Whether you love the flavor of espresso in the morning or rely on the quick jolt of energy coffee gives you to get work done, we have a strong, solid relationship with coffee and espresso drinks.
However thanks to the lockdown, our relationships with coffee and espresso has forever changed. Many of us that had a daily morning routine that brought us to our local café or Starbucks before work has now been replaced by at-home coffee makers, French Presses, Nespresso and Keurig machines because we don’t leave the house.
It doesn’t matter if you’re buying a latte at a coffee shop or making one at home, the days of tossing away your leftover coffee drink at work are of the past because well, many of us are working from home.
Espresso-based drinks ain’t cheap!
Served in small amounts, espresso is essentially concentrated coffee and has a much-higher amount of caffeine per serving. The shots of espresso are pulled from the machine and most often combined with milk or alternative milks into drinks like lattes, americanos, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and flat whites.
And these espresso drinks ain’t cheap. Whereas a cup of coffee can run you anywhere from less than a dollar to $3, espresso-based drinks often start out at $3 and can be as much as $7.50 depending on where you live, the size, and how much they upcharge for alternative milks.
Paying $3 to $4 to $5 to $6 everyday adds up. That’s not to mention that theer are plenty of days you order/make a second latte in the afternoon. By the end of the workday, you have a not-insignificant amount of that latte left over, so what do you do with that remaining coffee/espresso?
So should I refrigerate espresso and re-heat coffee?
It’s been ingrained in me never to waste anything and my instinct with food is if it can be safely stored for consumption at a later date, that’s what I will do. Same goes with coffee and espresso.
But should I be saving espresso and espresso drink by storing it in the refrigerator and reheating the following day? The answer is; I can, but whether you should depends on your taste and how long you plan on saving it for. It’s important to note that there’s nothing unhealthy about day-old espresso, coffee or a drink that has milk in it.
Of course if you ask Todd Carmichael, the CEO and co-founder of La Colombe coffee, the answer is: Never reheat coffee. “Coffee is a one-time use kind of deal. You make it, you drink it and if it gets cold, you make some more.”
Now if you’re not an owner of a coffee shop in New York City that’s all but required to discourage it, but if you’re not a snob about it, the answer is not ironclad. Personally, I actually think the taste of reheated espresso isn’t that bad. It’s not nearly the same, but a reheated espresso drink still satisfies more often than not (especially if you take a couple extra steps — more on that in a minute).
That’s to say the flavor is what really changes, so whether you should be saving and storing and refrigerating espresso to be reheated the next morning really comes down to whether you still enjoy reheated espresso drinks the following day.
I say give it a shot and see if you like it. If it still tastes good, go ahead and save yourself a couple bucks. If you don’t like the taste — don’t.
Why does the taste of reheated coffee change?
You may have noticed that if you reheat black coffee or espresso (without milk), it can become very, very bitter. That’s because when coffee cools, its chemical makeup changes so if you toss it in the microwave, the heat will break down the remaining aromatics, and you’ll be left with a bad-tasting drink.
Having milk or an alternative milk in the drink definitely helps to soften the bitterness, so a reheat doesn’t bring out more bitterness in the same way. As long as that milk hasn’t gone bad.
From a purist point of view, espresso and coffee are meant to be drunk hot. Specifically, espresso is meant to be consumed as soon as possible after pouring. Italians tend to drink it immediately after it’s made, as part of the culture around the coffee bar, but also because that’s when you get the best taste.
The answer you want: Yes, refrigerate and reheat espresso (but follow these steps to make it better)
I’ve reheated espresso drinks hundreds of times using a pot on the stove or microwave, but I’ve learned a couple things now that I’ve started reheating coffee drinks almost daily. Here’s a couple points to keep in mind if you plan on storing and reheating while trying to maintain the original flavor of your coffee-based drinks:
- Use a double-walled bottle so fresh, hot coffee stays hot.
- Store your coffee/espresso in airtight glass container.
- Add fresh coffee or fresh milk to it before reheating.
- Reheat it with a milk frother.
- Add your favorite powder or syrup.
- Don’t keep for more than 36 hours.
The most-important step is what you use to reheat the coffee/espresso. While the microwave is quick and efficient, the goal is to maintain as much of the original flavors as possible. So I suggest you not nuke any remaining tastiness of the espresso drink you enjoyed the day before.
While placing the espresso in the fridge will help to maintain some of that original flavor, reheating it at unregulated temperatures using a stove or microwave isn’t helping it keep that same flavor profile. That’s true for all foods: cooking, heating or reheating any type off food (including both coffee and espresso) alters the chemical makeup of that item and changes the flavor profile.
So to help maintain the flavor that’s leftover, we recommend reheating the espresso-based drink with an electric milk frother that’s designed to not only regulate the temperature to within the range reserved for optimal espresso but froths milk — all with the press of a button.
Think about it, the process of making espresso is forcing pressurized water at a very specific temperature through ground coffee beans tamped into a filter that produces the espresso. A milk frother won’t replace the thick, concentrated espresso and crema, but it will heat it at a temperature that won’t make it more bitter and if it has milk, will create a nice froth.
Using a milk frother may seem like it’s more trouble than it’s worth, but trust someone that’s used a stove, microwave and a milk frother to reheat my lattes. If you’re reheating coffee or espresso often and the difference in flavor is right on the edge, the investment in this little machine makes a world of difference in that regard.
Even better, use old coffee to make new iced coffee!
That’s all to say that reheated espresso, even espresso that has been refrigerated, will never taste exactly as it does when it comes out of the espresso machine or French press.
That said, if you choose to save your espresso for the next day, the better option is to not reheat it all. Place a couple ice cubes into it and have an iced coffee or iced latter instead.
“If you’re absolutely out of coffee and staring at a cold pot from that morning.” said Carmichael, “Don’t reheat it. Drink it over ice. Trust me, it’ll be better.”
You can always start with a reheat attempt and see if your taste buds like it. Or you can go with a method that is tried and true. If you run to a cafe to grab a takeaway espresso and it’s cold by the time you get back to your home office – try it over ice! It may not be the hot coffee you were hoping for, but it definitely won’t be as bitter as if it was straight from the microwave.
As long as you store and refrigerate it properly you can ignore the coffee snobs because it really comes down to your personal preference. I’ll leave you with this quote from this reddit thread on refrigerated espresso:
Try it and decide for yourself. As long as you enjoy it, hey.