In the vast realm of coffee brewing methods, one particular approach stands out for its unique characteristics and distinct flavors – the lungo. Derived from the Italian word meaning “long,” a lungo is a type of espresso shot that has gained popularity among coffee enthusiasts worldwide. In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating world of the lungo, exploring its origins, brewing process, flavor profile, and the artistry involved in achieving the perfect cup of lungo coffee.
The Origins of the Lungo
The lungo, hailing from the rich heritage of Italian coffee culture, emerged as an evolution of the espresso. Traditionally, Italians preferred a short, concentrated shot of espresso. However, over time, a desire for a milder, less intense coffee experience led to the birth of the lungo. The concept was to extend the brewing time of an espresso shot, extracting a larger volume of water through the coffee grounds, resulting in a more balanced and nuanced cup.
Unlike its shorter counterpart, the typical lungo involves a lengthier extraction process. The brewing technique emphasizes the use of more water and a coarser grind size to facilitate the extended contact time between water and coffee. Here’s a step-by-step guide to crafting a delightful lungo:
- Coffee Selection: Begin with a high-quality coffee blend or single-origin beans known for their well-rounded flavor profiles, as the extended extraction time of a lungo enhances the beans’ characteristics.
- Grind Size: Adjust your grinder to produce a coarser grind size than what is typically used for espresso. The coarser grind allows for a slower extraction process, preventing over-extraction and bitterness.
- Dose: Aim for a dose of around 18-20 grams of coffee for a double lungo shot. Use a slightly higher coffee-to-water ratio than for espresso.
- Water Temperature: Heat water to around 195-205°F (90-96°C). The slightly higher temperature compensates for the larger volume of water used and ensures proper extraction.
- Extraction Time: For a lungo, the brewing time typically ranges between 1 to 1.5 times that of a standard espresso shot. Aim for a total extraction time of 45 to 60 seconds and 54-60 grams of liquid output.
Alternate Brewing Technique
This typical lungo extraction accomplishes more liquid output by simply pulling the espresso shot for a longer time. However, we know that over extracting an espresso shot can result in bitterness as the bitter compounds start to extract after a longer period of contact time with water. So what if we start with the typical 18-20 grams of ground coffee and try to extract 54-60 grams but do it in the same 25-30 seconds as it takes for an espresso normale? I’ve found that this tweaked recipe results in a smoother and more balanced espresso. In order to extract more coffee in the same amount of time, we do have to change one thing: the grind size. Grind a little bit coarser than you would with your normal espresso shot. This allows more water to flow through the coffee bed in the same amount of time.
Author Note: If you are looking to increase your extraction yield to the max, grind even coarser and experiment! This gets you closer and closer to what is known as a turbo shot, which is becoming more popular despite it’s counter intuitive and non-traditional extraction.
Flavor Profile and Characteristics
The lungo presents a distinct flavor profile that sets it apart from other coffee brewing methods. The extended brewing time extracts more oils, sugars, and other soluble compounds from the coffee grounds, resulting in a coffee that exhibits:
- Boldness: A lungo showcases a stronger presence compared to a traditional espresso, thanks to the prolonged contact time with water. It offers a bolder flavor profile with pronounced intensity and complexity. Bitterness can also be an unwelcome side effect.
- Balanced Acidity: The extended extraction process helps mellow out the acidity, resulting in a lungo that exhibits a well-rounded and smoother flavor profile.
- Aromatics: Lungo brewing often accentuates the aromatic elements of the coffee beans. Expect delightful fragrances of caramel, chocolate, floral notes, and even hints of spices, depending on the coffee beans used.
- Lingering Aftertaste: Due to the extended extraction, a lungo lingers on the palate, providing a satisfying and lingering aftertaste.
Artistry in Lungo Preparation
Crafting the perfect lungo requires a delicate balance between technique, knowledge, and personal preference. Achieving an excellent lungo shot involves a mastery of the brewing process, including grind size, water temperature, and extraction time. Expert baristas possess the ability to fine-tune these variables to bring out the best flavors in each coffee bean selection.
Additionally, the lungo offers an opportunity for creative experimentation and customization. Coffee enthusiasts can explore various coffee blends, origins, and roast levels to discover unique flavor profiles within the lungo spectrum. By adjusting the grind size, water temperature, and extraction time, one can tailor the lungo to their preferred taste, whether it’s a bold and robust cup or a more delicate and nuanced experience.
Moreover, the lungo brewing technique lends itself to the creation of specialty lungo-based beverages. It serves as a fantastic base for crafting indulgent drinks like lungo macchiatos, lungo Americanos, or even lungo affogatos. The extended extraction process of the lungo ensures that these beverages retain the desired intensity and complexity while accommodating additional ingredients like milk, cream, or syrups.
Appreciating the Lungo Experience
Enjoying a cup of lungo goes beyond the mere act of drinking coffee; it is an immersive sensory experience. The enticing aromas wafting from the cup, the rich hues of the crema, and the depth of flavors all contribute to the overall enjoyment. Savoring a lungo allows coffee enthusiasts to embrace the craftsmanship and artistry behind this brewing method.
When serving a lungo, consider using a larger cup or glass to appreciate its vibrant colors and visual appeal. Take the time to observe the crema—a golden layer that crowns the lungo—as it showcases the quality of the extraction process. Appreciate the interplay of flavors as they dance on your taste buds, noting the balance of acidity, sweetness, and bitterness that make the lungo a unique and gratifying coffee experience.
The lungo stands as a testament to the evolution of coffee brewing techniques, offering coffee lovers a captivating and refined alternative to the traditional espresso shot. With its extended extraction process, bold flavors, and aromatic complexity, the lungo invites exploration and customization. By embracing the artistry and mastery involved in the lungo brewing technique, one can unlock a world of delightful flavors and elevate their coffee appreciation to new heights. So, the next time you find yourself seeking a coffee experience that lingers and entices, indulge in the allure of the lungo and discover a symphony of flavors within a single cup.
Stay caffeinated, friends!