Why Do Espresso Shots Die?
Have you ever let an espresso shot sit and noticed that the crema is gone?
Have you ever tasted espresso right after brewing and noticed the flavor was slightly different a few minutes later?
Some might call this a "dead" espresso shot.
In this article, we'll explain why this happens, what you can do to prevent it, and whether or not it's terrible to let your espresso sit for a few minutes.
The Short: Some say that after a certain point, espresso shots "die." The truth is espresso shots degrade over time due to various factors, including oxidation, changes in temperature, and the loss of crema.
Let's explore these factors one by one.
Oxidation. Do espresso shots oxidize?
Yes, espresso shots can oxidize.
Finely ground coffee beans brewed under high pressure with hot water produce the espresso we enjoy. During this process, various compounds get extracted from the beans. These compounds include water-soluble sugars, acids, amino acids, oils, and other compounds not soluble in water. These compounds contribute to the scent and flavor of the espresso.
Oxidation is a process that occurs when oxygen from the air reacts with the compounds in the espresso. An espresso shot is exposed to oxygen as it sits. This oxygen exposure can contribute to flavor degradation, making the espresso less and less dynamic.
Temperature changes can also affect the flavor of an espresso shot. 180-190°F (82-88°C) is the typical temperature range for drinking espresso. If the espresso cools down too much, the flavors may become less lively, and the overall taste may be less enjoyable.
Temperature can affect our perception of taste. One way is impacting how our taste buds respond to different flavors. Our taste buds are more sensitive to certain flavors at certain temperatures, so the same food or drink may taste differently depending on its temperature. A warm cup of coffee may taste more intense and flavorful than a cold cup, even if made from the same beans and brewing method.
Temperature can also affect the way that our taste buds perceive texture. A cold smoothie may feel thicker and more refreshing on the tongue than a warm smoothie.
Temperature can also affect the way that we perceive aromas. A warm cup of coffee may release more aromatic compounds into the air, making the coffee smell more intense and flavorful.
Dissipation of crema
Crema is the layer of foam that forms on the surface of a freshly brewed espresso shot.
Espresso, forced through the coffee bed, picks up tiny air bubbles. The combination of air, water, and oils in the espresso creates crema. The crema is usually pale yellow to amber and has a creamy, velvety texture. It is essential to the flavor and appearance of a freshly brewed espresso shot.
The crema can help protect the espresso from oxygen, slowing the oxidation process and helping preserve the espresso's flavor. However, the crema will eventually dissipate over time, which can leave the espresso more exposed to oxygen and contribute to faster degradation of its taste.
Overall, it's best to consume an espresso shot immediately after brewing to enjoy its flavor fully. If drinking right away isn't possible, keeping the espresso at a consistent temperature and protecting it from oxygen can preserve its flavor for a short period.
How to keep espresso shots from dying
It's best to brew and consume espresso shots as needed to keep them from "dying."
Doing so will help ensure you enjoy the espresso's full taste and aroma.
How long does it take for an espresso shot to die? Do espresso shots die after 30 seconds?
Espresso shots do not "die" or become inedible or spoiled in 30 seconds.
The flavor and quality of an espresso shot can begin to degrade relatively quickly after brewing, mainly if not consumed immediately.
Espresso shots are still enjoyed minutes after brewing for maximum flavor. Some people even prefer to let their espresso drinks sit for a few minutes. Temperature, oxidation, and crema (or lack thereof) impact taste and can still be enjoyable even after 30 seconds.
What does a dead espresso shot taste like?
The flavor of a dead espresso shot may be less vibrant and intense than a freshly brewed shot, and it may taste stale or dull.
This lack of flavor is because a "dead" espresso shot has been brewed and left to sit for an extended time. The enjoyable notes of the espresso have begun to decline.
Depending on the coffee and the flavors you enjoy, letting your espresso shot sit for a few minutes could create the flavor you want. As the espresso cools and oxidizes, some flavors may dull or degrade. Cooling may enhance certain flavors in the espresso due to how our tongues process different flavors at different temperatures. Furthermore, the crema or lack thereof, and whether you stir it in or leave it at the top, can impact the flavors you experience.
Shots that sit for a bit with light coffees exaggerate certain pleasing fruity flavors. In contrast, with dark coffees, some of the prominent flavors can dull over time. These experiences will vary from person to person and from coffee to coffee.
What do you think? Do you let your espresso shots sit or drink them right away?