Espresso Italiano




Althougt Italians are not coffee producers, Espresso is now one of the most successful symbols of “made in Italy” worldwide. Espresso is also among the products that are copied the most, often with very poor results. It is not rare for the word espresso, coupled as it may be with other words or symbols evoking the spirit of Italy, to conceal simple blends of poor quality coffee or even products that have nothing to do with the little cup that cheers people up by giving them long lasting and superfine pleasure. Therefore, on 6 July 1998 the Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano (Inei) was founded, with the specific aim of safeguarding and promoting Espresso. – after three years of extensive research, conducted by the Istituto Internazionale Assaggiatori Caffè (International Coffee Taster Institute) and by the Centro Studi e Formazione Assaggiatori (Research and Training Centre for Tasters) with the collaboration of the lectures from the Universities of Udine and Turin, and aiming at defining the quality expectations of those who order a cup of espresso. In a little more than one year, Inei obtained certification for espresso coffee with the mark Espresso Italiano (certificate of product conformity Csqa n. 214 – 24 September 1999, DTP 008 Ed.1). To guarantee consumers who choose to drink espresso at coffee bars bearing its mark, a strict technical specification was issued, requiring: • the use of a certified coffee blend; • the use of certified equipment (machine and grinder-dispenser); • the use of licensed personnel. Compliance with the three conditions above, under the supervision of the experts from the Italian Espresso National Institute and of the auditors of the Certifying Body, is it possible to affer the consumer a coffee identified by the Espresso Italiano mark.


What is espresso?


It is the best way to obtain from knowledgeably roasted coffee beans all the pleasure that they are able to give. More practically, espresso is the drink-in-a-cup obtained by forcing adequately pressurised water through coffee powder. Espresso coffee should not contain any additive or flavouring and should be free of any artificially added water. What are the sensory characteristics of the certified Espresso Italiano? The sensory characteristics of Espresso Italiano are those set forth by the technical specifications for the sensory quality of the Espresso Italiano marked coffee. More precisely, Espresso Italiano in the cup and ready for consumption, must have the following profile:



How was it possible to define sensory characteristics?


The decision on the quality of any product is silently pronounced by the consumer. To understand what customers expect when they order an espresso, the Istituto Internazionale Assaggiatori Caffè, with the technical assistance of the Centro Studi e Formazione Assaggiatori, carried out thousands of consumer tests and laboratory tests to define what objective and measurable characteristics belong to the preferred types of espresso. These characteristics were then codified, along with the method to determine them.


How to determine whether the sensory characteristics conform to the certified profile?


Through a panel of expert tasters that carry out sensory analysis individually on the proper card called Trialcard Espresso Italiano. Data obtained from tasting is processed through special statistical tools that verify the reliability of the outcomes and judges.


Why certify the sensory quality of Espresso Italiano?


Today, Espresso is one of the most successful expression of “made in Italy” in the food and drink sector, but this is exactly the reason why so often its name is misused to identify products that are not up to tradition and do not meet consumers’ expectations. Certification of the sensory quality has enabled the producers of blends and equipment to establish a new contract with the end user and a commitment to comply with certain requirements under the control of a watchdog: the Certyfing Body.


What are the contributing factors to obtain Espresso Italiano?


Espresso Italiano must be obtained from a certified blend, using certified equipment (machine and grinder-dispenser) and a licensed facility manager. If even just one of these elements is missing, espresso cannot be said to comply with the requirements set forth by the specification.


How can consumers find Espresso Italiano?


The bars and restaurants that exclusively use certified blends, certified equipment and licensed personnel can affix the Espresso Italiano Certificato mark to inform consumers that they can – and must – request an espresso with sensory characteristics that comply with those provided by the specification.


How can bars and restaurants obtain the Espresso Italiano mark?


The bars and restaurants that wish to obtain the Espresso Italiano mark can submit their application to the Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano, which will start a procedure to verify that all the conditions required by the technical specification for certification are in place.


How can an operator obtain the license to prepare Espresso Italiano?


By attending the courses organised by the Istituto Internazionale Assaggiatori Caffè both in Italy and abroad, and by passing the final exam.


What characteristics – in technical detail – are required to obtain Espresso Italiano?


The product certification aims at considering the most important aspect: the satisfaction of the customers’ expectations of pleasure. However, the technical specification includes test rules that can be used to answer this question. The following are some important conditions to obtain Espresso Italiano – though these alone would not be adequate to fulfil the quality requirements:

• Necessary portion of ground coffee 7 g ± 0,5

• Exit temperature of water from the unit 88°C ± 2°C

• Temperature of the drink in the cup 67°C ± 3°C

• Entry water pressure 9 bar ± 1

• Percolation time 25 seconds ± 2,5 seconds

• Viscosity at 45°C > 1,5 mPa s • Total fat > 2 mg/ml

• Caffeine < 100 mg/cup

• Millilitres in the cup (including foam) 25 ml ± 2,5


From a descriptive profile standpoint, what are the sensory characteristics of an Espresso Italiano?


On sight, Espresso Italiano has a hazel-brown to dark – brown foam – characterised by tawny reflexes – with a very fine texture (absence of large mesh and larger or smaller bubbles). The nose reveals an intense scent with notes of flowers, fruits, toasted bread and chocolate. All of these sensations are felt also after swallowing the coffee in the long lasting aroma that remains for several seconds, sometimes even for minutes. Its taste in round, substantial and velvet-like. Sour and bitter tastes are well balanced and neither one prevails over the other. There is no, or a barely perceptible, astringent taste.


