Espresso is a very popular form of brewing coffee, and most of the coffee drinks that coffee lovers enjoy are espresso-based drinks, but the espresso brewing process is very complex and must be very precise. When a shot of espresso is brewed, it cannot be left unused for long before its flavors and characteristics change.
A well-brewed espresso can sit for up to three minutes without changing too much. Espresso should be used or drunk as quickly as possible after brewing. A shot used for a coffee drink can sit for longer, but a shot to be drunk on its own should not sit for more than a minute.
There is a lot to learn about espresso for anyone who is just getting into this brewing process, and among the most important is that espresso must be used quickly if it is used as the base for a coffee drink, as it loses some of its magic if it is left laying around. How long can an espresso shot sit for? Let’s find out!
How Long Can Espresso Sit Out For?
Espresso is a very delicate form of coffee. This coffee must be brewed in specific ratios within ideal conditions that involve perfect pressure, flow, rate, and temperature. Espresso that is not brewed well will not taste good and usually results in bitter coffee drinks.
For this reason, it is a well-known fact in the coffee community that shots of brewed espresso cannot be left sitting out for too long before they are drunk or used to create an espresso-based drink, but how long can a shot be left out before it can be used?
The truth is that a shot of espresso can be left out for around three minutes before it drastically changes.
Espresso is a delicate balance of temperature, extraction, gases, volatile elements, and aromas that do not stay constant. As espresso is left out, it loses temperature, and many of the volatile elements of the coffee dissipate into the air, including the gases in the shot that make up the crema.
All of this means that you cannot leave an espresso shot out for too long, but a well-brewed shot of espresso should last for a minute or two without changing drastically, especially if it is kept in a warm, well-insulating vessel, and if it is not jostled around too much.
If you pull a shot of espresso and leave it on the counter while you steam your milk for the rest of the drink, the shot will be fine for the 30 seconds it takes to steam the milk.
Espresso is delicate, but it will be ruined within 40 seconds of brewing, as some people say, and it is perfect for use as a base for a coffee and milk drink for up to three minutes after it has been brewed before it begins to change so much that it will negatively affect overall drink.
What Changes If Espresso Sits Out?
We have established that espresso shots can be left unused for a few minutes without changing much, but what changes if a shot is left out, and what happens if the shot is left out for too long?
Espresso shots can be left to sit for a minute without losing flavor if the coffee is kept in the right vessel and the right conditions.
However, the moment a shot of espresso is brewed, it begins to change. Espresso contains crema made up of trapped gasses in the liquid that is pressurized in the brewing process. Crema begins to dissipate the moment it is formed as the gases escape from the liquid.
Espresso requires specific temperatures to release optimum flavors. The drink tastes drastically different if its temperature becomes too high or too low. This means that as espresso cools down, its flavor will change.
All brewed coffee contains volatile elements as well. These elements are volatile because they disappear into the air very quickly, but they are critical components that make up the aromas and subtle tastes of the brewed beverage.
The hotter the espresso is, the more quickly these drink elements will be released into the air. This means that the longer the shot sits, the fewer of these elements it will have. This means the coffee will lose much of its aroma and some of its subtle flavors over time.
All of this means that the longer a shot of espresso is left, the more it changes as it loses temperature, as gases escape, and as it loses aromas and subtle flavors, becoming blander, more bitter, and less interesting over time.
Will Espresso Shots Die If Unused Within A Minute?
Many baristas and coffee enthusiasts state that a shot of espresso will ‘die’ or otherwise become unusable if left to sit for a minute. However, this is not true.
If an espresso shot is well-brewed and the liquid is kept in a vessel that will not allow it to lose too much heat too quickly, the coffee will be perfectly good to use and drink for around three minutes.
However, if the espresso is to be drunk on its own, it should be stirred and consumed within around two minutes for the best flavors and balance.
If the espresso is intended for use as the base of a coffee drink, such as a flat white or a cappuccino, then there is more leeway, as the coffee is not the only component of the drink.
A shot that will be used this way will be good for use for around three minutes if stored correctly. However, this should rarely happen unless the barista makes a mistake, as most baristas steam the milk for these drinks and pull the espresso shots simultaneously.
Espresso is a complex and delicate beverage, and it is unlike all other brewed coffee. It cannot be left to sit for a long time, but if it is brewed well and kept in an appropriate vessel, the coffee will be good to drink for a few minutes.
Everyone who enjoys drinking straight espresso should drink it as soon as possible after brewing, but if the shot is used as the base for another drink, it can be allowed to sit for longer without negatively affecting the drink.