Why is my coffee bitter, sour or burnt?

Why is my coffee bitter, sour or burnt?

Sometimes in the morning it’s hard enough to find your wallet, keys and phone, let alone try to troubleshoot a coffee that just tastes off. We’ve all experienced a brew tasting bitter, sour or burnt, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day. These problems can often be fixed with a quick adjustment and re-brew, provided that the problem is not the coffee beans themselves.

Espresso coffee tastes best when made with medium-roast beans. Beans that are too fresh can taste sour, as they haven’t had time to degas. From about a week after roasting your coffee will have settled in and will be beautiful for espresso based coffees.

Coffee roasting green to light to dark.

Assuming you have great quality coffee beans and they aren’t too fresh, this guide will help you solve some issues with the coffee extraction.

 

 

 

Words to understand

Extraction = This refers to the pour of the coffee from your espresso machine. It’s extracting the coffee oils from the beans.

Blonding = When the coffee pour is a pale yellow colour

Basket = The basket holds the coffee grinds which the water flows through

Crema = The light brown oils that sit atop the coffee shot.

Puck = The coffee grinds that remain in your basket after you have run a shot. The make a shape like a hockey puck when you empty the basket out.

 

 

Why does my coffee taste bitter?

What to look for:  Your puck will be super soggy and sloppy. A thin white/pale yellow watery pour and spirals at the end. Big patches of white on your crema

 

Coffee Blonding

 

Diagnosis: When your espresso comes out tasting bitter, it usually means that the extraction or pour time is too long. Commonly, you’ll see a pale yellow/white stream of coffee that wobbles and spirals towards the end of the shot.

Remedy: Adjust your brew time. A good pour will be somewhere between 25 – 35 secs. Keep watch on the shot as it comes through and as soon as you see the coffee coming out in a light “blonde” colour, stop the shot immediately. This is almost pure caffeine and caffeine tastes very bitter so you want to avoid this and stop the shot as soon as you see it start blonding. Most people make the mistake of trying to extract too much coffee out of a single coffee dose. If you want a strong coffee, get a bigger basket (22g – 28g) and keep the shot time within the ideal range. Don’t worry, you’ll still get your caffeine fix, it just won’t be as bitter.

 

Why does my coffee taste sour?

What to look for:  The coffee GUSHES out under 15 seconds and is wide, pale yellow and bubbly. Your puck will be really dry and powdery.

 

Coffee Under-extraction

 

Diagnosis: A sour espresso shot is one that is under-extracted; meaning the water has run through the coffee too quickly and hasn’t extracted the delicious tasting oils. You are either not putting enough coffee in your basket or you are tamping too lightly and your coffee is too coarse. If your shot pours in under 15 seconds, you are getting under-extracted coffee. The coffee will appear blonde and pale and bubbly. The coffee crema will also dissipate rapidly and the taste will appear thin and sour.

Remedy: To fix a sour espresso shot,  adjust your grind to be finer. This will mean that when you tamp the grinds you’ll create more resistance for the water to pass through allowing it to pick up more oils along the way.

 

Why does my coffee taste burnt?

What to look for: Slow dripping for almost the entirety of the shot. Dark/black pours. You only get a small volume of coffee liquid even after a 45 second extraction. Your puck will look soggy and sloppy again.

Coffee Over-Extraction

 

Diagnosis: Burnt tasting espresso has been over extracted, meaning the hot water is flowing through the grinds too slowly creating harsh and burnt tasting espresso. You coffee grind is too fine or you are over filling the basket and tamping the coffee too much.

Remedy: To remedy a burnt tasting espresso shot, adjust your grinder to a slightly coarser grind. This will help the water to seep through the grind more evenly without too much resistance, and it won’t overcook the coffee.

Here’s a short video I did on how to extract the perfect coffee. Make sure you’re following these steps.

If you try out any of these fixes and they don’t work, leave us a reply and we’ll try and give you specific and detailed help! No one has time for dodgy tasting coffee.

Ryadan Jeavons

by Ryadan Jeavons

Ryd is a passionate coffee educator who started his career in 2000 as a barista. Having seen the coffee industry develop over the years and how much there is to learn about coffee still, his personal mission has become a role as the conduit between the industry and the consumer. He is passionate about educating the public on all the wonderful things we are learning about this golden liquid drink.

