What Are Espresso Shots? Explained

You are probably familiar with the term “shots” when talking about tequila. And if you’re wondering “What are espresso shots?”, then this article explains more.

What Are Espresso Shots
Espresso requires a different brewing method compared to making regular coffee

So, what are espresso shots? In short, espresso shots are small cups of concentrated coffee. Although espresso is made from the same beans you use to make regular coffee, it requires a different brewing method.

While regular drip coffee is mild and clear, espresso is a syrupy coffee brew with a full body and intense flavors. Read on if you’re interested in finding out more about espresso shots.

How Is Espresso Made?

a man using an espresso machine and pouring espresso on two cups
An espresso machine is necessary for making espresso because it requires pressurized water

You need an espresso machine if you want to make espresso. This is because making espresso requires pressurized water. Espresso is made when hot water is pushed through tightly packed coffee grounds at around 9 to 15 bars of pressure, depending on the type of machine.

To make the perfect espresso, you need to keep in mind the correct combination of bar pressure, water temperature, and grind size. When any of these variables are out of sync, you may end up with an over-extracted or under-extracted espresso brew.

You might also be interested in our Doppio coffee guide.

What Are the Characteristics of Espresso?

To make espresso, you place the coffee grounds in a portafilter, which, in turn, is placed in a metal basket. While the portafilter keeps the coffee grounds from landing up in your cup, it allows more of the sediment and coffee oils through than a paper filter does. The result is a thicker and more concentrated brew with a syrupy consistency.

A characteristic of good espresso is that it has a thick layer of crema on top. Crema is a light layer of foam. It is formed when microbubbles of carbon dioxide attach to the natural oils present in coffee and then rise to the top of the espresso beverage.

What Does Good Espresso Taste Like?

espresso machine pouring down coffee to a cup
Espresso that tastes overpoweringly bitter indicates it has been over-extracted

The taste of a coffee beverage can be described as sweet, salty, bitter, or sour. When espresso is brewed correctly, it contains these tastes in complementary proportions.

That is, not one of the tastes should be overpowering. Although espresso typically contains both bitterness and tartness, you should be left with a sweetish after-taste on your tongue.

If your espresso is overpoweringly bitter, it means that it has been over-extracted. This may be due to a too long brewing time or coffee grounds that are too fine.

On the other hand, if your shot of espresso is sour, then you’re looking at under-extraction. Possible reasons include a too coarse grind, low water pressure, or a water temperature that isn’t hot enough.

What Are Espresso Shots? The Final Word

If you’re looking for a full-bodied and intensely flavored coffee brew that will give you a boost of energy when you need it, opt for an espresso shot. Since espresso is served in small cups, hence the term “shot,” you can enjoy this coffee beverage on the run.

Plus, the fact that the brew is drunk black and without sugar, means that espresso is the ideal drink for those who are watching their weight.

FAQs on What Are Espresso Shots?

Does Espresso Contain More Caffeine Than Coffee?

Yes, espresso is packed with caffeine because it is a more concentrated coffee brew. Although a regular 8-ounce cup of coffee contains more caffeine than a shot of espresso, espresso contains more caffeine per ounce.

While drip coffee contains 12 to 25 mg of caffeine per ounce, you get a whopping 63 mg of caffeine per ounce of espresso.

What Is the Water-To-Coffee Ratio of Espresso?

The reason that espresso is so strong is partly due to the water-to-coffee ratio used in this brewing method. To brew a single shot of espresso, you need about six to eight grams of coffee.

This translates to a water-to-coffee ratio of roughly 2:1. When you compare this ratio to the 16:1 water-to-coffee ratio used in pour-over brewing methods, it becomes apparent why espresso shots deliver such a punch.


  • Niki B

    Born and bred in South Africa, Niki B now does her writing from the distant shores of South Korea. A self-proclaimed coffee addict by day, and a writer by night, she gladly shares her knowledge with fellow coffee lovers.