Lemon, salt, chocolate, ice cream — if you’ve visited a specialty coffee shop, you know people like to spice up, dress up, and sweeten their espresso. While some additions add an extra touch of flavor to your cup, others fundamentally alter a key aspect of the drink. Keep reading to discover some of our favorite things to add to espresso.
If you have ever been tempted to add a touch of dairy to your espresso but felt socially pressured not to, we have drinks for you! Adding dairy to espresso is actually very common. While most of us only see milk added to a shot of espresso in the form of a cappuccino, latte, or flat white, it is perfectly acceptable to add dairy directly to your demitasse. A touch of cream can taste delicious and add extra depth and texture to your cup. Below are some of the most common espresso, non-milk dairy-ed up drinks.
Heavy cream and half & half: Cream has been added to espresso for centuries. Not only does a drop of fat add texture to your shot, it also helps keep your espresso warm. Next time you are out, ask for a café breve (espresso with heavy cream) or espresso con panna (espresso with a dollop of whipped cream). If anyone gives you a funny look, just tell them it’s how they do it in Italy.
Ice cream: Those of you who frequent Italian restaurants know Italians love to add ice cream to their espresso or, rather, espresso to their ice cream. The next time you are looking for a two-in-one dessert, try an affogato – one scoop of vanilla ice cream smothered in a rich, creamy shot of espresso.
Acid neutralizers (a.k.a., bye-bye bitterness)
Let’s face it, sometimes espresso just tastes a touch too bitter. Desperate for our caffeine, we suffer through, sipping and squinting our faces as the sharp taste hits our tongue. Well, look back and smile, those days are over. There are two easy ways to reduce or remove bitterness from your cup and… (we know what you’re thinking) the solution is not sugar!
Salt: A pinch of salt added to your espresso minimizes the cup’s bitter notes by neutralizing the acidity, allowing the beans’ sweeter notes to dominate.
Citrus: Rubbing the rim of your espresso cup with citrus peel, or adding a squeeze of citrus directly to your shot, reduces bitterness by nuetralizing acidity. As an extra bonus, pairing citrus with espresso creates a crisp, clean close and slows the breakdown of caffeine in your body, allowing caffeine’s impact to last longer. Next time you are out, we suggest trying a café Romano or café Guillermo.
Building on that chocolatey base
Adding chocolate to an espresso can accentuate the beans’ natural, non-dominant flavor tones or bring a new flavor to your cup. Some of our favorite chocolate add-ins are:
Chocolate sauce or cocoa powder: Coffee and chocolate is a classic pairing due to their complementary flavor notes. Many of the world’s finest coffees have deep chocolate base notes. Adding unsweetened cocoa powder to your espresso helps accentuate those base notes while adding sweetened chocolate to your cup builds on those base notes.
Nutella: Chocolate and hazelnut with just a touch of cinnamon — there is a very good reason variations of Nutella dominate European market breakfast aisles, this spread shines when paired with espresso. Just drop 1/4 teaspoon into your cup before brewing and enjoy!
A category of one can still be mighty! Near everyone has heard of an espresso martini but few have heard of the caffè corretto. Translated to “corrected coffee”, the corretto is a shot of espresso with a small amount of grappa, sambuca, or brand. Again, we have the Italians to thank for this beauty.
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