Let me explain like this – if regular coffee is a piece of cake then espresso is the cream on it. Yes, espresso is the mother of all coffee and there’s something about that bittersweet taste and the frothiness that sets it apart from all other beverages I have ever tasted.
My friend who knows that I own a coffee blog asked me ‘does espresso lose caffeine over time’ because it tastes so bland if you let it sit for 5 minutes. The answer is no, the caffeine content remains the same as before but the espresso loses its unique flavor and aromatic qualities after some time. In the coffee world, it is often referred to as ‘dead espresso’ that is barely palatable.
Some experts argue that espresso’s peak flavors last only for about 10-15 seconds and that’s the reason why there’s such a rush to get them to the customer’s table so fast. However, I believe that 10 seconds is pretty unrealistic to gulp down a cup of hot coffee. The crema usually lasts for about 1-3 minutes after which it dissipates.
And, if you leave a hot steaming cup of espresso outside, your favorite beverage will get a burned taste and ashy flavor. What makes the espresso coffee die? Do you need to gulp it down while it’s piping hot to enjoy its full-bodied flavor?
The Concept Of Dead Espresso
While it’s difficult to say at which point the beverage becomes ‘dead espresso’, it seems like a concept derived from the Italian espresso tradition. As per the coffee traditionalists, the rich and frothy crema or foam on the top of the espresso is the most essential aspect of a perfect coffee.
Some of the Italian espresso fans swear by the dense crema of fine espresso. According to them, it should be dense enough to support about two teaspoons of sugar for a few seconds. However, the biggest enemy of the espresso crema is time and as they say, it waits for none!
The crema is formed by a dense and strong network of bubbles that break down as soon as the water evaporates. The emulsified lipids present in the espresso interact with the foam and the flavor starts deteriorating until it dies down completely.
Drop-In Temperature Kills The Flavor
Time is definitely the biggest culprit behind espresso losing its effectiveness over time. On average, the caffeine is released in the first few minutes of extraction. The brewing time for the espresso shots usually lasts between 20 and 30 seconds, and for best results, the beverage should be consumed soon after. If the espresso sits for a longer time, it loses the crema, aroma, and turns tasteless.
Besides time, another important aspect that impacts the quality of the espresso is temperature and it effects how a person perceives the flavor. For example, ice-cold soda tastes sweet and refreshing when it’s chilled but when the temperature drops, it becomes pale saccharine. This is probably because our body is attuned to detecting flavors better when they are closer to body temperature.
Any food item that is served frozen or steaming hot is much more difficult to experience in full. While it’s normal for people to enjoy a piping hot mug of coffee, when the beverage is too hot, the drinker will be able to experience the body and temperature more than the actual flavor.
More Caffeine In Espresso Than Regular Coffee
Now that we know the answer to ‘does espresso lose caffeine over time’, let’s take a closer look at which beverage contains more caffeine – espresso or regular coffee? To understand this better, let’s analyze the normal human behavior.
A person may enjoy a regular cup of coffee every day but on tiring mornings or a late day at work, he may reach out for a shot of rich espresso. Ever wondered why? This rich and highly concentrated brew is much more intense and offers a full-bodied flavor.
If you go by numbers, you can see that a regular cup of coffee has an average of 12-16 mg of caffeine per ounce, while an ounce of espresso has about 63 mg of caffeine. So, technically speaking, espresso has a higher percentage of caffeine and this lends a strong flavor.
The caffeine count for both espresso and regular coffee also greatly depends upon the type of brand, variety of bean, the roasting technique used, and the method in which it is prepared. Most coffee experts will agree that an espresso shot delivers a bigger jolt than any regular cup of coffee.
The smaller serving size of an espresso shot means that you drink it much faster than any regular cup of coffee that is sipped slowly. However, if you let the espresso sit outside for long, it will lose the essential flavors and turn into a bland and dead beverage. Let’s learn more about it below.
Reason Why Your Coffee Tastes Bad After It Cools
I am sure all coffee lovers have been there. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and end up brewing a giant mug of coffee hoping to drink it all or reheat it afterward. However, it always turns out to be a bad decision and I end up regretting as it leaves a disgusting taste in my mouth.
