I remember making espresso for the first time. The few extra steps made me a little nervous but what concerned me the most was, how should espresso taste like? If I’m not making the coffee properly, my cappuccino will be off, and my latte will be bitter. Years later, I feel comfortable with answering the question with full confidence.
The taste of espresso should have a sweet tone and resemble rich caramel. The perfect flavor is the result of carefully measured variables such as grind size, extraction time, and water temperature. Espresso should never taste sour. Any bitter flavor is the result of under-extraction.
The perfect kind of espresso creates the aromatic magic of chemical and physical engineering. It took a lot of practice and patience to make a perfect cup.
The intense aroma, full-body, and firm crema are very much essential for a good espresso. It’s a perfect balance of magic between four basic elements: temperature, water, brewing, and coffee.
There is no other drink that offers the same taste and sensation as a good shot of espresso.
If you’re new to espresso and would like more information about making the perfect coffee, take a look at my section dedicated to espresso.
What Color Should Espresso Be?
People often eat and drink with their eyes before even getting a taste of their food or drink. That’s why restaurants plate food in fancy arrangements and cocktails are served with fun straws or garnish.
The same principle applies to your coffee.
The perfect color for a shot of espresso is dark brown, nearly black with a layer of golden-brown micro-foam crema on top of the coffee. After a minute or so, the cream will collapse on itself but won’t change the color of the coffee.
If your espresso comes out light brown, it’s most likely due to under-extraction. The last time I had a similar issue, it was due to the wrong coffee grind size. Water seeped through my coffee puck, leaving my espresso watery, bitter, and devoid of any crema.
It might take a few tries to get the process right, don’t quit after a couple of bad pours.
The Espresso Variables
Since water makes 99% of your drink make sure you’re using good quality freshwater when making espresso. Filtered water always works best for me. Sometimes I use bottled water when I have to. Although some places have drinkable tap water, I still prefer to filter mine before adding it to a coffee machine.
Each manual espresso machine comes with multiple settings of water pressure. You want to have it set to at least 9 bars of pressure to make a good espresso.
Your machine should come pre-set to this level buts it’s a good idea to check before your first extraction.
If your pressure is too low, your extracting will take too long, and your coffee will taste burnt. Really high water-pressure will ruin your espresso and make a mess in your kitchen.
How to Store Your Coffee Beans
If you’re not using fresh coffee beans, you won’t see the precious crema on your espresso.
I recommend a good coffee storage unit for keeping your beans fresh.
If you’re interested in keeping coffee at its fullest potential, here is a helpful guide on keeping coffee beans fresh for longer periods of time.
A few years ago, only pro-baristas could make quality espresso.
Now, due to some fantastic machines, step-by-step guides, and general interest, people have been making coffee shop quality espresso at home.
If you’re starting to experiment with homebrewed espresso, aim for a shot that is sweet and caramelly. It should be dark brown, nearly black, in appearance. Never settles for espresso without crema!
Once you’ve figured out how to make a good espresso, your cappuccinos and lattes will taste, look, and smell even better.
I’ve always seen coffee as a way of bringing people together. Everywhere I go people seem to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and that’s what drives my passion. There’s always a new brew to master, and there’s always a new face to enjoy it with. Hitch a ride with me on a coffee-fueled adventure to find a perfect cup.