47 comments on "Why is my coffee bitter, sour or burnt?"

  1. Lidia says:

    Fantastic post, very useful, thank you!

  2. Alice says:

    Very helpful, thank you! A coarser grind did fix the burnt flavour.

  3. Jessica Simmons says:

    Can the bitter taste come from the origin of beans you are using?

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      It generally isn’t the origin of the bean but can come from the species of coffee as there are some bitter tasting varietals. It can also be how it is roasted, if it’s a darker roast then it can often be quite bitter too.

  4. Alexis says:

    Over the last two days at work, the coffee has been extremely bitter, almost undrinkable.
    I’ve tested it by adjusting the grind both course & fine, no noticeable difference.
    Is there a chance that it’s the coffee machine itself? The water temperature is at 95°C from last check.
    Even the grinder has an extremely bitter smell to it now though.
    I’m coming in after the previous barrister left, so I’m unsure when they last cleaned the grinder itself… However the coffee was fine last Friday and Sunday.

    The beans themselves are currently being tested by the roaster.

    I’m at a loss here.

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hi Alexis,
      Best approach is to do a process of elimination. Grab some good quality beans from somewhere else and try them through the machine. If they are bitter as well then you know it’s something to do with the machine or the way they are pouring.
      Most likely case is that the beans are the cause of the bitterness. What does the coffee look like? Is it dark roasted?
      If you think it’s not the beans there is a chance that the machine is very dirty and probably hasn’t been cleaned with chemical to remove the old oil and grinds that build up in the machine. This can cause a dirty bitter flavour. Remove the screens from the group head (you’ll need a screwdriver or Allen key) and see if they are caked in old coffee. If so, soak them overnight in chemical. Probably also need to soak the portafilters too as this could also be affecting it.
      Good luck!
      Let us know how you go!

  5. Natalia says:

    Hello!
    I have had the issue of fast extraction (~20sec) but the pour comes out quite thin, long and dark. Have been tried adusting the grind to be coarser and having more in the basket, but this doesn’t seem to have much of an effect. What do you suggest is the problem? (I am told the beans we are using like a fast, bubbly pour over 27-30sec).
    Please help!

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hi Natalia!

      Most likely, when the coffee is thin and dark and is coming out quickly, that is a sign of old coffee. They have completely degassed and so there is no oils left in there to create resistance so the water rushes through and only causes a thin extraction.

      Even if they are not old but have been left open and exposed to the elements they will still cause a thin and dark coffee extraction.

      Hope this helps!

  6. Jean Luc Tin Sive says:

    Hi I’m pulling shots of 1:2 brew ratio in 25-30sec. Everything looks good but the shot tastes sour. Coffee roast date for about a week. What could be wrong?

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      In this case, I actually think your coffee is TOO fresh. 😄
      There is a common misconception that espresso coffee needs to be freshly roasted. It has so many gasses after roasting that these give off a sour flavour and so you’ll need to give your beans time to degass.
      When you’re in winter months you’ll need a lot more time to degass (about 2-3 weeks is when it settles in). In summertime it will be quicker so you can almost start using it after one week.
      If you can’t wait that long, you can kinda cheat it by grinding your coffee dose a few minutes ahead of putting it in the group basket.

  7. Jean Luc Tin Sive says:

    Thanks for the quick reply! I was using the bag of beans for about 2 weeks after and it was still sour about 3 weeks past the roast date. Maybe I’m confusing the sour and bitter? It kind of feels “salty” which is closer to sour to me.

  8. Ryadan Jeavons says:

    And you’ve had this coffee before and it hasn’t been salty/sour?

    The other possibility is that the machine needs cleaning and that taste is coming from left over grinds and oils that have built up over time. When was the last time you cleaned the machine with chemical? Is it a new machine or old?

    Also, have you tried other coffees to compare.

    If you’re getting a nice slow thick pour in about 25-30secs and getting a 2:1 in/out ratio and it’s degassed, then I’m left to believe it has to be the roast or varietal characteristics.

  9. Jean Luc Tin Sive says:

    I’ve never had a perfect non salty shot 🙁

    The machine is 2 months old and I backflush every month.

    Single origin/light roast coffees seem to less salty than blends.

  10. Sam says:

    Hi, my coffee comes out sour and quite cold even though the extraction is near perfection. I can not seem to fix this with any meathods that are online.(I have the rancilio silvila M) What am I doing wrong.

