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A sour espresso can be your worst nightmare. That first sip, the taste of rotten coffee beans, the 10 seconds it takes for you to spit it out. How can I fix a sour espresso?
Luckily for you, there are some easy ways to salvage your drink and get back on track with your day.
These are all things you can do at home too so don’t worry about being tempted by something sketchy at the bar!
In this article, I am going to share my top 14 fixes for fixing your sour espresso shot so they are not only tasty but also safe to consume.
I don’t know any coffee lover who doesn’t like their morning shot of espresso, but sometimes the coffee maker’s not up to the job.
If you’ve tried a multitude of times to fix an excessively sour shot of espresso, this article has some easy solutions for making sure you have a sweet and delicious drink in your hands every time.
Without further ado, let me share some cool hacks that help you fix your sour espresso shot.
What’s Underneath A Sour Espresso
So, your espresso tastes sour?
Feels like you’re drinking burnt coffee beans? If these are your problems, you need to know what’s going on inside the machine.
The simplest reason for a bad espresso is that the shot was brewed incorrectly.
The coffee is either too strong, or not strong enough; or perhaps the milk is too cold or not cold enough. A difficult problem to solve, but it’s simple to correct.
Another possible reason is that there’s something wrong with your water source.
There are some machines that use their own tap water which means it might be contaminated with minerals or organic matter; this can result in undrinkable coffee or coffee grounds permeating your machine and affecting your coffee the next day (source).
The following are some of the most common reasons why your espresso turns out to be sour.
Using the Wrong Beans
Today, we can find many coffee shops with a huge variety of coffee beans in their shelves.
However, having so many options is also a huge hindrance for anyone who wants to brew a perfect cup of espresso.
This is because it makes it very difficult for you and every barista in the world to brew an espresso with exactly the same quality and flavor as they would like it to be.
Even though anyone can pick up a few beans, it takes a lot of effort to know which blend is the best for espresso.
It is also important to know that the beans which are processed into your favorite coffee blend are roasted appropriately.
If they are not, then there will be no difference between your cup of coffee and sour espresso.
Using Old Beans
The shelf life of coffee varies depending on its packaging type. Furthermore, it also depends on the method of storage.
For instance, if you store your coffee in an airtight container at room temperature, then it will remain fresh for about two months.
On the other hand, if you keep your coffee in an airtight container in a fridge, then it can serve you for up to three months.
However, most people do not have the patience to wait for three months before they can enjoy their favorite cup of joe.
They either buy small quantities of coffee beans or consume them within two weeks after opening the package.
Whatever be the case of yours; using old coffee beans results into sour espresso shots that taste like old rotten beans.
Using Cheap Water
As the saying goes that the taste of water is directly proportional to its quality, it’s obvious that poor water is a major cause of a sour espresso.\
But what makes water good or bad? There are many factors along with contaminants and chemicals that can make a bad impact on the taste of your coffee.
If you drink coffee every day, then it’s obvious that you don’t want to use tap or distilled water.
If you notice any type of off-taste in your coffee, then it most likely came from your drinking water. In this case, try using bottled or filtered water to brew your coffee.
Using Old or Reused Beans Grinder
Even though stories of blade grinders making coffee taste bitter are common, you can’t say the same thing about blade grinders affecting the quality of your awesome cup of espresso.
However, if you use an old coffee grinder to prepare your espresso, then it’s obvious that you will get a cup that tastes very bitter or sour.
Just like with other brewing equipment for espresso, even your grinder needs some maintenance.
If you notice any inconsistency in your drink while using an old grinder sleeve, then it might be time to replace it.
Though this is not always the case, in most cases, a poorly-extracted espresso will taste sour.
If you notice your shot of espresso tastes heavily bitter or sour, then it might be time to strip out some of your coffee grounds to get a more balanced taste.
In addition to the coffee grounds, you remove from your brew, make sure that you also take out any coffee which still has bubbles in it.
This way, your shot will not only taste better but also remain fresh for a longer period of time without going bad.
These were some of the main causes of sour espresso shots. They can all be easily solved with a little research and effort.
How to Fix A Sour Espresso Shot?
There are a variety of methods you can use to fix a sour espresso shot.
In this section, I’m going to share my most effective solutions with you so your coffee will not only taste amazing but also remain fresh for at least one week.
These fixes will work with most types of coffee beans and grinders so try them out and feel the difference!
If you’re tired of your morning espresso getting more and more bitter or sour, apply the following techniques to your shots.
1. Water to Coffee Ratio
If you’re making espresso, there are two important things that must be measured correctly: ground coffee and water.
You can’t just put beans in the machine and hit start nor can you just let the machine automatically decide how much water to put in each shot!
These are factors that affect how strong your beverage will be so it’s important to pay attention to what goes into your shot.
The perfect balance between coffee and water can be found through trial and error.
Start with your usual amount of ground coffee, but measure water by the volume of beans you have used.
If your espresso ends up being too strong, then reduce the amount of ground coffee you use to prepare your shot.
On the other hand, if it’s not strong enough to suit your taste, then increase the amount of ground coffee that goes into each shot.
