Bitter Coffee – The Culprit(s)

Here are the usual suspects for why your coffee routine at home or the office is resulting in bitter coffee:

  1. Over extraction or brewing the coffee for too long
  2. The water you’re using is too hot
  3. Your coffee beans aren’t fresh or are poor quality
  4. You’re using too much coffee for the amount of water you’re using
  5. The coffee grinds you are using are ground too small
  6. The brewing equipment you are using is dirty 

We’ll address these one by one and go over some easy fixes to help you on your path to a smooth, even-bodied cup you can count on every time.

The Road To Redemption


1. OVER BREWING

THE PROBLEM:
Over-cooking your coffee is one of the most common ways to get a bitter tasting cup of coffee. Coffee, much like tea, gets its flavor from steeping in hot water. If you let it steep for too long, too much of the bitter flavors come through and your coffee will taste burnt.

THE FIX: 2 things. #1 Know how long you need to brew for the brewing method of your choosing and #2 Set a timer so that you’ll know when it’s time to enjoy the good stuff!


2. IN (TOO) HOT WATER

THE PROBLEM:
Lots of people bring their water to boil and get right to brewing. That’s a problem because 212 degrees is too hot for coffee brewing and will actually over cook your beans into releasing bitterness.

THE FIX: Patience. Easier said than done,… we know how bad we want our coffee in the morning and you’re probably cut from the same cloth given that you’re reading this right now.

The good news? Taking the water off of the boil for 30-45 seconds is all it takes to bring the temperature down to the 195-205 degree range ideal for coffee brewing magic. Hotter water = Bitter Coffee. Too cold of water = Weak Coffee.



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3. POOR QUALITY COFFEE

THE PROBLEM:
It’s a sad fact of life – not all coffee is created equal.  The problem with cheap coffee? They over-roast it to cover up imperfections that exist because of the way the coffee is mass produced and grown poor growing standards. When coffee is over-roasted it gives off a very bitter taste and there is nothing that can really be done to make it taste better.

THE FIX:
Buy better beans! It may seem expensive to pay ~$16 for a 12oz bag of premium coffee, but when you realize that it comes out to a measly $.30 a cup (compared to $2.50 / cup at Starbucks) and you taste the drastic quality difference, you’ll never want to go back to the world of bitter beans EVER AGAIN.  Sign yourself up for a coffee club and you’ll be able to try freshly roasted premium coffee at home without having to leave the house for it. If you’re not ready to commit to a subscription just yet, but still want to see how big an improvement in taste you’ll find with freshly roasted, specialty grade coffee, you can order single-origin coffee bags online without a subscription. For a great full-bodied tasting coffee without the bitterness I recommend using a french press. We put together an easy to follow guide on how to make french press coffee.  If you’re more of a light roast drinker and want to extract some of the fruit forward notes I recommend using a pour-over method and try to get your hands on some quality Ethiopian Sidamo coffee that have a really nice fruit forward notes to them. Don’t believe your coffee can naturally taste like blueberries? Check out our guide to the coffee taster’s flavor wheel!


4. THERE CAN BE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

THE PROBLEM:
Don’t get too carried away with the good stuff. Adding too much coffee relative to the amount of water you use is an easy way to make your coffee taste too strong and in many cases bitter.

THE FIX:
Stick to the script. For automatic drip machines try 1 to 1.5 Tbsps of coffee grinds for every 6oz of water used. For other brew methods such as french press or pourovers try 1.5 – 2 Tbsps.


5. GRINDING ISN’T ALWAYS EASY

THE PROBLEM:
Sometimes when you use too fine of a grind (especially in combination with boiling water) you can over extract and expose the coffee in the process. This can lead to some bitter vibes that the brew will send your way.

THE FIX:
Make sure that you use the correct grind level for the brew method you plan on using – you can learn about that here


6. KEEP YOUR GEAR CLEAN

THE PROBLEM:
The leftovers from your last few brews can add up and the math isn’t always pretty. The old coffee residue often adds bitterness and makes the coffee taste less fresh.

THE FIX:
Clean clean clean. Ps. It’s easier to clean your gear right after you use it (and you will have just gotten some liquid willpower in your system)!


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