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hi Sam,

      When you say it comes out cold is it because the water is cold? Run the water from the machine and feel how hot the temperature is. If the water is only lukewarm, you may have an element issue. The water should be almost boiling (approx 93C or 199F) so make sure you test that first.

      If the water is hot but the shots are coming through cool still, check that the portafilter (group handle) is definitely hot on the metal part. If this is cold, it’s going to dramatically absorb all the heat from the water passing through the coffee grinds and won’t extract the coffee oils properly.

      If your coffee is still sour tasting and the coffee isn’t too fresh (eg: 2-3 weeks after roasting) you may need to post a link to a video of you pulling a shot (film it up close) and we can assess it.

      Good luck!

  11. Thomas says:

    Hi, I’m a little lost and hope you can help me. Most of my shots are in the range of sour to undrinkable sour.
    I’m using a Profitec T64 grinder and a Profitec Pro 600. In a first step, I’ve tried all possible grind sizes leading to extraction in 15s up to +1min with pretty much the same result. Even when over extracted it seems sour.

    Temp. is set to 92C and pressure is ~10bar. With a in/out of ~1:2 (18g in / 40g out) it’s sour. Tamping is consistent with a pressure-regulating tramper.

    I’ve tried 3 different beans:
    First one is my favorite. I’ve previously used them with a Pavoni Professional for ~4 years and never had shots this sour even when over/under extracted. I was unable to get a drinkable shot with them.
    The second one was sour no matter what I’ve tried.
    The third one did have an exception. When i got them and used them the same day, I’ve got drinkable shots without much experimenting (~1:2). I’ve used them every day now and they degraded from drinkable to undrinkable sour in just one week. I’ve only adjusted the grind size finer since the shots under extracted more each day. I’m now back to where i was before.

    Beans 1 and 3 were fresh ~2-4 weeks old. Not sure with no.2.
    Is it possible that the beans got sour that much in just one week?? I’ve never had that when i was using the the La Pavoni and a hand grinder, I’ve sometimes used beans (no1) for over one month. What can i try to do?

    Other things I’ve tried was increasing/decreasing temp and pump pressure (with same grind size) both leading to even worse shots. Last thing I’ve tried was using bottled water since it’s quite hard here, but i don’t see much difference.

    From my experience with the La Pavoni something seems off here but i have no idea what.. can you help me?

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hi Thomas,

      Definitely seems strange that you’re getting sour shots on everything from what you told me.

      Are you in a hot climate right now? I’ve had coffee take up to 4 weeks just to degass before the shots aren’t running about anymore. It could be that they need longer to degass.

      Are the beans light roast or light medium roast? These generally taste sour when running through espresso machines.

      Are the shots bubbling when they drop? This is a sure sign they are still holding a lot of carbon dioxide which will be sour.

      Maybe also put your temp up to 95 degrees and see if that helps at all.

      You can also try doing a shot at 22-24g over 27-30secs and get about 40ml and see if that gives you any better results.

      Good luck!

    2. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hey Thomas, I just had a thought which might be nothing but I thought I’d ask what sort of basket you are using? From the precision equipment, you have already described I assume you are using a double shot basket with straight sides and not a single basket with tapered sides?

  12. Ákos says:

    Hey,

    What should I do if my coffee starts blondig at ~17 seconds, but if I keep brewing it and stop the shot at 25 seconds the brew ratio will be good (1:2-1:3)? My main problem is that the coffee tastes burnt, but if I adjust my grinder to a coarser setting, the brew ratio will be bad (>1:3) and the blonding starts sooner.

    This is a freshly roasted coffe from a local certified coffee roastery (Vienna roast, 2.5 weeks old) and it should taste like a chocolate. Instead it tastes burnt or if I keep adjusting my PID temperature, it tastes sour or bitter too, but no signs of chocolate or anything good. I think I should fix my blonding issue to solve this, but I’m not sure how. Or I miss something more important thing?

    What is your suggestion?

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hey Akos!

      I think sometimes too much emphasis is placed on the science of coffee and not enough on the art. Whilst it’s good to get the brew ratio to 1:2 I think watching the shot fall and cutting it before it starts blonding is much more important and obviously, the taste is the MOST important part! I’m guessing the beans are a little oily looking and shiny? This is the Vienna roast process which roasts the coffee for a longer period so that the oils which are trapped inside the bean, come to the surface.

