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Thread: What should espresso taste like?

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    What should espresso taste like?

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    This might be a dumb question. But what is a good espresso shot supposed to taste like? Lately I've been wanting to get into espresso. I personally like the process of it. It's more then just making a cup of coffee. I've researched machines, watched videos, and read a number of different things about espresso. But what is it supposed to taste like. My wife loves going to Starbucks. She gets some salted caramel mocha light frappacino thing. To sweety for me though. But I wanted to try the espresso. So I bought a doppio and was not impressed. It tasted bitter\burnt and had no body to it. It almost seemed watered down. For a place that's supposed to make great coffee, they don't hit the spot here. I'm going to try a different coffee place to see if there is a difference. From what I have been reading espresso should have a completely different taste then what Starbucks gave me. I would like to get a machine but all of them in my price range have really good reviews and really bad reviews. It's so hard to decide. I might have to save up money and get one that is worth it. Any how, if you were to describe a perfect spot of espresso, how would you describe it? I want to be able take my taste buds on the right path to paradise. Which path can I take to get to the right road for espresso excellence?

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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Welcome to Coffee Snobs Kmc, to answer your question a little more info, including your locality, your coffee preference at home etc would help.

    What your being served at Starbucks is unlikely to be gourmet quality coffee.

    Why not give us a bit of information about yourself in the profile area?

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    Senior Member flynnaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kmcogar View Post
    This might be a dumb question. But what is a good espresso shot supposed to taste like?
    At first, perhaps not that good if you are only used to sweetened milk-based coffees. A bit of an acquired taste in my opinion and it has to be made well. Try the Good Coffee Where for some recommended places. Some of these were posted a while ago so the cafe may have changed owners and baristas. Starbucks is not a likely place to experience good espresso as they usually cater for the milk-based crappacinos you described.

    Personal tastes vary but when properly made, espresso can be heavenly. Some slam their espressos down. I prefer to sip it and enjoy the changing flavours as it cools. The best espresso I ever had was an Indian Monsooned Malabar, made at a well-known Sydney cafe. More body than Elle McPherson. The planets must have aligned at that time because I ordered a second shot and it wasn't as good.
    I usually wait until I have a superior grade coffee in my grinder when making at home. A good grinder is a must for good home espresso
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    I am living in Hawaii right Now. Its good weather but good coffee shops are few and far in between. Starbucks are everywhere. Starbucks kind of sucks though. I brew with a French press mostly. It taste the best that I can brew at home right now. I would really like to start drinking espresso though. I'm all about quality over quantity. My taste buds deserve better then what I have been giving them in the past. I always drink my coffee black. I tried a lattebut it seemed like too much milk. I really want to expand my coffee horizons

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    Quote Originally Posted by flynnaus View Post
    At first, perhaps not that good if you are only used to sweetened milk-based coffees. A bit of an acquired taste in my opinion and it has to be made well. Try the Good Coffee Where for some recommended places. Some of these were posted a while ago so the cafe may have changed owners and baristas. Starbucks is not a likely place to experience good espresso as they usually cater for the milk-based crappacinos you described.

    Personal tastes vary but when properly made, espresso can be heavenly. Some slam their espressos down. I prefer to sip it and enjoy the changing flavours as it cools. The best espresso I ever had was an Indian Monsooned Malabar, made at a well-known Sydney cafe. More body than Elle McPherson. The planets must have aligned at that time because I ordered a second shot and it wasn't as good.
    I usually wait until I have a superior grade coffee in my grinder when making at home. A good grinder is a must for good home espresso
    That indian monsoon Malabar sounds heavenly!!!

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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kmcogar View Post
    I am living in Hawaii right Now. Its good weather but good coffee shops are few and far in between. Starbucks are everywhere. Starbucks kind of sucks though. I brew with a French press mostly. It taste the best that I can brew at home right now. I would really like to start drinking espresso though. I'm all about quality over quantity. My taste buds deserve better then what I have been giving them in the past. I always drink my coffee black. I tried a lattebut it seemed like too much milk. I really want to expand my coffee horizons
    I had a suspicion you were based in the US, didn't think for a moment it would be Hawaii though, we've stayed in Honolulu a couple of times en route to mainland US in the last few years, sadly as you say the we found the coffee situation is a bit of a bit of a disaster.

    I suspect as Flynnaus hints at you may well have to go down the DIY path and look into buying an espresso machine and grinder.

    Had to Google keurig, looks like its a pod type machine, very difficult to get a decent espresso from this type of machine, probably best staying with the french press until you can get hold of an espresso machine and perhaps try buying some decent beans from mainland US, as Flynn suggests Monsoon Malabar may well be a good start, it really is a personal preference thing, perhaps buy a few different types of beans.

