Troubleshoot common espresso problems


Preparing the perfect espresso can be a challenging art, even for the most experienced baristas. We are often confronted with various problems, ranging from an unattractive appearance of the crema to an unbalanced taste. It is a delicate balance between the correct grinding degree of the coffee beans, the extraction time and the correct temperature of the water.

In this blog we will identify some of the most common problems when making espresso. We offer concrete solutions and tips to overcome these obstacles. We will delve deeper into the different causes of problems such as a too bitter taste, a weak crema or a lack of consistency in the end result.

The purpose of this blog is to help you as a reader master the art of espresso making and make every cup a real pleasure. We will guide you through the process of choosing the right coffee beans, tuning your espresso machine and perfecting your extraction technique.

Follow us on this journey through the fascinating world of espresso, where we unravel the secrets and show you how to create the perfect cup of espresso with precision and passion.

The Sour Shot issue

A common problem when making espresso is the so-called 'Sour Shot', or espresso that is too sour. It's important to realize that sourness, or acidity, in coffee is not necessarily a bad thing. Gardelli Specialty Coffees' slogan 'acidity is not a crime' emphasizes this point. That said, we have become accustomed to the bitter taste of dark roast coffee due to historical consumption patterns, and this can take a bit of a transition.

One cause of sour espresso can be that the coffee beans are underdeveloped. This means that they are not roasted long enough to fully develop all the flavors, which is often the case with light-roast coffees. Another cause can be underextraction, where the coffee develops sour and watery flavors. Underextraction can be the result of several factors, including the grind, water temperature, the amount of ground coffee, or the ratio of these elements.

If your espresso shot is too acidic, you can try making the grind finer, increasing the water temperature, choosing a different coffee or switching to a dark roast coffee. The country of origin of the coffee can also influence its acidity; for example, Kenyan coffee generally has higher acidity than Brazilian coffee.

The 'perfect' coffee is a matter of personal taste and preference. But with a little practice and an understanding of the factors that influence the taste of your espresso, you can master the art of espresso making and make every cup a pleasure. If you want to know more about the subject of sour coffee , read my extensive blog on this subject.

The bitter cup

It is not unusual for espresso to sometimes taste too bitter, so bitter that only some sugar or milk can neutralize the taste. But rest assured, this is a problem that can be easily resolved. Bitter espresso is a sign that your coffee is completely out of balance. This can be the result of several factors, such as the quality or temperature of the water you use to brew your coffee, an unclean machine, poor quality coffee beans or over-extraction.

First, let's talk about water quality and temperature. If the water is too hot, the coffee may burn and have a bitter taste. The recommended water temperature is between 92 and 96 degrees. If your espresso tastes bitter, check the temperature of your machine.

It is also important that you clean your coffee maker regularly. Old coffee grounds can cause unwanted flavors that can result in a bitter cup of coffee.

The quality of the coffee beans also plays a major role. Poor quality or roasted beans that are too dark can give a bitter taste. Therefore, always choose freshly roasted coffee beans of good quality.

Finally, over-extraction, when the coffee is ground too finely, can also cause bitter espresso. If you grind your own coffee, experiment with different grinds to find the right balance. Would you like to learn more about making the perfect espresso ? Then read my extensive blog.

In short, espresso doesn't have to be bitter. With a little care and attention you can brew a smooth, subtle and slightly sweet espresso that is guaranteed to make your day better! If you want to know more about bitter coffee and its solutions, read my blog about bitter coffee .

Crema challenges


Making espresso is an art. From the choice of coffee beans to the precise timing of extraction, there are countless variables that influence the final taste. But one of the most common problems coffee lovers encounter is a problem with the crema of their espresso.

The crema layer, that creamy layer on top of your shot, is often seen as a sign of quality. However, a good crema does not always mean a good espresso. In fact, there are many factors that can affect the crema, and not all of them have to do with the quality of the coffee. Fresh coffee beans, for example, often provide a good crema layer, thanks to the high amount of CO2 they contain. But beans that are too fresh can make the crema layer thicker than is tasty.

The type of coffee beans you use can also play a role. Robusta beans, for example, are known to produce a thicker crema than Arabica beans, although they may not be as flavorful. So it's important to experiment with different types of beans and roasts to find your perfect espresso.

The way you make the espresso also plays a role. Perfect espresso brewing is a delicate balance between the right grind, the right ratio and the right extraction time. Even things like a preheated cup and a clean cup can matter.

But remember, the perfect espresso doesn't just depend on the crema. Sometimes your espresso can be delicious, even if the crema doesn't turn out quite right. So don't worry if your crema isn't perfect. Instead, focus on learning and experimenting, and most of all, enjoy the process and the taste of your homemade espresso! If you would like to dive a little deeper into the subject of crema on espresso , I would like to recommend my deep-dive blog on this subject!