      I’m not a fan of Vienna Roast coffees, I know that coffee is very subjective and whilst SOME people still prefer the dark bitter and roasted (essentially burnt) flavors of coffee, the majority of people these days are wanting a smoother, balanced taste. Vienna roasts will never get you the smoother flavors and by the sounds of your description, you don’t like the bitter & burnt flavors either. This Vienna roast coffee will not get you the flavours you are seeking, I don’t think. Dark roasts generally degass a lot more quickly too, so that could explain the early blonding in each extraction.

      I would be looking for a Medium roasted coffee(also sometimes referred to as “American Roast”) where the essential oils are still contained inside the beans and will get picked up when you extract.

      That’s the first thing I would look at. After that, aiming to get a shot that falls perfectly for 25-30 seconds. I wouldn’t be mucking around with the temperature too much, what is your current temp set to? If it’s at 93-95 degrees celsius I’d leave it at that.

      Focus on the consistency or your tamp and how much you put in vs how much comes out.

      Good luck and let me know how you go!

  13. Tomer says:

    hey,
    I stopped the extraction when it started to blond,
    It took 25 seconds and extracted in a ratio of 1:2, yet the coffee tasted burnt and very strong..
    It was roasted 13 days ago..
    Any suggestions? 😄

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hey Tomer!

      That extraction sounds perfect from your timing, to stopping when it blonds, so the only thing that I can think of is that your beans are roasted too dark.

      It has to be the reason.

      I mean, the coffee could be a Robusta bean which isn’t as smooth and sweet as the Arabica family, but it really sounds like the roaster just took the bean too far.

  14. Pete says:

    Hi there,

    My pucks are quite soupy sometimes, but my pour is ok and my espresso ok, not burnt, sour or over-bitter (although I just now learned how to spot the “blonde” so Ill work on that!).

    My question is this – I have noticed once or twice, when removing the portafilter after a pour, that the soupy puck is….boiling? Or bubbling at least…

    What could cause that?
    Surely the water is not coming out SO hot and pressurised that it could still be actively boiling at this point?
    Surely coffee cant be so gassy that Im seeing rapid bubbling (ballbearing sized bubbles) even after the pour?

    Any ideas?
    I dont actually detect much problem from my espresso, other than I havnt yet gotten a proper grinder and cant really make a consistent brew yet.

    Thanks!

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hi Pete!

      Yep a soupy puck is definitely a sign of underextraction (meaning your coffee grinds are too coarse) and you’ll need to grind the coffee a bit finer until you see a firmer puck.

      The bubbling could be from two different things:

      Your coffee is too fresh and so the carbon dioxide trapped in the bean is oxidising as you extract. If your coffee was only roasted a few days ago, then this could be the issue. I like to let my coffee sit in a one-way valve chamber for at least 14 days from roast date. If it’s winter where you are you might even need to wait longer as the degassing is slower.

      However, I think the bubbling may also be caused by the machine and YES the water can be that hot that it boils the coffee as it comes out. It depends on what sort of machine you have but to test it, run the water from the group head and see if it’s running out wildly and making a huge noise. If it is, you need to purge the boiling water by leaving the water running for about 10-15 seconds or until you see it visibly settle down and run more smoothly. You will need to do this between shots if it’s sitting idle for a minute or so.

      Hopefully you can get a more firm puck now.

      Regards,

      Ryd

  15. Andrew says:

    My current settings on Xelsis. Brand new machine. Lvaza Arabica beans
    1. Strength : Mild
    2. Coffee : 60cc
    3. Temp : medium
    4. Taste : Delicate
    5. Grind : 2-3
    Coffee is Bitter
    The best time I can do for 60cc is 15-17” from first Drip. Crema is thin to nonexistent
    60cc = 2 oz

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hi Andrew!

      Thanks for putting your info in here. It helps to get a great understanding of what you’re currently doing in order to help you correct it.

      I can see your issue straight away —> Lavazza coffee will never give you the crema or taste you are looking for. It’s just not high enough quality and if you bought it from a supermarket or grocer, you are probably starting with coffee thats at least 4-6 months old.