    Buying a reasonable grinder would not be a bad idea, you could certainly use it with the press until you get hold of a machine, something like a Rancillio Rocky would be a good low cost starting point , these can be picked up secondhand pretty reasonably.

    Well done with the profile.
    Last edited by Yelta; 10th October 2014 at 11:37 AM.

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    Life-long Learner DesigningByCoffee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kmcogar View Post
    I brew with a French press mostly. It taste the best that I can brew at home right now. I would really like to start drinking espresso though. I'm all about quality over quantity. My taste buds deserve better then what I have been giving them in the past. I always drink my coffee black. I tried a lattebut it seemed like too much milk. I really want to expand my coffee horizons
    Welcome Kmcogar
    As mentioned, espresso is a little bit of an acquired taste. When I bought my coffee machine & grinder, the store owner (thanks TOK!) set the grinder up and had me tasting the shots as he dialled it in. My first spro's - for a previously white coffee drinker only … were therefore … quite intense!

    However, they have grown on me over time, especially as I've been roasting (it's the only way to really perfect your roasts) and now I love my morning doppio. Find them a little harsher as the day goes on though - must be a palette thing.

    However, if you're a black coffee drinker already, then the shift won't be as large.

    If I were to describe what an espresso tastes like …

    I've had two or three sublime espresso moments, all without sugar I should mention. In one (a commercial blend) the coffee tasted like a thick dark chocolate syrup (like you'd have on ice cream!). In another, my own roast of a central american bean from memory, it tasted like freshly juiced white nectarines, with an intensity like that of the centre of a lemon sherbet (you know when you hit the gloop in the centre and it just explodes?). And we can't go past the Ethiopians, which give all sorts of berry and fruit flavours over a more 'traditional' coffee flavoured body.

    I would hang in there, try different cafe's - when you get a good one you'll know

    And if you're in Hawaii - try the farms & roasters! One of the most amazing beans I've roasted for espresso are the Maui Moka - sweet, berries and chocolate, dripping out of the portafilter, thick, rich & dark … mmmmm

    Time for a road trip!
    Cheers Matt

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kmcogar View Post
    But what is a good espresso shot supposed to taste like?
    An angel pissing on your tongue.

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    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by richard_m_h View Post
    An angel pissing on your tongue.
    Nope. Not even close. A new spin on what a shower screen is tho'.... ;-)

    Espresso = Nectar of the gods in my house.

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    Senior Member saoye's Avatar
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    Not everyone would like the monsoon mallabar. Too peanutty for my liking. You're half way there if you can find a cafe that grinds per cup. Otherwise the staleness is what you would be tasting. I would recommend starting with central american beans to ease into espresso

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    Senior Member flynnaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saoye View Post
    Not everyone would like the monsoon mallabar. Too peanutty for my liking. You're half way there if you can find a cafe that grinds per cup. Otherwise the staleness is what you would be tasting. I would recommend starting with central american beans to ease into espresso
    Fair enough. It was an anecdote about my espresso experience, not a recommendation. In fact I wouldn't recommend it. I have tried roasting and making MM espressos but none have matched that first cup and I've given up on it.
    I also said "Personal tastes vary". Many might find Central Americans too acidic and espressos don't have to be made from single origins.
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    Like the Chocolate, Coffee and Walnut cake that my Grandmother made when I was very young, too young to drink coffee. I'm sure there was a hint of fruit peel in that cake too. Alas that recipe now lost - but I can make espresso that is a fond rememberance.

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    Senior Member gonzo89's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flynnaus View Post
    The best espresso I ever had was an Indian Monsooned Malabar, made at a well-known Sydney cafe. More body than Elle McPherson. The planets must have aligned at that time because I ordered a second shot and it wasn't as good.
    I have also shared this experience with a Monsoon Malabar! Nobody ever believes me. I did not have it as an espresso though that is the difference, it was a siphon brew. Nevertheless exciting to read as most people's idea of the best coffee experience would not point to this coffee I was raptured by the body and what tasted like a hazelnut praline with a heavenly sweetness..*sigh* I'll never forget. So off topic, I apologise to the OP.

