Why Is My Espresso Bitter? 3 Reasons & 4 Quick Fixes

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Your espresso shot may be bitter due to the over-extraction of coffee grounds. Making the perfect shot of espresso is an art, and you need to put several factors into consideration to get it just right. Overlooking some of these factors is what taints the flavor of your espresso.

Main causes for bitter espresso:

  1. Over extraction
  2. Grind Size
  3. Dirty Equipment

4 quick fixes for bitter espresso:

  1. Salt
  2. Creamer
  3. Sugar

If your brew always comes out bitter, don’t fret. In this article, I’ll discuss all the possible reasons why your espresso tastes bitter, and ways to avoid it. I’ll also give you some quick fixes for a bitter shot instead of brewing another one.

Understanding Espresso

Espresso is a type of coffee. However, there are a few things that set it apart from a normal caffeine brew. Espresso is more concentrated than regular coffee. Baristas often serve it as a small strong shot or use it as the base for many of your favorite drinks such as cappuccino and Americano.

The main factor that sets espresso apart is the preparation method. Master roasters carefully select the coffee beans meant for espresso, then roast them for longer compared to the beans used for making regular coffee.

To make espresso, baristas grind the coffee to a fine consistency similar to sand. They then tamp the grind to evenly distribute it in the filter basket of an espresso machine. In the machine, heated water passes through the grounds to extract the coffee oils.

When done correctly, this process results in a brew that is roasted with a bolder and stronger flavor compared to that of average coffee.

Why Does Espresso Taste Bitter Sometimes?

Over extraction

As mentioned earlier, over-extraction is the most common reason for bitter espresso.

When brewing a fresh cup, the resulting flavor will hinge on the brew ratio of your ingredients – water and coffee- and the amount of time the brewing process will take.

Getting your brew ratio right means mastering the right balance between the amount of water and coffee used to make the espresso. If you don’t use enough water, your coffee will turn out sour and too much water will lead to bitter, over-extracted coffee.

You should always check the volumetric settings on your espresso machine as part of your daily setup. The volumetric programming will ensure that your machine dispenses the proper amount of water for the dose of coffee grounds you are using. Remember to always weigh your dose to maintain your brew ratio, as it is the key to making the perfect cup of espresso.

The recommended brewing time for a shot of espresso is 20-25 seconds. Allowing it to brew for longer will result in a bitter taste, often caused by tannic acid leaching into the brew. Tannic acid occurs naturally in coffee beans and acts as the plant polyphenol to protect the beans from pest attacks.

Grind Size

Just like the brew ratio, the grind size of coffee used is vital to the overall taste of espresso. When the grind is fine, the espresso will pour slowly, resulting in stronger flavors because the coffee has more time to dissolve. However, if the grind is too fine, the espresso pour will be too slow, and your shot will taste too bitter.

If you realize that your grind is too fine, adjust the settings on your grinder to make the coffee grounds coarser to reduce water restriction.

Dirty Equipment.

If you have made all the necessary adjustments, but your espresso still tastes off, the problem may be a dirty machine.

When making espresso, oils from the coffee grounds build up in different parts of the espresso machine. If they are not removed, they will putrefy and alter the flavor of your shot.

If coffee oils block your net showers and group head, water flow in the machine becomes restricted, leading to uneven extraction. Not only will this result in bitter coffee, but it may also put unnecessary stress on important parts of your espresso machine.

Always backflush your espresso machine with plain water as often as you can to get rid of built-up oils. You should also clean the portafilters and baskets to prevent your brew from tasting ashy or bitter.

Do all these regularly, and you will never brew a disappointing shot of espresso again.

Quick Fixes for Bitter Espresso

Most people prefer brewing another shot of espresso when the first one tastes bitter. However, sometimes there’s just not enough time to start the whole process again. If you find yourself in such a predicament, worry not. Below are some quick fixes for your bitter shot of espresso.


A dash of table salt can effectively fix the bitter taste of espresso without interfering with the underlying coffee flavors. However, you should be careful when using this fix because too much salt will ruin the shot even more.


People who enjoy their coffee with milk or cream rarely complain about the bitter taste. This is because the fat content in milk and cream enhances the flavor of the brew and neutralizes the bitterness.

So, if your espresso is bitter, add a dash of fresh cream per your liking to fix it.


A lot of people prefer coffee without sugar. However, if you don’t mind, sugar can be a quick way to fix bitter-tasting espresso.

What are other methods to be used, to enhance the flavor?

Using fresh coffee beans roasted before 1 to 2 weeks will also give the best taste to the espresso. Using good quality water, maintaining the appropriate temperatures (recommended 92-96 degrees Celsius), good quality beans, appropriate time(expresso takes around 25 seconds) will create a massive difference in providing that perfect and delicious coffee.

Espresso coffee tastes the best when created with moderate-roasted beans. These issues are frequently resolved with quick adjustment and re-brew, given that the ground coffee themselves does not cause the problem.


Bitter coffee is not an excellent way to start the day. Many people enjoy a good /strong flavored coffee, but they frequently experience an undesirable bitter flavor. Espresso should taste rich and smooth, much like a regular non-bitter coffee, with a much more intense flavor. Making a well-flavored and perfect espresso is a passion, not just the job to be done within a few min. It is the complete love of a human’s taste buds to taste the perfect espresso, mainly to give a good start to the day. Don’t worry; you’ll always get your caffeine fix; it’ll just become a little less bitter (as normal coffee should tastes).


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  • Yes, my espresso also gets bitter sometimes, so I just put some milk and sugar in it for a better taste. It works. Thanks for sharing other ways for this.

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