Have you ever wondered why coffee tastes bad after the heat dissipates? Well, it has a scientific reason which is very similar to why espresso loses caffeine over time. To understand this first let’s get a bit of the background – the coffee grounds are made of chemical compounds, oils, and acids. Collectively known as solubles, they are responsible for giving that distinct flavor to coffee.
When the coffee grounds come in contact with boiling water, these soluble are extracted during the brewing process to give that characteristic flavor and taste. Even after you pour the coffee, the oxidation process continues resulting in the solubles to oxidize and degrade.
This is perhaps why the baristas in fancy coffee houses always prepare a small batch of coffee at a time to retain the maximum flavor. This also explains why espresso shots are so small to enable a person to enjoy the peak flavors before the beverage loses caffeine.
While your espresso will not die immediately after it’s pulled out of the machine, the flavors will change after some time. Some people often ask me ‘is it a good idea to use an espresso made in the morning to prepare latte midday’ and my answer is No.
However, if you wish to make a cappuccino soon after pulling an espresso shot, the beverage will not lose its effect while you steam milk. Espresso can also be used as the base for various other interesting beverages without losing its caffeine content, but the flavor may change considerably. Below we will discuss a few things that cause a difference in caffeine level between espresso and drip coffee.
Factors Responsible For Difference In Caffeine
While answering ‘does espresso lose caffeine over time’ I have already made it clear that espresso has a higher level of caffeine. When coffee grounds come in contact with hot water, caffeine is extracted and it is water-soluble in nature. Here are some of the factors responsible for the difference in the level of caffeine.
The coffee grounds must be fully saturated in order to extract all the caffeine content available. Thus, the saturation time can greatly impact the amount of caffeine. It may differ depending on the espresso or drip machine used, method of extraction, coffee brand, etc.
As mentioned above, hot water acts as a solvent and the medium to extract the caffeine from coffee grounds. The perfect temperature to enable the extraction is close to 95-105 degrees centigrade. Thus, temperature plays an important role in deciding how quickly caffeine is extracted from the beans.
If the water is not hot enough, the extraction may remain incomplete and in case of very hot water, too much extraction may take place and turn the beverage bitter. A cold brew, on the other hand, may take hours to extract.
The typically brewing time of an espresso shot is 20 to 30 seconds, and most of the available caffeine is released in the first few minutes of the extraction process. In espresso, the extraction stops once the shot is pulled and coffee is served. However, in the case of drip coffee, the extraction process continue until the last drop of coffee drips into the cup placed under the filter.
The quality of grind can also impact how quickly caffeine is extracted from the coffee grounds, and this indirectly depends on your grinder. If you own a high-quality device like this capable of giving you a finer grind, this will enable faster extraction of caffeine. As water gets to the surface area and saturates the grind, it results in a higher contact area.
Thus, if the grind is coarse, this will result in under extraction of caffeine and if the grind is too fine, this will cause over-extraction. Espresso uses pressurized water to extract caffeine from the coffee grounds and this results in a higher content of caffeine than the drip method.
How long does the crema last in an espresso?
You have probably heard people say that an espresso shot becomes dead soon after the crema dissipates and the flavor also changes considerably. It usually takes 1-3 minutes for the crema to disappear, depending on the degree of beans roast and freshness of the coffee.
Why did my crema not last enough?
There could be several reasons behind the crema not lasting even for one minute. If the roasted coffee beans are old/ aged, over-roasted or not extracted properly by the barista, the crema will not last for even 30 seconds.
What is meant by a burnt espresso shot?
While letting the espresso sit means losing most of the flavors, sometimes the beverage is made from deeply roasted beans for a burnt, smoke-like flavor. Sometimes the espresso shots may be burnt or scalded by leaving the grounds in the portafilter for too long before the brewing process.
How long does it take caffeine to enter the system?
In just 10 minutes of drinking espresso or drip coffee, you may go from 0 to 60 in terms of caffeine content. It may take about 45 minutes for 99% of the caffeine to enter your bloodstream and then it may take several hours for the caffeine to dissolve.