2. Temperature Control
As I mentioned before, temperature is one of the main factors that affect the overall taste of an espresso drink.
If your machine is not calibrated correctly or if it’s too old, then the temperature of the water might be either too hot or too cold for your taste.
If you notice how the temperature of your shot is either too hot or cold, then you can fix it by manually adjusting the knob.
If your machine has a digital temperature control panel, then you can easily change its setting through its panel menu.
Just remember that water should be around 200 degrees Fahrenheit (94 C) when preparing espresso shots.
3. Grind Size & Consistency
If you’re using an automatic coffee grinder to prepare espresso shots, then there are three factors that affect how coarse or fine your beans are ground into.
These factors are coffee-to-water ratio, the type of bean you’re using, and the type of grinder you have.
Let’s start with the first factor: coffee-to-water ratio.
This factor refers to how coarse or fine beans are ground after they go through your grinder.
If you grind too many beans at once, then your ground espresso will be too fine.
Likewise, if you use an automatic grinder to grind only a few beans, then your coffee grounds will be too coarse.
The perfect match can be found by using an appropriate amount of beans for each shot of espresso that you want to make.
4. Type of Bean
If you’re using a traditional grind for espresso, then the way the beans are ground is a major factor that affects the taste.
The dominant flavor of your shot will be affected by whether you grind them on a blade grinder or burr grinder.
Different types of burr grinders have different bowls and speed settings so each can deliver unique flavors from your coffee.
As for blade grinders, there are various variations on the same theme that affect how coarse or fine your beans are ground into.
In most cases, using a blade grinder is more precise since it’s able to deliver equal portions of both coarse and fine grounds to each shot.
If your espresso is tasting sour or bitter, then you might be using a blade grinder to prepare each shot.
If this is the case, then you can use a burr grinder to tweak the texture of your coffee.
Try experimenting with different burr grinders and coffee beans to find a more balanced cup of espresso!
5. Type of Grinder Sleeve/Oven
The last factor that affects your shot flavor is the type of grinder sleeve or bowl you’re using.
Most decanters use special sleeves for storing ground coffee but there are also many types made from stainless steel.
Though they can be used to store ground coffee for a day or two, these grinders should only be used to prepare fresh and hot coffee and not as a storage vessel.
Storing your coffee in grinder sleeves prolongs the time it takes for the drink to reach the ideal temperature.
It’s not uncommon for espresso shots stored in grinder sleeves to taste sour!
If you want your drink to taste good, then you should use a clean and well-maintained grinder sleeve or bowl each time you prepare an espresso shot.
6. Proper Extraction
Extraction means how much of the coffee grounds are actually taken out of the water after brewing.
If your brew is not properly extracted, then it’s very likely that you will get a sour espresso.
Most baristas think that water is the only issue but the truth is, it’s not.
The main cause for a bitter or sour shot of espresso is under extraction. So, how do you solve this issue completely?
Most of us go about fixing an under-extracted espresso by adding more ground coffee to your cup after brewing it.
But this can’t be considered as a solution because if the amount of coffee added increases, then the taste of your drink becomes even more sour or bitter.
In this case, you have to add less coffee in the cup which means more water.
However, if you add more water, then the chance of getting a weak and weak espresso is higher. So, what can you do?
The solution lies in using a new method called the “Pour-Over”.
The Pour Over technique uses a filter and filter holder to make sure that your shot of espresso does not get under-extracted.
It’s also one of the best ways to fix an under-extracted espresso.
Practicing this technique will also help you brew an awesome cup of espresso every day with no problem.
The method is simple. Let’s say you have a 1.5-cup espresso basket and your basket holds two shots of espresso.
Put one filter basket in to filter the water from the basket while making sure that there are no grounds left to brew your shot.
Next, pour about a tablespoon of ground coffee into another basket and place it over the basket you just used to filter the water.
After pouring down about a tablespoon of coffee, immediately pour hot water from your kettle directly over it so it’s completely saturated with coffee grounds.
Remember to slowly pour the water over the basket instead of pressing hard on the basket like button like you normally do.
This way your shot will not get under-extracted.
7. Properly Drip Fold
Drip Fold has always been one of the most effective ways to fix a weak espresso shot.
But believe it or not, this method also works best with a sour espresso shot.
The process is very simple and it’s a secret that many baristas know which is why I’m sure you’ll benefit from it soon enough.
Basically, you need to fold your coffee into an upside-down cone shape before brewing.
This will help to saturate the ground coffee in water and also allow better extraction as such:
To start this process, remove the lid from the basket and place it on top of the filter holder.
This way, the basket’s basket will not get too hot while brewing. Next, pour about a tablespoon of ground coffee into your basket.
Now that you’ve added the coffee to the basket, you need to let the basket sit at room temperature for about 6-8 minutes before brewing it.
6-8 minutes of steeping is enough time to allow your shot of espresso get properly saturated with water and grounded coffee.
After letting this basket sit for 6-8 minutes, pour hot water directly over the basket which will hold all the ground coffee it has.
