Why Is Espresso Bitter

Why Is Espresso Bitter? Espresso is a popular coffee drink enjoyed by millions around the world. While some people prefer its strong and bitter taste, others find it too intense for their palate. If you’ve ever wondered why espresso is bitter, you’re not alone. 

Why Is Espresso Bitter

Espresso is a concentrated coffee beverage that is beloved by coffee enthusiasts all over the world. However, one of the most common complaints about espresso is its bitter taste.

The bitterness in espresso can be attributed to a variety of factors. It includes the brewing method, the quality of the beans used, and the roast level.

In this article, we’ll explore the science behind espresso’s bitter taste, the factors that influence it. Also, it ways to reduce the bitterness for a more enjoyable espresso experience.

What Makes Espresso Bitter?

Espresso can taste bitter due to various factors. Such as the type of coffee beans used, the roast level, the brewing process, and the water quality. Robusta beans, for instance, are known for producing a more bitter flavor than Arabica beans.

Similarly, dark roasts can also contribute to bitterness. 

Over-extraction during brewing, where too much water is forced through the coffee grounds, can cause bitterness. Under-extraction can also make espresso bitter, as the coffee may not fully develop its flavors. 

Lastly, using hard water that contains high levels of minerals can result in a bitter taste. By paying attention to these factors and experimenting with different techniques.

It’s possible to achieve a balanced, flavorful shot of espresso with just the right amount of bitterness.

Factors That Influence Espresso Bitterness:

Coffee Beans: 

The type of coffee beans used is one of the main factors that can affect the bitterness of the espresso. Robusta beans, which are often used in espresso blends, have a higher caffeine content and a more bitter taste than Arabica beans. (Click this If you want to check the caffeine content in your coffee)

However, this does not necessarily mean that all Robusta beans are bitter. The quality of the beans, as well as the region where they are grown, can also impact the flavor.

Roast Level: 

The roast level of the coffee beans can also play a role in the bitterness of espresso. Darker roasts, which are roasted for a longer period of time. It tends to have a more intense and bitter flavor compared to lighter roasts. 

This is because the longer roasting time causes the beans to lose their acidity and develop a more caramelized flavor. However, it’s worth noting that the bitterness in espresso is not necessarily a bad thing, and some people actually prefer a more bitter taste.

Brewing Process: 

The brewing process is another important factor that can influence the bitterness of espresso. Over-extraction, where too much water is forced through the coffee grounds, can result in a bitter taste. 

This can happen if the coffee is ground too finely, or if the water temperature is too hot. Under-extraction, on the other hand, can also make espresso bitter, as the coffee may not have enough time to fully develop its flavors.

This can happen if the coffee is ground too coarsely, or if the water temperature is too cool.

Water Quality: 

The quality of the water used to make espresso can also affect the bitterness. Hard water, which contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, can make espresso taste bitter.

This is because the minerals in the water can react with the coffee, altering its flavor. Using filtered or purified water can help mitigate this issue.

How to Reduce Espresso Bitterness?

Espresso is a concentrated coffee beverage with a bold and intense flavor that many coffee lovers enjoy. However, some people find it too bitter for their taste. Here are some ways to reduce the bitterness in your espresso:

Adjust your brewing parameters: 

The bitterness in espresso can be affected by how it’s brewed. You can try adjusting the brewing parameters. Such as the grind size, brewing temperature, and brew time to reduce the bitterness. 

For example, a finer grind can result in a stronger and more bitter shot, while a coarser grind can make it less bitter. Similarly, brewing at a lower temperature or for a shorter duration can also reduce the bitterness.

Use high-quality beans: 

The quality of the coffee beans used to make espresso can also impact its bitterness. Using high-quality beans with a lower acidity level and a sweeter flavor profile can result in a less bitter espresso.

Try experimenting with different beans to find the one that suits your taste preferences.

Use a lighter roast: 

Darker roasted beans can result in a more bitter espresso due to the higher level of caramelization. Using a lighter roast can result in a sweeter and less bitter shot.

Try a different brewing method: 

If you find that espresso is consistently too bitter for your taste, you may want to try a different brewing method. Methods such as drip brewing or pour-over brewing can produce a less concentrated and less bitter coffee.

Add milk or sweeteners: 

Adding milk or sweeteners to your espresso can also help reduce the bitterness. Milk can help mellow out the strong flavor and add a creamy texture. While sweeteners such as sugar or honey can add sweetness and balance out the bitterness.

Enhancing Your Espresso Experience:

There are a few things you can try:

Use a quality espresso machine: 

Investing in a high-quality espresso machine can make a big difference in the taste of your espresso. (How to use espresso machine?)

Look for a machine with features like consistent temperature control and a powerful steam wand for frothing milk.

Grind your own beans: 

Grinding your own coffee beans just before brewing can help to preserve the flavor and aroma of the coffee. Look for a quality grinder that allows you to adjust the grind size to your preference.

Experiment with different coffee beans: 

Trying different types of coffee beans can be a fun way to explore the world of espresso. Look for specialty coffee shops that offer a variety of beans from different regions and try them out to see which ones you like best.

Use fresh milk: 

If you’re making a milk-based espresso drink like a latte or cappuccino, using fresh milk can make a big difference in the taste. Look for high-quality milk that has been stored properly to ensure the best flavor.

Practice your technique: 

Making great espresso takes practice, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. Watch tutorials online or take a class to learn more about brewing techniques, milk frothing, and latte art.


What is the ideal brew time for espresso?

The ideal brew time for espresso is typically around 25 to 30 seconds. This allows for the proper extraction of flavors and aromas from the coffee beans, resulting in a well-balanced and delicious shot.

How do you store coffee beans to maintain freshness?

To maintain the freshness of coffee beans, store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Avoid storing them in the refrigerator or freezer, as moisture can affect the flavor of the coffee. Use the beans within two weeks of opening for optimal freshness.

Can you use tap water for making espresso?

While tap water is technically safe to use for making espresso, it can contain minerals and other impurities that can affect the taste and quality of the coffee. Using filtered or purified water is recommended for the best results.


There are several factors that contribute to the bitterness of espresso. The brewing process itself, including the pressure, temperature, and extraction time, can have a significant impact on the flavor of the coffee.

Over-extraction, where the coffee is brewed for too long, can result in a bitter taste, while under-extraction can make the espresso sour or weak.

The quality of the coffee beans used also plays a role in the bitterness of espresso. Low-quality or stale beans can produce a harsh and bitter taste, while high-quality beans, particularly Arabica beans. It can result in a smoother and less bitter espresso.

Water quality is another important factor to consider. Hard water, which contains high levels of minerals, can contribute to the bitterness of espresso. Using filtered or purified water can help to reduce the bitterness and produce a smoother flavor.

Reducing the bitterness of espresso requires careful attention to the brewing process, using high-quality beans and water, and experimenting with different techniques to find the perfect balance of flavors. 

By making small adjustments to your brewing routine, you can achieve a more enjoyable and balanced espresso experience. So, next time you make espresso, keep these factors in mind and adjust as necessary to achieve your desired flavor profile.

Emily Anderson
About the author

Emily Anderson is a coffee aficionado, a certified barista, and the founder of Coffeetipper.com, a comprehensive online resource for coffee enthusiasts. With a deep appreciation for the diverse aspects of coffee, Emily is dedicated to providing readers with a wealth of information about different types of coffee, brewing methods, coffee products, and everything in between.

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