Got Bitter Espresso? Here’s Why & How to Fix It?

Espresso can be a delightful experience, but the taste can turn unpleasantly bitter due to factors like grind size, dose, water temperature, brew time, or bean quality. Identifying the cause of bitterness can be challenging as it can result from one or several factors combined.

If you’ve been dealing with bitter espresso for too long fear not! Here’s how to fix it…

Why is my espresso bitter?

As a home barista, one of the main things I am always striving for is to make an espresso that tastes smooth and sweet. I love coffee, and a perfect espresso shot is a thing to be savored. But sometimes, things just don’t go as planned and bitter espresso is one of those times.

So why is my espresso bitter?

Well, this can be caused by a variety of things but is generally due to improper extraction or over-extraction of the coffee grounds. If your grind size isn’t properly set or there’s too much coffee used for the amount of water it could lead to an overly concentrated cup with a very intense flavor profile that is likely quite unpleasant.

Additionally, if the brewing temperature is too high then it could lead to an overly bitter cup that has an unpleasant taste.

How to fix Bitter Espresso?

Knowing what can cause bitterness in your shots will help you identify where in the process it may be going wrong and how to fix it.

Over-Extraction and Unbalanced Taste:

When it comes to why your espresso is bitter, over-extraction is the main culprit. This usually happens when the water spends too much time in contact with the coffee grounds usually because either the grind size is too fine or you used too much coffee.

The longer your espresso pulls, the higher the concentration of bitter oils, acids, and fats in it. That makes for a really intense and unbalanced taste. At this point, your espresso may look quite dark sticky and tar-like and taste so bitter that it’s pretty much undrinkable.

This can be pretty discouraging for any aspiring barista! But luckily, there are a few simple tips you can follow to help avoid over-extraction and get a better cup.

  1. Make sure your grind size is consistent and appropriate for your brew ratio.
  2. Then, reduce your dose slightly if needed; also be conscious of how long you’re letting it pull.
  3. Make sure to tamp properly and use fresh beans.

Following these tricks will help ensure that you don’t reach that over-extracted zone.

Adjusting the Grind Size for Better Balance:

If the espresso that you brewed still tasted bitter, then it’s time to adjust your grind size. In my experience, I find that if I use a courser grind size and increase the extraction time, this will help balance out any bitterness and sourness in the espresso.

The trick is to not grind too fine. If you go too fine, this will extract too much coffee solids per shot, leading to a bitter taste. A general rule of thumb is that if you find that your shots are running a little quick (extracting in under 20 seconds), then coarsen up your grind a bit.

By tweaking the grind size and attempting to increase or decrease the extraction time by small increments of 4-5 seconds at a time until you find the right balance for your espresso shots, you should be able to dial in your coffee recipe and get consistent results every time.

Controlling the Temperature and Flow Rate Better:

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s something special about the temperature and consistency of the water that goes into your espresso shot. My biggest tip?

Invest in a robust thermometer and don’t be afraid to adjust your espresso machine to get the right temperature. If your espresso machine doesn’t automatically steam milk right off the bat, you can also control its steam wand manually by turning the dial up or down.

Moreover, if you want a high-quality shot of espresso, pay attention to the flow rate; too fast or too slow can give you a bitter final product.

To figure out what’s best for you and your machine, start by grinding at a medium-fine setting and gradually increasing as needed until you get a good balance between pressure and extraction time. Keep varying your grind size every time you make an adjustment until you find the perfect balance for it.

I’m no barista expert, but I know that controlling the temperature and flow rate better will definitely help make sure that my next shot of espresso turns out smooth and sweet not bitter!


In conclusion, the bitterness of espresso is one of the most common complaints from coffee drinkers. There can be many causes of bitterness in espresso, from grind size and tamping pressure to temperature and shot duration.

Being aware of these variables and finding the right balance for your cup will help you create a balanced, flavorful espresso every time. And, if you’re ever unsure, it’s best to consult a local coffee expert who can help guide you in the right direction.