Your Espresso Tastes Sour/How To Diagnose And Fix

a young man with a baseball cap on puckering his lips after drinking sour espresso

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It’s often the case that espresso doesn’t taste as expected, but when you get it right, it’s delicious. Unfortunately, many things can cause a sour taste, including adding too much water or not grinding the beans finely enough.

The good news is that the issues are easily diagnosed and fixed; In this article I will explain what to look for during your brewing process to understand what is going wrong in order to fix your sour espresso

How do you fix a sour shot of espresso

If you’re in a hurry, here is a quick overview of what you need to do. Read further along for a detailed version of every problem and how to fix it.

  • Your grind is too fine
  • Your grind is too coarse
  • A weak pump in your machine creating too little pressure can also make your espresso taste sour.
  • Your beans are a light roast
  • Your brew time needs to be shortened
  • You’re temperature is too low
  • Equipment isn’t clean

Espresso that tastes sour can be fixed in a few different ways:

  • Find the sweet spot for your grind size, it can’t be too fine or too coarse
  • Try a darker roast
  • Shorten your brew time, it should be between 25 and 30 seconds
  • Make sure your water temp is between 190 to 196 degrees when brewing
  • Clean your water reservoir, portafilter, grinder, filter baskets and group head.

Words To Understand

Extraction Process. In this context, we are talking about the coffee that comes from your espresso machine. The grinds are extracted from their oils during the extraction process.

Under extraction is the number one reason why espresso tastes sour, I will explain in detail how to diagnose this and fix it farther along ion the article.

Blonding. This refers to the color of the coffee as it pours out of the portafilter, it should be a pale yellow color.

Filter Basket. These are the interchangeable baskets that you switch in and out of your portafilter to brew either a single or double shot. During the extraction process, water passes through the basket of coffee grinds.

Crema. Shots that are extracted properly have a light brown top layer of oils that have a silky consistency.

Coffee Puck. After you brew your espresso, there will be the spent grinds left in your portafilter’s filter basket. They will be shaped like a hockey puck when you discard them in your knock box, hence the name.

Yield: This is the volume of espressomade

Dose: This is how much dry ground coffee is in your filter basket before you brew

Grouphead: This is where you lock your portafilter into

A pretty brunette drinking a shot of espresso that wasn't under-extracted so it doesn't have a sour, bitter taste.

The Most Common Causes Of Sour Coffee

I have already pointed out the main reason or factor that contributes to your espresso tasting sour. However, under extraction may not be the only reason.

Below we will go into more detail diagnosing the problems and what the best solution is.

Your Coffee Beans Can Make Your Espresso Sour

Your cup of joe will taste and smell differently based on the beans’ quality and roast. I am sure that you agree.

Nowadays, espresso beans sourced from a single farm are becoming more popular and enable baristas to create an authentic taste.

Using single-source coffee beans has the disadvantage of having a much higher acidity level, making your coffee bitter or sour. By contrast, processed and roasted coffee beans in a blend lose much of their acidity.

As an alternative to using single-sourced beans every time you make espresso, consider switching to a coffee blend that includes dark roast.

Using blends or even single origin beans that are roasted specifically for espresso will make a huge difference also.

Related article:

Lifeboost Coffee Review

Best Espresso beans

Different Roasts Can Have Adverse Effects On Your Espresso’s Flavor

The wrong roast may cause the acidity of your espresso. Conversely, a light roast is more susceptible to produce a sour taste when brewed.

Also, fresh green coffee beans taste sour while brewed since they haven’t been degassed yet.

The best coffee for espresso is one that has been roasted a week before you use it, so it has time to mature and become a rich flavor.

A darker roast can release rich caramel notes in your brew, which is a great way to prevent your coffee from tasting sour.

Traditional Vietnam coffee on the top of the coffee shop in Hoi An.

You’re Brewing At A Low Temperature

Coldwater molecules are not active enough to complete extraction at low temperatures, so pulling a shot at that temperature results in under extraction. As a result, you’re left with an acidic and sour taste.

