Do Espresso Shots Die? The Answer Is Surprising

This article explains what dead espresso is, and how to know when your espresso shots die.

Do espresso shots die
How long does it take for an espresso shot to die

Espresso sounds like the word “express”, so one can assume you should drink it immediately after brewing. But will waiting 2 minutes to drink your espresso shot have a big impact on the taste of your drink? 

In this post, you’ll learn;

  • What’s considered a dead espresso
  • The history behind the term “dead espresso”
  • And when a shot officially dies.

Let’s dive in!

What Is Dead Espresso And Should You Even Care?

You’ll come across a lot of opinions when asking people how long it takes for a shot to die. Some say a few minutes, others say 30 seconds, and most coffee aficionados will tell you 10 seconds.

So if I go to a coffee shop and order a shot of espresso, it’ll take the waiter more than 10 seconds to walk from the barista section to my table. My espresso will be dead before I even start sipping and by default, all espresso served by all coffee shops around the world are considered dead.

I love espresso. I love drinking it when eating out, and I’d hate to think that all my shots are dead. So instead of sucking a number out of my thumb, I came up with a realistic definition.

A shot of espresso is dead when it sat so long, that it tastes disgusting. So if you’re shot is drinkable, it isn’t dead.

Also, it would make no sense to say a shot is dead because it tastes weaker than another. There are several factors at play here like quality, freshness, and strength of the espresso beans.

So if a shot is drinkable and isn’t disgusting, it’s still alive.

A Brief Look at the History behind A Dead Espresso Shot

A cup of coffee on a table, with Espresso and Starbucks
Espresso is meant to be enjoyed with your friends and family

Ask any Italian coffee aficionado and he'll tell you to drink your espresso within 10 seconds of brewing. This isn’t only unrealistic and inconvenient, it’ll ruin your espresso drinking experience.

Espresso is meant to be enjoyed with your friends and family. Don’t drink it in a rush and start timing it in your head while burning your lip.

The myth started when Starbucks, which is famous for its below-average coffee, started telling baristas that espresso shots die after 10 seconds. They did this for two reasons. One, it decreases the customer’s wait time and two, it preserves the little flavors their coffee has.

Now if you’re drinking high-quality, freshly roasted coffee, does drinking it within 10 seconds matter? Not really.

Although the 10-second rule is a myth, the principle works. Don’t let your espresso sit too long on the counter or the flavors will deteriorate.

Does the Crema Determine Whether Your Shot Is Dead Or Not?

The crema that sits on your espresso is caused by the carbon dioxide gas produced while roasting the coffee bean. This carbon dioxide gas is trapped inside the bean and when water is forced through the bean, it extracts the flavor, but it also extracts this carbon dioxide gas.

Variations on breve recipes
The amount of crema can indicate the freshness of your coffee beans

This causes that nice foamy crema we all love.

But the amount of crema can also indicate the freshness of your coffee beans. The longer your beans sit around after roasting, the more carbon dioxide gas is released and the less crema formed. 

But remember that just because one shot has more crema than another, doesn’t mean it’s fresher. Darker roasts are roasted for longer and this causes more carbon dioxide to be trapped in the bean. This is why dark beans create more crema than light beans.

But if your shot doesn’t have any crema, does it mean it’s dead? Well, it depends.

The longer a shot sits around after brewing, the more crema will disappear and the less fresh your espresso shot will be. But this doesn’t mean it’s dead. You might have gotten a lightly roasted bean that contained little carbon dioxide.

So to summarize the whole crema debate, trust your tongue, not your eyes.

Factors to Consider

Whether your espresso is dead or not has more to do with the quality of beans used and it’s freshness. And less to do with time. You can drink your espresso shot within 5 seconds of brewing but if the coffee beans used are old, stale, and low-quality, then it’ll be undrinkable.

So, Does It Even Matter?

If you aren’t waiting 30 minutes before you drink your espresso, then no.

A high-quality shot of espresso should be drunk like whiskey, not vodka.

Enjoy the crema, the acidity, and other subtle notes. Take your time and really concentrate on the flavor of your beans. If you’re eating out with friends or family, savor the moment by sipping on your shot of espresso.

That being said, don’t wait too long before you start drinking your espresso as the flavors can disappear and deteriorate.

I’d rather sip on an average shot of espresso while appreciating the acidity and flavor than shoot a shot of top-shelf espresso and burning my lip in the process.

The Final Words on Do Espresso Beans Die?

Does espresso shots die? Of course, but don’t let the fear of your shot dying prevent you from appreciating the flavors it has to offer.