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I recently got an espresso maker and now tend to make iced lattes every morning. I make the espresso, pour it into a glass with ice, and then add milk. A friend came to stay with me recently and wanted an iced latte as well. When I told her how I made them she said her partner, who's a barista, never pours hot espresso over ice as it "shocks" the espresso and changes the flavor. She says it makes it more bitter, and you should either wait for the espresso to cool a little or mix it with the milk first to bring its temperature down before adding the ice.

I did a little experiment by making two iced lattes, one with hot espresso and one with room-temperature espresso I had made an hour before and left out to cool. I couldn't taste the difference. I'm also skeptical that rapidly cooling something would change its flavor. I've looked at reddit threads and this thread from Barista Exchange, and have seen mixed opinions.

So, does pouring hot espresso over ice "shock" it and make it bitter, and if so, why?

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  • I am curious if you have considered repeating the experiment without milk, just a small amount of ice? I suspect that making a full latte would make it very hard to detect the flavor difference. When I make a latte even noticeably different espresso beans tastes only a bit different with all that milk.
    – Steve V
    Oct 24, 2022 at 21:59
  • @SteveV that's a good point. Maybe I'll give that a try!
    – Chloe
    Oct 25, 2022 at 13:50

1 Answer 1

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The explained method is known as the Japanese brewing extended to espresso. Actually, this is discussed before here to some degree. So, please also take a look at that as it may help:

The simple answer is: yes, pulling a shot directly on ice should affect the taste. However, I have never heard a term as shocking the espresso. Fundamentally, Japanese brewing is applied to keep more fruity flavors (if there exist any) intact by not letting them evaporate right after pulling the shot. Therefore, based on this explanation, it should smell less but taste a bit more fruity. One should not expect a bitter taste.

As a final word, I would like to add a speculation. This is not based on observation but pure reasoning: If the roast is dark, very probably you already lost the fruity flavors and ice might help to keep the burnt flavor a bit more. So, the final result could be bitter maybe?

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    I agree with your conclusion, but not sure I see the relation to Japanese brewing. The unique thing there is brewing via slow drip of cold water or ice water, and that determines the mix of compounds extracted. With espresso, what is extracted is different, and then you're chilling it. The question is whether how you chill that makes a difference. But regardless of chilling method, the result won't resemble what's in the extraction from Japanese brewing.
    – fixer1234
    Oct 24, 2022 at 0:46
  • Agreed. Obviously, ordinary Japanese brew is not done with espresso.
    – MTSan
    Oct 24, 2022 at 8:05

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