Why Is My Espresso So Bitter? 5 Reasons & 3 Fixes

When made using the best espresso machine, an espresso shot is often rich in flavor with dark chocolate and caramel notes. Therefore, sipping a bitter espresso can ruin what could have been a day well spent. So, why is your espresso so bitter? What is even important, how do you fix bitter espresso?

Espresso can be bitter because of over-extraction, grind size, stale coffee beans, and dirty equipment. You can fix a bitter espresso by adding additives such as milk and sugar. Besides, using fresh and quality coffee beans, adjusting brew time and temperature, and using medium roasts can give you good results.

Understanding Espresso

Espresso is a concentrated coffee drink that is stronger than regular coffee. You often take it in small bold portions, either single or double shot. Besides, espresso is a base for many specialty drinks like latte, cappuccino, mocha, and americano.

What sets espresso apart is its preparation method. The roasting time for espresso beans tends to be longer than regular coffee beans. Also, the coffee drink uses a consistently fine grind, which undergoes tamping to pack it evenly in the filter basket.

When it comes to brewing, pressurized hot water goes through the evenly packed coffee grounds to produce the rich, dark, and delicious espresso drink.

Related: Can You Make Espresso In Regular Coffee Machine?

Why Does Espresso Taste Bitter?

You put several factors in place to extract a perfect shot of espresso. If you overlook any of them, it results in a bitter-tasting brew. Some of the reasons for bitter-tasting espresso are;

1. Over-extraction Of The Coffee Grounds

Most often, over-extraction is the primary cause of bitter espresso. It can be due to a long brew time. If your brewing process goes past 20-25 minutes, the coffee grounds may start to leach tannic acid into your coffee, thus, making it bitter.

Over-extraction can also result from the brew ratio. To balance between the coffee grounds and water, you need to use a proportion of 1:2. If you use excess water, your espresso will taste bitter and over-extracted.

On the other hand, little water will result in sour and under-extracted coffee. The same applies to coffee grounds. If you fail to use the correct proportions, it can lead to a bitter-tasting espresso.

2. Grind Size

A fine grind size enables your espresso to brew slowly, resulting in a bolder taste. That’s because you get to extract all the delicate flavors.

However, if you decide to use a grind size that is extra fine, your espresso will take longer to drip, leading to a bitter-tasting shot. You might have to change the grind setting to make coarser grounds.

3. Dirty Equipment

If none of the adjustments seems to give you a better tasting brew, the culprit might be a dirty espresso machine.

When brewing your espresso, coffee grounds produce oil that builds up in various sections of the brewer. If you fail to clean your appliance regularly to remove them, the oils can spoil, altering your espresso flavors.

Besides, espresso oils can block sections like the group head and net showers. As a result, it may restrict water flow, resulting in uneven extraction. Therefore, you might get a bitter espresso.

Also, the blockage can put pressure on other parts of the espresso machine, making them not function properly.

4. Volumetrics And Espresso Machine Programming

It is vital to check the volumetrics of your espresso machine when setting up your brew process. Proper programming enables your coffee machines to distribute the correct amount of water to match the number of coffee grounds in the filter basket.

Any inconsistencies in volumetrics can lead to a bitter-tasting espresso. I recommend you weigh the ingredients to ensure consistency in your brew ratio. That way, you will be able to extract a perfect shot.

5. Stale Coffee Beans

To brew a tasty cup of espresso, you need to use fresh coffee grounds. Coffee beans that have stayed for so long become stale, thus giving your espresso a bitter taste.

Even so, I do not recommend using coffee beans roasted the same day. They need to stay for about 5-7 days to enable them to de-gas.

What To Do When Espresso is So Bitter

A few quick fixes and rebrewing can help you sip a tasty shot. If you already have a bitter espresso in your cup, you can do the following:

  • Add milk or cream –The fat content in the cream or milk will neutralize the bitterness, enhancing the flavor of your coffee.
  • Add some sugarSweeteners such as sugar help make your cup consumable.
  • Use salt – A pinch of salt can help fix the bitter espresso without changing the flavors. But you must be keen to avoid ruining your brew with too much salt.

If you prefer to brew another shot of tasty espresso, here is what you can do:

  • You can opt for Arabica coffee beans, which are less bitter than Robusta coffee beans.
  • Adjust your brew time to avoid over extracting your coffee grounds.
  • Use fresh and quality coffee beans that have undergone roasting 1-2 weeks in advance.
  • Thoroughly clean your espresso machine to remove dirt and espresso oils. Backflush the brewing appliance regularly using plain water. Also, remember to clean the baskets and portafilters.
  • Maintain the correct brew ratio of coffee grounds to water. It should be a ratio of 1:2. Anything more or less will alter the taste of your espresso.
  • Use moderately-roasted coffee beans for better tasting espresso.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Why does my espresso taste sour?

A. A sour espresso shows that the brew is under-extracted. It means water ran through the coffee grounds quickly without extracting all the flavors. Probably, you are not using enough coffee grounds, or the grind size is coarse. To fix the problem, use a fine grind and tamp it well in the filter to create resistance for maximum extraction.

Q. Why does my espresso taste burnt?

A. A burnt taste in espresso is a sign of over-extraction. Meaning, you are using finer coffee grounds making water flow through them at a slower rate. Also, you might have used excess coffee grounds and tamped them too much. To remedy this, adjust the grind size to be a bit coarser. That way, water can seep through the coffee grounds evenly.

Final Thoughts

It is disheartening to sip a bitter espresso especially if you did not fill the espresso machine the right way. And most often, you might not know why your espresso is so bitter and how to fix bitter espresso. But not anymore; with this information, you shall be able to identify any change in taste of your brew and fix the problem.