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on 21 February 2001
While Erlich covers a lot of amusing ground, I find his definition of "espresso" incomprehensible and undrinkable. Erlich writes that espresso is
"coffee prepared by forcing live steam or boiling water through ground dark roast coffee beans."
I'm not quite sure what "live steam" is, but neither it nor boiling water makes espresso. Rather water no hotter than 98 celsius at the pressure of 132 pounds per square inch (9 atmospheres) is what meets the finely ground coffee. God only knows that there has been enough scientific study of the espresso method (and the 114 variables that can render an espresso into swill) for this to be acknowledged by every coffee book and food magazine of any credibibility.
Second, only American roasters use a dark roast - hence the bitterness of Starbucks coffee - most European gourmet espresso blends are medium roasted. Third Erlich asserts that espress is "strong coffee" - a loose formulation. Espresso contains more of the cardinal substances that give coffee its characteristic aroma and taste than other brewing methods, but it extracts considerably less caffeine than any other brewing method.
Finally, Erlich says "espresso" means "pressed out." This is only true in the sense that pressed out means "made on the spur of the moment." Espresso originally applied to any food created with such speed, and only later became bound to the diminutive drink.
Erlich's research doesn't inspire much confidence in the rest of the book.
Trevor Butterworth
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