Every barista is going to experience some espresso issues in their entire career. It does not matter – whether you are learning the techniques to become a professional or just want to make an average looking great quality espresso cup – this troubleshooting will grab you.
Keep in mind that the problems bellow generally come in pairs or threes and are interconnected as well.
Also, note that you won’t see all these issues while brewing espresso but they are the most common troubles you will experience throughout the entire career.
Espresso Troubleshooting Guide (Step-by-Step)
So, read all the espresso troubleshooting carefully, to deeply understand what may be affecting your cup of espresso.
It happens sometimes that we don’t notice there is something wrong with the shot but a skilled barista might notice that just by listening to the machine pull – that you and I can’t, in general.
1. Espresso Is Too Bitter, Or Sour
Every espresso machine requires a deep cleaning after a long and hard day, right? Moreover, the espresso machine in a very busy coffee shop doesn’t get much rest which results in overheating the machine.
If you clean the espresso machine top to bottom – that will ensure everything is good and in top order too.
If you have an espresso machine at your home and thinking that you are out of this issue as you don’t use it so often – then let me tell you that you are very “Wrong” and let me tell you why?
Every time you pull a shot – the coffee oils in the grounds and stick onto several parts of the machine such as group head, portafilter, and channel as well.
Again, if there is a built-in grinder in your espresso machine – that’s also may release some built-up coffee oils.
And if the reason behind is not the coffee oil – then it might be the water tank. There are several cleaning solutions for it and I would recommend using them and clean the water tank every 3 months.
However, another important thing that should be considered is the heating element as it may have some built-up gunk like limescale on it. And you can clean it with a quality solution in every couple of months. That’s how you can fix the bitterness and sourness of your espresso.
2. Espresso Is Too Weak or Watery
If you see the cup of espresso is too weak – that means the ratio of water to coffee grounds is very much high. Basically, the ideal ratio of water to ground coffee is 1:2 which means for every 10 grams of ground coffee – you have to use 20 ml of liquid coffee.
Check the portafilter to make sure that it’s not empty. And if the portafilter is too empty – then you will get a slushy coffee puck after brewing the coffee – where you should have a compact thick disk instead.
Make sure you have checked the grind size – if you don’t see much slush there.
Moreover, a quality cup of coffee requires very fine ground coffee. And if you are using medium ground coffee – then you will experience a cup of weak espresso.
Besides tasting weak, you will bare have crema on the coffee mug and also you will notice that the coffee is too much watery as well.
Another possible issue could be the brew temperature of your espresso – for having a weak or watery espresso cup. While brewing the espresso – the ideal water temp is 93 C/200F. To make it simple – when pulling your first shot, your espresso machine needs to thoroughly heat up first.
Well, this may take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the machine and what it uses to heat up.
3. Espresso Is Too Strong
It is the reverse situation that we have just talked about – what to do when you are getting too strong of espresso, right?
If the cup of your espresso is overly bitter – it means you are getting too strong espresso which is also plain hard to swallow. Even comparing to regular espresso – the espresso will have a higher percentage of solid mass too.
Using a too-small ration would be one of the possible causes like a 1:1 coffee to water ratio sometimes. Well, you are not going to enjoy the cup of espresso unless you are pulling a ristretto.
Now if you are thinking – what is the perfect ratio for a perfect cup of espresso, then let me tell you – it is around 20 gr in general. Though all the espresso machines don’t have a portafilter that can hold 20 grams of ground coffee, even temped. So, try to find what suits you better by experimenting with your own.
However, another possible reason could be an overheated machine for too strong espresso, right? I agree that you have to wait for the machine to be warm-up but it can get even too hot at the same time. So, make sure you have taken care of that to enjoy a great quality cup of espresso.