Why Is My Espresso Bitter | Fixing Why Your Espresso May Taste Bitter, Sour, or Burnt - Twisted Goat Coffee Roasters

Why Is My Espresso Bitter | Fixing Why Your Espresso May Taste Bitter, Sour, or Burnt

Jul 02, 2023Meagan Mason


The last thing you need in the morning when you have woken up late, the water in the shower wouldn't warm up, and the kids are still asleep in bed when you should have been out of the house already, is your coffee machine to be on the blink and it made burnt coffee or a bitter espresso. What a nightmare.

Was it the brew ratio, the brew time, too little coffee?

These are all valid questions, and we will delve deeper into what could have caused your once delicious cup of coffee to turn to an average coffee that tasted like old coffee beans ( and no, adding more hot water will not help).

An espresso brew is something to savor. That shot of espresso can set the tone for the day, so if your espresso machine is a few degrees off or your coffee grind size was not right, expect to sip an extracted coffee that tastes bitter.

Coffee enthusiasts will agree, there is nothing worse than sipping a bitter tasting espresso with a sour taste to ruin a day. Let's dive in and discover why your espresso tastes so terrible.

Top Brew Issues & Quick Fixes

  • water temperature

  • dark roasts or medium

  • can we fix bitter cups of coffee

  • why do I have a bitter espresso

  • simple fixes

Why Does Espresso Taste Bitter?

That sour or bitter taste is not for no reason. Espresso coffee is simple to make when the components are right. But always keep in mind the quality of the coffee bean, it pays to rather spend a little more on coffee beans of a higher quality rather than a lower grade batch which can quickly yield a bitter taste.

We have curated a few options to consider as to why your espresso shot has a bitter taste, a sour taste or is just plain terrible.


Top Reasons Why Your Coffee is Bitter

There are oh so many reasons why your espresso tastes awful, but thankfully many of them are easily fixable, with a few checks of your equipment and ingredients, you can quickly rule out what is and isn't working or right, make a change and ta da, your regular non bitter coffee is back on the market.

Once you have this arsenal of information locked in you can be sure you won't be worrying about starting the day with what you believe to be the worlds worst coffee (and it can certainly seem like it is, we have all been there.)

Over Extraction

When we dissolve our ground coffee into our cups we are essentially pulling out all the coffee oils, sugars, and acids, this is called extraction in the coffee industry. The problem is too often we wholly rely on our espresso machine to know what it is doing, and most of the time it does, but sometimes the brew time is too long and causes an over extracted coffee.

Too much of the rich flavor has been extracted and is why your coffee brew will taste sour.

Brew Ratio

The brew ratio is something that will come with time and drinking enough cups of coffee. Allowing your espresso machine to not complete its brewing cycle will result in an under-extracted cup, but leaving it too long then creates a bitter taste.

Don't fret, it takes patience, and once you know just when to stop the espresso machine you will be saying goodbye to that bitter taste that ruined your morning, and hello to delicious roasted coffee sips.

Grind Size

If you are asking yourself why is my espresso bitter then consider the grind size. A bitter taste comes when the grind size is too fine and too much extraction of the coffee oils happens. Try making your coffee grinds coarser so that the water is not so restricted.

Using Bad Coffee

Dark roast coffee beans are not always what they seem to be. Often these dark roasted beans are lower quality and the roasting process covers this up.

Some people may enjoy a darker roast and that is fine, but beware of labels that claim to be 'high quality' dark roast coffee beans, if they have to state it you are better off looking for a roasted coffee beans blend elsewhere.

Water Is Too Hot

Who would have thought water temperature could affect your coffee taste? But, if you think about it, all we need to make coffee are two ingredients. Coffee and hot water. If either of those are low quality, the coffee or the water temperature, you can be sure that intense flavor you so love in your medium roast will be lost.

Poor water quality can also contain unwanted chemicals, but too hot water temperature or low temperature will not extract the oils and sugars efficiently or burn the fine grind before it has a chance to extract. So you can be sure that no matter how well you measured your brew ratio, expect a bitter espresso.

Dirty Equipment

Having dirty equipment in the home is not something we ever thought we would need to recap on considering how many adults are drinking, and have been for many years, coffee.

Why would you ever leave your coffee machine dirty? Yuck. But it happens and then we wonder why our espresso coffee tastes like you dropped a match in it.

Dirty equipment can quickly change the way your coffee tastes. Coffee residue can build up in the coffee bed and begin to mold. The excess coffee in the group head should always be dusted off before putting the coffee puck in the machine or throw it back into the coffee grinder for your next cup. (Because we all know we can never have enough coffee, right?)