      Obvious signs to notice is if the best before date is about 6 months from now. Most roasters put a 12 month best before date on but really it’s just a meanlingless date as coffee doesn’t really go off, just loses it’s flavour and lovely oils. What an expiry date means is that the coffee was roasted about 12 months prior to date so this helps you determine what date the coffee was roasted.

      As a general rule, coffee should be consumed within about 2 months to extract the maximum flavours (unless it’s flash frozen and flash thawed with precision equipment but there aren’t many people using this method currently).

      Even if your Lavazza is fresh I doubt the coffee quality score would be higher than a 60 (The quality score is from 0-100 on an exponential scale – meaning it’s a lot harder to get from 60-80 than it is to get from 40-60). You want to look for a QS of about 80+

      Best thing to do is find coffee that has a high quality score, uses key words like “specialty coffee”, and the beans are medium roast (not dark and oily), check the date and make sure you’re using coffee that is about 7-14 days old and you’ll find you won’t get any bitter results (unless the roaster doesn’t know what he/she is doing.)

      All the best!
      Ryd

  16. James says:

    Thanks awesome

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Awesome, glad I could help!

  17. Richard Nally says:

    Hello

    I have a Sage Duo Temp and a Smart Grinder Pro. I am getting shots that are sour, but the puck is very dry and powdery. The output time is around 33secs with a light tamp. Both my beans give the same result and are roasted by two respected roasters, Extract and Clifton Coffee and are both just over 2weeks old now – although this issue is there all the time, I’ve been getting this coffee for three years. I’ve gone finer, courser and get the same result. Finer, machine takes forever and cuts, seams I am an the limit. Can you help?

    18g in
    36g our
    Grind top burr factory 6 and 14 at the dial (if you know this grinder)
    Extraction first drip at 11secs and 31-33 full
    Also heat with handle with group head and run the water through.

    Could the machine be the issue? Seams to be hot, water is for sure.

    Thanks!

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hi Richard,

      11 seconds does seem like a long time to see the extraction come through. Are you doing some sort of pre-infusion at all? If not, that might be too fine a grind.

      Also, when you describe “first drip” do you mean that it is dripping through for a bit? It should be a consistent stream from the get go (maybe one drip sometimes but ideally it should be a nice slow stream from the beginning to when you cut the shot).

      I think either your coffee is too fine so the water can’t get through at all or you’re over-dosing the basket. The fact that you have to do a light tamp suggests that it might be too fine. I would see if you could get it to a stage where you can tamp firmly (not too hard) and if the shots run a bit closer to 25 seconds without turning white and watery and see if that helps.

      Another thing that could be the issue might be the basket itself. I don’t know the Sage duo temp very well but often they ship with very terrible baskets. Does your basket taper at the sides or say words on it like “dual wall” basket. To help eliminate the issue of the basket, buy a 21g flat sided basket (so not one that tapers) and see if your problem still occurs with it.

      I look forwarded to an update!
      Ryd

  18. Pete says:

    re: “Hi Pete! Yep a soupy puck is definitely a sign of underextraction…..etc…”

    Thanks Ryadan!
    I did indeed have problems getting fine-enough ground coffee (no grinder yet so relying on nearby cafe to do it for me). I do use a fine grind, so much so that the pressure required to finish the extraction (its a manual hand-pump machine, a Savinelli) can be excessive and initial drip rates are just that – a drip.

    I think with a finer grind I would have problems not being over-extracted due to the time required to pull through.

    The other points make more sense though, I have had some “eplosive” results (where the puck “pops” when the portafilter is released and the grounds are sprayed up into the head and elsewhere…) but this does appear to come in groups, so too-fresh coffee or too-hot water fit better. I definitely sometimes notice that the water spray is quite noisy and other times less so.

    We will be investing in a grinder that is fit for the task so will soon be able investigate different grind settings but will look into the other things too and let you know 🙂

    Best,
    Pete

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hi Pete,

      Yes, definitely get a grinder. It’s the only way to ensure you get the right grind for your machine.

      There are so many variables when it comes to getting the right grind. It’s not a case of set and forget because even the slightest change in weather (humidity, temperature etc) can affect the coffee and you want to be able to adjust the grind as you go.

      I have no doubt that when you get your grinder it will fix most of your issues. I would make sure you have chosen a decent grinder though, a Baratza Sette 270 or even a Breville smart grinder Pro will get you started. Stay away from blade grinders and make sure you find conical or burr grinders.

