Espesso – a thick, lucious espresso foam

Ferran Adria’s espresso foam, named “Espesso”, is indeed a fascinating concoction, created in cooperation with coffee producer Lavazza. The word espesso is a combination of espresso and the Italian word spesso, meaning thick. Just luck at the thick lucious foam.

closeup picture of cup with espesso

The invention has been commented on thoroughly in the blogosphere. See for instance Skillet Doux and Movable Feast – both feature some nice close-up pictures of espesso (including the one above).

Espesso has been available in Europe since 2002 (anyone know where?), but was just recently introduced in the US. Appearantly, the foam is served warm in Europe, but has been served cold in Chicago, at Lavazza’s three locations there.

According to the reports, espesso is made from espresso and a “secret” ingredient. The ingredients are mixed and left to settle for 12 hours under pressure. The product is then dispensed from the iSi Gourmet Whip (more info here, the propellant gas is nitrous oxide, N2O). As a chemist I certainly wonder what the “secret” ingredient is? If it is true that espesso has been served both warm and cold, they would need to use a thickening agent which is not very sensitive to temperature. Also, it appears that the foam once served is not stable for more than a couple of minutes.

My best guess would be xanthan and guar gum, or possibly a combination of the two. These hydrocolloids show thixotropic properties – when subjected to pressure/agitaion they soften, but then they jellify again afterwards. In other words – they could be easily dispensed through a siphon and would then solidify in the cup. Also, xanthan and guar gum are relatively temperature independent with regard to their thickening properties. Check out the INICON manuals on texture for great (and FREE!) information on these and several other hydrocolloids.

Update: The Lavazza homepage now features a video and a tool to find your nearest Espesso!


  1. This is a first for me on this. I have never seen anything like this before. My friend and i are espresso mad so we going to try this and let you all know what its like.

  2. What about the need for espesso to set for 12 hours? Do mixture of xanthan and guar gum need 12 hours to set? Or there are other solidifying materials added to enhanced it?

  3. The 12 hour time is to allow the gas to infuse into the mixture I’m sure. I’m also thinking that they may be using VersaWhip.. which is a brand name.. for a product that I don’t know the chemical name for. It can be used to make whipped cream out of things like balsamic vinegar instead of cream.. and I believe it’s reasonably temperature stable. Although products with sugar will carmelize at a high heat.

  4. Yes, it makes sense that the 12 hours is for the gas to dissolve. When making espumas one also leaves the whipper in the fridge, preferably over night.

    Thanks for brining my attention to VersaWhip – it’s a highly hydrolyzed soy protein and is used industrially as a replacement from egg-white or gelatin. I don’t think it is shear thinning though.

  5. Doesn’t shear thinning, mean that it has the ability to slide over itself.. and thusly pour? And one of the articles I read about Espesso clearly stated that it could be extruded into a dish and held upside down without it moving around. I am going to send you a picture to your email of a balsamic product made with versa whip.. i’m almost positive that it’s the same process.

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