How to Drink Espresso – A Quick Guide and Tips for Coffee Lovers

Chris Clark

Chris Clark is the co-founder and chief content editor of With a passion for all things java, Chris has been a coffee blogger for the past 3 years and shares his expertise in coffee brewing with the readers. He's a hands-on expert, loves testing coffee equipment, and has written most of the in-depth reviews featured on the site. When he's not whipping up delicious drinks or experimenting with the latest coffee gadgets, Chris is exploring the local cafe. You can reach him at [email protected].

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Drink your espresso with reverence! This classic form of coffee is venerated by enthusiasts around the world. With its intense flavor, along with snappy response during preparation, it has become a popular beverage for those seeking a quick coffee fix or an indulgent after-dinner treat.

In this article, we’ll examine the ins and outs of drinking espresso, from essentials that allow you to appreciate the final product, to the various ways you can relish its bold flavor.

Equipped with this knowledge, you’ll be able to tailor your espresso experience to your taste preferences. You will cultivate a deeper connection with this robust brew, making each sip more enjoyable.

Key Takeaways

  • Enjoy espresso in this order: Pre-warm espresso cup, clean your palate with water, stir espresso and sip.
  • Crema tastes bitter, so mixing the crema with the coffee or skimming it off may result in a better tasting shot.
  • Stirring espresso instead of swirling it can lead to a more balanced flavor.
  • Let the espresso shot cool down a bit for more clear flavor notes.

Espresso Rituals and Traditions

Espresso has a rich history and various rituals and traditions associated with its consumption. It is not only a beverage, but also a cultural experience that varies from country to country.

Serving with Sparkling Water

In some countries, particularly in Italy, it is customary to serve espresso with a small bottle of sparkling water or a small shot glass of water. The purpose of the water is to cleanse your palate before sipping the espresso, thus enhancing your ability to fully appreciate the complex flavors of the coffee. Sparkling water is preferred over still water due to its refreshing effervescence and ability to bring out the deep nuances of the espresso shots.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

When to Drink Espresso

The timing of enjoying an espresso varies across cultures. In Italy, for instance, espresso is typically consumed in the morning, after lunch or dinner and occasionally as an afternoon pick-me-up. In France, espresso is more often enjoyed after a meal as a digestive aid. However, in the world of specialty coffee, there are no strict rules or limitations on when to drink espresso. Ultimately, the best time to sip an espresso is when you can savor it and appreciate its unique flavors and oral pleasures.


One important aspect is the pronunciation, as many people tend to mispronounce espresso. Remember that it is pronounced es-presso, not ex-presso. Getting the terms right shows respect for the craft and reflects a true coffee lover’s spirit. [1]

How to Drink and Enjoy Espresso

Drinking and appreciating espresso involves a few steps to ensure you fully enjoy its flavors and mouthfeel. In this section, we will explore the way to drink espresso properly.

Pre-warm Your Espresso Cup

Whether you are having a single or double shot of espresso, using a warm demitasse is essential. Preheating your cup helps maintain the ideal temperature for the espresso, resulting in better taste and mouth sensations. To pre-warm your cup, you can simply rinse it with hot water before pouring the espresso into it. If your espresso machine has a cup warmer on top, place the cups there when your machine is heating up.


Clean Your Palate with Water

Before you start sipping your espresso, it is crucial to clean your palate. Drinking water helps neutralize any lingering tastes in your mouth, allowing you to fully appreciate the flavors of your espresso. Simply take a sip of water, swish it around your mouth and swallow or spit it out.


Stir Espresso, but Don’t Swirl

Once the espresso is in your pre-warmed demitasse, use a small spoon to stir it gently. This aids in mixing the crema with the underlying liquid, ensuring an even flavor balance throughout the drink.

As James Hoffmann explained in his YouTube video ‘Stop Swirling Your Espresso‘, the crema layer often floats on top, so you can’t really mix the crema and coffee evenly. Crema tastes bitter and bold, while the espresso below it is much sweeter. You will enjoy a more balanced straight espresso shot by stirring crema.