If your espresso machine does not produce enough hot water during extraction, check the water temperature. Pulling an espresso shot requires water nearly at boiling point, just below 201°F.

Be sure to let the machine warm the water first if you want the perfect cup of coffee. Please also be aware that if you pull multiple shots at once, the water temperature will drop.

One Of The Reasons Why Your Espresso Falls Flat Is Due To Consistency In The Grind Size

To make good espresso, you need consistency in your grind size. If your grinds are too coarse the water will run through the space in between the grounds and will result in a wayery brew with very little flavor.

If you want to enjoy a balanced flavor in your espresso, you need to allow the grounds and hot water to make contact for 25 to 30 seconds.

Finer grinding will reduce space between molecules and prevent under extraction because water takes longer to pass through.

Use A Smaller Amount Of Coffee Grounds

Thuis is the same as grinding too coarsely since a smaller amount of grinds will results in less extraction.

A lot of the flavor in your drink comes from the oils in the coffee beans but if you aren’t using the correct amount it will not be as full bodied or taste as good.

To prevent this from happening, use a larger amount of coffee grounds in the portafilter to provide resistance to hot water.

As a guide line you should grind between 18 and 21 grams for a double shot and 6 to 8 grams for a single shot.

Due to this, the amount of time the grounds spend in contact with hot water increases, leading to a fuller flavor extraction.

Text sign showing How Can We Make It Better question. Conceptual photo asking how to fix bitter, burnt, sour espressosoMan holding marker notebook clothespin reminder wooden table cup coffee
Text sign showing How Can We Make It Better question. Conceptual photo asking how increase quality of product Man holding marker notebook clothespin reminder wooden table cup coffee

7 tips to fix sour coffee.

Now that you know what can cause a bad tasting espresso let’s explore the different ways to fix it.

It’s true; small adjustments can make a world of difference so don’t get discouraged.

a portafilter with a double shot filter in it filled with fine dry coffee grinds

1. Coffee grind size

You may need to re-grind the ground coffee to a finer consistency if your grind is too coarse. However, for perfect coffee brewing, it is essential to grind the beans and roasts correctly.

If you cannot achieve a smooth texture with your grinder, consider purchasing new equipment.

2. The brewing time Needs to be adjusted

As well as enhancing the extraction process, brewing time greatly impacts the quality of your espresso shot.

The average time to prepare an espresso shot is 25-30 seconds.

If you decrease the time you aren’t allowing the full flavors to be brought out of the grinds, but if you go to long the hot water will cook your beans resulting in a burnt flavor.

3. Ratio between coffee and water

Most of the flavor in your cup is due to the water to coffee ratio. Machines determine how much water goes into each shot of espresso.

To avoid a bitter or sour flavor, it is possible to balance the amount of water to grounds in some infusion methods.

If you are unsure of the ratio your machine is using read your manual. You will then know how to change it or to go back tothe default settings in case you inadvertently changed it.

thermometer standing next to a glass of water referring to the correct brewing temperature for espresso so that it doesn't taste sour

4. The water’s temperature

Each chemical reaction is doubled in intensity as the temperature rises by 10 degrees Celsius.

Therefore, you would expect the extraction process to increase as the temperature is raised. You should, however, be careful since too hot water can cause a burnt or bitter taste.

You need to brew with a water temp of 190 to 196 degrees Fahrenheit, if you aqre unsure drae some plain water from your machine and use a thermometer to see how hot it is.

If it doesn’t fall in between the above temperature, chnage the programming or it could be that your water boiler is broken and you need a new machine.

5. Wet dosage needs to be adjusted

This could be a good choice despite the grind size if you’re looking for the right flavor. In terms of coffee and wet dose, the recommended ratio is 1:2.

You will need to extract 20 grams of yield for every 10 grams of coffee in the portafilter.

When you pull longer shots, the hot water and grounds stay in contact for a longer period of time.

