Is espresso not supposed to taste bitter? - Page 2

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
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#11: Post by DJR »

I have a feeling you don't like espresso at this point (hence the milk). Try the Verve, it really is excellent and if you develop a taste for espresso, then you can try making it yourself. I don't think I've ever had a Peet's espresso that I considered even close to acceptable relative to any number of places that start out with good beans, properly roasted (Peet's is "old school = burnt') and have good baristas.

After trying Verve, you'll know whether you actually like espresso. Then if you don't and want to stay with milk drinks, the Nespresso isn't a bad way to go. If you do and find it enjoyable to go through a fairly long learning curve ending with roasting your own beans, then, the Gaggia or Silvia are fine to start with. The aluminum boiler issue really isn't an issue, except in theory. I've never heard of anyone having real problems with the boiler. Eventually you might end up with something else, but no need to dump so much money into a machine now. If you want to dump money, get a fancy grinder.... or (a Spong). The latter two will last for a long time and several machine upgrades.

If you're in SF, go to the Ferry Building. You can get Verve at Frog Hollow. They pull nice shots. Then walk over to Blue Bottle and go around the corner to the window that isn't noticed by most people. They have a spring lever machine. Try one there too. They have interesting coffees, some not to my taste, but all very well done. You might at both places ask for a macchiato. Both places use just a tiny bit of milk and if you sip from the edges you can get both tastes from the same cup.


#12: Post by hperry »

DJR wrote:I have a feeling you don't like espresso at this point (hence the milk).
I like espresso a lot, and I like it with milk.
Hal Perry

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#13: Post by DJR »

Hal, I don't usually add milk. But my wife likes milk drinks. I was wondering, have you found a good way to steam milk when you're using your open boiler machines, other than using your speedster? I use the Nespresso foamer for her, but it really isn't very good. I've tried a stove top steamer and that is even worse. I'm thinking of making one, but I wish there was a stove top or plug in milk steamer that really worked I could use for people who do like milk.

ronz (original poster)

#14: Post by ronz (original poster) »

DJR - Thanks for your comments.

I really like coffee. I have gotten to the point were most coffee does not taste good to me unless it comes out of an espresso machine or is freshly ground (as in 5 minutes before it is brewed). I have heard that a good shot of espresso tastes really good, and I would like a chance to enjoy that experience. When I started drinking lattes at Peets I thought they were really good - but every straight shot I have there is really bitter. Sometimes even the lattes taste bitter (which means really bitter espresso).

By the way, the Silvia has arrived! (Yesterday). I pulled about 6 double shots as I was zeroing in the grind on my new Baratza Vario. First few shots ran too fast, later shots ran too slow (as I made the grind finer and finer). But they all were bitter. I suspect the coffee (again Peets).

At this point I have heard (from you and from other sources) that Peets over-roasts their beans. There is a Verve in Capitola (Santa Cruz County, 1 mile from where I live) and my next step is to head on over and see if I like their espresso. If so, I will buy some of their coffee to try at home.
hperry wrote:I like espresso a lot, and I like it with milk.
I agree. Even if I "drown" my espresso in milk, I do want it to be the best possible experience!


ronz (original poster)

#15: Post by ronz (original poster) »

DJR wrote:I was wondering, have you found a good way to steam milk when you're using your open boiler machines, other than using your speedster?
Have you looked into this? ... ilksteamer

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#16: Post by yakster »

ronz wrote:There is a Verve in Capitola (Santa Cruz County, 1 mile from where I live) and my next step is to head on over and see if I like their espresso. If so, I will buy some of their coffee to try at home.
Verve is a great place to start and you're lucky to live so close. When I'm in Santa Cruz or the nearby vicinity with the family, I always try to swing by and get a straight shot before I go back over the hill. I even managed to pull this off between a trip to the beach and rushing to make a recital in Saratoga. My experience there has been great with sweet, fruity espressos and friendly, knowledgeable baristas. Keep in mind that I drink mainly coffee, tea, or water so when I describe an espresso as sweet, it's not sweet like a soft drink, but it does taste sweet and remind me of different fruit and food analogs to me. As I rarely drink sodas anymore, I now find them cloyingly sweet.

In the South Bay, I usually get my coffee fix--when not drinking it at home--at Red Berry Coffee Bar or one of the three Barefoot Coffee locations.

