Why does your espresso taste burnt? The short answer is that this issue usually results from the over-extraction of coffee or burnt beans; however, several other factors can contribute to this frustrating problem.
Several factors can contribute to burnt-tasting espresso, including over-extraction, over-roasted beans, high brewing temp, reheated coffee, friction from the grinders, incorrect temperature setting, a grind that’s too fine, poor-quality beans, improper tamping, and espresso dosing.
- Over-extraction is the most common cause of burnt-tasting coffee.
- Several other factors can contribute to burnt-tasting coffee.
- There are simple solutions can be implemented to resolve this troublesome problem.
- Key Takeaways
- What Causes Espresso to Taste Burnt?
- Over-Roasted Coffee Beans
- High Brewing Temperature
- Reheating Coffee
- Friction from Coffee Grinders
- Temperature Setting
- The Wrong Grind
- Type of Beans and the Burnt Taste
- Improper Tamping
- The Freshness Of Coffee Beans
- Espresso Dosing
- Solutions for Preventing Burnt Tasting Espresso
What Causes Espresso to Taste Burnt?
There is nothing more frustrating than burnt-tasting espresso, especially if you’re a coffee lover. Several factors can make espresso taste burnt.
Here, we will explain some of the most common causes, as well as some of the not-so-common causes, and we’ll wrap things up by providing actionable solutions that you can use to avoid this frustrating issue.
Over-Roasted Coffee Beans
Over-roasted beans are a common cause of burnt-tasting espresso. Coffee beans can be burnt during roasting. Often, an unexpected increase in the temperature applied to the beans during roasting will burn some of the beans and leave other beans untouched.
High Brewing Temperature
If the water you’re using to brew your espresso is too hot, too much oil will be drawn from the grounds. This is known as over-extraction, and it can result in charred-tasting espresso.
Reheating coffee can result in burnt-tasting espresso for obvious reasons, as the coffee has already been fully brewed. When brewed coffee is reheated, the grounds are re-brewed, resulting in a burnt taste.
Friction from Coffee Grinders
Usually, coffee grinders generate heat, which cooks the coffee grounds. If exposure to the heat is too high, your espresso will taste burnt.
Of all the factors contributing to burnt-tasting espresso, over-extraction is the most common cause. Over-extraction results in burnt-tasting espresso, and it’s one of the most common issues that occur when brewing espresso. There are two reasons why over-extraction can happen:
- Too much of the oil that’s extracted from the beans is exposed to the water. This often happens when a fine grind is used, as there’s a lot of surface area for the water to contact.
- When water is exposed to the grounds for a prolonged period, the flavors from the oils will continue soaking in the water, resulting in an over-saturation of flavor and a bitter, burnt taste.
The suggested temperature for espresso is between 195° and 205°F (90.5° to 96°C). If the temperature of the water you’re brewing with is higher, your espresso will likely end up tasting burnt.
The Wrong Grind
Using the wrong grind can also make your espresso taste burnt. Typically, this problem results from using grounds that are too fine. If the grinds are too fine, there’s more surface area, which can lead to over-extraction, the most common cause of burnt coffee.
Type of Beans and the Burnt Taste
The beans you’re using can also give your espresso a bitter, burnt taste. There are several types of coffee beans, and the tastes vary widely and depend on where they’re grown, how they’re grown, and how they’re sourced.
Beans sourced from several different origins usually have a more balanced flavor, while beans sourced from a single location tend to have a more distinctive taste. If you aren’t sure what type of beans to use, try a medium roast to start and go from there.
If you’re tamping too hard, it will be harder for water to disperse through the grinds. The water will pick up more oils as it spreads through the grind, which results in that unpalatable burnt taste. We have an article that discusses tamping on our site that you can check out for more details.
The Freshness Of Coffee Beans
Even if you recently purchased your coffee beans and they smell fresh, there’s a chance that they could be stale, and the staleness could be to blame for your burnt-tasting espresso. Coffee beans emit carbon dioxide as they age. The older they are, the more CO2 they’ll emit, and your espresso flavor will be affected.
We also have an article about dosing on our website that you can check for more detailed information, but here’s a brief overview: If the dose is too high, it will be harder for the water to pass through, resulting in over-extraction, and as discussed, over-extraction is the leading cause of burnt-tasting espresso.
Solutions for Preventing Burnt Tasting Espresso
|Causes for Burnt Tasting Espresso||Prevention Tips|
|Over Roasted Coffee Beans||Avoid using dark roasts and acidic beans. Try lighter roasts, especially roasts that are intended for espresso.|
|High Brewing Temperature||Lower the temperature of the water you’re brewing with. The majority of name-brand espresso makers pre-set the temperature to 198°F (92°C)|
|Reheated Coffee||Avoid using reheated coffee for your espresso, as it’s almost guaranteed it will taste burnt.|
|Coffee Grinder Friction||Check the settings on your grinder to make sure that it isn’t overworking the beans. If it’s too fine, your espresso can end up tasting burnt.|
|Over-Extraction||Over-extraction usually occurs as a result of excessive brewing time. To avoid this problem, minimize brewing time; 20-30 seconds is ideal.|
|Temperature Setting||Check and adjust your espresso maker to ensure that it’s set to the appropriate temperature.|
|The Wrong Grind||Espresso requires a finer grind than other brewing methods. It should be fine, but not too fine.|
|Type of Beans and the Burnt taste||Avoid beans that tend to taste burnt. Light roasts are ideal.Additionally, choose roasts that are specifically intended for espresso.|
|Improper Tamping||Using a pre-set (calibrated) tamper set to 30 lbs (13.6 kg) can prevent tamping issues. Also, ensure the espresso is evenly loaded in the portafilter.|
|The freshness of the Beans||Fresh coffee beans should always be used for the best flavor. Coffee beans start to degrade and lose flavor within 4 to 7 days.|
|Espresso Dosing||Use the appropriate amount of espresso for the strength you desire. 7-10 grams is ideal for espresso.|
Well-brewed espresso should have a robust flavor and a slightly bitter aftertaste depending on the type of beans. If your espresso tastes burnt, that’s a surefire sign that something has gone wrong during brewing. While over-extraction is the leading cause of burnt-tasting espresso, all of these factors can contribute to this problem.
If your espresso tastes charred, explore the potential causes listed above and make the recommended corrections to resolve the issue. Espresso is the most challenging brewing method, and it does take time and trial and error to perfect.
What does under-extracted coffee taste like?
Under-extracted coffee has a diluted and almost sour taste. It has a minimal flavor, and the finish is unsatisfying. It’s quite unpalatable.
How do you fix over-extracted coffee?
Over-extraction occurs when too much of the oil extracted from coffee beans is exposed to the water you’re brewing with. To prevent over-extraction, reduce the brew time and try brewing with less water.
Should espresso be bitter?
No, espresso shouldn’t taste bitter. The flavor should be strong but not bitter.
What is the best water temperature for brewing espresso?
The ideal temperature for brewing espresso is between 195° and 205°F (90.5° to 96°C).
What is tamping, and why is it important?
A tamper compresses loose coffee grounds, creating pressure on the grounds. During brewing, pressurized water from the espresso maker comes into contact with the tamped coffee.
Tamping is necessary because there needs to be a minimal amount of space between the machine’s filter and the part where the pressurized water exits the machine.
Without tamping, there won’t be enough space for the water to saturate the grounds properly, and the flavor will be affected.
How hard should I tamp espresso?
To ensure proper compression, you should press on the tamper until it stops moving down.
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