      Let us know when you get a grinder. 🙂

  19. In reply to my post answered by Ryd – I did manage to find the answer. I ground a little more coarse, more than I expect I would need to as I actually ground finer for my old cheap entry leval machine with good results. Now I am getting coffee come through after 7ish secs (Duo Temp has pre-infusion) and full exstraction of 26secs. Lovely full chocolaty coffee once more.

    Other answers: Single wall basket by Sage, does the trick but I may look to upgrade this along with the tamper, which is rubbish. Anyone with the Smart Grinder Pro and Duo Temp machine – start around 15 – 16 setting on default top burr, for me 17-16 setting is the sweet spot for espresso.

    Thanks for the help

  20. Basil says:

    Ok guys I need some advice, I have sunbeam em4300 machine (it’s my first machine)and my grinder is the Breville the dose pro. Below is the result I’m getting when I pull a double espresso shot. Note: the machine default shot volume is 60ml for a double and I’m using a single wall filter not the crappy double wall that comes in the box
    Medium roast beans (1 week old)
    Grind setting 16
    Coffee in basket 22g
    Extraction time 26s
    Volume out 60ml

    Result: Starts a little bitter with the first sip but as you get to the bottom of the cup it becomes smoother with subtle bitterness

    I just can’t get that smooth sweetness from the first sip like I do when order an espresso from the roaster I buy my beans from. Are there any minor adjustments you suggest I can make to achieve this? Or could it just be the beans I’m using and the machine I have and it’s limitations compared to a high end espresso machine?

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hi Basil,

      Well, you definitely will see a small drop in quality on home machines compared to high end commercial machines. Some of those machines will cost $16k-$30k so aside from being able to handle high volume they also have tech which isn’t present in home machines.

      That said, you should still be able to produce near quality doing the right things.

      So, are you drinking them as straight espresso?

      If so I think your shot volume might be too high. And this could attribute to the bitterness.

      With espressos, I usually do what is called a ristretto or a ‘restricted’ shot. This means you cut the extraction short which gives you a better, sweeter and more intense flavoured shot.

      So if I’m doing a 22g shot I would be cutting it off around the 20-21 second mark and should get a volume of around 30ml-35ml.

      The longer you leave the shot running the more organic acids are present and these can cause bitterness in your cup.

      All else seems good but (depending on the weather) I would degass the coffee a little more and maybe give them to around the 14-20day mark. If it’s a hot and humid climate you live in then 7-14 days is ok, the cooler it is the longer the carbon dioxide takes to escape which causes sourness and can sometimes be confused for a Bitter flavour.

      Good luck and let me know how you go!

  21. Paul says:

    Thanks so much for your tips Ryadan. You have helped me achieve far better results. From an extraction ratio of 14gm/60gm in/out, which often tasted bitter despite using 100% medium roast arabica beans, I tried 14gm/42gm or 1/3. The bitterness has now gone and there is more body and flavour.
    However, I am unsure of ideal extraction times though. Can you please advise on extraction times I should be aiming at for 14gm at 1/3 and 1/2 which I want to try. Also, for more coffee in, eg 18gm, should extraction time be longer or stay the same?
    Thanks again.
    Regards Paul

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hi Paul!

      Excellent to hear you are leveling up your barista skills!

      Remember the extraction times and doses are just guides and you really have to listen to your own body so that you make the coffee just how you like it.

      Having said that, the extraction time should be between 25-30secs (22 seconds if you want a more intense flavour. This is called a Ristretto) with the yield being about 1:2.

      It’s really important that you watch the extraction from start to finish so that you can see the moment it starts to turn white and go watery and wavy as that is when you want to cut the shot. If you are getting there around the 25 second mark and getting a yield of 1/2 or greater then thats awesome.

      A good practice to try is running a shot into 3 or 4 different shot glasses – the first shot glass should have the first 10-13 seconds, the second glass should contain the middle part of the extraction up to about 25 seconds, the last part can be 25-30seconds and then just for recognition of the bitter flavours, put the 4th glass under and capture a late part of the shot. This should help you distinguish each flavour and will help you when you are trying to find that perfect extraction time and yield.