If you haven't seen it already, the List of our Favorite Roasters is a good resource.

LMWDP # 272

ronz (original poster)

#17: Post by ronz (original poster) »


Looked at the List of our favorite Roasters. Verve is on the list and just a mile from my house. My motivation has increased to get off of work a little early (or go out when not needed at home over the weekend) and CHECK THEM OUT. And bring back some beans....

Today I experimented with more espresso making. Had some trouble zeroing in the grind. I was trying to make a double and trying to end up with 2 ounces of espresso in the cup after 20-25 seconds. I kept either getting 4 ounces of watery brew or a half ounce of bitter "sludge." I ran out of the good espresso type beans and moved on to the oily looking beans (I originally purchased them for French Press while waiting for the Silvia) which are probably not right for espresso at all - but - the last attempt resulted in 2.5 ounces in 25 secs! Tasted a little bitter straight, but I added a little half-and-half and - not bitter! (This has not been my experience with Peets' shots where adding a little half-and-half did little to make the shot more palatable).

So ... I produced a pretty good shot :!:
The next step is to get a quantity of really good quality coffee (I will stop by Verve) and try again to make some really good espresso.


ronz (original poster)

#18: Post by ronz (original poster) »

Update - Trip to Verve

I had a straight shot of espresso at Verve. They are very nice there. Sort of a retro-looking place at the south end of 41st Avenue in Capitola 3 blocks north of the Monterey Bay (Santa Cruz County 2 hours south of San Francisco). Not at all like a Starbucks or Peets. Not upscale ... comfortable. I really like the place. Baristas very nice, look you in the eye and find out what you are after.

Anyway I found the espresso to be .... bitter! I think perhaps I just don't have the palate for straight espresso, perhaps it is the inescapable fact that caffeine is bitter. So perhaps I have been a bit too hard on Peets, although I have to say that the bitter was a bit less emphasized.

I came home with a bag of Verve's "Sermon Espresso" roasted (as it says right on the bag) "1/06." This was 2 days ago and the roast was 1 day old.

For the past two days I have made a number of double shots on the Silvia. I have dialed in the grind really nicely on my Vario (at least I think I have). The last shot ran through too quickly however, and the coffee tastes a bit "burnt" to me for some reason. (It is not the beans however something to do with my process). I am going to try one or two of their other espresso blends. I believe in experimenting. I have been at it less than a week. Not satisfied with the taste yet. Also just learning how to steam milk.


Howdy Mr

#19: Post by Howdy Mr »

PeterG wrote:Bitterness is a flavor attribute found in all coffee, to some degree, along with acidity, sweetness, umami/savory, and lots and lots of aromatics.

Now then: coffee contains all of these bitter compounds and more. So bitterness is definitely a part of coffee's complex flavor. But, remember, coffee is complex: the bitterness may or may not be identifiable as a pronounced, forward flavor. When people say "this coffee is not bitter", they are saying that the bitterness has been balanced by the other tastes- sweetness, acidity, umami- even perhaps a touch of saltiness. Remember, chocolate, caramel, and many other foods also have bitterness as a component.
This is a very helpful thread. Thanks, Ronz, for pursuing this line of thought. And Peter, I really appreciate the insight here. So often we focus on the bitterness rather than the other flavors that complement the bitterness (or are complemented by it?). I've learned volumes here.

Now to hopefully graduate to a good espresso machine someday. For now, the mokka pot will have to suffice for my home preparation. And I have never tasted an espresso like what's been described here. We have local barista that might make good ones, but they don't roast their own beans. How likely are they to have fresh (enough) roasted beans? If anyone has an recommendations in the U.P. or maybe down in the Green Bay area, I'd love to give it a shot.

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howard seth

#20: Post by howard seth »

So Ronz: you did make it over to Verve! The 3 or 4 different espressos I have had there - were the most powerful, potent espressos I have ever had. (A young cousin of mine drank one sip and was so overwhelmed he could not finish his. (I had to 'dispose of the rest myself)

I would not describe the Verve espresso as particularly 'bitter' strong, though (21 grams of coffee coffee in about 1 1/4 oz. water) it had a complexity of flavor - and also an underlying sweetness and smoothness too.

Verve has been really helpful to me in my home espresso - a guide - but I do not make such concentrated shots at home with my machine - and can not match their complexity, sweetness, and smoothness.