If your espresso has tasted burnt recently then you’re probably wondering why and what you can do about it.
This post will show you why your espresso might taste burnt and what to do to fix it.
So, why does my espresso taste burnt? It is likely due to over-extraction where the hot water is passing through the coffee for too long.
And, how to stop my espresso from tasting burnt? Take measures to lower the extraction time. You can do this by not grinding the coffee to be as fine, tamping slightly less heavily, lowering the dose or by lowering the temperature of the machine.
There are actually a number of different factors that could cause your espresso to taste burnt and there are a number of things that you can do about it. Some of these things will yield better results than others so you should start by going after the most likely culprits first.
Why your espresso tastes burnt
Below, I will mention a number of reasons that your espresso will taste burnt, what you can do about them and the things to consider.
The reason that your espresso tastes burnt is likely to be that you have been over-extracting the coffee.
This is where the hot water passes through the coffee for to long, too much of the oils from the coffee gets picked up and it causes it to develop a burnt or bitter taste.
Generally, a double shot espresso should take between 20 and 30 seconds to pull. If your espresso is taking longer than that then you should take measures to reduce the amount of time that it takes.
To do this you can start by grinding the coffee less finely. By having a grind that is less fine and more coarse you will be able to reduce the extraction time and reduce the burnt taste of the coffee.
The reason that it will reduce the extraction time is that a less fine grind will have larger spaces between the particles which will allow the water to pass through it more easily.
Another thing that could be impacting the extraction time is the way that you are tamping.
If the grind is not evenly distributed before you start tamping then it could cause certain parts of the grind to be more dense than others. This could result in the water having a harder time passing through certain parts of the coffee than others which could contribute to the burnt taste.
In addition to this, it could be the case that you are tamping too hard. If you tamp too hard then it could also result in the grind being more dense which could cause over-extraction and a burnt taste.
Here is a good video discussing over-extracting
Another thing that could be causing your espresso to taste burnt could be that the temperature of the water passing through the coffee is too high.
If the temperature of the water passing through the coffee is too high then it will result in too much of the oil from the coffee being picked up by the water which will cause it to have a more bitter taste and could also result in it tasting burnt as well.
Generally, it is recommended that the temperature should be set to 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit.
As discussed above the type of grind that you are using could be what is causing it to taste burnt.
If your coffee is tasting burnt then it would be likely that you’re using a grind that is too fine. If the grind is too fine then it will mean that it will be more difficult for the water to pass through it which will result in the coffee burning and dissolving into the water more than would be ideal.
To rectify this try using a grind that is more coarse and less fine.
Type of beans and the burnt taste
The type of beans that you are using could also cause the espresso to have a burnt taste.
The taste of the coffee beans will vary greatly depending on the location that they were sourced from. If you used different coffee beans to what you normally would use when it tasted burnt then it would be likely to have been due to the beans that you were using.
Beans that have been sourced from a single origin will normally have a much more distinct taste. Whereas, if you use a blend of coffee beans that have been sourced from multiple origins then it would be more likely to give a more balanced taste.
If you are unsure of what type of coffee to use then I would recommend using a coffee blend that has a medium roast.
Type of roast
The reason that your espresso tasted burnt could be that the beans had been roasted for too long.
This would be more likely if you used a dark roast to make the espresso. Even though dark roasted beans are not meant to taste burnt, sometimes they will have been roasted more than they should have been and that could cause them to lose their flavor and to taste more burnt.
If you have been using a dark roast then consider using a different brand or switching to a lighter type of roast.
Type of tamping
The way that you are tamping could also be contributing to the burnt taste of the espresso.
If you tamp too hard then it will mean that it will be more difficult for the water to pass through the grind. This will cause the hot water to pick up more of the oils from the coffee as it passes through it and it will result in a more bitter and burnt taste.
The video below gives a good overview on how to tamp the grind more effectively.
Burnt taste and the freshness of the beans
The freshness of the beans could also be contributing to the burnt taste.
It is generally recommended that the coffee be used within three weeks of having been roasted. If they are not then it will result in a more watery taste.
However, since your espresso tastes burnt it could actually be the case that you have been using the beans too soon after having been roasted.
After they are roasted the beans will have a lot of CO2 trapped in them. The amount that they contain will dissipate in the days after being roasted. If you use them too soon then it will mean that they won’t have had time to get rid of the excess CO2 that is trapped in them which can cause a burnt taste.
Generally, it is recommended to allow for 4 days to have passed after they have been roasted before using them.
The dosing, which is the weight of the coffee in the portafilter, could also be causing your espresso to taste burnt.
If your espresso tastes burnt then it would be more likely that you have been dosing too highly. If the dose is too high then it will mean that it will be harder for the water to pass through it and it will result in over-extraction which will cause it to taste more burnt.
The recommended dose for a double shot espresso is 14-16 grams.