How do you taste an espresso? Here are all the steps (with video)

I maestri della tostatura media
Foto di una tazzina per espresso Ernani con caffè all'interno, poggiata su sfondo parquet chiaro
Let’s learn to drink coffee like professionals and appreciate all its aromatic nuances!

Make every coffee incredible and unique.

Like? Read the article to find out!

*In this article you will find all the steps for drinking a good coffee and understanding its characteristics, together with very short images and videos that will help you better understand each step.

No more talkng and let’s get started!

Let’s begin to define what an espresso is

Espresso is a hot drink prepared with an espresso machine, obtained by extracting roasted and freshly ground coffee with a dose of about 7/9g.

For coffees with a higher percentage of Robusta we will use a dose of 7/7.5 g cup, while for blends with a higher percentage of Arabica coffee we will use 8/8.5 g cup. Finally, for a single origin Arabica it is better to use 8.5/9 g.

The extraction must last between 22 and 28 seconds, with an outlet temperature between 80 and 90°C and a pressure between 8 and 10 atmospheres, for a dose of about 20ml in the cup.

So first let’s prepare an espresso

I won’t dwell too much on this topic, but I’ll leave you the video for the preparation below and the link to the dedicated article.

In summary:

  • Clean the filter
  • Bleed the machine
  • Grind the coffee
  • Level
  • Press
  • Attach the filter holder to the machine
  • Start delivery
  • Position the cups
  • Wait for the end of extraction

Let the coffee rest for about 30 seconds, mix with a teaspoon to make the drink homogeneous and proceed with the tasting.

Let’s drink coffee like an expert

You may never think about it, but to drink coffee you use all five senses!

The environment

The tasting place should be neutral, i.e. without loud noises, direct light and intense or unpleasant odors in the air.

It almost sounds absurd, but the environment is important.

In fact, smell could influence our judgment, as well as hearing.

In a tasting course they made us do this experiment: blind tasting of three coffees, therefore without knowing what we were drinking, the first time with background classical music, the second time with ACDC and finally without music.

We, proud to recognize the characteristics, have provided three very different descriptions, only discovering at the end that in reality it was always the same coffee.

So yes, hearing affects the taste of coffee too!

Preparing your mouth

Clean your mouth and prepare it to enjoy an excellent coffee with a glass of natural water.


The first sense to use is sight: look carefully at the espresso and check that the cream is of a nice hazelnut colour, neither lighter nor darker.

If the crema is lighter, it means that the coffee is under-extracted and that the grind was probably too coarse. The taste will therefore be sour and flat, with few aromas.

If, on the other hand, it is too dark, it means that the coffee has been over-extracted and that the grind was too fine. The taste will be bitter with empyreumatic (burnt) hints.

To better understand each other, here is a photo below: in the first one on the left, the cream is too light, while in the last one on the right, the cream is too dark. The central one is instead a correct cream.

Confronto tra tre diversi risultati della crema dell'espresso, partendo da sinistra abbiamo: una crema molto chiara di un caffè sotto-estratto, la crema corretta al centro ed una crema molto scura di un caffè sovra-estratto a destra.

NB. The crema of an espresso must then be glossy, therefore reflecting light, and smooth, therefore without bubbles.

The cream is important because it acts as a cap for the flavours. If it is pitted or not well done, they will come out and you will not feel them on the palate.


Break the cream with a teaspoon and bring the cup to your nose, closing your eyes and ask yourself two questions:

  • Do I smell a lot or a little perfume? If you feel a lot then the coffee has a great aromatic intensity, if instead you feel a little, the coffee has a low intensity;
  • Are the scents I smell good or bad? Only after assessing the intensity do you focus on their quality.
Positive aromas can be: chocolate, cocoa, nuts, flowers, fruit, citrus, bread crust, caramel, honey and many more.
Negative aromas can be: wood, earth, hay, ash, tar, rubber, mold, grass, mushrooms and so on.

I know, it’s not easy to recognize them, it takes study and training, but don’t give up and try anyway! Slowly you will hear more and more!


Now it’s time to taste it!

Take a small sip of coffee and if you succeed with a sip, a bit like you do with soup in a rude way, but we don’t care about that now!

In this way you will be able to better spread the drink throughout the mouth, thanks to the air, amplifying the taste.

Concentrate on these items:
  • Acidity: do you feel a marked and pungent acidity, a softer one or do you not feel it at all? Usually medium or light roast coffees are more acidic than dark roast coffees and Arabica species coffees are more acidic than Robusta.

Acidity is a great quality in coffee, which allows us to develop a wide and pleasant aromatic range. If you want to know more, I leave the button for the dedicated article here:

  • Sweetness: perhaps the more difficult to recognize at the beginning because we are used to seeing espresso as a bitter drink. But if you smell fruit or flower aromas these could lead you back to sweetness;
  • Bitterness: how bitter is coffee? Can you smell cocoa or dark chocolate aromas? Does it remain on the palate for a long time, or does it go away immediately and is it soft, never excessive and unpleasant? In general, dark roasted coffees are more bitter than medium or light roasted coffees, and Species Robusta coffees are more bitter than Arabica;

Attention! A too intense bitterness that forces you to use sugar or dilute the coffee with milk is a defect!

  • Astringency: it’s a lapping perception, like when you eat a persimmon or an unripe banana, as if you dried your mouth from saliva and felt a little sand. Here, this feeling is a defect and should never exist;
  • Aroma: now you confirm or change what you have already felt on your nose. Do you find positive or negative aromas? Can you identify any of them? Write it down!
If you want to understand exactly what is meant by sour coffee, I recommend our Ethiopian Sidamo:
If you want to understand sweetness better, try our Brazilian Bom Chocolate:
If, on the other hand, you want to understand what is meant by bitter coffee, but not in a negative way, therefore burnt, try Stretto, the 100% Robusta blend:
Finally, also taste our Indian Kalledevarapura to feel a huge aromatic range:


In what sense is the touch? Well yes!

Touch is important to understand the body of an espresso: swirl the drink between the tongue and the palate and concentrate.

The more you feel friction, consistency and viscosity, the more body a coffee has.

To be clear: water has zero body, oil has a medium body and hot chocolate has a lot of body!

The body of an espresso can be defined as velvety or soft if it is small, round if it is medium and finally robust and consistent when the coffee is full-bodied.

To help you: A low-bodied coffee is our Colombia Finca la Meseta
A very full-bodied coffee is Vivace:

Last step: Aftertaste

Focus on the sensations that remain on your palate and in your nose: they are pleasant or nasty? Are they intense or did they go away immediately in a few minutes?

Now all you have to do is taste as many coffees as possible so that you have a clear yardstick in your mind!

Marketing, E-commerce e Social Media Manager
Coffee Lover


Martina Mazzoleni

Marketing, E-commerce e Social Media Manager Coffee Lover

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