Nothing quite ruins your morning like a bitter cup of coffee. While coffee naturally tastes bitter, not everyone enjoys it when it is too bitter, especially in the first cup of the day. People tend to fight coffee bitterness by adding sugar and milk to their coffee brew, often to the point of completely obscuring the aroma and taste of coffee, but there are better ways of dealing with bitter coffee, the ones that will let you enjoy its flavors without having to scrunch up your face.
We will examine the usual reasons why your coffee turns out bitter and easiest ways to prevent this from happening.
Dirty Coffee Maker
We will start with the most common one, dirty equipment. You have to keep it clean, especially if you have a drip coffee maker. It needs to be cleaned regularly, at least once a week, unless you like the taste of old coffee mixed in with your fresh brew. The easiest way to keep it clean is to run fresh water through it immediately after making coffee. That way you will remove all residue before it gets a chance to dry up and hardens when it will be much harder to remove it. For extra points, you can add some baking soda, which will help keep acidity low, which is the main source of bitterness. So set aside time every week to clean it.
Roasted coffee beans don’t have an indefinite shelf life and after a month or so they will start to deteriorate, even faster if not stored correctly. Ground coffee follows the same pattern and if you only buy it occasionally, it is quite possible that those last few spoons at the end of the jar will result in bitter surprise once used. Ideally, you want to buy as much coffee as you can use up in a week time frame. Anything more, and you run a risk of having to deal with a stale and bitter coffee taste.
Steeping is a process where ground coffee is steeped into the water to make a brew, opposite to filter when water is just passed through coffee. Steeping is used in several press-type coffee makers, like French Press. However, if you overstep coffee, it often turns bitter, because of over-extraction. The solution is simple, experiment with brewing time on your coffee maker until you are satisfied with the result. Be prepared to get a cup or two of weak and sour coffee in the process, since under-extraction is also a thing. Coffee makers based on drip system should be immune to the problem of over-steeping, due to the nature of their process. once you get the perfect time, save it.
Using a Wrong Grind
Not all grinds are created equal! And some are intended for use on certain machines and will give you a bitter coffee if you use them on the wrong one. A coarse grind will taste great in a French Press, but absolutely awful in an espresso machine. Similarly, fine and extra-fine grinds are perfect for espresso, but won’t result in a great cup of coffee if used in a drip coffee maker, because the density of the grind will prevent water penetrating deep enough and cause under-extraction. Make sure to read the user manual and buy only appropriate grind for your coffee maker.
The Water Is Way Too Hot
While many experts advocate different temperatures of water for best results, ranging from 81°C to 96°C, it essentially all depends on the type of coffee you are brewing. Almost all agree that boiling water should never be used. Not only will it destroy some of the oils and eliminate subtle flavors, but it can also make your coffee bitter. If you are making coffee in a machine, this shouldn’t be an issue, since most are automatic and some even have an option for adjusting the temperature.
Preparing water for a coffee brew manually can be tricky. Many people will use thermometers to decide the ideal water temperature, but that can get tiresome and overly complicated. The simplest solution is to let the water boil and then remove it from heat and wait for about 30 seconds before pouring it over your coffee. That way you can preserve the taste and avoid bitterness.
Maybe You Just Don’t Like That Coffee
One of the best things about having access to so many types and brands of coffee is experimenting. By now, everyone has heard about Yirgacheffe Ethiopian coffee and probably had a chance to taste it, but there are so many relatively unknown brands that tasting them all can take years.
Of course, not everyone is willing to invest time and energy into coffee tasting and people often buy coffee on recommendation, neglecting to realize that favorite coffee is a matter of personal preferences. Instead of switching brands, they stick to their first choice, even if they don’t really like it and find it bitter, simply because somebody told them it is a good coffee. And maybe it is, just not to them. Next time you buy coffee, add another brand to your shopping brand. There is always a chance you will like it better than your regular coffee.