How Should Espresso Taste

For a lot of people, it can be difficult to tell what a good shot of espresso should taste like. Should it taste bitter, sour, or even creamy? Understanding what espresso should taste like can be pretty confusing because of varying opinions. So, how should espresso taste?

How Should Espresso Taste? 

A good shot of espresso should taste sweet and delicious. It should give off a rich caramel and creamy taste in the mouth. Espresso should never taste sour. If it tastes sour, then it probably was not properly brewed.

Coffee on a white cup

The flavor of espresso is carefully determined by factors like:

  • The grind size
  • Water temperature
  • Pressure¬†
  • Extraction time

 The perfect combination of these factors is what gives espresso its intense flavor. If you brew your espresso well, the flavor should be able to last for up to an hour.

Characteristics of a Good Espresso Shot 

Espresso is stronger, denser, and more intense than regular coffee in terms of flavor. So, if you want to determine whether your espresso is right, there are certain markers you should look out such as the taste, aroma, crema, and temperature.


Your espresso should be pretty hot right after brewing and serving it. This indicates that you used the right water temperature in making it and that the cup was heated before it was served. A shot of espresso is likely to taste better if you brew it at the right temperature.

Espresso is typically made and served at a temperature that most people find too hot to drink. However, it should cool off in less than 2 minutes.


While espresso should taste sweet, it is not as sweet as you would think if you are used to drinking your coffee with sugar or if you are used to sweet foods. However, it still has a rich sweet taste that comes from the natural sugars contained in the coffee beans.

Overall, a good shot of espresso should give you a proper balance of bitterness, saltiness, sweetness, and minimal acidity. If it is too bitter or sour, it may have been over-extracted. A good shot of espresso should leave an after-taste that is sweet and vivid in the mouth with floral and spicy flavor notes.


If you make your espresso properly, it should have a frothy layer of foam called the crema. The foam is formed when microbubbles of air combine with the emulsification of the oils contained in the coffee. The crema should be a few millimeters thick and should completely cover the surface of the espresso.

Hot espresso on a white cup

While the color of the crema should be somewhere in between golden-brown and dark brown, it is not always uniform on the surface with some parts being slightly lighter than others. It should also last for at least 3 to 5 minutes before dissipating.

A nice layer of crema may also indicate that the coffee beans used in making the espresso are still fresh, as fresher coffee beans have better chances of forming a good crema. While you cannot be assured of a good shot of espresso merely by the crema, its absence shows the flavors are not intact.


It is somewhat difficult to define what the aroma of good espresso should be, as aromas will vary. However, generally speaking, the aroma should be intense, clean, and refined. You should be able to perceive the chocolatey, floral, fruity and toasted flavor notes even after a few minutes of swallowing.


You make espresso by combining high pressure with little water and forcing it through the finely ground coffee powder. This makes it a lot thicker than regular drip coffee. However, it should not be syrupy. There should be a distinct residue that dries from the last drop of espresso in your cup when you are done.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Espresso Supposed to Be Sweet?

Yes, espresso should be somewhat sweet. However, it should not be overly sweet. The sweetness is necessary to balance out the acidity and bitterness that the espresso, like every other coffee, has.

Why Does My Espresso Taste Bitter and Sour?

The main reason why your espresso tastes bitter, sour, or burnt is that you either over-extracted or under-extracted it. When the espresso is over-extracted, it gets overcooked and causes it to taste bitter and burnt. On the other hand, if it is under-extracted, flavors released are few causing the espresso to taste sour.


A good shot of espresso requires a lot of skill and practice to perfect and it can be initially difficult to make. Overall, the intense taste and flavor of espresso should make for a refreshing experience. If you factor in the markers of a good shot of espresso, you can increase your chances of ascertaining whether your espresso is right.