We know how it feels to be face-to-face with a cup of bitter coffee after taking your time and energy to brew it- very saddening. We can’t change that cup of Joe for you, but we can show you why your coffee tastes bitter and how you can avoid it next time.
There are a few things you missed while brewing, and we will show you how to do them rightly. So, let’s quickly dig into the reasons your coffee tastes bitter.
- You over-steeped your coffee
Over-steeping is a problem common to brewing methods that require you to steep your coffee. For example, French press, Turkish coffee, or AeroPress. Steeping describes a process where coffee grounds are mixed directly with water rather than passing through a filter. The problem here is knowing how long you should step the coffee. If the steep stays too long, it will lead to excess extraction of the grounds and ultimately producing a bitter-tasting coffee.
Still, under-steeping your coffee does not do you any good either. If the extraction is not complete, the result will be a flavorless and sour cup of Joe. The onus lies on getting the extraction time correctly.
How to fix it: There is no standard steeping time for all types of coffee. But the National Coffee Association recommends that in a drip system, you should be looking at keeping your steep for no more than five minutes. However, for the French press, you should steep between two to four minutes- no more and no less. This steep time is both beneficial to your health and will guarantee a toothsome cup.
Alternatively, you can opt for an automatic espresso machine or drip coffee maker. With those, it is nearly impossible to overstep your coffee because the brewing process is automatic.
- Your grind does not match your brewing method.
Generally, finely ground coffee will make the extraction more flavourful, but it can quickly get over-extracted and bitter. Conversely, a coarse grind produces a lighter coffee with less likelihood of getting bitter. That’s because some flavors are on the grinds’ surface while others are within it. So, finer grids should take less time to get the oil and flavor from its interior, and allowing it to brew for longer than its standard time will make it bitter.
Coarsely ground coffee is less compact than fine grinds. That, in turn, means that it will take a longer time for the water to get through the pile of ground. Ultimately, a higher chance of a bitter taste due to excessive extraction. Should you make all your grinds coarse to curb bitterness? No, not exactly.
How to fix it: Different coffee brewing methods require a specific type of grinds- from the coarse grind for a French press to very fine grinds for espresso machines. So, you can’t make all your grinds coarse. However, you can make each grind coarser than its standard grind if you do not want a bitter cup. Keep in mind that a less coarse grind also means a less-flavourful cup.
- Your water is bad
The water type you use has a direct influence on the quality and taste of your cuppa. Broadly, there are two types of water- hard and soft water. While hard water has more minerals that can help in the extraction process, it has more tendency to produce a bitter-tasting cup, worse yet, an unhealthy drink. So, soft water is best for coffee if you want to avoid a bitter taste.
With that said, there are also different kinds of soft water: tap, filtered, or distilled water. Tap water is easily accessible and commonly used for coffee. Tap water or filtered water contains the right amount of minerals required for proper extraction. So, if they look and taste okay, you should expect a toothsome cup. Whereas, expect a bitter cup if your tap water tastes metallic.
Distilled water, irrespective of all its hype, is not suitable for coffee. That’s because of its low mineral content. So, you may not get a strong or bitter cup but a sour cup of Joe with distilled water.
How to fix it: the best water type for coffee is spring water. It contains the right balance of mineral and hardness that will produce a perfect cup of coffee. Alternatively, you can use tap or filtered water. Simply taste the water before using either type of water to brew. If it is tasteless and clear, use it. Otherwise, discard it.
- Your water temperature is wrong
Water makes up 98.75% of your cup of Joe. It’s only logical that its quality can significantly affect your coffee taste.
Another possible reason your coffee tastes bitter is your brewing temperature. If you are using a drip coffee machine, you will not have control over the heat. But for manual devices like the French press or pour-over, you can easily over-extract your grounds and get a bitter cup of Joe.
How to fix this: The National Coffee Association US recommends temperatures within 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimum extraction of flavors and oils. Any temperature colder than that will lead to under-extraction and above that, over-extraction. According to the NSA, you should let your water boil but not over-boil. Then, remove it from the heat and cool it for 30 seconds before pouring it over grounds.
- Your coffee beans are stale.
Coffee beans will get stale independent of any technique of storage. However, certain practices will make them stale quicker than they should and will ultimately produce a bitter cup after brewing.
When beans get exposed to air or moisture, oxidation sets in and they begin to lose their flavor. Most people, to avoid that, leave their beans in its original packaging or put them in a tight container. Still, the seeds will lose their freshness over time.
How to fix this problem: First, do not leave your beans in its original packaging, buy a coffee container. If you use whole beans, we recommend that you always grind your beans as close to the brew time as possible to maintain maximum freshness. Do not buy beans more than you can use within two weeks.
- Your coffee to water ratio is incorrect
Making a toothsome cup of Joe requires you to be precise in keeping specific standards. One of those standards is your coffee to water ratio. You cannot just add any amount of coffee to any volume of water and expect a perfect cup of coffee.
Adding more coffee to your machine or cup (as the case may be) will increase your brew’s strength and increase its tendency to get bitter. So, if you do not follow the SCAA golden ratio for coffee, you will end up with either a sour or bitter cup of Joe.
How to fix this: The Specialty Coffee Association of America provides a general guideline for coffee to water ratio called the Golden ratio. The rule recommends one to two teaspoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. Put differently, 55grams of coffee for 1000 ml (grams) of water, which is approximately 1:18.
However, this ratio significantly depends on the type of coffee and your taste and preference. So you may find between +/- 10% of the standard rate, that is, 50grams or 60grams of coffee per liter just fine. When you do, maintain that standard. Keep in mind that some methods of preparation, like the French press, will require you to go beyond the golden ratio.
- Your equipment is dirty.
Gold can be found in the mud. Dirty hands, clean money. Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt- John Muir.
Avoid all of those sayings if you want a tasty cup of Joe. Whether or not they are valid for real-life events remains debatable, but they are wrong with coffee.
We recommend you keep the sayings of Amanda Hocking “When you mix dirt with water, the dirt doesn’t get clean. The water gets dirty.” That applies precisely to coffee.
Don’t expect a dirty machine to give you a tasty cup of coffee. A dirty device will have higher acidity than a clean one, and high acidity leads to bitter coffee.
How to fix it: First, clean your coffee maker at least once per week. Clean the reservoir of your drip coffee machine at least once in two weeks. Use baking soda or vinegar to clean your equipment, including your filter, to neutralize acidity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which coffee bean is least bitter?
Arabica coffee is more flavourful than Robusta coffee. Although it is a bit pricier than Robusta, the probability of making a bitter coffee with Arabica beans is lower than that of Robusta.
How do I make my coffee less bitter after brewing?
Your first approach to making a bitter coffee taste sweet is to brew more coffee and mix them. However, if you want a faster method, you can add salt to your coffee to make it less bitter.
How do I clean my coffee maker with vinegar?
What roast makes less bitter coffee?
Light roast beans contain higher amounts of caffeine and will taste lighter than dark roast. So, it is less likely to produce a bitter taste from light roast beans than from dark roasted beans.