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    Senior Member daledugahole's Avatar
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    Have to agree with Matt. Having just bought home some maui yellow catura (maui coffee co, Lahaina) you Hawaiians are blessed with some sensational home grown beans. I'd be roasting at home... That yellow catura would be the smoothest long black I've roasted and drunk at home. I drunk it through my aeropress and espresso machine and loved every drip. Good luck with your search!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kmcogar View Post
    This might be a dumb question. But what is a good espresso shot supposed to taste like? Lately I've been wanting to get into espresso. I personally like the process of it. It's more then just making a cup of coffee. I've researched machines, watched videos, and read a number of different things about espresso. But what is it supposed to taste like. My wife loves going to Starbucks. She gets some salted caramel mocha light frappacino thing. To sweety for me though. But I wanted to try the espresso. So I bought a doppio and was not impressed. It tasted bitter\burnt and had no body to it. It almost seemed watered down. For a place that's supposed to make great coffee, they don't hit the spot here. I'm going to try a different coffee place to see if there is a difference. From what I have been reading espresso should have a completely different taste then what Starbucks gave me. I would like to get a machine but all of them in my price range have really good reviews and really bad reviews. It's so hard to decide. I might have to save up money and get one that is worth it. Any how, if you were to describe a perfect spot of espresso, how would you describe it? I want to be able take my taste buds on the right path to paradise. Which path can I take to get to the right road for espresso excellence?
    Hi Kmcogar

    Thanks for providing a location to work with. According to a lot of US tasters, Hawaiian Kona is one of the best coffees in the world. I would be checking out some local coffee place that roasts the local beans for a starter. When I lived in the US, I tried several award winning Konas and would rate them as a good sound starting point for your journey into espresso. FWIW, my own rating for Kona would be good, not excellent coffee beans.

    Internationally the debate is still on, however a good Kenyan, Brazilian, Nicaraguan or Colombian would be near the top of most lists. They are really easy to get in the US, which gives you a good chance to obain them... I would like to add Ethiopian, however I could not get even a mediocre one while I was over there. Perhaps they only sent over the floor sweepings (they were nothing like the Ethiopian we get in Oz).

    There are also some "outliers" in the coffee world: Kopa Lowak (the cat one) & the above-mentioned Monsoon Malabar. To me, MM has a truly wonderful initial taste which morphs all too rapidly into an aftertaste of mouldy jute. A good excuse for a scotch chaser... if one is needed.

    Anyway, you could also consider buying direct from one of the better local farms and roasting your own, getting a decent grinder (as a guide, similar price to your espresso machine should work) and then starting to master an espresso machine.

    Oh, one other point: if it is bitter, it is NOT a good espresso shot. It should hit the tongue like honey and have a delightful foamy texture... The main issue is the intensity: over the top "flavour hit" for some tastes. Starting by adding around the same quantity of water (at circa 140 Fahrenheit) in the cup before the coffee shot can lessen the shock without destroying the whole experience.

    No way have Starbucks ever approached that AFAIAC.

    Enjoy your journey


    TampIt

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    Quote Originally Posted by flynnaus View Post
    Fair enough. It was an anecdote about my espresso experience, not a recommendation. In fact I wouldn't recommend it. I have tried roasting and making MM espressos but none have matched that first cup and I've given up on it.
    I also said "Personal tastes vary". Many might find Central Americans too acidic and espressos don't have to be made from single origins.
    Good points Flynn, it all comes down to preferences, I dislike coffee grown in SE Asia, have yet to try one that does not taste earthy, a taste sensation I don't enjoy, obviously many disagree with me as beans grown in the area have a big following.

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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daledugahole View Post
    Have to agree with Matt. Having just bought home some maui yellow catura (maui coffee co, Lahaina) you Hawaiians are blessed with some sensational home grown beans. I'd be roasting at home... That yellow catura would be the smoothest long black I've roasted and drunk at home. I drunk it through my aeropress and espresso machine and loved every drip. Good luck with your search!
    I'm sure your right Dale, however visitors to Hawaii have a difficult time finding a supplier of freshly roasted beans, unless they are prepared to make a bit of a pilgrimage, perhaps things have changed, its a couple of years since we visited.

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    Welcome KMC!!

    Well like others said the taste to any espresso boils down to personal preference there is no one answer for the questions. However every bean would have their own taste, i.e. Monsoon Malabar have been mention here. I personally taste distinctive spicy note to MM on the first 3 days of roasting then after that the Spicy note fades and then hint of nutty taste. It has also plenty of crema. To me the MM is not full-body for me. it does not lingers on your tongue long.

    Where as Costa Rica Terrazu for me has a chocolaty flavour to the drink and it is full bodied. Once milk is added it's like drinking choc milk.

    So each to it's own.

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    Wow! This is really great guys(and gals) I love hearing about everyone's favorites. I will definitely visit the local coffee bean farm ask about their beans. Roasting beans myself sounds amazing. Another hobby of mine is brewing beer. I love the long process from start to finish. I never would have thought that coffee or espresso would be such a long process. I look forward to enjoying every step of it. Now its time to read "how to roast my own beans" thanks again all. Really good stuff
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    Hi Kmcogar,

    Take a look at this thread for some help.

    http://coffeesnobs.com.au/notau/38172-hawaii.html

    Cheers, Dave

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    Senior Member GregWormald's Avatar
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    If you are a milk & sugar coffee drinker, then easing into an espresso is a good idea.

