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Reasons Why Your Coffee Tastes Bad And How To Fix it

Everyone loves making coffee, especially in the morning and cold evenings. Regardless of your experience in making coffee, you may fall victim to bad-tasting coffee once in a while. Maybe you’ve brewed with your favorite coffee but something is wrong with the brew. Well, that’s okay. It’s something that happens. In this guide, you’ll learn you can avoid making a similar mistake in the future.

woman reacting on tasting bad coffee.

Brewing tasty coffee is both an art and a science. Upon knowing the reasons that make coffee taste bad, you’ll correct the mistakes and start making delicious brews once again.

Well, there’re several contributing factors to a bad-tasting brew. They can be categorized into three main problems including:

  • Problems with the coffee beans
  • Poor water quality
  • Problems with your brewing equipment


Problems with the Coffee Beans

The kind of coffee beans you use to brew coffee contribute significantly to how the brew will taste. Even the best coffee beans may cause your brew to taste bad. Some problems with coffee beans include:

Your beans are not fresh

Coffee doesn’t have a limitless shelf life, regardless of how faintly the beans smell or how good they look. Once they’re out of a roaster, they start losing their flavor.

Roasting coffee beans makes them produce carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is released in a slow process known as degassing. If the beans degas for a longer period, they lose more flavor. Thus, improper storage or leaving the beans in the cabinet for years can make your coffee taste bad.

Essentially, exposing coffee to air makes it lose about 10 percent of its approximated shelf-life every day. That’s a lot of flavor to lose in a day. Even when stored properly, constant degassing and oxidation affect the brew’s taste.

Best solution to fix this problem

While it may be painful to discard your treasured coffee beans, it’s the only choice you have when they’re stored improperly or stored longer than necessary. The best solution to this problem is to store coffee beans properly. Also, avoid hoarding coffee. Coffee tastes best when fresh. Thus, shop for coffee regularly and only purchase what you can consume within two weeks. Also, check for the roast date on the package rather than the expiration date.

When talking about fresh coffee, it’s all about coffee that’s at least 4 days old but not older than two weeks. At this period, the main degassing phase has lapsed and the coffee has developed flavorful oils. However, if it’s older than two weeks, it’ll have started losing flavorful oils.


Low-quality coffee

Everyone loves getting a great deal when shopping. However, buying coffee just because it’s cheap can be regretful if it ends up tasting awful. Generally, Robusta coffee is considered a low-quality type of coffee. It’s less flavorful and less complex when compared to Arabica coffee. If Robusta beans aren’t meeting your taste preferences, consider brewing coffee with Arabica beans.

Besides the coffee variety, the specific roast and bean can affect the taste. Thus, if you’re buying cheap beans, there’s a high possibility that the brew will taste cheap.

Best solution to fix this problem

It’ll help to know the factors to consider when buying coffee. Most notably, avoid buying pre-ground beans that have vague labels. Instead, choose beans with a single origin label to stand better chances of brewing better coffee.


Bad roast

When roasting coffee beans, you must get it right, else your brew will taste bad. Roasting requires a lot of attention to detail. It’s a process that demands applying heat at a consistent temperature throughout the roasting period. While it’s possible to roast beans from the comfort of your home, you’ll have to roast them in conditions that resemble those of professional roasting houses.

Sometimes, the roast quality might be beyond your control. Professional roasters also make mistakes once in a while. If you’re sourcing coffee beans from a local grocery store, they may not always stock high-quality beans. The sugar and protein contents in coffee are often inconsistent across different roasts and brands. Thus, don’t get shocked when you get a low-quality roast despite roasting the beans as needed. Maybe you go unlucky to buy low-quality beans.

Best solution to fix this problem

If your roast is tasting awful, try a new roasting recipe or change the roasting equipment. If the beans are the problem, try another batch or a different type of coffee.

The best coffee is the one that tastes best according to your preferences. In case the same roaster or bean keeps disappointing you, consider changing it. Just because your friend loves a certain bean doesn’t mean you’ll like it.


Your Coffee Grind is Either Too Big or Too Small

Essentially, the kind of grind you’re using when brewing coffee determines the kind of flavor that your brew will have. The reason behind this is that coffee grounds should be soluble for water to extract coffee flavor. At the same time, the grounds shouldn’t pass through the coffee filter.

If your brew tastes sour or weak, it’s likely the grounds were under-extracted. In this case, the sour or weak taste is a result of the acids that are dissolved early when brewing. Large grounds often cause this problem as their larger surface area makes it harder to dissolve flavors when brewing.

