The Possible Reason Your Shot Of Espresso Tastes Off

While home espresso brewing fluctuates between 9 and 15% of coffee consumed at home, for many avid coffee drinkers, espresso is their favorite way to drink down the caffeinated beverage — whether on its own or added to milk or cream. As Craft Coffee Spot explains, espresso is a name for the beverage, but it generally refers to a method of brewing that originated in Italy at the turn of the 20th century.

Espresso is served in small amounts and takes a fraction of the time to brew compared to slower drip methods. While many people still use convenient stovetop brewers, the simplest and quickest way to pour a smooth, bold espresso shot is with an espresso machine.

There's no need for any special beans — although darker roast beans tend to yield the boldest, richest flavor. Instead, the unique taste of espresso comes from a higher concentration of ground coffee and piping hot water being rapidly brewed, with the hot water pushing through the grounds with immense pressure. Brewing espresso is a very technical process, and even with the right ingredients or a high-tech espresso machine, your shot can taste a little off if you don't prepare it the right way.

The coffee grinder

When making espresso, you should always grind your beans fresh, since it yields a much better flavor and a more even grind (via Total Espresso). Even though this is the preferred way to prepare your coffee grinds for your espresso machine, it could also be where the odd taste is coming from. Specifically, if you have a machine with a built-in hopper and grinder.

According to Perfect Daily Grind, when you get fresh ground coffee from your hopper's reserve of whole beans, the grinds can get stuck in the actual grinder on the crushing burrs. When this happens, the ground coffee sits inside the grinder and goes stale, which affects the flavor of every subsequent espresso shot. If left untreated, it could also create long-term damage to your grinder. Save the integrity of your espresso shots and your coffee grinder by emptying and cleaning your grinder periodically.

Cleaning the grinder

Even if there aren't clumps or leftover coffee grounds stuck in your espresso machine's coffee grinder, over time, oils from the crushed beans are naturally going to accumulate on the burrs, warns Perfect Daily Grind. Coffee and oils can even get stuck in the spout, which can affect the overall flavor of your espresso shot.

All you need to do to fix this is to regularly clean your espresso machine's grinder. It's recommended that you clean your coffee grinder roughly every week or so, and even as much as once a day if you use darker, oily roasts.

You can use a small vacuum attachment to suck out clumped coffee grounds to start. As for actually cleaning the machine and oils, you'll need to use a food-safe pellet (or even plain, uncooked white rice) that gets ground similarly to coffee beans, absorbing the oils and getting rid of any left-behind grounds. Then, simply wipe out the machine with a damp cloth to catch the remains.