How To Fix Bitter Coffee

You may have heard through the overheard conversations at the coffee shops or from friends who swear it is true, that adding salt to fix bitter hot drinks can save your beloved brew? And, to a small extent it is true, however, it should be done with much caution.

If your espresso shot has a bitter taste you can try to add a FEW particles of salt at a time, stirring and taste testing continuously. The last thing you need is a bitter taste, or a bitter espresso now overwhelmed by a sip that tastes like the bottom of the ocean.

While salt could work, we always recommend considering looking at other, ideally they are more obvious, reasons why this is happening. Think about the grind size you are using, is the water temperature gauge working properly on your coffee machine, and have you really considered your budget and opted for the higher quality bag of coffee beans this time.

Why Does Espresso Taste Sour?

It will sound so simple when you hear how or why your coffee has a sour taste, and it is, but a sour coffee is because your machine does not have enough water or you did not add enough water to your coffee maker. An easy fix.

How To Fix Sour Coffee

More often than not when you sip your coffee and it tastes like a lemon, or it taste sour, you need to add more water. When you increase the amount of water you use this automatically results in a longer brewing time. Therefore more of the coffee oils and sugars will be extracted and you can once again enjoy a decent cup of brew.

You can also look at the grind size you are using. If the grind size of your coffee grounds are too large too much water passes through the ground coffee too quickly and it does not have enough time to pull the flavor from the fresh coffee beans.

Experiment with setting your espresso machine to a longer brew time. This again goes hand in hand with the extraction process but could be just what you need to adjust to ensure the full flavor profile is extracted from the ground coffee.

Why does my coffee taste burnt?

A quick thought would be that the once fresh coffee beans have been essentially, overcooked or over roasted but this is a long shot. If you purchase medium roast coffee beans you have less chance of getting that burnt taste simply based on purchasing roasted coffee levels.

However, that does not go to say you cannot over roast or burn the coffee grounds yourself. A burnt, bitter espresso could mean you have left your coffee to brew for too long and with too hot water. If you have an automated espresso machine check its settings.

How To Fix Burnt Coffee?

The quickest and most immediate option is to ensure your coffee grounds are not too fine. Then, check and measure if you are using too much coffee, are you over filling the basket?

One thing many people may not even think about are the additional ingredients used when making coffee. Sure too much coffee can quickly turn bad in an overfilled puck, but scalding (burnt) milk can also affect the taste, and make your already brewed coffee to keep brewing thus burning it. Be sure your milk is heated to no more than around 60-65 degree.

Is Sour Coffee Bad For You?

A sour espresso shot, while it may not necessarily be bad for you because all you have done, or should we say haven't done, is left the coffee to extract enough. The oils are not fully extracted, nor the sugars, only this acids which happens first.

So drinking a sour cup of coffee won't keep you off work, do you really want to have that sour taste in your mouth the whole day? Make a few adjustments which we have covered and which are simple to implement, and enjoy that espresso shot the way you remember it. Nobody needs a bitter espresso when we all know coffee is so darn delicious.

How Do You Make Espresso Taste Smooth?

If a smooth-groove espresso shot is something that sounds like heaven in a sip, you are not wrong. We have curated a summarized step-by-step recipe for you to experiment with and see the smooth espresso it yields from what would otherwise be ok-ish coffee beans.


  • Clean your machine and portafilter. We don't need our shot of espresso being sabotaged by a simple hygiene error.

  • Fill the filter with the correct amount of coffee grounds. Ideally, it is best to grind your coffee beans just before use.

  • Be sure the coffee in the filter is evenly distributed to ensure an even extraction.

  • Next you want to tamp the ground coffee beans in the puck. This means squash it down firmly and evenly till you feel it is compressed.

  • Next, once you know your group head and machine is clean, insert the filter with your shot of espresso into the machine and begin brewing immediately.

  • Watch your espresso pour into the cup or cups with a careful eye stopping the brew time when you see the crema stop forming. It depends on the espresso machine but allow for 20 to 25 seconds for the espresso shot to pull.

  • Serve your beautifully handmade espresso with a smile.

  • Then, ready your equipment for the next round. clean, wash off, rinse, and set the area.


No More Bitter Espresso

Now that you know all there is to know about how to fix bitter coffee, common mistakes, quick fixes, and everything in between to prevent a bitter espresso we are sure your next few coffees will taste a whole lot different. And as you settle into your routine, get comfortable with your equipment, and know which quality of coffee beans to look out for, there may well be fewer and fewer bad coffee mornings on the horizon, if any (here's hoping).

May all your coffee mornings be full of delicious sips.

More articles