Why is My Coffee Bitter?


There are a lot of ways to describe the taste of something: acidic, smoky, dry, smooth, etc. It’s important to know the differences between the flavors in order to hold your own in conversations, especially in relation to coffee. You should understand the vocabulary so you’re able to correctly define what about your coffee you enjoy the most. Or even what may be wrong with the mug in hand. That is why it’s important to know the reasons why your coffee might be bitter. It is also just really fun to be able to have more technical conversations about coffee!

People who do not like coffee often claim that it is too bitter, but that just means that they were unfortunately given bad coffee on their first taste test. There are tons of better words for coffee, and if you find yourself using the word bitter too much, we are here to help.

A roast may be more susceptible to be bitter, but more often than not there is a reason for that sharp flavor hitting your tongue. A lot of it comes down to the extraction process, which is what the water takes out from the coffee beans. There are a number of factors that contribute to extraction, but under or overdoing it can completely ruin your coffee. Over-extraction leads to dry, hollow, and (what we are here to discuss) bitter coffee.

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4 Reasons Why Your Coffee is Bitter

All of the following are potential reasons for your coffee being bitter, but adjust your technique one at a time in order to see what the real root of the problem is.

1) The Coffee was Brewed for too Long

Allowing the coffee to steep longer than it is supposed to be, will let the water soak up more flavor from the coffee bean. A flavor that, to a certain point, becomes unwanted. Too much of a good thing is never really as it seems, which applies perfectly to coffee. More flavor is not better.

2) The Water was too Hot

The intense heat from the coffee will quickly extract from the beans, actually too much too quickly. The National Coffee Association says that the ideal range for making coffee is 195°F to 205°F, due to scientific factors that we will get into another time.

Do not go running out to buy a thermometer just yet. Boiling water is going to be just slightly too hot (water boils at 212ºF). It is best to listen for the kettle to whistle, take it off of the stove, then give it about thirty seconds to cool down. Do not forget about it at this time, because water that is too cold will leave you with not just cold coffee but also weak coffee. Your coffee will still be more than hot enough, but you’ll be enjoying a better flavor.

3) Coffee was Ground too Finely

Coffee that is too finely ground leads to over-extraction, because the water needs to only interact with so much surface area of the coffee. For example, coffee needs to be ground to a sand-like texture for espresso. This helps extract a lot of flavors and quickly, which contributes to what we all know and love about espresso. It’s all other coffee techniques, from AeroPress to drip machines that do not need as much exposed coffee surface area.

4) Your Coffee was Over-Roasted

Here’s why you want to purchase coffee that was recently roasted, and roasted from a good roastery. The times and temperatures associated with different roasts are delicate, so it is important to not risk messing with the flavors of a dark roast by over-roasting it.

How To Troubleshoot Coffee Preparation

Time to head back to the basics! Consider each step that goes into the particular technique you are using to make coffee because it could be as easy as one of the issues above! Take the time to really consider what you do each day to make coffee. Here are a few extra tips:

  • Make sure your timer is accurate. Don’t just depend on the clock on your stove, but set an exact timer on your phone.
  • Consider buying coffee from third-wave coffee shops, as small companies are known to put more care into their roasts.
  • Use a kettle, and listen to it! You may just boil your water in a pot, but the combination of the whistle of the kettle with letting it cool for a certain time afterward is very helpful.
  • Use a burr grinder, not a blade grinder! This is most likely to give you not just the roast you need but a more even roast overall.

Sometimes, It Is Just The Caffeine

Keep in mind that caffeine itself has a bitter taste. In the same way that sodas have caffeine, the drink will taste differently depending on how the caffeine interacts with other ingredients. With coffee it only has water to interact with, so you’re going to notice it more than you do in soda.

Coffee is going to be naturally bitter sometimes, there is no avoiding that. If you’ve followed all of these tips and still find your brew on the bitter side, do more research on the blend of coffee that you are using!

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