Does Espresso Expire? (Explained)


Does Espresso Expire?

Are you wondering how long espresso shots last and whether espressos actually die? Espresso, just like coffee beans and ground coffee, when exposed to air over time, undergoes oxidation that alters its color, aroma, and taste.

So, does espresso expire?

Yes, espresso loses most of its flavor within 30 minutes of pulling. In fact, most espresso lovers prefer to drink it within 2-5 minutes as the espresso is constantly changing from the time of pulling. The more the espresso sits the more it becomes bitter.

The emperature of the espresso falls rapidly within seconds of brewing and crema disappears within about 10 minutes. Coffee oils continue to oxidize and the flavor compounds break down leading to a bland or even bitter espresso.

As the crema dissipates, the espresso shot loses its beautiful brownish color and becomes more reddish (burnt-like) at the top. The body becomes cold and darker.

Do espresso shots expire
A picture showing how the color of espresso crema changes and crema gradually dissipates with time

Espresso enthusiasts are quick to notice the rapid changes in the crema, flavor, and aroma of espresso. Most of them prefer to drink espresso immediately after extraction when it is still hot and the crema is thick and brownish.

Some coffee snobs, on the other hand, prefer to scoop out the crema as it contains most of the bitter flavors.

However, for most people, apart from the espresso getting cold, the changes in flavor are not that noticeable for the first 20-30 minutes. That’s why you find people taking as much as 45 minutes to drink a shot of espresso.

What Does Espresso Expiry Mean

An expired or dead espresso means different things depending on who you ask. It is mostly a matter of preference. To most people, espresso dies when

  • When it has lost its flavor or has turned bitter
  • Crema dissipates. Some people will not touch espresso whose crema has dissipated
  • It sits for a certain amount of time. For some people, espresso has a ‘kill time’ and they discard the espresso if the time is surpassed
  • It becomes cold. Some people prefer their coffee hot and no matter that you have just pulled a shot of espresso. If you serve in a cold cup, they are not touching it as to them, it’s already expired

How to Make Espresso Last Longer

Since espresso loses its optimal qualities considerably fast. Depending on your definition of a dead espresso, your espresso will last longer if you

  1. Rinse your cup with hot water before extracting the coffee to maintain the coffee temperature for longer.
  2. Dilute the espresso by
    • adding milk to make drinks such as lattes and cappuccino
    • making sweetened cold coffee such as iced lattes that can last for up to half a day
  3. Add water to make a hot Americano
  4. Add ice to make a cold espresso/americano. You can sweeten with sugar syrup and other desirable flavored syrups
  5. Refrigerate the espresso in a closed container for later use in cold drinks
  6. Freeze it to make espresso ice cubes

How Long Should Espresso Crema Last

Espresso crema should last between two to ten minutes before dissipating. Crema that disappears too fast indicates coffee beans that have not rested enough after roasting.

Also, when pulling espresso at high altitudes, the crema is likely to disappear faster than at a lower altitude. Resting the coffee beans much longer at higher altitudes can make the espresso crema last longer.

How to Freeze Espresso

To freeze espresso, let it cool, and then pour the cold espresso on the ice cubes tray. Put the tray in the freezer and espresso ice cubes will form in about 6 hours depending on your freezer temperature.

Espresso shots cool rather rapidly and it should not take long before you can put the coffee in the freezer. You can add the freshly made espresso into a large container to cool more quickly.

Speed is of the essence when freezing espressos lest the espresso shots expire or lose some of the flavors.

You may want to stir the espresso that you intend to freeze before the crema dissipates so as to mix its three profiles into one body. Alternatively, you can scoop out the crema to avoid inconsistencies in the ice cubes.

How to Use Espresso Ice Cubes

  • Add some chilled milk on espresso cubes to make a quick cup of iced coffee
  • Espresso ice cubes are a perfect substitute for regular ice cubes when you want a strong iced coffee that is not watery
  • Add 2 or 3 pieces of espresso ice cubes to a cold brew to chill it further

Does Espresso Expire after 10 Seconds?

Espresso does not expire after 10 seconds of extraction. Espresso tastes different as it cools down because its complex flavor compounds affect your taste buds differently.

Some flavors become more pronounced as the espresso temperature falls while others disappear.

The popular belief that espresso shots expire after 10 seconds of pulling are fueled by the fact that some baristas such as Starbucks baristas are instructed to use espresso drinks within 10 seconds of extraction.

Starbucks has an espresso “kill time” of 10 seconds which means that the espresso should be discarded if it is not used or diluted within the 10 seconds.

However, the 10 seconds kill time policy is mainly for workflow reasons as opposed to quality reasons. It is also a way of ensuring baristas are using very hot espressos for lattes and other espresso drinks to safeguard the overall temperature of the drink.

Considering a cafe setting that is not self-service, it is not practical to make espresso and serve it to the customer at the table within 10 seconds.

Does Espresso Lose Caffeine Over Time?

No, espresso retains its caffeine content over time whether the espresso is sitting out or in the fridge. Although espresso loses its volatile compounds that form its flavor and aroma over time, the amount of caffeine remains the same.

Conclusion

The definition of a dead espresso is very subjective across coffee shops and amongst coffee enthusiasts. Although it’s a fact that espresso shots expire, the “10 seconds rule” is unreasonable.

Some espresso flavors are more potent immediately after pulling whereas some other flavors mature after a slight drop in the temperature of the espresso depending on the origin and roast profile of the coffee beans.

You are better off experimenting by drinking your espresso within different minutes of pulling and see whether you notice new flavors. The most important thing when drinking espresso is to enjoy it the way you like it.

Some people prefer to wait until the coffee is cold before drinking it and hey, they still enjoy it.

Read our detailed article about the factors that can impact the quality of your espresso.

Related Questions

Is a Cold Espresso Bad?

A cold espresso is not necessarily a bad espresso. Espresso that has been cooled rapidly using ice after extraction still has its aromas and flavors intact and is therefore not a bad espresso.

On the other hand, an espresso that is sitting for 30 minutes is likely to be bitter and undesirable. The more an espresso sits the more it loses the brighter tastes and aroma.

An espresso that has been sat for several hours becomes bitter, salty, and loses most, if not all, of its aromas, and is not desirable.

If you desire to treat yourself to a cold espresso without adding ice, you are better off going for a cold-brew espresso instead of waiting for a hot espresso to get cold. However, if you just want the espresso for caffeine and not for flavors or aroma, waiting for a hot espresso to cool on its own poses no threat to the caffeine content.

Patrick

Patrick is first a coffee lover and then a trained barista. His bucket list includes sky diving and sipping on Java in the Himalayas.

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