6. Make adjustments to the dry dose

For example, it might make sense to add more grounds if the dry dose needs to be increased when brewing coffee.

The portafilter basket size determines another reason for changing the dose. But it’s not a decision you make to adjust the qualities of espresso.

This is purely to optimize the extraction of the baskets on hand. It is generally best to stay within one or two grams of the basket’s weight rating, which the manufacturer sets.

It would help if you never allowed your dose to sit so high in the basket that it touches the shower screen when dry.

To avoid touching the shower screen while inserting and removing the dosed portafilter, you must reduce your dose. A higher dose will not allow you to make more espresso, and it will just make the extraction less efficient and less even.

At the other end of the spectrum, if your pucks are sloppy and wet following an extraction, this doesn’t necessarily indicate a poor shot – it only means that there is quite a bit of room between the grinds and the shower screen.

Your dose may be too low, or the coffee could be too dense if your dose is below the basket’s specified amount. For more info on puck dynamics, check out this recent post.

However, it is not the end of the world if you have to change your dose outside the basket’s preferred range. You may, however, experience a decline in espresso quality.

Changing the dose affects flow rate, puck saturation rate, extraction temperature, extraction yield, strength, and extraction evenness. I’m sure there’s other stuff too.

It is nearly impossible to understand what is actually happening if you change the dose constantly. It will also be easier to adjust variables and figure out the coffee if you keep it the same. I promise you’ll be convinced once I explain espresso recipes.

For now, remember: the only way to make more or less coffee is to use more or less coffee.

The taste will be well-balanced despite some under-extracted grounds.

young smiling barista woman cleaning professional coffee machine with dust , barist work routine.

7. Keeping espresso machine clean

A well-maintained machine equals good-tasting coffee. It’s a small price to pay for high-quality nectar.

No matter what type of brewing method or equipment is utilized, you have to keep it cleaned to allow it to make quality espresso and coffee.

This means that your investment should be taken care of. Also, the decreased flavor in your espresso is the accumulation of old coffee oils and grounds inside the portafilter and group head.

Once you have used your espresso for the day, you have a few options for cleaning it.

  • Make sure the portafilter and filter baskets are completely clean by wiping it with a soft cloth.
  • In addition, if you have a three-way overpressure valve, do a quick backflush to clean the entire system.
  • The blank portafilter may now be attached, and the water may be run for about ten seconds.
  • Put the rinse water in the trash. This should be repeated four times. One final time, run the water and then shake the portafilter.

The product manual should provide cleaning instructions if there is no valve on the machine.

How to Deep Clean Your Espresso Machine

When using an espresso machine, you need to remove the grounds and the oils that are broken down.

Soak the single and double coffee filters, portafilter, and run a cleaning cycle on your machine if it has one.

If you’re not sure, look at your manual if you no longer have a manual, just go online; all of the information can be found on Google.

You may have to do descale your machine especially if you don’t use a water filter anf have hard water.

Make sure to clean everything with a clean cloth and dry it before reassembling it.

a bottomless portafilter extracting espresso into an espresso cup

What Is The Coffee Extraction Process

Water is used to extract the aromatic compounds from ground coffee as it comes into contact with it.

Extraction is the act of pressurized water being pushed through your coffee grounds and the oils, fats, acids, and sugar being extracted out of your coffee.

There are a variety of compounds extracted throughout the brewing process, following the same order each time.

We begin by extracting the fats and acids responsible for the sour and oily taste. The next substance is sugar, which is perfect since its natural sweetness will balance out the acidity.

It is at this point that a barista will begin to stop the extraction process.

After this point, the brew will begin to extract too much of the grounds, eventually turning your coffee bitter.

The duration of brew time is important in determining how the coffee is perceived between those on opposite ends of the taste spectrum.

Make sure that you exhaust your espresso in only 25 to 30 seconds to strike the sweet spot. To achieve the best results, grind the grains to a finer degree so that the water will have a hard time passing through.