      Good luck!
      Ryd

  22. Christian says:

    Hi Ryadan
    Thanks for a great article (and the Q&A as well). I read everything (and a lot more:)) but I still can’t find the answer to my problem. I keep pulling shots with a bitter and burnt taste almost no matter what I do and I can’t figure out why.
    I’m going for a 1:2 ratio as a guideline – just did a 18 gm/40 ml shot in 20 sec. If I stop the shot around 23-25 sec the bitterness and the burnt taste is even worse. I tried to lower the extraction time by grinding coarser but the shot time will be way to low. I also tried to grind much finer and do a 18 gm/36 ml in 28 sec. Still tasted bitter and burnt – but somehow a bit less.
    The crema is very low but I don’t know if it’s just the coffee? The coffee is medium roasted 11 days ago and good quality from a local coffee roaster. It should leave me with a round chocolate taste but this burnt taste is taking over instead.
    My machine is Izzo Vivi PID III and grinder is Mazzer Mini. I backflush every 2 weeks so I don’t think the reason is dirty equipment. The temperature is the lowest recommended in the guide that came with the machine.
    So do you see anything here that might be the reason to this bitter and burnt taste?
    Thanks again
    Christian

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hi Christian,
      Interesting problems you are having!

      For the most part I think you’re doing everything right in terms of using the ratio and time as a guide. Although I would be aiming for the shot to be finishing up around 25-27 seconds as a full shot (20-22 seconds for a ristretto for a more intense and sweeter shot).

      The low amount of crema is a worry because if everything else you are doing is correct – you should be getting a nice full crema. This could mean the coffee quality is not that high or it’s been roasted badly. So here’s some further questions for you if you can reply we might be able to get deeper into the issue.

      Is the coffee shiny at all? Are there small amounts of the beans that are oily?
      Is the coffee a dark roast or a medium roast? Identify the colour on the scale at the top of the blog post.
      When you start extracting, how many seconds until you see the first signs of the shot come through?
      Is the shot dripping a lot when it first comes through or does it fall straight down in a nice even flow? Or does it fall in a concave shape?
      Is the coffee gushing through quickly or billowing out in a super thick bubbly stream?
      I notice the PID on that machine, and you said you have it on the lowest temp. What temp exactly?
      Are you using a preinfusion at all? If so how many seconds?
      Backflushing is one of many cleaning habits, have you ever taken the showerscreen off and soaked it in chemical overnight? (if you have always experienced this bitterness, then it might not be this, but it’s a good cleaning habit to do every 2-4 weeks)
      Lastly, is it definitely bitterness and burnt that you taste? Sometimes our tastebuds trick us so it’s important to hone in on exactly what tastes we are seeing.

      I know we can get to the bottom of this problem!

      1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

        Hey Christian,

        So glad you sent that video through! I can see straight away what the issue is.

        It shouldn’t be at 121C. Maximum it should be is around 95C but I like to set it at 93C

        I don’t know why they tell you in the manual to set it at a minimum of 121 but thats definitely not correct unless maybe it’s talking about the steam boiler (but I am not sure if that Izzo Vivi model is a twin boiler or just a single boiler)

        That’s definitely why you’re getting the burnt flavour.

        The beans look fine and the grind looks fine.

        Other than that, I think you’re coffee making skills are great. I watched the pour and that’s exactly what it should look like when it’s extracting.

        It makes me even more convinced that it should be the water temp.

        Just try putting it down to 93 and see how it tastes but I’m sure thats the reason.

        No idea why they would say 121 either. Thats not even Fahrenheit cos that would be 199 or something. (F-32)x5/9 = C

        Fingers crossed this works!

        Cheers,
        Ryd

  23. Noor says:

    Hi! Following up from my recent email where I had a soupy puck/burnt espresso. I am using the breville barista express 2-cup single wall filter basket. My coffee is not preground, I use fresh beans. The shot usually starts to pour about 5-6 seconds after I press the button. I typically let it run until it stops. There is a variation in color in my espresso. Starts of dark, then gets lighter and ends with a caramel-y color. There is just no body in my espresso. It looks flat and the crema doesn’t sit atop as it should.

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Thanks for that Noor,

      I’m so glad you sent me the video because I think I saw the problem you are having!

      It looks like the Breville has got a pressure leak.

      There’s a split second where you film far enough back that I caught a glimpse of the pressure gauge in the corner of the screen and it looked like it hadn’t gone up past about 1 or 2 bars when it should be hitting about 9 bars.

