What does "sweet" mean for espresso? - Page 2

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.

#11: Post by jfdana »

I'm relatively naive about espresso, especially compared to the very real experts here, but I have made a few shots that really were sweet.

I use a Strietman CT1 with the various lightly roasted Ethiopean beans available here (Portland, ME). I also confess to being rigorous in some areas of life, but not coffee, so I can't offer detailed instructions (I don't take notes). That being said, using a slightly coarser grind than the finest that will work, together with a 60 second pre-infusion, followed by ramping the pressure up to 9 (or as close as I need to create a single line), then slowly & by feel reducing pressure below 6 (to as low as 3 on my naked manometer) for the duration of the shot, the coffee actually has been sweet.

I don't always want sweet, and can't always make it sweet, but we have had sweet espresso several times.


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#12: Post by kolu »

to the OP: stop eating any sugars or food with any added sugars as well as artificial sweeteners for at least month. you'll get it then. oh, and fruits will become like crazy addictive because they will be soooooo sweet....
★★ Quite Helpful

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#13: Post by lancealot »

A big thanks to the OP for this. I have been thinking about this subject for a little while. I have also done a little bit of research into the claim of sweetness or sugars in roasted coffee. No need to rehash that.

There can be "a sweetness" but I think that, for the most part, saying a coffee is sweet is just misleading. It seems to me like it is marketing and as-such the words are loosing their meaning. When every coffee is sweet, sweetness is no longer a superlative. I had a coffee described as "sweet" that should have been described as "if you can get past how intensely acidic it is, there might be some redeeming wisp of sweetness, but you really have to want to taste it."

Don't get me wrong. I have definitely had coffees that had "a sweetness" to them. However, they tasted primarily like coffee. And the taste I describe as sweetness is something I learned to pick-up on and without someone calling it sweetness and me looking for it as such, the flavor might have gone unnamed for a longer time.

edit: I just re-read the thread - Jim's comments are very helpful.


#14: Post by discsinthesky »

kolu wrote:to the OP: stop eating any sugars or food with any added sugars as well as artificial sweeteners for at least month. you'll get it then. oh, and fruits will become like crazy addictive because they will be soooooo sweet....
I have also found this to be the case. I feel part of the problem with sweetness as a descriptor is that peoples palates for sweet flavors are calibrated so differently based to some extent on their diet. For someone who drinks soda and eats ice cream on a regular basis, something like espresso might not register as sweet at all in their palate, while someone who gets their sweets mostly from fruits might register it more strongly.

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#15: Post by Spitz.me »

I think that the advice to stop eating sugars or foods with tons of added sugars or artificial sweeteners is a good one for beginning to appreciate the natural sweetness of food even more generally.

I personally love my desserts and would never pass, but I have also been calibrating without being overly thoughtful about it. I appreciate and even chase beverages with complex flavours like wine, spirits, beer and coffee. I'm not turned on by just drinking a beer for the alcohol and "beer taste". I'm attracted to the beers with more complex or nuanced flavours like stouts and porters that are fairly similar to an espresso (IMO).

To anyone new to this: I think my love of any complex beverage and the overwhelming need to taste what isn't obvious and appreciate the journey of tasting things with complex flavour is going to make the espresso journey more specifically enlightening and enjoyable.

I would also more readily say that the sweetness is more bitter sweet like a high percentage dark chocolate.
I know I've pulled a great shot when the flavour is 'like a beany taste that tastes like a bean'.


#16: Post by HRC-E.B. »

JohnB. wrote:I've got a sweet tooth & I still would call a large percentage of my shots sweet. While it isn't an in your face sweetness I definitely get a nice lingering sweet after taste from the majority of my shots. If you want to compare it to dark chocolate it would have to be a 50% or maybe 60% bar.
I would love to know what you drink to achieve such a result? What beans and what equipment do you use?

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#17: Post by JohnB. » replying to HRC-E.B. »

Some days I use the Bosco & others the Speedster. Grinder is usually my K10 but sometimes I use the K30. Beans/blends change with every shot. Currently have 6+ blends & 3 single origins in the freezer. I almost always pull ristrettos (25-28g) and most are creamy, flavorful & usually have a nice sweet aftertaste. Sometimes it's a fruit sweetness other times it might be a milk chocolate or dark chocolate sweetness.


#18: Post by chris_n »

for me it means sweet in the literal sense as in how a fruit is sweet.

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#19: Post by iploya »

I love this post/question! It makes me feel more normal, because it's a question that haunts me too.

The closest I have gotten to an answer is one high-end coffee shop I love in Houston (which I won't name because there are several good ones and I don't want to pick favorites). Their shots vary in quality, but they are always better than what I make at home. It's not just flavor but mouthfeel -- it's like the shot is a completely integrated or unitary liquid, versus what I make at home, which is often tasty but more like a conglomerate of liquids and very fine dissolved solids, some more pleasant than others.

The best shots I've had at this shop are just so smooth in flavor and mouthfeel that there is zero off-putting component to it and I thoroughly enjoy it to short trip to the bottom of the cup. So I sort of equate that smooth/drinkable shot with "sweet." There is a literal sweetness but it's much more subtle. Subtle like when people say they taste "chocolate" or "rum" and it's just a hint of those.

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#20: Post by keno »

imahawki wrote:I'll preface this with saying this is an actual question, not me getting pedantic about people's language.

A Coca-Cola is sweet, a Hershey Kiss, is sweet, a Werther's original is sweet. I've never had an espresso that is sweet like that. But I read people talking about shots they pulled that make it sound like they are talking about it being sweet. Not "has sweetness" but "is sweet". Is this just hyperbole? Like no one is pulling shots that taste like sugary sweet like american candy are they? I feel like they are and I've never had an espresso in my life that tasted sweet.

Let me offer an analogy. If I season a steak with salt and pepper and sear it, the maillard reaction will cause and subtle undertone of sweetness. I don't walk around saying my steak is sweet though.

So when people say they had a shot taste like caramel or cherry pie or whatever else, its not sweet like that actual food is, right? I'm feeling a bit insane right now.
A few things you may want to read.

https://jimseven.com/2010/08/06/sugars- ... versation/

https://www.prufrockcoffee.com/the-shor ... ng-london/

https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/ ... er-others/