Can espresso actually taste sweet?

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
yalag

#1: Post by yalag »

I've been learning about espresso and extraction a lot and almost most people who teach it will say that a well balanced shot can be a mix of flavours and sweet should be a part of it. But if all you can taste is sour or bitter then it's over/under extracted.

But I've been now to 4 different espresso shops in town ranging from big chains to specialty shop. I've also asked for different roasts while I was at a roaster shop yesterday. I can only ever taste sour and bitter in the shot. Usually one or the other. But never sweet.

Is sweetness something you can only smell and not taste?

Even at home while experimenting I was never able to dial a sweet shot.

I guess I'm new to espresso and don't know what's possible and what's not possible.

baldheadracing
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#2: Post by baldheadracing »

There's very little actual sugar (the chemicals) in roasted coffee. Thus, you won't taste sweetness.

Smelling sweetness is more like it as you state.

You should never taste sourness.

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jdrobison

#3: Post by jdrobison »

Here's a discussion around what you're asking: Does sweet espresso exist?

mdmvrockford
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#4: Post by mdmvrockford »

The answer to your post title question is: yes.

Besides link to prior HB thread provided above by "jdrobison," here are other HB threads that further discuss sweetness in espresso:
Increasing sweetness in espresso extraction
Espresso 101: How to Adjust Dose and Grind Setting by Taste
How do you get sweetness in coffee?
LMWDP #568

jpender

#5: Post by jpender »

baldheadracing wrote:There's very little actual sugar (the chemicals) in roasted coffee. Thus, you won't taste sweetness.
Sugar isn't necessary in order to fire the sweet receptors on your tongue. As an obvious example consider aspartame. That's just one of many non-sugar compounds that we perceive as sweet.

What exactly is in coffee that tastes sweet I cannot say. But I taste it.

Pressino

#6: Post by Pressino »

jpender wrote:What exactly is in coffee that tastes sweet I cannot say. But I taste it.
Reminds me of what Justice Potter Stewart said about hard-core pornography. :lol:

jpender

#7: Post by jpender »

Does that mean you think it's more a matter of opinion than fact?

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baldheadracing
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#8: Post by baldheadracing »

jpender wrote:Sugar isn't necessary in order to fire the sweet receptors on your tongue. As an obvious example consider aspartame. That's just one of many non-sugar compounds that we perceive as sweet.

What exactly is in coffee that tastes sweet I cannot say. But I taste it.
I was simplifying. There are many chemicals in coffee; but most of the compounds associated with sweetness in coffee are volatile. Thus, much of our sensation of sweetness in coffee comes from chemicals that we smell - blueberry, strawberry, stone fruit taste notes in coffee come from smell. For example, I had a washed wush wush this morning and the fragrance from the dry grounds was incredibly sweet, as was the aroma of the brewed coffee. The taste of the coffee was almost unnaturally sweet; a light maple syrup note. (That's a Canadian taste note 8).)

FWIW, Chapter 12: The Chemistry of Roasting - Decoding Flavor Formation in "The Craft and Science of Coffee," edited by Brita Folmer (Elsevier 2017) covers the chemicals pretty well.

yalag (original poster)

#9: Post by yalag (original poster) » replying to baldheadracing »

so basically what I suspected in the original post. Sweetness is what you smell, you never really actually taste sweetness with your tongue in an espresso

baldheadracing
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#10: Post by baldheadracing » replying to yalag »

However, in espresso, you typically won't taste sweetness until after the espresso hits your tongue, i.e., there usually won't be a sensation of sweetness from sniffing the demitasse.