While you may consider using a larger dose of coffee, be cautious not to over-extract it, as it will become bitter/burnt.

If your espresso shot is poured in less than 15 seconds, the coffee will appear under-extracted or pale, blonde, and bubbly.

The top will also have a light coating of cream that will quickly disappear. The result is a brew that is both bland and lifeless, as well as looking unimpressive.

What is the difference between over-extracted and under-extracted espresso?

You can tell right away if an espresso shot has been over-extracted just by looking at it rather than just tasting it.

An espresso that is not bitter should have a dark brown crema topping.

Blonding occurs when the tannic acid leaks through the cream. As a result, the crema of a bad espresso will be much lighter brown in color.

An experienced coffee shop barista will be able to tell the difference. They should discard over-extracted espresso and make a new one.

Consider Experimenting

You can see for yourself just how important the timing of your extraction affects the flavor.

Pour 15 seconds of espresso into one cup. Then, use another cup to collect the coffee extracted from the last 15-30 seconds.

There will be savory flavors in the first cup; there will be bitter and sour tastes in the second cup.

A Different Coffee Brand Might Be Right For You

If all else fails and you still have sour espresso, it may be the beans you’re using.

Farmer’s sometimes will cut corners and add coffee beans to their harvest that aren’t all ripe yet.

This will produce a larger yield for them, making them more money but will result in you receiving beans that aren’t ready to be roasted or brewed.

This is why you should always spend a little more money on your beans and buy from reputable companies that practice sustainable practices and are fair-traded.

To find out which coffee suits your tastes, I recommend trying different brands. Despite the difficulty of taming espresso, the result is so rewarding and fascinating to make.

The Difference Between Burnt, Bitter, And Sour Coffee

Bitter Coffee

Observation: When you knock out your puck, you will notice that it is wet.

A thin white or pale yellow pour, which then spirals at the end, leaving big patches of white on your cream.

Problem: Usually, bitter espresso is the result of long extraction or pouring times. You should see a stream of pale yellow and white coffee at the end of the shot.

Solution: The brew time needs to be adjusted. 25 – 30 seconds is a good time for pouring.

When you see the coffee starting to turn a blonde color, end the brewing process.

When the espresso turns that blonde color, it is a sign that you’re accumulating all of the caffeine, which tastes very bitter.

Getting too much out of one dose of coffee is the mistake of most people. Keeping the shot time in the ideal range is the key to making a strong coffee, so get a larger basket (22g-28g).

Don’t worry; the caffeine fix will still be there, just a bit milder.

Sour Coffee

Observation:  If you’re within the first 15 seconds of the shot and you’re seeing a straw color liquid that’s pouring out fast, thick, and seems to have a lot of air bubbles in it.

The coffee puck will also be very dry and brittle; it will most likely fall apart when you knock it out.

Problem: The water being pushed through your coffee isn’t meeting any resistance, and it is pouring out too quickly; this isn’t allowing any of the oils to be extracted to give you a proper flavor profile.

This means that you are not dosing enough grounds into the basket, or you aren’t tamping hard enough.

An espresso shot should take 25 to 30 seconds to complete if it’s happening too quickly; you need to fix one of the above-mentioned scenarios.

This results in a pale, blonde, bubbly coffee. As well as the crema dissipating quickly, the taste of the coffee will appear thin and sour.

Solution: You can adjust your grind to make sour espresso shots taste better. If you grind your beans finer, the machine needs more pressure to push the water through the puck, creating more collusion between the water and coffee grinds.

This creates more flavor since it isn’t under-extracted.

Picture of a flame referring to the burnt taste of coffee

How To Avoid A Burnt Coffee Taste

Observation: Slow dripping throughout the entire shot is what you’re looking for. Pours that are dark or black. Despite a 45-second extraction, you only receive a small amount of coffee. This will also show itself through a wet coffee puck.

