How hot should espresso be drunk?

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

#1: Post by gilrain »

I am waiting for my just-purchased espresso machine to arrive, which means I am going nuts with pent-up energy and curiosity. Aside from having some shots with my brother, several years ago, my home machine will be my sole introduction to fine espresso. I live in a small town with no coffee shop...

Anyway, one of my concerns is temperature. I read recently that to taste to full flavor profile of a good espresso, you have to drink it hotter than most people would. This has me a little concerned, because in general I am amazed at how hot even average coffee drinkers drink their coffee... a sip of their coffee seems to burn my tongue, actually reducing my sensitivity to flavors.

I am concerned my mouth/tongue is more sensitive to heat, or something. At what temperature do you all drink your espresso? I'd like to use my electric kettle and thermometer to "practice," so to speak.

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cafeIKE

#2: Post by cafeIKE »

What our tongue senses changes with temperature. That's why there is so much sugar in ice cream and neat Jack Daniel's is so unpalatable. Using the kettle and thermometer is a waste of time because as it is just a physical sensation.

Some people pre-heat their cups with boiling water to keep the espresso scalding, while other prefer just warmed.

Pull and drink espresso at the temperature you find most enjoyable.

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gilrain

#3: Post by gilrain »

I understand that concept, and no doubt will eventually employ some compromise... but, in general, I don't subscribe to the "do what's most enjoyable" school of thought, when it comes to culinary issues. I would be without many of my now-much-loved pleasures, following that rule... wine, tea, scotch, and suchlike.

I want to train my palate to first discern, then appreciate, and then truly enjoy espresso. And so, if there's an ideal temperature for tasting the full profile of espresso, I want to know what it is and become accustomed.

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cafeIKE

#4: Post by cafeIKE »

Since you mentioned malt, Islay, Lowland and Highland are all vastly different. Some like them all, some not. Some are better in the cool of winter, some better in summer. Then there are the difference in a particular locale. Laphroig 15 yr is nothing like a Caol Ila. They are made next door to one another, yet vastly different. If someone told me one was the 'ideal' I'd thank him for his concern and change the subject. :roll:

Espresso is just the same. There is no ideal. Some roasts prefer a cooler brew and warmer consumption and some the reverse. If you like your coffee cooler, gravitate to blends that are better cooler. Would you 'train' yourself to drink JD & Coke when The Glenlivet 18 and a splash of Highland Spring was on offer?

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gilrain

#5: Post by gilrain »

That is a better point, certainly. You mistake my concern, though. I would obviously not say one distillery or region is better than another. However, I might, and many better than me have, suggest that a certain temperature is best when approaching a new scotch, to best appreciate its profile and put it on equal footing with others.

That is more what I am after, here. You say different blends and roasts are best enjoyed at different temperatures. Excellent! That is exactly what I'm after! To be more specific, then: at what temperature is Counter Culture's Toscano espresso blend sampled, at least as a beginning point? It's what I'll be starting with.

Also, keep in mind my own home brewing is going to be the entirety of my experience, until I can get some travel time in, next summer. I am trying to establish a baseline, rather than a law.

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HB
Admin

#6: Post by HB »

It's not a concern of mine, but if I recall correctly, the recommended serving temperature for espresso is around 165F. My personal preference, when I'm feeling fussy, is to heat the lower 2/3rds of the espresso cup for a minute, leaving the rim just barely warm. As an aside, some barista competitors warm their cups to near the boiling point of water, so I've learned to sip carefully lest my lips lose all feeling for the next 15 minutes. :shock:

To my taste, extremely hot espresso "flattens" the flavor profile, for lack of a better term. But this comment is based on informal tasting; I have not attempted to determine an ideal serving temperature beyond "somewhere between 20 and 40 seconds after the pour completes."
Dan Kehn

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gilrain

#7: Post by gilrain »

Thanks, Dan! I'll give that a try and see how it feels. Even if it's silly, I've got to kill time somehow until my HX arrives. :)

It's nice to know, at least, that if I wind up needing to drink it somewhat cooler than normal, nobody will frown too hard.

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another_jim
Team HB

#8: Post by another_jim »

gilrain wrote:I understand that concept, and no doubt will eventually employ some compromise... but, in general, I don't subscribe to the "do what's most enjoyable" school of thought, when it comes to culinary issues. I would be without many of my now-much-loved pleasures, following that rule... wine, tea, scotch, and suchlike.
Hallelujah!

As far as espresso temperature goes, it works similarly to brewed coffee. This means its effect will actually be more familiar to people who cup, where both the hot and cooling cup are rated, than people who just drink espresso, where the custom is to drink it as soon as possible.

The hotter the coffee, the more the mouthfeel and roasty flavors are accentuated. As the cup cools to room temperature, the fruity and acidic flavors will come to the fore, the bitter flavors will change from roasty caramels to more astringent tannins, and the mouthfeel will become much lighter.

In general, espresso is so concentrated that: 1) the flavors need to be buffered by the crema, and 2) the acidic and tannic flavors are overwhelming unless balanced by caramels and sugars. This is why the custom is to drink it hot and fast.

However, this is changing just a little. A lot of work is going into blends that use more expensive and more acidic beans by balancing them with coffees that are almost excessively sweet. Blends like this can benefit from a 30 second wait or a cooler cup.
Jim Schulman

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cannonfodder
Team HB

#9: Post by cannonfodder »

I find that I like different blends at different drinking temperatures. As others point out the flavor shifts as the cup cools. Some blends work better hot, I think the deeper more chocolate toned espressos are best on the warmer drinking temperature range and as the cup cools it tends to get a little astringent/bitter/ashy. At the same time, a high toned blend rich in fruity Africans works better at a cooler drinking temperature. The subtle notes and fruit develop and the pucker your face acidity twang is reduced. Once you get your gear, experiment. Pull a shot and sip it, pull another and let it sit for 40 seconds and sip, pull another and let it sit for 80 seconds and sip to see how the flavors shift. Pick which you prefer and enjoy.

For the record, I like Oban 14 year single malt most of the time, two small ice cubes in a shaker. Shake it vigorously and strain out the ice. I think it opens up the nose, adds just a little water and a tiny amount of chill, best enjoyed with a Opus X Fuente Fuente cigar.
Dave Stephens

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cafeIKE

#10: Post by cafeIKE »

cannonfodder wrote:For the record, I like Oban 14 year single malt most of the time, two small ice cubes in a shaker. Shake it vigorously and strain out the ice. I think it opens up the nose, adds just a little water and a tiny amount of chill, best enjoyed with a Opus X Fuente Fuente cigar.
American's :roll: