How to Taste Coffee and Recognize Espresso Flaws

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How to Taste Coffee and Recognize Espresso Flaws

Considering the number of coffees (espresso) we all potentially drink every day, we can learn a few little tricks to figure out how to taste coffee and recognize espresso flaws, by becoming real expert tasters.
Just drink with a little attention!

We talked earlier about how to taste coffee in a professional way by tasting it from a sensory point of view based on sweetness, acidity and body.

Flaws of Espresso: Bitterness of Coffee

Let us now try to recognize the various flaws, focusing on the Bitterness of Coffee.

How to proceed with Espresso Tasting: take 3 sips:

  • take a first sip to prepare the whole mouth and swallow
  • a second sip and hold the liquid in your mouth a few seconds before swallowing (this will be the moment when you will perceive the different sensations that you will have to analyse)
  • the third, and probably last sip, will be the one that will confirm your judgment and perhaps allow you to feel something more.

>> If you are interested in learning more about “Coffee Tasting” Watch the VIDEO TUTORIAL <<


Bitterness is the last stimulus that the espresso gives you in your mouth, so it takes a few seconds before it is perceived and then remains for a long time in the form of an aftertaste (after having swallowed). You feel it as a stimulus in the back of your tongue and palate, as if it highlights the opening of the throat.

What does that remind you?

Too Dark Roast or Over-extracted Coffee
In case of too dark roasting and/or over-extracted coffee you can perceive a smoky, burnt scent, which might remind one of burnt wood.

Hints of Poor Cleanliness
If, on the other hand, you detect hints of dirty, stagnant water, the extraction probably occurred under condition of poor cleanliness: the filter has not been cleaned from the residues of the previous extraction,
the water from the group has not been flushed between one extraction and the other (hoping that the machine has been cleaned daily, otherwise these flavours will be amplified).

Other Negative Coffee Hints
Among the negative hints due to flaws or characteristics of the coffee, we can recognize:

  • medicinal product
  • metallic
  • soil
  • wood
  • ashes

All sensations, however, more difficult to capture than those previously described.

Sometimes I’ve found terrible combinations like wet soil or burnt and wet wood, not possible to mitigate even with two sachets of sugar. Let’s not get too alarmed, it’s not the norm and generally our daily espresso can have slight hints described above.

Perfect Espresso: the Ideal Taste of Coffee
The Espresso Perfetto should be sweet and clean, in my opinion, the acidity and bitterness as well, just like tastes and body are essentially a matter of personal taste and habit.

The ideal would be to find time for a confrontation between bartender and customer, an exchange of opinions with a view to the growth of both!

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