How to Drink Espresso without Looking Like a Fool

Have you ordered an espresso just to be unsure about how you’re supposed to approach drinking it? If so, you’re not alone! We aren’t just born with the knowledge about how to drink espresso properly, which is why The Gentleman’s Playbook is here to help.

There are various different ways you can receive a shot of espresso when you order one at your favorite coffee shop. We are going to cover the different formats espresso is commonly served in, as well as the espresso drinking etiquette you need to know in order to make sure you’re doing everything right when it comes to enjoying that strong cup of coffee.

We’ll start by going over the methodology you want to adopt when learning how to drink espresso. After we outline the order of operation for drinking, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions and provide conditional information on unique scenarios you may encounter when ordering espresso.

How to Drink Espresso the Right Way

When it comes to figuring out just how to drink espresso, we’ll start by breaking the process down into two primary elements:

  1. How to Order Espresso
  2. How to Drink Espresso

Making sure you order espresso properly will guarantee you get exactly what you want. Then, knowing how to drink it depending on how the espresso is served will help you make sure you’re enjoying this classic drink to its fullest!

How to Order Espresso & What You’ll Get With It

When you order an espresso, simply ask the barista at your selected coffee shop for a shot of espresso. There are two standard volumetric measurements for espresso – a single shot is 1 oz. and a doppio is 2 oz. If you’d like a double (or 2 oz.), which is twice the normal amount, you want to ask for it doppio.

After receiving your espresso, you may notice a couple of elements that you don’t see with standard coffee orders such as drip, Americano, or lattes:

  • Smaller Cup Size
  • A Small Spoon
  • A Small Glass of Still or Sparkling Water
  • A Serving Tray

There are times when you may not see all of these as part of your order; we want to go over how to drink espresso standard, which would include the four elements listed above. If you receive an espresso that’s missing one of these (such as the spoon or water), simply ask your barista to provide one. You can also ask for these things while placing your order.

We wouldn’t suggest asking for a tray if it’s missing. All espresso should be served in a size-appropriate cup at any reputable coffee shop.

But Wait…What’s “Crema”?

what is crema in espresso

Before we get into the exciting part of breaking down how to drink espresso properly, we want to cover something unique to espresso that you could be unfamiliar with if this is your first shot:

  • Crema – this is the foamy part of espresso that rises to the top of your espresso shot. It’s argued by baristas that when there’s a beautiful crema on top of your espresso, it means it was made with quality beans and the perfect grind.

How to Drink Espresso Like a Pro

Once you receive your espresso, you’ll want to enjoy it by doing the following:

  1. Thank your barista for serving you up with what may be the coolest coffee drinking experience you’ve ever had
  2. Sip your sparkling water (or table water) to cleanse your palette
  3. Optional – use spoon to remove crema from espresso. You can also leave it as is, or skip this step and stir it with the rest of your espresso.
  4. Optional – stir espresso with spoon.
  5. Enjoy your espresso in 2 to 4 sips. Traditional espresso consumption is usually in two sips. If you would like to linger with the drink to enjoy all of it’s tasting notes, then take more time as needed.

Confused about why there are two optional steps there? Let’s break it down:

Let’s start with the optional step of removing your espresso’s crema…in traditional Italian espresso consumption, the crema is left intact. A more modern trend lately has been to remove the crema from your espresso or to stir it in, due to the bitter flavor it provides. The Gentleman’s Playbook encourages you to try your espresso both ways to find which way you prefer!

Next, we have the optional Step 4stir your espresso. There’s again debate amongst the coffee community and baristas on the best way to prepare your espresso before your first sip.

Traditional Italian espresso drinking does not stir the espresso, unless sugar is added. Modern trends suggest stirring the espresso to combine all the separated flavors and create a more cohesive, consistent tasting experience. We again encourage you to give both a try to find what you enjoy best!

Why is Espresso Served With Sparkling Water?