      I am sure this is the problem.

      Definitely the shot doesn’t look right as it falls, it shouldn’t be that wavy and watery. It should look exactly like pouring honey. Thick and smooth and evenly pouring straight down.

      Watch the pressure gauge as you extract the shot and see if you can get the pressure up to 9 bars. As an excercise to see if it’s the coarseness of the coffee and not a fault on the machine, try making the coffee fine and see if you get the pressure that way. Or if you have blind filter (it should be a flat grey rubber disc that fits inside the basket and stops the water from flowing through.)

      Let me know how it goes.

  24. Paul Benjamin says:

    Hi Ryadan,
    After producing some satisfying coffees at home for awhile, with an occasional godshot, my coffee now tastes consistently bitter, intense, unpalatable and leaves an unpleasant taste. I have backflushed and descaled my rancilio silvia M, cleaned solenoid valve, portafilter and IMS ridgeless 15gm filter basket. I thoroughly cleaned my eureka specialata grinder burrs and shute and have tried various beans with no noticable improvement in coffee taste. I measured water temp at group head after temp surfing (brew 30 secs after thermostat light goes off) at 185F. I guess slightly cooled by the time it falls into cup. Not sure about the pressure. Grinder is fairly new and burrs look fine.
    I wonder if you may be able to help me as I don’t know what to try next.
    Maybe the machine is not functioning properly. Have been dosing quite fine 14gms in 15gm IMS basket, level, tamp firmly, extract ratio 1:2.5 to1:3, pour start 4-5 secs, pour for 25-30 secs. Not sure if I’m on the right track. Have tried various blends and 100% arabica. Some shots have looked good but most look a bit watery. But if I grind any finer the shot time will be over 25 -30 secs.
    If nothing wrong with my equipment, I wonder if I may be under or overextracting, incorrect brew
    ratio, tamping pressure incorrect or something else. The confusing thing is I have been trying to replicate my methods I used when coffee tasted good, but now without any success.
    Thanks,
    Kind regards
    Paul

    1. Ryadan Jeavons says:

      Hi Paul!

      Sounds like something has changed on your setup or your beans from when you were creating beautiful shots.

      First off I think the boiler is a little cool. It should peak around 240F (116C) and then after you flush it it should ideally sit at around 198-204F (92-95C). I think your temp is too cold and while this won’t cause bitter coffee, it will create a sour and unpalatable taste. So, it’s definitely one to look at.

      The stats all look correct, although I’d be looking at around a 1:2 for the extraction volume (1:3 will be getting bitter for sure). Another thing you can try is to pull a double ristretto (italian = restricted) which create a sweeter more intense flavour. To do this you are looking at around a 1:1 extraction cutting the extraction short about 20-22 seconds. I would also go the other way with the dosing and slightly over dose the basket. I like a 1gm or 2gm over.

      The watery coffee is an indicator that the oils aren’t present. Either from poor quality coffee beans or from underextracting (but that taste is not bitter, but more tasteless and slightly sour). Finding high quality beans are challenging because people will always say they are “specialty coffee” when in fact they are sub 80 cupping score (a universal score to measure the overall quality of coffee beans). Look for a coffee beans that specifies 85+ coffee score and make sure they are medium roast (no city or dark roasts). If the weather is cool, wait around 14-21 days from roast date before you use them (you can sample them earlier but usually I find they degas after a few weeks.) If the weather is extremely hot you may find your coffee degases after only a week.

      Good luck!

  25. Rohan says:

    Hi Ryd,
    I am getting a burnt flavour. And my puck is too dry and powdery what should I do ?

  26. Georgina says:

    Hi Ryd,
    I have read through lots of comments here and taken some notes but thought I would ask you directly for some help. I have a barista breville express. I was playing today with it to try and get the extraction right.
    I was using good specialty beans roasted 2-3 weeks ago. Now I changed the grind repeatedly and not once did it extract longer than 15 seconds. And I mean I tried like very option. At about 7.5 it made a nice coffee and I enjoyed it but it didn’t pour for more than 15 seconds – from pushing the cup button to it finishing. Have you got any pointers of what I am doing wrong?
    It was sitting in the correct place in the pressure gauge too – if not a bit higher.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Kind regards
    Georgina

  27. Thanks for a great article

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