The channeling problem

Troubleshooting common espresso problems can be quite a challenge, but with the right knowledge and a little patience you can get there. One of those problems is the so-called 'channeling' problem. During extraction, the water flows through specific channels in the coffee, instead of being evenly distributed. This can lead to an unbalanced taste, as some parts of the coffee are over-extracted and others are under-extracted. How do you solve this now?

It is often a matter of finding the right grind. Too coarse and you get channels, too fine and your espresso can become bitter. So experiment with different grinds until you find the right one.

Another possible cause is uneven tamping, or pressing the coffee into the piston. Try to apply the pressure evenly for an even extraction.

Furthermore, a faulty or dirty machine can also lead to channeling. Regular maintenance and cleaning is therefore essential.

And finally, don't forget to enjoy the process! Making a perfect espresso is an art and it takes time to master it. So keep experimenting, tasting, and above all enjoying your homemade espresso!

Pressure problems

Pressure problems can put a damper on your espresso experience. Let's solve these common espresso problems! A common problem is that the pressure is too high, making your espresso bitter and over-extracted. On the other hand, too low pressure will make your espresso weak and watered down. So it is crucial to find that golden mean.

How to achieve the right pressure when making coffee has everything to do with making the perfect espresso. Making the perfect espresso is not rocket science, but you have to do what you do. In my opinion, the precise pressure usually does not matter, as long as you have the desired range for your espresso. The latter means; so many grams in, so many grams out, in exactly so many seconds.

Do you want to know exactly how that works? Then take another look at my previous blog about making the perfect espresso !

Addressing tamping issues

Best coffee tampers

Preparing a perfect espresso is a true art form, with the technique of tamping - pressing the ground coffee into your portafilter - as one of the most crucial steps. Tamping coffee is essential for creating the right back pressure in the portafilter, which allows the flavors and aromas of the coffee to be properly extracted and you get a delicious, balanced espresso.

But what if your espresso tastes bitter, or weak and watery? Then the problem could well lie with the tamping method, or lack thereof. Tamping is a precise science, in which both the amount of force you exert and the evenness of the pressure are of great importance.

So what happens if you don't tamper? If you don't create back pressure, the hot water will flow through the coffee too quickly, resulting in an under-extracted, diluted espresso. On the other hand, if you tamp too hard, the water will flow through the coffee too slowly, causing the coffee to over-extract and give you a bitter espresso.

So it is important to find a balance between tamping too hard and too soft. A good rule of thumb is to use about 50 pounds of pressure - firm, but without throwing your full body weight into it. It can be useful to practice this with a scale in the beginning, until you get the feeling of how much pressure this is.

The method of tamping also plays a role. It is important to press the coffee evenly to prevent 'channeling', as I mentioned above under the heading about channeling.

Tamping is therefore an essential step in preparing the perfect espresso. By paying attention to the way you tamp, and experimenting until you find the right pressure, you can solve common espresso problems and produce a delicious, perfectly balanced espresso every time. Would you like to know more about tamping? Then read my previous blog about tamping your coffee .

Freshness of beans

Freshness of the coffee beans plays a crucial role in solving common espresso problems. One of the most common mistakes made by beginners is using old coffee beans. The fact is that coffee beans quickly lose their aroma and taste after roasting. So, when you put all your efforts into preparing that perfect espresso, make sure your coffee beans are as fresh as possible.

A useful tip for maintaining the freshness of your coffee beans is to grind the beans just before using them. This is because ground coffee oxidizes faster and therefore loses its aroma and taste more quickly. In addition, it is strongly recommended to store the beans in a cool, dark place. The bag in which our coffee comes is also an excellent storage container.

It may happen that your espresso does not have the desired aroma, and this may be due to the use of old beans. To get the best flavor from your coffee and serve the perfect espresso, it is essential to take the freshness of the coffee beans into account . By paying attention to the freshness of your beans, you can ensure that every cup has a delicious aroma and your espresso is always at its best.


In the pursuit of that perfect espresso, you may encounter some challenges. Common problems with espresso can range from a bitter taste to insufficient crema. But don't worry, with a little finesse and attention to detail, these problems are easy to solve.

A common problem is that the espresso flows too quickly, leading to a weak taste. This can be caused by a coarse grind or inadequate tamping. Try making the grind a little finer or tamping it a little harder.

A bitter taste in your espresso can indicate overextraction. This means that the water has been in contact with the coffee for too long. A solution to this is to shorten the lead time.

Another challenge can be that the cream layer is missing. This can be due to using old beans, so make sure you always use fresh beans.

If you notice that your espresso is not hot enough, check the temperature of your machine. The ideal temperature for espresso is around 90-96 degrees Celsius.

Remember that common espresso problems are often easy to solve with a little experimentation and patience. So keep trying and tasting, and before you know it, you'll be enjoying the perfect espresso.