Why Does My Espresso Taste Like Tomatoes?

Espresso Tastes Like Tomato

Coffee has been known to carry many flavors. Its taste is part of the reason why each coffee bean and blend is so unique. Varying regions will have distinct tastes and flavor notes that can be identified.

 It is common for coffee to have nutty, fruity, and sweet notes, but many coffee lovers are surprised to learn that coffee can taste savory as well. It is true, berries and citrus flavors are usually what people think of when it comes to unique coffee notes, but what about tomatoes?

Tomato-tasting coffee is a common problem among bright-tasting coffee lovers. Many people report that their brews taste unmistakably like tomato soup! So, what causes this odd phenomenon and how can we prevent it?

There may be several reasons why your espresso turned out tasting like tomato soup and together, we will explore them all.

5 Reasons Why Your Coffee Tastes like Espresso

Kenyan coffee tends to taste savory

Kenyan coffee is a delicious blend of bright and citrusy flavors. These highly acidic coffee beans often taste just like tomatoes. It is a weird flavor to combine with espresso, but many people say that it tastes surprisingly good.

The acid level of Kenyan coffee is much higher than in other coffees. This high acidity level combined with the bright and citrusy flavors really makes Kenyan coffee resemble tomato soup! If your espresso shots are tasting like tomatoes, check to see if the coffee beans you are using originated from Kenya.

Kenyan coffee is universally considered to be one of the best types of coffee beans. This is due to their intense coffee flavor and berry notes. Kenyan coffee is grown in volcanic soil, which adds to the coffee bean’s inherent acidity.

The acidity and berry flavors of Kenyan coffee beans are complemented by hints of black currant. This flavor is what leads Kenyan coffee to have such a unique and sought-after taste. Unfortunately, Kenyan coffee easily takes on a tomatoey taste due to this original blend of flavors. This is especially true when used in espresso.

Ultimately, the overbearing tomato taste that we often find in Kenyan coffee is a roasting defect. Kenyan coffee’s unique flavor profile predisposes this bean to savory flavors, but that is not necessarily what Kenyan coffee is supposed to taste like.

Kenyan coffee that tastes like tomato soup was underdeveloped and should have been roasted more before being packaged. Sadly, many companies do not describe their Kenyan coffee blends as Tomato-y so if you love Kenyan coffee, you will have to find brands without this tomato flavor the hard way.

Decaf coffee is not always what you think

If your espresso beans are decaf, there could be another reason why your coffee turned out tasting like tomatoes. Not many people are aware that the decaffeination process of coffee beans includes soaking them in a solvent that removes caffeine.

This solvent usually consists of methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. These solvents are dissolved in water that is used to wash over the caffeinated coffee beans until they no longer contain any caffeine.

The reason your decaf espresso shots may come out tasting like tomatoes is because the solvent water that is used to decaffeinate the beans is being used for multiple coffee blends. This could include a tomato-leaning coffee blend such as Kenyan coffee beans.

The solvent water will decaffeinate multiple batches of coffee, and sometimes even multiple coffee blends before being replaced with fresh solvent water. It is common to taste the flavors of each blend the solvent water is exposed to in the final coffee product.

Depending on the other coffee blends the solvent water has come into contact with, it may retain certain coffee notes, including tomato. The extent to which this happens depends on the quality of the brand.

Low quality coffee brands often do not care about preserving their coffee’s unique flavors. These brands will reuse the solvent water for multiple blends of coffee beans.

Higher quality coffee brands understand that coffee’s flavor is an important characteristic, and they will attempt to protect each blend’s unique notes during the decaffeination process.

Light roasts tend to have more delicate flavor notes

It is a well-known fact in the coffee community that light roast coffees taste extremely different than dark roast coffees. If you have been a fan of dark roast coffees for some time now, trying a light roast may surprise you.

This is because light roast coffees have a completely different flavor profile than dark roasts. Due to their limited roast time, more subtle flavors can be detected in light roast espresso. These include floral tones and fruity notes. They can even taste similar to vegetables.

Not all light roasts will taste like tomato soup, but coffee beans with this roast level are more prone to having a savory flavor profile. The fresher a light roast coffee bean is, the more likely it is to have a savory flavor.

Many coffee drinkers argue that coffee is not supposed to have such a savory flavor. They believe that the tomato flavor often found in coffee is a defect from the roasting process. It is true that a tomato flavor is often accompanied by beans that have been under-developed.

Regardless of if a tomato flavored coffee is “correct” or not, it can ultimately stem from blond roast coffee, especially when one that has been underdeveloped during its roasting process. An easy way to avoid this problem is by choosing a darker roast.

You may have under-extracted your coffee

Under extracted coffee is prone to tasting like tomato soup and there are several reasons behind this savory flavor profile. Under extraction occurs when the water you are brewing with has not soaked up enough flavor from the coffee grounds to taste like proper coffee.

This happens for several reasons. If the espresso grounds are too large for the brewing method, it is harder for their flavors to be extracted by the water. Under extraction also occurs when the coffee was not brewed for long enough.

For espresso, this means you might need to pull a longer shot to get rid of that tomato taste. When coffee is under extracted, it is much more acidic and tends to have a brighter flavor. Under extracted coffee and espresso will taste similar to blonde roast, but unlike blonde roast, it does not taste good.

Due to an under-extracted roast’s increased acidity, the flavor can begin to resemble that of tomatoes. Both tomatoes and coffee are highly acidic foods and this commonality can confuse our taste buds.

In general, however, certain extraction methods have been known to highlight savory flavors in coffee, such as the tomato soup flavor. The problem with your espresso shots could be the way you are extracting flavor from the coffee grounds.

Your coffee is too acidic

Most of the acid in your coffee is chlorogenic acid. This acid is well-known because it will often cause an upset stomach after ingesting. If you have ever had stomach issues after drinking a highly acidic coffee, chlorogenic acid is the culprit.

Large amounts of chlorogenic acid can drastically lower the pH of your coffee. The lower the pH is, the more acidic it becomes. Although all coffee is naturally acidic, foods such as tomatoes are even more acidic.

Therefore the more acidic a coffee becomes, the more it begins to resemble the taste of other highly acidic foods including tomatoes. The acid in coffee can oftentimes become so overwhelming to your taste buds that they get confused!

High amounts of chlorogenic acid are often found in Kenyan coffee, light roasts, and under-extracted coffee like we discussed earlier in this article. If your coffee is decaf, it might have been washed with water that absorbed large amounts of chlorogenic acid from another blend of coffee beans.

The taste of chlorogenic acid can be mitigated by adding a base. Don’t worry, we will not need a whole chemistry class to understand acid-base compounds. Adding a base to mitigate the taste of chlorogenic acid is as simple as adding milk to your coffee.

Milk is a basic substance that rates fairly high on the pH scale. Pouring some milk into your acidic coffee will level out the pH to something that is more comfortable for your stomach to digest.


Although some people do enjoy the taste of a tomatoey coffee, most of us do not. Tomato soup espresso can be caused by many varying factors. This unique taste may occur because the Kenyan coffee beans are just a little bit too acidic.

If decaf espresso is your vice, perhaps the coffee beans were produced by a low-quality brand that washed their coffee beans with dirty solution water. Your coffee could also resemble the taste of tomatoes because it is just too light of a roast. It could also be because the coffee grounds were under extracted during the brewing process.

There are multiple reasons why your espresso tastes like tomatoes, but all of them can be prevented with further research and oftentimes by purchasing higher quality coffee beans.

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