What Does Espresso Taste Like?


Perhaps if you have an untrained pallet when it comes to espresso, you might think that espresso tastes extremely bitter or has unpleasant tastes. Chances are that you’ve only had bad espresso, especially if you like the flavor of a cup of coffee. There can be bad espresso out there. What does espresso taste like?

brewing espresso
brewing espresso

Drinking espresso should be a pleasant experience for coffee drinkers. Good espresso that’s made professionally in a coffee shop should be creamy, intense, and sweet. If you like coffee, you’ll probably enjoy a delicious espresso.

We’ll give you a detailed overview of what good espresso should taste like as well as how to make espresso so that you can be informed and give espresso a good chance the next time you have the opportunity.

Perfect Espresso

The first thing you should be able to recognize is a perfect flavor. A perfect espresso should be a golden color and have a crema on top that includes a thickness of about ¼”.

A great shot has a layer of crema that includes a honey with brown colored streaks through it. This will be located on the top of the espresso.

Straight Espresso

A straight shot of espresso is one that has no added ingredients such as milk or sugar to make it sweet.

Bad Espresso

A bad espresso shot generally tastes very bitter and even somewhat like ashes. This is usually because the shot was over extracted or perhaps the shot was pulled at too high of a temperature.

Under Extracted Espresso

An under-extracted espresso shot will not include the streaks of honey and brown color or crema but will be a blonde espresso.

You can think of it as being similar to an under-extracted coffee that’s not completely extracted all the possible flavor notes during the brew process.

What Does Espresso Taste Like?

When answering the question regarding what espresso tastes like, there can be a variety of answers and different flavors. Here we’ll focus on the most prominent flavors as they relate to the taste of espresso.

roasted coffee beans
roasted coffee beans

Intense Flavor

The flavor elements of espresso coffee are intense because the ratio of coffee to water is so concentrated. It’s very strong or intense compared to a regular cup of coffee.

Bitter Flavor

When drinking an espresso brew at first, you might notice a bit of a bitter flavor. A cup of espresso is considered to be somewhat of an acquired taste and a matter of personal preference.

Again, the bitter flavor is a result of the highly concentrated coffee grounds and can be noticed if you don’t care for the flavor of coffee or aren’t drinking a good shot. Some also describe it as a sour taste.

Other Flavor Notes

Other flavor notes include an acidic, slightly earthy, or somewhat nutty flavor.

The taste of the espresso that’s good can also be described as sweet, chocolate, caramel, with a hint of fruitiness.


Using good espresso beans gets you off on a good start for then creating ground coffee beans, which will ultimately affect the coffee taste.

The texture of a good espresso is smooth and silky. 

coffee in mug
coffee in mug


The wonderful crema that forms on the top of a good cup of espresso is a favorite of coffee lovers that can’t be replicated on regular drip coffee. It’s a foam like layer that’s created from the pressure of the brewing process.


Along with knowing what to expect for recognizing good espresso taste, the color of the coffee is a good indicator when it comes to considering the visual aspects. Perfect espresso should have those infamous tiger lines or threads on top of the crema.

And using a double shot will make the color of the espresso slightly bolder.


Apart from taste, coffee is also described through aromatic descriptors such as fruity, herbal, and spicy. Complex aromas are indicative of good quality.

Does Espresso Have an After Taste?

The aftertaste in coffee refers to the flavors and smells that are left in one’s mouth after swallowing the coffee itself.

The aftertaste from drinking an espresso can last for a potential of 15 minutes and range in flavors.

The flavor of the aftertaste from your cup of espresso can range from bitter, to nutty, to earthy undertones.

making espresso drink
making espresso drink

What Color Should Espresso Be?

The color of an espresso can vary depending on the stage that it’s in while it’s being brewed.

Espresso starts out syrupy and dark in color in the early stages of the shot. It is very strong and dark in color.

As the espresso continues to pull, it turns orange, and ends up pale blonde in color.

What Grind is Used for Espresso?

Fresh coffee beans are the best thing to use for a quality espresso. It’s a good idea to use a French press coffee grind or fine coffee grind. This will give the intense flavor that the brew is known for.

Ingredients of a Great Espresso

The ingredients for making a great espresso from espresso roast include ½ cup of dark coffee grounds at a fine grind and 1 ½ cups of cold water.

When making a quality espresso, water temperature matters. You can use dark roasts to make quality espresso.

To make a high-quality espresso, it’s valuable to start with a good understanding of espresso and good coffee. It’s also an added bonus to use good equipment.

Espresso machine brewing a coffee
Espresso machine brewing a coffee

We recommend grinding your coffee beans well and deciding on your coffee to water brew ratio. Grind size matters when it comes to espresso.

