There are few greater pleasures in life than a good cup of espresso.
However, expresso has a distinct taste that can leave you wondering whether you brewed it correctly.
And there’s not much that you can compare a good cup of espresso to, aside from a bad cup.
If you are considering trading in your basic morning brew for a double shot of espresso, you would be naturally curious as to what espresso tastes like.
Or maybe you recently tried espresso for the first time and ended up with a bad cup, leaving you to wonder if espresso should truly taste that way.
While everyone has their own individual preferences when it comes to coffee beverages, a good cup of espresso has several qualities that can’t be compromised.
How Should Espresso Taste?
Espresso should taste rich and bitter, but it shouldn’t be too bitter, unless it’s an expresso long shot. Additionally, espresso shouldn’t taste sour or watery. Watery espresso is a sign of under extraction. Ideally, espresso has sweet undertones, a little crème, and bears a slight resemblance to caramel. However, espresso can be flavored to suit your unique taste buds.
Espresso Should Taste Rich and Bitter
Any type of coffee will have a slightly bitter taste, but this is especially true of espresso. You should expect the bitterness to stand out in a cup of expresso, but not too much.
Over extraction can cause espresso to be overly bitter, while under extraction can result in a watery brew.
In most cases, this is a sign that you received a bad cup, unless you prefer the bitter taste.
However, excessive bitterness is a characteristic of an espresso long shot, not the standard double-shot, which is why you should always order the same size espresso at each café when doing a taste comparison.
Since espresso variations will have different flavors, this is the only way to identify the best espressos.
Additionally, expresso should taste rich, but this is another characteristic in which balance is a key factor, but certain types of expresso, such as expresso ristretto, are known for their intense richness.
Expresso Shouldn’t Taste Sour
If you are new to espresso and purchased a cup that tastes sour, don’t let that one bad cup of joe turn you away from experiencing the rich, bold flavor of espresso.
Expresso should never taste sour. Period. That’s a sure sign that the expresso had been sitting on the counter for too long before it was served.
Espresso should never make your mouth pucker up like you just tasted a lemon, but under extraction or allowing the brew to stand awhile before serving can result in a sour taste.
If you end up with a sour espresso, flag down the waiter and ask for another one. If you brew it yourself at home, pour it out and start over again.
Espresso Should Taste Sweet with a Little Crèma
Some people compare espresso to caramel, even though it doesn’t taste the same.
Sure, caffeine is naturally bitter, so your espresso will still have a bitter edge to it, but most espresso blends were designed for their sweetness, so you can often expect your espresso to have a sweet taste.
Well, unless you take your coffee black, that is.
If you are purchasing your espresso from a café, you are limited to the menu, but if you brew your own espresso at home, you have endless blended varieties to choose from.
This way, your ideal cup of espresso can align with your taste buds.
Many people start out brewing flavored espresso blends, so the sweetness and bitterness can complement one another, but it all depends on your preferences.
Any excellent espresso shot will have a taste that’s slightly like caramel with sweeter tones that balance out the natural bitterness of the espresso.
The crema topping should be about 1/3 of an inch thick and be threaded with honey and brown colorations.
If your expresso is thin and watery with a blond coloration, then it was under-extracted.
Brewing a Good Cup of Espresso
Since balance is everything when it comes to espresso, it’s far more challenging to brew espresso than to brew a regular cup of joe, but practice makes perfect.
Start with purchasing the espresso beans that you would typically use or select a blend with natural sweetness and flavoring. Then, begin brewing.
There’s no exact science to brewing a good cup of espresso, but there are recipes and suggestions available.
Often, it’s a matter of trial, error, and trying again. It may be helpful to record each brewing technique that you try and the results.
Then tweak your method until you’ve finally brewed the perfect cup of espresso.
Frequently Asked Questions About How Should Espresso Taste
How would you describe the taste of espresso?
Expresso has a taste that’s bitter and rich without overdoing it. Ideally, a good cup of espresso will have sweet tones to balance out the bitterness and acidity.
How do you make espresso taste stronger?
If you want your espresso to taste stronger, you should change the size of your grinds and adjust the wet and dry doses accordingly. Alternatively, you can try a different blend of espresso.
So, what should espresso taste like? It should have a balance between the bitterness, richness, acidity, and sweetness, but the desired flavor depends on your preferences.
It’s difficult to describe espresso in words as savoring a good cup of espresso will leave you speechless.