Problem: This is the opposite of sour espresso; the grounds are now too compacted, making the water flow too slowly over extracting your espresso and resulting in a burnt taste.

Your grinds are either too fine, or you’re pushing down too hard when you tamp.

Solution: Whenever you taste burned espresso, change the settings on your grinder to a courser selection. This will allow the water to travel through the coffee grounds quicker, and it won’t give you a burnt, muddy flavor.

Leave a reply if none of these fixes work, and we’ll provide specific and detailed help! A bad-tasting cup of coffee will not be tolerated.

What To Do If Other Brewing Methods Are Resulting In A Sour Coffee Taste

Espresso isn’t the only brewing method, and many people enjoy a variation.

Unfortunately, the problem of sour coffee can be experienced with any of these options. Here are tips to ensure this doesn’t happen with some of the more popular brewing methods.

Coffee made with the French press

When you pour the coffee through the French Press method, be sure to allow at least four minutes for the coffee to brew.

There may be a need to grind a little finer than you do now, but be careful because this will be a little tricky.

To prevent clogging, adjust gradually until you find the sweet spot which will not muddy your cup.

Iced coffee

Coffee should not be sour in cold-brew, even though it tastes heavenly. Make sure that the ground steepens just enough so that there is no under-extraction.

In addition to not using enough grounds, you should follow a ratio of 1 to 4 or 1 to 5 for cold brew coffee.

Pour over or drip coffee

Sour drip coffee is normally due to the coffee grind size being too coarse A finer grind will brew a sweeter tasting coffee.

Make sure your drawdown time is between 15 and 30 seconds to prevent under extraction.

a barista holding an aeropress about to use it in an inverted method

Aeropress Coffee

When brewing with an Aeropress, you need a finer grind size to eliminate the bitter taste that is much like a sour espresso taste.

It is important to allow the extraction process to pull the sweet notes from the coffee to hide the acidic flavors.

Aeropress Espresso

If you don’t know how to do this, read our Aeropress review that explains how to do this.

Related article’s:

To obtain a full-bodied flavor, you can also use the inverted Aeropress method.

Aeropress Cold Brew

Should espresso be slightly sour

The taste of true espresso should be caramel-like, with sweet notes, rather than sour like unripened fruit.

To make your espresso taste sour, it is almost guaranteed that under extraction was to blame.

For a shot of espresso, what is the proper amount of coffee grounds used?

You will need 6-8 grams of coffee for a single shot of espresso and 18 to 21 grams of coffee for a double shot.

You will end up with a sour-tasting brew if you do not use enough coffee grounds for making espresso.

How Come My Espresso Is Salty?

Coffee brewed with lighter roasts from single sources tends to taste sour. This group comprises the majority of beans sourced from Indonesia.

There is also the possibility that you’re using specialty coffee (these types of flavored coffees are normally made with low-quality beans)

Your water temperature may be wrong; the roast may be too light for your taste preference.

How To Calculate An Espresso Coffee’s Ideal Extraction Rate?

There are various extraction ratios and total dissolved solids (TDS) percentages, and the TDS amount usually ranges between 18 and 22%. It should be noted that the TDS for each type of coffee may vary.

Remember, this is just a guideline, so don’t take it super seriously.


The problems with a sour-tasting espresso can be fixed by adjusting the grind size, the brew time, and adding more coffee grounds. To avoid an under-extracted cup of joe that tastes sour, make sure you use enough ground beans for your desired drink type.

Remember to experiment with different craft coffees as they may have varying TDS percentages than what is listed above. If none of these fixes work for you, or if you want help finding one that does, email me today!

I would love to hear if any of these solutions helped you or have done things differently to help eliminate a sour, bitter or burnt flavor to your espresso.

It’s often the case that espresso doesn’t taste as expected, but when you get it right, it’s delicious. Unfortunately, many things can cause a sour taste, including adding too much water or not grinding the beans finely enough.

The good news is that the issues are easily diagnosed and fixed; we will explain why your espresso tastes sour and how to fix it!