Sip and Enjoy Espresso

Now that your cup is warm, your palate clean and your espresso stirred, it’s time to savor the delicious beverage.

Start by taking a small sip. Allow the espresso to coat your tongue and different taste buds, to experience its full range of flavors. As you drink your espresso, be it a single or double shot, take your time to genuinely enjoy the aroma, oral sensation, and intensity of the quality espresso.

Understanding Espresso Components

A shot of espresso is a concentrated coffee drink brewed with finely ground coffee beans and pressure. It’s completely different from regular coffee, so it is important to understand what contributes to the distinctive experience. In this section, we will explore three key components: Crema, Aroma, and Flavor.


The crema is the layer of foam you see on the surface of a well-prepared espresso. It results from the elements of coffee oil reacting with air during the brewing process. Crema is often seen as a sign of a properly made espresso, because it adds depth and texture to the drink.

However, it is essential to note that while the crema may look visually appealing, it does not necessarily add to the overall taste of the espresso. In fact, some people prefer to skim the crema off, before drinking their espresso.


The aroma of an espresso is a necessary aspect of the drinking experience, as it plays a significant role in how we perceive its flavor. Our sense of smell and taste are closely connected, so the aroma can really influence how the espresso interacts with our palate.

To fully appreciate the aroma of your espresso, it is recommended that you stir the coffee gently. Stirring releases the aroma that can help you discern delicate nuances present in the espresso’s flavor profile.


Ultimately, the flavor of the espresso is the critical component that brings everything together and gives you the satisfaction you desire. The depth of flavor ranges from light and floral to dark and robust, depending on factors such as the type and roast of the coffee beans and the brewing process.

The rich, intense taste of espresso should be savored with each sip. Take a moment to roll the coffee around in your mouth and let your tongue explore the various flavor notes present in the drink. The intermingling of nuanced flavor, aroma, and texture of the espresso will give you supreme enjoyment.

Bonus Tips for Drinking Espresso

Crema is Nice but Bitter: Try to Get Rid of It

As we mentioned before, while the crema adds beauty to the cup, it can be quite bitter and not to everyone’s liking. You can lick a spoon of crema and know what quality it will add to your drink.

To get rid of the crema, gently skim it off the surface before sipping your espresso. In an experiment about espresso crema, we noticed the brighter notes without the crema. You may also choose to stir your shot, which can help mix the crema in and reduce its bitterness.

We compared the taste of espresso with and without crema

Espresso Shines When It Cools Down a Bit

While it may be tempting to drink your espresso right away, allowing it to cool down slightly can bring out its best flavors. Drinking espresso at a cooler temperature invites the subtle notes and characteristics of the beans to come through more clearly, resulting in a more satisfying experience. Give the espresso a moment to relax before sipping it, as this will help highlight its unique flavors and enhance your overall espresso break.

Pair Espresso with Chocolate

If you are like to enjoy your espresso without steamed milk, try pairing it with a piece of dark chocolate to enhance the taste experience. The flavors of espresso and dark chocolate complement each other well, offering a delightful treat for your taste buds.


Final Thoughts

As a coffee lover, it’s essential to appreciate the art of espresso brewing and incorporate the proper techniques when sipping your favorite espresso shot.

In conclusion, whether you’re a seasoned coffee connoisseur or a casual espresso drinker, these tips will enhance your espresso enjoyment and provide a better understanding of the culture around this beloved beverage.


[1] English pronunciation of espresso –

[2] Stop Swirling Your Espresso – James Hoffmann –

Photo of author

Chris Clark

Chris Clark is the co-founder and chief content editor of With a passion for all things java, Chris has been a coffee blogger for the past 3 years and shares his expertise in coffee brewing with the readers. He's a hands-on expert, loves testing coffee equipment, and has written most of the in-depth reviews featured on the site. When he's not whipping up delicious drinks or experimenting with the latest coffee gadgets, Chris is exploring the local cafe.