You may find that when you receive your espresso, it is served with a small glass of sparkling water on the side. This isn’t just for looks. Espresso is served with sparkling water so that you have a palette cleanser to take advantage of throughout the drinking experience.

a glass of sparkling water with espresso

Sometimes, espresso is served with plain, non-sparkling water as well. Either way, the small glass is meant to provide you a means to clear your palette before and after the espresso. There are a few reasons you’d want to cleanse your palette throughout the espresso drinking experience:

  • Before Your First Sip: By having some of the sparkling water before your first sip of espresso, you’re able to cleanse your palette of any remnant flavor on your tongue. This could help wash away any remaining toothpaste from your morning brushing; maybe you had something to eat prior to your espresso shot. By taking a small sip of sparkling water, you can ensure you enjoy all of the different tasting notes the unique coffee you’ve ordered can provide!
  • In the Middle of Drinking: Some people like to take advantage of sparkling water as a means to reset something called “palette fatigue.” Palette fatigue is the phenomena we experience when repeatedly tasted flavors begin to mellow out since our tastebuds become accustomed to them. With drinks as strong as espresso, this can be a challenge – the sparkling water quickly lifts the flavor of espresso off your tongue and “resets” your palette so you can resume enjoying the full flavor spectrum of your coffee!
  • Once You Finish Your Espresso: Lastly, sparkling water is often used as a way to wash down the remnant espresso in your mouth. This is especially helpful if you’re about to head into the office or have to do some face-to-face communication after having coffee. Sparkling water after drinking espresso helps get rid of coffee breath without the need to brush your teeth and ruin the tasting experience you just had.

The most common way to integrate any sparkling water you receive with your espresso is to first take a small sip of it before you taste your espresso, then use the sparkling water throughout the drinking experience to cleanse your palette when you notice you’re not tasting a full range of flavor from the coffee. Then, once you finish, you can drink the rest of the sparkling water to cleanse your palette and fight dreaded coffee breath!

Do you Drink Espresso Like a Shot?

Typically, you do not drink espresso like a shot. Espresso is most commonly enjoyed over the course of a few sips, rather than a straight shot. In some instances, drinking espresso as a shot may relay to your barista that it was not a tasty espresso.

By taking a few sips to complete your espresso, you signal to your barista that it was a good drink that you savored. Drinking an espresso this way also gives you the chance to enjoy the complete flavor spectrum espresso has to offer – as the temperature of the coffee changes and cools off, you’ll enjoy different tasting notes that weren’t elevated while it was freshly hot.

Do You Put Sugar in Espresso?

It is Italian tradition to add sugar to espresso, however this is not a rule you have to follow to enjoy the drink.

Many people elect to drink espresso without added sugar in order to taste the entire flavor profile of the coffee, while some use sugar as a way to cut back on bitterness and mellow the flavor out. We recommend trying your espresso both ways to determine whether or not you prefer your shot with sugar.

Just add 1/3 to 1/2 of a teaspoon of sugar to your warm espresso to enjoy a slightly sweetened shot!

Do You Drink Espresso Straight?

Many people ask us whether or not you can drink espresso straight. One of the most common ways to drink espresso is straight, without any additional sugar or cream. This is a timeless way to enjoy espresso and many believe the proper way to do so – drinking espresso straight allows you to enjoy the full-bodied flavor and richness of the coffee.

Follow our guidelines above regarding how to drink espresso the right way in order to enjoy your drink to its fullest capacity.

Do you Drink Espresso with Milk?

No, you do not drink espresso with milk. Adding milk to espresso would create a different kind of drink – there are many different kinds of coffees that utilize a combination of milk and espresso, which we will go over below!

do you drink espresso with milk

What is an Espresso with Milk Called?

An espresso with milk can be called a multitude of things, depending on how it’s prepared! The most common form of milk and espresso is that of the ever-popular latte! Here are some other common coffee drinks that combine milk and espresso for unique, delicious outcomes:

  • Latte
  • Cappuccino
  • Cortado
  • Espresso Macchiato
  • Flat White

We are sure you’ve seen some of these on your local coffee shop menu! Try some out and check out this excellent article that breaks down these coffees and how they’re made!

How to Drink Espresso the Right Way

You should now have a fairly good idea on how to drink espresso, the different ways you can drink it, what the unfamiliar tools and secondary elements to espresso are, and you also learned some espresso drinking etiquette!

Found this helpful? Feel free to share it with your friends who may be interested in learning more about the art of coffee and enjoying espresso! There are lots of ways to enjoy it and many factors to consider when you receive your shot, so we hope we were able to clear up the confusion here!

Check out the rest of The Gentleman’s Playbook for more lifestyle advice and tricks!