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What Is a Dead Espresso Shot

Feb 16

There's been a lot of talk lately about "dead" espresso. But what does that mean, exactly? Is an espresso automatically dead as soon as it's brewed? And if so, is there anything you can do to prevent it? In this article, we'll take a closer look at what makes an espresso go bad, and discuss some tips for keeping your coffee fresh.

Some Context Around the Dead Espresso Idea

The idea is that an espresso should be drunk almost immediately after brewing, after which it rapidly starts to deteriorate up until a point where it is undrinkable and deemed dead. Is this true of false?

But in fact, the term dead espresso shot appeared in Starbucks, and it was used to train new baristas to handle the espresso drinks preparation.

An espresso shot is dead when it's not possible to make a good drink out of it. The coffee flavor will be faded and there might also be some sour notes. By using the shot within 10 seconds from pulling, we ensure maximum freshness and great flavor in the drink. This is especially true with milk based espresso drinks, which tend to get bland if at the time of mixing the espresso shot is oxidized.

Brewing an Espresso for Maximum Freshness

So, how can you ensure that your espresso is as fresh as possible?

First, let's take a quick look at the anatomy of an espresso. An espresso is made up of two key ingredients - coffee and water. The coffee is ground into a fine powder, then packed tightly into the portafilter basket. The water is heated to just below boiling point, and forced through the coffee grinds at high pressure. This produces a thick, velvety crema on top of the shot.

The combination of water and coffee, acids and aromatics from the coffee beans themselves form a complex solution. Coffee consists of more than just caffeine - there are hundreds of chemical compounds present in every cup you brew.

Now that we have a better understanding of what an espresso is made up off let's see why dead espresso can happen.

How Espresso Goes Bad

Oxidation is the main culprit when it comes to dead espresso. When coffee beans are roasted, they produce a large number of volatile compounds - these are the chemicals that give coffee its distinctive aroma and flavor. Many of these volatiles start to degrade as soon as the beans are roasted, and continue to do so over time.

Exposure to oxygen accelerates the process of oxidation, which is why it's important to store coffee in an airtight container. If roasted beans are exposed to air, they'll start to lose their flavor and aroma very quickly. The same thing happens when coffee is brewed - as soon as the hot water comes into contact with the coffee grinds, a large number of volatile compounds are released.

The Real Cost of Dead Espresso

As we've already seen, dead espresso is most often caused by the process of oxidation. What are the actual effects of dead espresso? Let's take a look.

Dead espresso has a flat, stale taste - this is because many of the volatile compounds responsible for flavor are lost during oxidation.

The dead espresso shot looks different to freshly brewed one - an oxidizing shot loses its distinctive crema and becomes more watery in appearance.

If you've ever wondered how dead espresso can happen, I hope now you have a better idea! In my next article, we'll take a look at some tips for keeping your coffee fresh and delicious!