What should good espresso taste like?

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
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Postby wayneo » Mon Aug 24, 2009 7:25 am

Hi All,
Basic question; what should good espresso taste like?
Does it taste, exactly like the espresso grinds smell prior to brewing?
Where are the caramel and chocolate flavors I read about hiding?
All the best,

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Postby kaffidrikker » Mon Aug 24, 2009 9:24 am

Better people than i might be able to describe taste to you. All i can do, is recommend that you go to a great cafe and try their espresso, ideally the same coffee as you put in your machine, e.g. buy a CCC Toscano shot or four at at cafe and then buy a bag from them and start trying to reproduce this at home. It's a place to start at least. This is just what's worked for me...

(Edited once due to misunderstaning OP)
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Postby TimEggers » Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:10 am

I think most folks strive to make the espresso taste like the coffee smells.

But yes espresso should be very pleasant, a drink you can and would want to roll around in your mouth before swallowing. I emphasis this point because for the first 6-months I made horrid espresso that I thought was good, but it was like alcohol (for me) something you chug to prove how tough you are. :roll: (again I'm not a drinker either, so I beg forgiveness from the spirit loving crowd here)

But espresso should and often times presents with many flavors the most common being chocolate, caramel and often times a fruit like taste. That's the the beginning though, some more talented tasters (pending on coffee) can unravel a lot more from a coffee bean.

Of critical importance is how exactly its extracted. I've taken beans just a little out of the desired extraction range and the flavors fell apart. Just a little under extracted for example can destroy things.

Taste is subjective as to what we like, but talented and trained palates can really find a lot in the little bean.

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Postby Stanner » Mon Aug 24, 2009 11:04 am

Espresso should taste like an amplified version of how your beans smell, to put it simply. :)

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Postby HB » Mon Aug 24, 2009 12:06 pm

Rather than get into comparisons of ground coffee smell and espresso taste, I prefer Jim's recommendation to aim for a pleasantly amplified rendition of brewed coffee.
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Postby espressme » Mon Aug 24, 2009 12:10 pm

You will know what that is when you do not wish to have anything in your mouth till the finish of the flavors goes away. Espresso is so much a combination of sensations; aroma, taste, mouth feel, and time passage that there is no correct answer from anyone but yourself. I would suggest trying local espresso shops using the guides found in many posts here. Things like hearing the grinder before every shot pulled, not hearing screaming attacks upon the milk being stretched, no crud on the steam wand, portafilters in the groups, sounds of flushing water before the locking in of portafilters, and clean and happy baristas. Then you may develop taste criteria for yourself because 'you are the only one to please!'
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Postby another_jim » Mon Aug 24, 2009 2:43 pm

wayneo wrote:...Where are the caramel and chocolate flavors I read about hiding?

Perhaps your question is not so much how espresso in general should taste, but how do I get my espresso to taste the way I want it too.

If your espresso is tasting bright, cutting, grassy, woody, lemon peels etc, and you'd prefer caramel and chocolate, try grinding finer, using less coffee per shot, and slowing down the flow. If you are getting ashy, dull, smoky, tarry, etc, try grinding coarser, using more coffee, and speeding up the flow.

Even more than this tweak, if the first is the case, get a darker roasted coffee the next time, if the second is the case, get a lighter roasted one.

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Postby wayneo » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:53 am

Hey fellows,
Thanks for all the great input.
Jim I appreciate your advise on adjusting flow/amount, something to consider other than grind.
All the best,
All the best,

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Postby Sherman » Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:43 am

HB wrote:Rather than get into comparisons of ground coffee smell and espresso taste, I prefer Jim's recommendation to aim for a pleasantly amplified rendition of brewed coffee.

How does this play out? I'd think that the roast of a given bean for espresso would be different than the roast of that same bean for brew - as such, the flavor profiles, while generally similar, wouldn't be quite so linearly connected.

I've been working my way through some Sidamo, and have roasted with two distinct goals in mind:
  • Espresso Roast - I take it about 5 seconds into 2C, so I guess that makes it FC (or maybe FC+? not sure), with a given load of ~8 oz. I get a very intense cup, with the citrus and blueberry in the foreground.
  • Brew Roast - Same bean load, but I stop about 30 seconds after 1C ends. The citrus is there and just as strong, but the blueberry isn't - instead, I pick up some floral notes.

I've been able to hit these marks three times, and only have about 2 lbs. left. Sad, but now I have some Costa Rica La Margarita Honey to explore...

My experience doesn't coincide with your quote of Jim's statement, and it leads me to wonder if I'm just not roasting it "right". So far, I've been laboring under the premise that espresso roasts work when they go a bit darker than brew, and as such, trade some of the bean characteristics for "smoothness", and it does seem to prove out with the beans I've roasted (mostly different wet process Yirgacheffe).

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Postby Bluegrod » Tue Aug 25, 2009 12:00 pm

WOW that is quite the loaded question. In my experience espresso can run the range of so many variables in taste, looks and mouth feel that it is hard to answer that question fully. Everyone has a different set of ideas of what good coffee/espresso tastes like so I would have to say that most responses to this question are correct when they say if it tastes good to you then it's good.