Can Espresso Italiano be obtained from only one type of coffee?


Espresso Italiano is obtained, by definition and by tradition, through an expert blend of coffees of different origin. This is the only way to obtain the pleasant and rich aroma and the important and velvet body. The difference between an Espresso Italiano and a preparation obtained with the same methods but from one single coffee is similar to the dif ference to be found, in music, between a symphony and a solo performance: the more pleasant one cannot be established in advance, but they are certainly different.


Should the type of coffee used in the preparation of espresso be better in quality than the types used for other preparations?


Coffee is a fine pleasure and as such it should always be prepared from good raw materials, but if espresso is prepared according to the guidelines, it produces a remarkably higher extraction of both good and bad coffee components. This is why the quality of the coffee used for espresso should be totally faultless.


What is the milestone for the quality of espresso?


A person, with his/her knowledge, capabilities and motivation. It is indeed the operator who selects and manages the equipment and the blend, adjusts the equipment to the properties of the blend, and controls every step of the preparation process to make excellent espresso. This is why the Italian Espresso National Institute has been attaching so much importance to the operator.


How can the persons who prepares Espresso Italiano realise that the product is not in compliance with the conformity profile?


First of all from tasting: a well trained operator can give a comprehensive judgement on the little cup’s content simply by using his/her sense organs. However, if he does not wish to taste too many espressos in one day, he has also indirect control tools available: a good espresso, for example, is produced from the machine at a rate of one millilitre per second. It takes 25 seconds to fill a 25 millilitre cup (the correct dose).


What happens if an espresso is obtained in 15 or in 35 second?


The blend design generally ensures that, after duly grinding the blend, it yields 25 millilitres of coffee, by taking the best part of the substances present in a coffee bean (glucides, proteins, fat and aromatic components) and by leaving the less noble substances in the exhaust cake. If the extraction time lasts no longer than 15 seconds, it means that the hot water has not taken the right treasure with it and a part of precious substances has remained in the powered. In addition, the beverage is going to be unbalanced from a sensory standpoint. The espresso will be poor in body, more bitter than expected with a faint aroma. If it lasts 35 seconds the opposite is going to occur: the woody, unpleasant and pungent components will be extracted from the coffee powder. Obviously one might say that it takes less time to make 15 millilitres of coffee and it takes longer to make 35, as is done in certain countries: in both cases the preparation obtained will not present the requirements of Espresso Italiano.


What is the ideal cup for Espresso Italiano?


The ideal container is a white china cup, free of any inside decoration, elliptical in shape, truncated inside while it may or may not be bell-shaped outside, with 50 millilitre approximate capacity. This is the only cup whereby it is possilble to fully appreciate the look of the excellent foam, the precious smell and the warm and smooth taste of espresso.


How can one learn to taste Espresso Italiano?


To learn the espresso tasting method you can attend one of the many one-day license courses organised by Istituto Internazionale Assaggiatori Caffè (c/o Centro Studi Via delle Tofane, 14 – 25128 Brescia) every year both in Italy and abroad.


What are Iiac’s permanent training points?


The permanent training points (punti di formazione permanente or Pfp) are set up by Istituto Internazionale Assaggiatori Caffè on the premises of coffee roasters, machine manufactures, hospitality operators (bars, hotels and restaurants) and all levels of schools to spread the culture and art both among operators in the coffee business and among careful consumers.




The Istituto Internazionale Assaggiatori Caffè (Iiac), is a non-profit association that is financed through the associates’ shares only. It was founded in 1993 with the goal of developing and deploying a scientific method to give shape to the sensory value of coffee. Iiac immediately focused its attention immediately on espresso, as a sure symbol of “made in Italy”, and has developed one tasting method and one sensory analysis method. The former is described in detail in the book Coffee Tasting – published in Italian and English, translated into Spanish and even published in Japanese. This tasting method is recognised by the International Coffee Organization and by important coffee producing countries like Columbia, where, in 1998, no fewer than five hundred people have attended the seminars on espresso tasting. Both tasting and sensory analysis are considered in depth in the book Espresso Italiano Tasting. Moreover, since its foundation, the Istituto Internazionale Assaggiatori Caffè has held several training courses to release licenses, attended even by Japanese, Spanish, Americans, Australians and Germans. In 1999 Iiac defined the Espresso Italiano Specialist training course to license the operators of those bars offering Espresso Italiano Certificato. The Institute has an important scientific committee that plans research to guarantee innovation in the sector. Its members are University staff, well-known experts and professional. In line with this activity, the Institute provides assistance to University students who show an interest in coffee to draw up their graduation theses, organizes congresses, carries out thousands of consumer tests to identify quality models and sets up sensory analysis session on espresso.


Istituto In ternazionale Assaggiatori Caffè


c/o Centro Studi – Via delle Tofane 14 – 25128 Brescia (Italy)

Tel. +39 030 397308 – Fax +39 030 300328 e-mail:


I s t i t u t o  N a z i o n a l e  E s p r e s s o  I t a l i a n o

c/o Centro Studi Via delle Tofane 14 – 25128 Brescia (Italy)

Tel. +39 030 397308 – Fax +39 030 300328 e-mail: