How a long black beats a too long-extracted café crème

Nothing comes close to a shot of espresso for the delivery of pure, concentrated caffeinated goodness, but when you’re looking for something more substantial to linger over and to savour, well, more is more.

Yes, downing multiple espressos could always give you the required volume but the resulting buzz from four or five shots might not be worth it.

The best technique for making a decent-sized cuppa is that of the long black. First, prime your cup with the required amount of hot water, then add a single or double shot of espresso. By adding the espresso to the water – rather than the other way around – you get to preserve the all-important crema, which is the foam on top of an espresso that always looks so impressive.

(When you reverse the order and add hot water to an espresso, you destroy the crema and end up with what is known as an Americano.)

Either way you’re using a perfectly extracted espresso as the foundation for your brew and can dilute it according to taste. A win-win situation.

A far less effective method of getting an optimal brew out of a particular roast is the lungo or long espresso, also known as a café crème. A café crème is one of the most common coffees in Switzerland, but not for any reasons of quality.

The logic here is simple. There is a limit to how much coffee grinds you can physically fit into the portafilter of an espresso machine – usually around 18g for a double shot. Now, in order to generate more volume than your standard espresso shot, more water needs to pass through those grinds. This inevitably results in a too long-extracted coffee.

That’s where the bitter, hollow taste so characteristic of your standard lungo or café crème comes from.

The beauty of an espresso is of course the finely calibrated balance between the following factors:

  • the quality and type of beans
  • the type of roast
  • the coarseness of the grind
  • the amount of coffee grind
  • the tamping pressure
  • water temperature/stability
  • machine pressure
  • and the quantity and quality of water used in the extraction process.

However those variables might align, one thing doesn’t change: run too much water through the coffee grinds and in terms of flavour they’ll have nothing more to give.

It’s that last bit of long-extraction, with its tired and woody taste, which then ends up souring what was a perfectly good espresso to start with.

(Pro tip: this is usually where the cream comes in. If you don’t like the coffee, just add cream to mask the thin, unbalanced taste.)

Horizonte Coffee offers two premium roasts – our filter roast and our espresso roast. With two distinct, full-bodied speciality roasts there’s really no need for a café crème roast that’s destined for too long-extraction in an espresso machine.

So if it’s a long coffee made in the espresso machine you’re craving, you should know that it’s tough to beat a long black. First add your water, then top up with a shot or two of espresso goodness.

That perfectly balanced, inimitable espresso flavour – now marginally diluted to your taste – will be yours to savour.