Making the perfect espresso is a skill that takes time and effort to master. Besides the aroma and flavor, a perfect espresso shot has a viscosity that is similar to warm honey, a dark brown body at the bottom that becomes lighter in the middle, and a “tiger-skin” crema on the top that is similar to a tiger’s skin.
Unfortunately, when the temperature of the shot cools, the heart, body, and crema blend, alterers the taste and texture of the brew. Espresso has a half-life of fewer than three minutes. When this occurs, your espresso will not look or taste as good.
In order to appreciate the freshness of espresso, you must consume it quickly, but not so quickly that you miss out on the texture and flavors of the drink.
Unfortunately, there are various reasons why your espresso may taste off. Let’s look at why shots fail and what you can do to avoid a bad espresso.
What Causes Espresso Shots to Perish?
When espresso shots are left out for too long, they die. So espresso should be consumed quickly; the clue is in the name. You drink it quickly to get that caffeine hit that will get you out of your afternoon slump.
Espresso shots perish as they cool. This is when the center, body, and crema combine to change the taste and texture of your brew; this process takes two to three minutes.
Some large coffee chains claim that it takes ten seconds for espresso to tank, but this is not true – it takes about 24 seconds to make espresso, so the ten-second rule is false.
A dense crema’s tiny arrangement of bubbles will break down as the water evaporates and the opaque lipids interact with the foam.
Because of oxidation, the oils and lipids that give the shot its rich flavor and full body will begin to degrade.
Chlorogenic acids degrade into bitter quinic acids, which impart a rancid, musty flavor to the brew as a result of this degradation.
Remember that this chemical breakdown occurs quickly, but not very quickly. So don’t think you have to guzzle a steaming cup of espresso to get the most out of it.
Yes, it should be consumed quickly, but in small sips. Even though dead espresso has a bland and lifeless taste, the caffeine content remains the same.
The best espresso is served at room temperature. When the drink is too hot, it isn’t easy to taste the individual flavor notes fully.
Allowing the espresso to cool to room temperature is preferable in this case, and the best baristas are aware of this.
Many baristas request that the judges wait to drink their espresso or stir to cool it down in barista competitions.
What Factors Contribute to a Bad Espresso?
Flavor has an expiration date. On the other hand, a poorly executed espresso cannot hide behind its temperature and body. Consider the ten factors that influence the flavor of an espresso:
Because the beans still have some trapped carbon dioxide, coffee beans taste best after five days from the roasting date.
Roasting beans immediately after roasting results in an unpleasant flavor, so never brew with them immediately after roasting.
Heat, oxygen, light, and moisture must not be allowed to enter the beans; otherwise, the quality and longevity of the beans will be reduced significantly.
In order to allow carbon dioxide to escape, beans must be vacuum-packed with a special air valve in the bag.
After opening the package, press the bag to release air and reseal it. You can also freeze your coffee beans once all of the air has been removed.
2. The Coffee Beans
It is important not to grind more coffee than you will need for your espresso because pre-ground coffee loses its aroma and flavor when left out in the open for an extended period of time.
Instead, the best practice is to only grind coffee when it is absolutely necessary.
3. Size of Grind
Espresso requires a fine grind to extract the most flavors because small particles increase the surface area. The setting on your coffee grinder determines the coarseness or fineness of your coffee grinds.
If your grounds are too fine, you will experience over-extraction, which will result in a bitter espresso.
However, an extra-fine size may prevent water from flowing properly through the puck, which may result in spillage as a result.
If your grinds are too coarse, your coffee will be under-extracted, and your espresso will taste watery and sour, with no sweetness.
To make 1 to 1.5 ounces of coffee, a single espresso requires 7 to 10 grams. To make 2 to 2.5 ounces of coffee, a double shot requires 14 to 20 grams. The grinds-to-coffee ratio is always 1:2.
Under-dosing reduces the amount of time the water has contact with the coffee grinds, resulting in watery, under-extracted coffee.
