Weird case of salty espresso

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.

Postby kwongheng » Mar 12, 2017, 10:12 pm

I was talking to a Barista recently and was talking about her training for the up-coming champion. She asked me if I would like to try the beans which she is preparing for the championship and of course I said yet. So she pull the shot of espresso, I had a sip and it was extremely salty. It's almost like some dump a bag of salt into the espresso. I gave feedback to her and pulled another shot, in the second shot I could taste more of the acidity, but it was still salty and the salty is still the main flavor. Needless to say, I did not help her too much to critic the espresso.

The thing is she tells me that for both shots of the espresso, she could taste all the flavor notes she was describing to me and not the saltiness I taste, not even for the first pull she did. I am not an espresso drinker, but being a home-barista I do have to taste the espresso I pulled, so tasting espresso is not so far out for me.

I thought something must have gone wrong with my taste buds, because I had a local roaster's Hunkute filtered brew from the place before we started with the espresso and I thought it has soy sauce tastes. Anyway, on the same day some time later, I went to another shop and they pulled me an espresso shot and it doesn't have any of the saltiness I experienced.

So my question is why would I tastes super salty espresso when another person doesn't taste them at all?

- I am not a seasoned espresso drinker
- I don't know what beans she used.
- I am not on medication or having cold or coughs (but then if I were, I would also have tasted salty espresso in the 2nd shop right?)
- I am not hungry, in fact, I was pretty full.

Thanks for any help or advice



Postby justgrindit » Mar 12, 2017, 10:20 pm

Could have been that you were dehydrated. That changes the chemicals in your saliva and can cause that phantom salty taste. If you drank some fluids afterwards that would explain why that espresso didn't taste salty in the 2nd shop.

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Postby yakster » Mar 13, 2017, 12:23 am

I've heard of salty espresso, but can't say I've really experienced it. Makes me wonder about their water source too.

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Postby Radio.YYZ » Mar 13, 2017, 12:32 am

Salty espresso is usually an indication of under extraction. I have done salty shots when i was playing with extraction to purposely screw up a shot. Having said that i found if i am under extraction with some beans i don't get a salty taste in my mouth.

Try under extracting a shot and see if you can get the salty taste going with your beans.
Good Coffee: Technique/Knowledge > Grinder > Beans > Water > Machine

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Postby another_jim » Mar 13, 2017, 2:28 am

Coffee has no salt; so the salty taste is a kind of "bright" bitterness. As Al says, It is exacerbated by underextracted, especially very ristretto shots of lighter roasts. However, people who always drink very light roasted shots have some of it in all shots and tend to become habituated. This has happened to the barista. If the judges are similarly habituated, she may get by; if they aren't, she's going to have a hard time.

Habituation to the flavors of the roast one commonly drinks is the main reason good baristas can pull lousy shots -- excessively burnt dark roasts, bitter caramel medium roasts, and cutting salty/bitter light roasts -- the baristas literally don't taste it anymore, and get upset when someone tells them their shots are not balanced.
Jim Schulman

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Postby redbone » Mar 13, 2017, 8:49 am

A very good point regarding habituation. I purposely change over my espresso bean coffee type from roast, geography and roaster for reasons mentioned.
Usually change over every 2 months or seasonally and find I prefer slightly darker with more chocolate during cold months and brighter fruity in warmer months.

* Salty hmm... unless it was Monsoon Malabar.
Between order and chaos there is espresso.
Semper discens.

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Postby Bill33525 » Mar 13, 2017, 10:08 am

Once received a bag of beans from a very famous roaster that had a briny taste. The beans looked different from previous batches. Sent an email to the roaster and a replacement bag arrived and tasted fine. Hard to tell if it was something I was doing wrong, but the problem went away and have never experienced that briny taste since.


Postby kwongheng » Mar 13, 2017, 12:30 pm

Thanks all for the advice, especially a reminder to be hydrated. I tend to see coffee as water and forget to actually drink water! I will make it a point to hydrate next time!