Aroma is such an influential part of an espresso flavour and stirring releases the gases and delicate aromatics giving you an amazing experience before taking your first sip. A beautiful aroma lays the perfect platform for tasting espresso.
And this is why we reckon you should stir your espresso.
Thanks Hayden, great observation.