Does Italian and American Espresso Taste Different?

This is a very interesting question, especially if you are an average American who is a lover of espresso. We all know that espresso originated in good old Italy, but has the taste changed since it crossed internationally to the USA? Obviously, Starbucks has worked to commercialize our coffee culture as a nation, so how has that affected the traditional taste of our espresso brew?

In truth, Italians do like a different taste to their espresso that Americans. Overall, the authentic espresso taste that you will find in Italy will have a burnt and ashy taste to the espresso. They want it to be as rich and as dark as possible, and they also serve it with a large amount of sugar. Espresso is seen as a robust and noticeable drink, making it an Italian favorite. In the United States, Americans are more partial toward a sweet and smooth espresso drink that is milder in flavor. They do add a small amount of milk and sugar, but not as much as in Italy. You can truly tell the difference in the espresso product that you get from any commercial coffee chain in America because it is light and pleasant, which is much different from anything that you will find in a café in Italy.

Another main difference that contributes to this is that Italian espresso is made with around 20% Robusta beans. If you are familiar with Robusta, then you will know that they are the cheaper coffee bean choice, and they are often used as a filler. They are seen as much lesser quality than Arabica, but Italians use them to give the burnt and smoky flavor to their espresso that they so love. This is not the way that Americans enjoy their espresso at all, and they normally use 100% Arabica beans because they are milder and smoother in flavor. These are the more expensive variety of beans, but in Italy, you will find them more apt to use the cheaper Robusta beans that give the darker taste to their espresso brew. These Robusta beans come from countries like Vietnam, Brazil, and India because they are grown at a lower altitude, which produces a lower quality coffee crop. For the best tasting coffee, it does need to be grown at a higher altitude in rich and fertile soil. An example of an amazing location for premium coffee growth would be somewhere like Hawaii, where coffee can be grown on rich volcanic areas at high altitudes with humidity to enable the plants to thrive. This is why many of the Arabica espresso beans used in America are from places like Hawaii, Africa, or Indonesia.

Finally, one last thing that does contribute to the difference in espresso taste from Italy to the United States is the roast type. The authentic Italian roasters want a very ashy taste to their coffee, and they will normally roast longer for an ultimately smoky flavor.

Regardless of the differences, I would not say no to an espresso anywhere – Italian or American!