Finally, pay attention to water quality and temperature which will help to evenly distribute your espresso utilizing the machine’s water pressure.

Does Espresso Have a Strong Flavor?

Yes, espresso is more complex than a regular cup of coffee because it’s very concentrated comparatively speaking.

The high coffee to water ratio creates a bold, concentrated strong flavor which also results in more caffeine as well.

The coffee grounds used to make espresso contribute to the strong coffee flavor. Where light roasts tend to have less caffeine, dark roasts tend to have a higher caffeine content.

Does Espresso Taste Like Coffee?

If you like coffee, or even if you don’t, you might be wondering whether espresso tastes like coffee.

boiled coffee from coffee machine
boiled coffee from coffee machine

We’d say that it resembles the flavor of coffee because it’s made from a dark or French roast of coffee, using hot water.

But it’s certainly more concentrated, which is why it’s a good idea to drink it slowly, adding cream or sugar if desired.

And we always recommend using caution when taking the first sip because it can be very hot.

The main difference between espresso and coffee is the coffee to water ratio.

Over Extraction vs Under Extraction

What’s the difference between over extraction, under extraction, and perfect extraction as they relate to making espresso and why does it matter?

The extraction time matters when it comes to making great espresso. And this can be adjusted by altering the brew time.

Over Extraction

Over extraction is the process that occurs when too much of the flavors of the coffee are taken out as it brews.

This causes coffee to taste too bitter and it becomes dark blotchy in appearance.

Under Extraction

Under extraction occurs when you haven’t taken enough flavor out of the coffee grinds during the brewing process.

This causes the coffee to taste somewhat sour, have low sweetness, and usually an aftertaste. Each of these indicators are a sure sign of under-extraction.

Perfect Extraction

A perfect espresso extraction will include a crema that has a tiger like appearance on the top, which includes honey and brown colored streaks throughout it.

Perfect espresso should be sweet, with a smooth finish and somewhat nutty in flavor.

coffee beans
coffee beans

Is Espresso Bitter or Sweet?

Believe it or not, espresso can be both bitter and sweet simultaneously. It also includes a chocolatey, nutty base, with a smooth finish.

How to Make Espresso Sweeter? 

If you think espresso is too bitter, you might be interested in adjusting its flavor slightly to make it sweeter. If that’s the case, here are a few ideas of how to do this.

Pull shorter shot. Pulling a shorter shot of espresso can potentially work to make it not quite as bitter.

Add milk. Consider adding some milk to help dilute it as well as making it a bit sweeter. Milk has sugar and the milk will make your espresso slightly sweeter.

Add sugar. If you want to go directly to the source, consider adding sugar to make your espresso sweeter. Add a little at a time, as you can always add more if desired.

Change your roast profile. Consider using a smooth and more balanced roast profile for your brew.

Why is Espresso Flavor So Intense?

The flavor of espresso is described as being bold or intense because it’s made of really concentrated coffee, meaning the coffee to water ratio is small.

For example, regular drip coffee is made from a 1:16 coffee beans to water ratio, meaning there is approximately 1 coffee bean to every 16 grams water.

This is not the case for espresso. It’s made at a much higher concentration with a 1:2 coffee bean to water ratio. This is what creates the intense flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Following are frequently asked questions that relate to the question, what does espresso taste like. If you have a question that’s not answered here, feel free to drop it to us in the comments box below and we’ll be happy to respond.

Does espresso taste like coffee?

Yes, since espresso is made from coffee beans, it does taste like coffee, but it’s more concentrated.

Is espresso stronger than coffee?

Yes, espresso is quite a bit stronger than coffee because the coffee is much more concentrated.

Does espresso taste like burnt coffee?

No, espresso doesn’t taste like burnt coffee, unless of course it is burnt. It does have a bolder flavor than coffee though which is sometimes bitter, depending on how it’s made.

Do people like the taste of espresso?

People who like bold flavored coffee are likely to enjoy the flavor of espresso. If you’re not sure whether you would like it, consider giving it a try and see what you think.

Related Ideas:

Caramel Iced Coffee

Caramel Syrup for Coffee

How to Make Iced Coffee Fast

Copycat Chick-fil-A Vanilla Iced Coffee

Why Does My Coffee Taste Watery

Tiger Milk Tea

Save to Pinterest:

what does espresso taste like pinterest pin
what does espresso taste like pinterest pin

For more posts like this one, follow us on PinterestFacebookInstagram and YouTube.

Photo of author
Sarah is known for her extra fancy yeast breads, melt in your mouth pies, and everything salads. She has won awards as a home cook, and is passionate about helping others feel smarter in the kitchen. Sarah is the cooking genius of the sister duo.

Leave a Comment