Whether you can’t start the day without a short intense shot of espresso or you find the only way to avoid the post-lunch slump is with a creamy, long latte, many of us enjoy our daily caffeine fix in the form of coffee.
One of the best espresso machines can ensure that no matter how many times a day you indulge in a cup of java, it won’t be hurting your wallet as much as constantly heading to the nearest coffee shop.
Given Americans now drink 50% more espresso-based hot drinks (including cappuccinos, lattes, and flat whites) than in 2015 according to the National Coffee Association, this is a big saving.
However, brewing the perfect coffee in an espresso machine every time might not be as simple as you first thought.
Lots of aspects can affect the strength of the coffee, such as how tightly compacted the puck (the disc of ground coffee water is pushed through) is and the volume of water in use, but what about bitterness?
There’s nothing worse than going to all the effort of brewing yourself an espresso, only to take a big sip and discover it’s extremely bitter and not worth the sippin’.
If this happens to you regularly, then listen up: a coffee expert at De’Longhi has shared with us a game-changing tip that means you’ll be able to put an end to bitter coffee.
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Read on to discover the game-changing trick for ensuring your espresso isn’t bitter, or if you’ve already decided you want to invest in an air fryer, check out the best prices right now:
It's all in the temperature
Many of the best espresso machines on the market allow you to customize different aspects of the coffee brewing process. For example, most machines use a predefined amount of water when brewing espresso, but it’s also possible to override this (and even set your preferred amount as the default) if you prefer a stronger or weaker coffee.
As we’ve already mentioned, how tightly compacted the ground coffee is will also affect the strength of the espresso - more loosely compacted coffee will result in a weaker brew, while those that prefer a stronger espresso should make sure the ground coffee is heavily pressed together.
But what about how bitter coffee tastes? According to Matt Randle, De’Longhi’s coffee expert, before you blame the bean and start looking for a different variety of coffee, try changing the temperature of the water used to brew the coffee - another function most espresso machines offer - as this changes the way it tastes.
“The hotter the water, the more energy it contains to extract flavor from the coffee. However, if we extract too much flavor we can bring bitterness out in the cup,” he told TechRadar.
“One way of reducing that bitterness is reducing the temperature of the brewing water”.
Given this seems such a simple trick, we had to give it a go. The espresso machine we were testing at the time, De’Longhi La Specialista Arte EC9155MB, offers three different brewing temperatures; Min, Med and Max for the water inside the thermoblock (the heating system the water passes through before being pushed through the ground coffee).
De’Longhi says the min temperature option on this espresso machine is 198 F / 92 C, while the Max is 96 C/ 205 F and the Med temperature sits between the two at 201 F / 94 C, so there’s a decent amount of space for experimentation.
Using the same amount of ground coffee, and the same grind level (as the espresso machine comes with an integrated bean grinder) and the same volume of water - 1.2 fl oz / 35 ml, which is the espresso machine’s default volume - we brewed three espressos one after the after each at a different temperature and compared the taste.
When myself and my partner, who’s a big coffee fan, sipped the three espressos, there was a difference in the bitterness of the coffee brewed using the minimum and maximum temperatures - with the espresso brewed at a lower temperature tasting ever-so-slightly sweeter than the one that used hot water.
I preferred the sweeter espresso - although I often add plenty of milk to my coffee rather, so that comes as no surprise. However, my partner (who’s more inclined to add just a dash of milk to his coffee) thought the coffee brewed at a higher temperature was the more preferable of the two.
Of course, there is one drawback to using a lower temperature to brew the coffee - we found it didn’t stay hot as long as the espresso brewed at a higher temperature.
Let’s face it: no-one likes picking up their cup only to discover the hot drink is lukewarm at best - it’s even more of an issue if you prefer adding cold milk rather than texturized warm milk to your coffee too.
However, according to Randle, preheating the cup will ensure this is no longer an issue. Preheating the cup is easy - just press the brew button as usual, but without adding any ground coffee into the portafilter (the basket in which the ground coffee sits).
Hot water will flow into the cup and when the brewing process has finished, throw away the water and brew espresso as usual.
This will ensure that the espresso is dispensed into a warm cup and won’t cool down as quickly as in a cup that hasn’t been pre-heated.
The perfect cup of coffee is a very personal thing and will differ from person to person. However, if you find the coffee you’re brewing at home is just a little too bitter for your tastes, then definitely try reducing the temperature before heading to the grocery store in search of a different type of coffee bean.
- Check out these great cheap coffee maker deals
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Carrie-Ann Skinner was formerly Homes Editor at TechRadar, and has more than two decades of experience in both online and print journalism, with 13 years of that spent covering all-things tech. Carrie specializes in smart home devices such as smart plugs and smart lights, as well as large and small appliances including vacuum cleaners, air fryers, stand mixers, and coffee machines. Carrie is now a copy editor at PWC.