A cup of coffee in the morning is a great way to kick-start your day. It boosts your energy and helps you stay focused during the day.
However, you may struggle with the bitterness in your coffee, especially if you’re not a regular drinker or you decided to try something different from the usual.
In this article, we will discuss how to identify the bitter taste in coffee, the reasons why your coffee tastes bitter, how to fix the bitter taste in coffee, which coffee tends to be bitter than the other.
Let’s begin with how to identify the bitter taste in coffee.
How to Identify the Bitter Taste in Coffee
The tongue is a powerful taste bud. It can recognize different flavor categories. They include
The bitter and sour flavors are different from each other. It is important to recognize the difference between them.
A bitter taste is a dry taste that is displeasing towards the back of the tongue. This taste is caused by the over-extraction of coffee and other factors that we will discuss.
On the other hand, a sour taste is a sharp flavor detected at the sides of the tongue, and its cause is the acidity in the coffee. The taste is caused by the under extraction of coffee.
Under extraction means that the brewed coffee did not brew as long as required.
Now that you know what your coffee tastes like, you can adjust it or ask a barista to do it for you.
The coffee bitterness contributes to the flavor of the coffee. It balances out the sour taste caused by the acids and the sweet taste.
The bitterness of freshly roasted coffee usually tastes like cocoa, dark chocolate, grapefruit, and licorice.
When the bitterness is combined with other delicious flavors, the result is a richly flavored cup of coffee.
However, the bitter flavors can mask the delicious flavors, and here are the reasons why this happens.
Reasons Why Your Coffee Tastes Bitter
Over Roasted Coffee Beans
The roasting of coffee beans involves careful application of heat to green coffee beans to transform the basic things in the seed into delightful aromas.
Over roasted coffee beans can be bitter and unpleasant. This method is used especially to cover up any imperfections in low-quality coffee.
Some examples of over-roasted coffee beans are French roast, dark roast, espresso roast, and Italian roast.
Despite the beans being bitter, some people enjoy over-roasted coffee beans.
Coffee extraction involves pouring hot water over the coffee grounds which causes the sugars, lipids, acids, caffeine, carbohydrates, and other flavors extraction.
Over extraction occurs when the coffee grounds are exposed to water for so long that you end up extracting more flavors than needed.
For the extraction process, the flavors need balancing, and you should neither under extract nor over-extract.
When the flavors are over-extracted they are bitter than they should and this is why your coffee tastes bitter.
Poor Quality of Water and Temperature
As mentioned earlier, you need water in the extraction process. The water should be of good quality.
Poor quality water contains minerals, compounds, and chemicals that affect the flavor of your coffee negatively. An example of poor quality water is hard water. Hard water has lots of minerals that lead to the bitterness of your coffee.
When it comes to the temperature of the water, achieving the right temperature is important for your coffee extraction. A high temperature of the water will burn your coffee grounds leading to the bitterness of your coffee.
On the other hand, low-temperature water will not extract the required amounts of flavors from your coffee grounds.
How to Remove Coffee Bitterness
Here are some ways you can use to remove the bitter coffee taste.
Correct Grind Size
The grind size of the coffee beans depends on the brewing technique that you are using.
For the French press brewing technique, use the coarse grind, and not too fine to avoid bitter coffee.
For the drip brewing technique, use the medium grind, and not fine to avoid bitter coffee.
For the correct grind size for your brewing technique, use a burr grinder as it gives more options with the grind sizes.
Adjust Brewing Technique
The brewing technique you use to brew your coffee plays a huge role in your coffee’s flavor. Some methods take longer to brew than others.
Methods that use a fine grind size take a lot of time to extract coffee, resulting in bitter-tasting coffee.
An espresso machine is an example of a brewing technique that requires fine grind size coffee. The drip or pour-over method tends to extract less bitter coffee.
Here are other examples of brewing techniques and their grind size.
- Coarse grind – French press, percolator
- Medium grind- drip method, a regular coffee maker that has flat filters
- Fine grind – coffee makers that have cone-shaped filters
- Extra fine grind – espresso machines
Correct Brew Time
The longer the brew time, the bitter your coffee is. Over brewing your coffee mostly happens when you leave your remaining coffee in the brewing equipment you are using.
Leaving it there means that your coffee will continue with the brewing process and the bitter it will be. This is because once the coffee continues to brew, over-extraction of flavors continues to take place.
The over-extracted flavors cause bitterness in coffee. Store your leftover coffee in a thermos if you don’t want it cold later in the day.