    First find a place that uses freshly roasted beans (no more than 3 weeks old), and grinds freshly for each cup.

    Ask for a double ristretto (the least bitter cousin of a full espresso) This will be about 20-30 ml only (1 oz).

    Then add about an equal quantity of steamed milk (it should never get hotter than 70C--about the max. temp. your finger can stand without "ouch") and a touch of sugar. This will allow you to *start* tasting the varieties of flavours of the coffee rather than the milk, sugar and flavoured syrups.

    Then try the ristretto by itself.

    Greg
    Me, I've never got beyond the ristretto. I find the full espresso too bitter.

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    Drinking Starbucks can be compared to kissing your sister !

    But.... the perfect espresso can only be somewhat compared to kissing the absolute best woman in the world !

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    Quote Originally Posted by terrawarra View Post
    Drinking Starbucks can be compared to kissing your sister !

    But.... the perfect espresso can only be somewhat compared to kissing the absolute best woman in the world !
    You haven't seen my sister

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    Haha! If that is a compliment then that is rather nice of you... Not sure what the OP can make of that though. Leading them towards kissing sisters is not a good place to start an espresso journey

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    Senior Member Rocky's Avatar
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    Places that have a crap 'Cafe culture' often have a vibrant 'underground coffee scene' with lots of dissatisfied patrons buying their own machines, sourcing good green or brown beans, and doing it themselves.
    The problem is hooking up with some of these people.
    Equally, some folks buy a good Espresso Machine and find they can't adjust to the 'effort' required - and then want to sell the machine. If you can tap into where the locals are selling them it can be an opportunity to pick up some gear at the right price.
    Sometimes local newspapers may be receptive to suggestions about 'feature articles' on interesting topics that could help put you in touch with other local coffee fanatics.
    If Starbucks is going gangbusters then there must be somewhere that has recognised the need to cater to the real coffee lover. Local bean suppliers would be able to tell you who they are supplying.
    As a drinker of shots, Macchiatos, long blacks & Piccolo Lattes (without sugar), I look for a kind of Cocoa intensity with suggestions of Dark Chocolate and minimal bitterness or acidity.
    Good luck with your search.

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    This is the bit I'm a bit unsure of... It seems to me that there must be good bitter or perhaps normal bitter, and bad bitter taste....

    A post a couple after Gregs says there should be minimal bitterness...

    Perhaps I'll go down to one of the well regarded coffee shop / roasters down the road and have a couple of drinks there espresso, ristretto to see how a good one tastes and then buy the same beans and come home and have a go for comparisons sake.... perhaps it will give me an idea if I'm heading in the right direction or not...

    Quote Originally Posted by GregWormald View Post
    Greg
    Me, I've never got beyond the ristretto. I find the full espresso too bitter.

  27. #27
    Senior Member gonzo89's Avatar
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    Bitter is a characteristic that can be present but does not necessarily have to be. Yes there are different classifications of bitter.

    E.g. An over extracted shot can result in a bitter espresso but that is not the only variable to consider. Brewing at an unstable or wrong temperature can also cause a bad bitterness.

    Some beans may have a characteristic that can be more prone to bitterness if 'the stars don't align' when pulling the shot..,the processing method when the coffee cherries are pulped can also change the character of the bean... but until you try lots and lots of different varietals or get your brewing parameters correct for a particular bean or blend, you most likely won't be able to tell the difference when starting out. The varietal itself should not be associated with bitterness though because the roasting stage can have dramatic effects on the end result...but there are others here who can explain a lot more about that if you are interested.

    There are so many variables that need to come together to make things just right. When you are first starting out all this may seem like a lot to process, but you will love it. It only increases your curiosity and passion to reach that 'god shot'..

    keep experimenting and working on your technique. It ill help you identify subtle changes when pulling a shot. remember that taste is subjective too, some people like what many would consider 'bad bitterness'. If you're interested in seeing how the brewing stage can affect the results you might want to go to your local cafe (if it is decent) and ask them to pull you several good and bad shots and explain to you what you are getting as an end result and why. That will give you a little more knowledge to experiment with at home.. Enjoy!

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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Espresso is a viscous drink in texture...

    It often has a light to full bodied texture...

    Since all the oils end up in the cup, complex nutty, fruity, smoky flavors are more pronounced than just another drip brew with paper filters.....

    It shouldnt taste pale or bitter (I'm talking about the over-extracted kind of bitter and the underextracted paleness)

    In scientific words, it's supposed to be 15-22% TDS. for a scientific analysis on espresso extraction.....

    But uneven extraction may end up getting a hybrid between over and under extracted results....

    Hence a proper espresso should taste like a proper blend thats extracted with the right variables.,.

    There's no real statistic on what it should taste like... really it just depends on your taste!



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