Overdosing reduces the rate at which water flows through the puck. This prolongs the extraction time, resulting in a bitter, dry espresso.
You can reduce the likelihood of making mistakes with your dosing calculations by using a single-shot scoop or a weighing scale, respectively.
When adding the grounds to the portafilter, they do not fall evenly. As a result, you must level the grounds before tamping to distribute the beans evenly; otherwise, uneven extraction will result.
Excessive tamping causes over-compression of the grinds, resulting in over-extraction; under-tamping results in under-extraction.
6. Failure to Pre-Heat Your Coffee Maker
After you turn on your espresso machine, it takes some time for the pressure and heat to build up in the machine. Some machines can take up to thirty minutes to get ready to brew before they are ready to use.
Check that your machine has warmed up, is at the proper temperature, and has 9 bars. Preheat your espresso cups and portafilters to ensure that your espresso stays hot for as long as possible.
7. Incorrect Portafilter Insertion Into The Machine
If you knock the portafilter into the group head, you risk loosening or cracking the puck, which will result in espresso channeling. So instead, make certain that the puck is properly inserted into the group head.
8. Quality of Water
Water’s chemical compounds affect extraction. For example, hard water causes poor extraction, but you can improve water quality by installing a filter and softening system if you live in a hard-water area.
Distilled water, on the other hand, lacks the necessary minerals and chemicals, resulting in a bitter and flat cup of espresso.
9. Espresso Machine Calibration
Out of calibration espresso machines produce espresso that is either too long or too fast. For a single shot, a cycle time of 20 to 25 seconds is considered optimal.
Simultaneously, the cycle time for a double shot should be between 25 and 35 seconds.
10. Equipment Maintenance
You must clean and sanitize your coffee machine and equipment regularly because a buildup of coffee grounds and oils can affect the quality and taste of your brew.
After brewing espresso, remove the portafilter and rinse the group head with water to clean it. Then, using a nylon brush, clean the shower screen and rubber inside the group head.
Is it necessary to stir espresso?
Espresso has three profiles: a dark-brown bottom layer, a brown caramel middle layer, and a bitter blonde, foamy crema.
Crema is a layer of bitter roasting flavors that sits on top of the espresso. As a result, blend the three espresso layers to incorporate the bitter crema into the brew for a well-balanced overall flavor.
As long as you do it carefully, stirring with a spoon is best to blend these layers. Nobody wants their coffee to spill on them or their computer.
Coffee tastes better after it has cooled. It’s similar to how white wine tastes better after being removed from the fridge to warm up.
The espresso brewing temperature ranges from 93 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and stirring cools the beverage down enough to allow you to pick up on the beautiful flavors in the shot.
Stirring also cools the espresso, which enhances the flavors.
Both smell and taste are intertwined and influence one another. For example, stirring releases gases and aromas that allow you to enjoy your first sip. Similarly, a delectable aroma serves as the foundation for tasting espresso.
Is It Possible For Espresso To Go Bad In The Fridge?
It’s fine to leave espresso in the fridge for about half a day if you use it to make a cold beverage. However, do not keep a shot of espresso in the refrigerator to enjoy later.
In order to keep up with demand, many cafes make large batches of espresso in the morning to use for milk-based coffee beverages throughout the day, particularly when the establishment is busy.
The only time they do this is when they warm it up from the fridge and pass it off as freshly brewed coffee. A zealous coffee-drinking community would lynch them if they did, and they would be justified in doing so.
Even the best espresso shots die. However, no matter how hot the espresso is, it cannot hide flaws poorly made.
Keep in mind that, contrary to what some coffee shops claim, espresso takes two to three minutes to turn, not ten seconds.
As a result, you should drink espresso quickly but not in one gulp. Instead, take a few sips to appreciate the complexities of flavor and aroma. If your espresso is too hot, set it aside to cool, and room temperature is ideal.