Right Coffee Roast
There are three types of coffee roasts. They are; the light roast, medium roast, and dark roast.
Dark roasts are bitter compared to light and medium roasts. Examples of light roasts that can help you eliminate bitterness are roasts labeled half city or cinnamon.
Medium roasts are known as American or Breakfast. Dark roasts include the Italian, Viennese, French and continental varieties. These varieties of dark roasts are very bitter.
Good Quality Water
The quality of the water you are using matters a lot. The coffee you take is 98% water, and that’s why good quality water is important.
Do not just opt for tap water. Try bottled spring water or filtered water when making your coffee.
As mentioned earlier, hard water tends to make your coffee bitter due to the presence of minerals. Distilled water lacks mineral content, and it is not advisable to use it.
Right Water Temperature
Check the water temperature of your coffee. The correct temperature for brewing coffee is between 195 degrees Fahrenheit-205 degrees Fahrenheit.
Too hot water will burn your coffee grounds resulting in bitter coffee. If you are using a kettle to boil your water, allow the water to rest for some minutes before using it in the coffee extraction process.
Good Quality Coffee Beans
This is the most important factor to consider if you don’t want bitter coffee. When buying your coffee beans go for the quality coffee beans but not the quantity of the beans.
As mentioned earlier, some beans are over-roasted to hide their low quality. The over-roasted beans produce bitter coffee.
Also on the quality of coffee beans, if you can get fresh green coffee beans – then you can be sure of a good quality cup of coffee. Green beans can stay for months or even years without going bad especially if you store them in cold storage.
Only buy whole beans that you can use in a week or two. Roasted beans react with moisture, oxidation, and carbon dioxide depletion – which makes them go stale quickly. Also, grind only the beans you are planning to brew.
Add Sugar, Salt, Cream, or Milk to Your Coffee
You can add a teaspoon of sugar to your bitter coffee. You can either use brown or white sugar. They both serve perfectly.
You can also put a dash of salt into your coffee to reduce its bitterness. As strange as it may sound, salt helps reduce bitterness. How?
The sodium chloride in the table salt makes the sodium in the coffee more distinct, thus reducing coffee’s bitterness. Sprinkle some salt on the grounds before you add water.
However, do not add too much salt to your coffee grounds. Add only a dash of salt to your coffee grounds. This is a good alternative, especially if you are looking to cut down on too many sugars and creamers.
The other alternative is to add cream or milk to your coffee to help reduce the bitterness. This is a well-known and used method by many. This is the best method if you love drinking your coffee with milk and cream. The fat present in the milk and cream substitutes the bitterness in coffee making it taste better.
Correct Water to Coffee Ratio
An ideal cup of coffee has the coffee to water ratio well balanced. The recommended ratio is18:1.
However, this is just a guideline ratio. Different baristas can use different ratios – depending on how they like the coffee taste.
The general recommendation for less bitterness is to use less coffee. Find the perfect ratio that works for you by measuring your coffee and water before any brew. Perfect water to coffee ratio = perfect cup of coffee.
Clean Your Equipment
After brewing your coffee, use hot water to rinse out the brewing equipment. This will help avoid any coffee residue that may end up in your next cup of coffee, making it bitter. Ensure that the brewing equipment dries well so that it is ready for the next use.
Other Funky Flavors Associated with Coffee
Apart from coffee bitterness, burnt flavor, and sour flavor, there are other funky flavors associated with coffee. They are:
If your coffee tastes like plastic, the probable reason is, the machine you are using to brew your coffee.
A plastic taste can be a sign that your machine is either new or has been in use for long and lacks proper cleaning and maintenance.
A solution for a plastic taste is to – first wash the water reservoir of your machine – most reservoirs are plastic, run a brew cycle with either baking soda and water, vinegar and water, lemon juice and water, or simply hot water. For the measurements, use 50/50 of the method you choose.
If your cup of coffee tastes like metal, the reason is your brewing machine. If you fail to clean your coffee machine well and regularly then there is some build-up of germs and calcium that cause the metallic taste. Clean your machine regularly and ensure it’s well maintained.
If your coffee tastes like water, you either used the wrong water to coffee ratio, the wrong grind size, the wrong brewing time, or the wrong water temperature. You can fix the watery coffee taste with the correct guidelines.
Now you don’t have to drink bitter coffee anymore. Try the above tips, and you can enjoy your cup of coffee.