This will also allow the grounds in your cup of espresso to be evenly extracted.
Once this process is done, discard the coffee and start brewing your espresso.
The grounds in the cup should be fully saturated with water and ground coffee.
You can now enjoy your shot of espresso and it will taste perfect whether you’re using a French Press or a Syphon filter.
No matter which method you’re using, just make sure to use this technique.
I guarantee that you will get the best cup of coffee every time if you apply this trick to fix your under-extracted espresso shots.
8. Correct Temperature
There is no doubt in the fact that the temperature of water changes the taste of espresso.
If you want to fix your sour espresso shot, then you must always use water that is heated to an optimal temperature for brewing.
If you don’t, then it will negatively affect the taste and quality of your espresso.
This is especially important if you’re using a Syphon filter or any other method that will require cold water to cool down your shot.
If your coffee tastes sour, then try heating up some hot water and let it sit until it gets cold enough to combine with the hot coffee grounds in your cup.
This way, you can enjoy a great cup of coffee every morning with no problems.
9. Proper Grind
Grind is another important factor in fixing an espresso that’s under-extracted.
Since these are just some of the most effective techniques that I have found to fix a sour shot, you really should try out more methods to get out this problem.
So just keep practicing these methods until you find the best method that works for you!
If your espresso comes out sour, then you might have more grounds in your cup than normal since there are still some leftover grounds in your basket after brewing your coffee.
The solution to this problem is simple. Just grind more coffee so it’ll be at least 60% dense with grounds.
This way, the grounds will be perfect for your coffee to absorb water and brew properly.
10. Brewing Time
The time it takes to brew your espresso can matter a lot when you’re fix a sour espresso shot.
If you let your coffee brew for too long, then the taste of the espresso will change drastically.
So, set your brewing time correctly when you want to fix an under-extracted shot.
I recommend setting it 30 seconds longer than usual so that all your grounds are saturated with water and are ready for extraction.
Of course, there are other methods that can help you fix an under-extracted shot like these methods above, but they’re not easily accessible because they require some skill and experience.
So you’ll either need to be a barista or become one to try out such techniques.
If you’re just starting out with espresso brewing and your espresso is sour or bitter, then remember that it’s normal if your shot comes out as such.
So just take it easy and don’t think that you’re doing something wrong.
My guess is that most people mess up their shots and under-extract them because they think the most important step in brewing is the recipe itself.
That’s not true at all because the most important thing in brewing good espresso is learning how to fix under-extracted shots.
If you learn how to do it properly, then your shot will taste perfect every time.
Of course, I understand that some people can’t afford to try these skills out for themselves or they don’t have the time to practice them.
But there’s no doubt in the fact that anyone can apply these techniques to fix their under-extracted shot.
So just take my word for it, give them a try and you will be impressed with how easy it is to fix your under-extracted shots.
11. Choosing The Best Coffee for Espresso
There is no doubt in the fact that your coffee can cause your espresso to taste sour or bitter.
This is why it’s very important to choose the best coffee beans for your espresso, especially if you’re making a shot on a regular basis.
How to fix an under-extracted shot? If you want a better cup of espresso, then you must use the right beans.
This is because buying cheap coffee will most likely affect the quality of your shot which will have a negative effect on how it tastes.
The most important thing in choosing the right coffee is giving yourself time so that you’ll have accurate results.
Related Article: The Best Coffee Beans for Espresso
How to Fix a Sour Espresso Shot? 3 Lesser-Known Hacks
There are a number of methods for fixing sour shots and I’m going to list my top commons fixes:
1. The Water-to-Pepper Trick:
Mix 1 teaspoon of sugar into every cupful of coffee. This trick is suitable for espresso that has turned sour as it can help your drink taste sweeter and fresher.
However, the downside to this approach is that you’ll have to grind the espresso twice so be aware of how much ground coffee you use in each shot.
Sugar can also affect the balance between sweet and bitter so take care before using this method.
2. The Water-to-Espresso Trick
Mix 1 teaspoon of water into every cupful of espresso.
This is a great way to balance the strength and bitterness in your shot and it can be recommended in most situations.
You’ll have to measure out your ground coffee and then add in the right amount of water in each shot.
3. The Salt Trick
Dissolve 1 pinch of salt in every cupful of espresso.
This method is good when you’re trying to remove sour notes from your shot but it can also add an unpleasant taste if you use too much salt.
This method is best used with mild coffee beans and for those who like salty shot drinks.
It’s also a cheaper and more convenient method since you can easily use table salt to fix your sour espresso.
Final Thoughts on Fixing A Sour Espresso
There’s no doubt in the fact that brewing good coffee is an art. It takes a lot of time and skills to get it right.
But there are times when you need to know how to fix your sour espresso shot for the sake of convenience.
Even with the most modern methods, there are still some people who can’t brew decent coffee consistently.
This happens because they simply don’t fix their under-extracted shots.
So now you know how to fix your sour espresso shot by using these 5 quick fixes that anyone can use!
Whether you’re just starting out with brewing espresso or not, these simple techniques can help you improve your shot by leaps and bounds.