Also, if your brew tastes extremely bitter, it means the grounds were over-extracted. In this case, the grounds were too fine, thereby causing over-extraction.

If your brew is either too weak or too strong, consider adjusting the grind size. Also, use the right grind size for the coffee brewing method you’re using. For instance, making tasty espresso requires a different grind size from that used in making espresso coffee.

Best solution to fix this problem

First, it’s important to know the best grind for a specific brewing method. For instance, making drip coffee requires using a medium grind while the espresso method requires a coarse grind. If you’re making Turkish coffee, use a fine grind.

It’s worth noting that grinding beans at home is a great way of making a tasty cup of coffee. By investing in a coffee grinder, you’ll grind the beans according to your taste preferences.


Poor Water Quality

Besides issues with the beans, the water you’re using to brew coffee can also make it taste bad. Although tap water may taste just fine, it might be responsible for the bad taste in your brew. Issues related to poor water quality include:

The water contains particles

Although the tap water you’re using may have a normal taste, foreign particles in the water can affect the taste of your brew. Brewing coffee, regardless of the method you’re using, is comparable to a chemical process. Thus, introducing unknown elements will spoil the equation.

Best solution to fix this problem

Impurities in water can be eliminated by filtering the water before using it for brewing. If you install a tap water filter, it’ll likely work best with cold water. You can heat the water once filtered.


Incorrect Water Temperature

Water temperature has a huge impact on the taste of your brew. It’s recommended to brew coffee with a water temperature of 205 degrees Fahrenheit (or 96 degrees Celsius). At this temperature, water is hot enough but not boiling. Brewing coffee with extremely hot water can destroy the subtle flavors and volatile oils in the beans. Also, water that’s not hot enough won’t extract enough flavors, thereby resulting in a weak cup of coffee.

Best solution to fix this problem

The best fix for this problem is to use a thermometer. You can use a laser or traditional thermometer. In case your thermometer is damaged or you don’t have one and you still want to brew coffee, you can boil the water and remove it from the heat. Then allow it to sit for about 30 seconds. That way, it’ll be hot enough for brewing.


Problems with Your Brewing Equipment

If your beans and water are good but your brew is still tasting bad, it’s likely your brewing equipment has problems. Problems with coffee brewing equipment include:

Old equipment

You’ve probably used your coffee maker for many years without major issues. However, all kinds of equipment are prone to failure due to age. For instance, if your brews are becoming poorer each time you make coffee, it’s likely that your coffee maker is showing signs of failure due to age. If the equipment is clean and you’re using filtered water and good beans, it’s probably time to consider buying a new one.

Best solution to fix this problem

There’re minimal chances of saving an old coffee maker that’s breaking down. The best fix is to invest in new equipment.


Dirty equipment

Many coffee lovers assume that it’s okay not to clean their coffee maker after every brew. They assume that rinsing it is enough. However, cleaning your coffee maker requires more than rinsing. When cleaning, you not only need to clean the filter and pot but also the reservoir. If you can’t recall when you last gave your coffee maker a thorough cleaning, it’s time to get it cleaned.

Best solution to fix this problem

Clean the coffee maker properly for tasty brews.


Using the wrong coffee equipment

Sometimes, it’s possible to brew good coffee without the right equipment. For instance, you can make tasty espresso without using an espresso maker. However, the brew won’t have the accuracy and consistency of a brew made with the actual machine.

While it’s encouraged to use workarounds when brewing coffee, especially when your budget doesn’t allow you to buy the right equipment, some situations may demand buying an expensive coffee maker when exploring different coffees.

It’s also important to choose a coffee mug wisely. Plastic cups are the last thing you should drink coffee from. It’s recommended to use ceramic and glass mugs when drinking coffee at home. If you want to take coffee while traveling, use a stainless steel mug.

Best solution to fix this problem

Use proper equipment when brewing coffee. Also, pour the brew into the right type of cup.



Something Else May Have Gone Wrong

If your beans, equipment, and water are all okay, then it’s likely that the brew is tasting bad due to other reasons. These reasons include:

You’ve turned off the timing

If you like taking herbal tea, you’re less likely to care if the tea steeps longer than you’d wanted. However, coffee would have a different outcome. If you brew too long or too short, you’ll under-extract or over-extract the coffee.

For instance, percolated coffee is brewed within a time range of 6 to 10 minutes. If you’re brewing with new recipes, it’ll help to experiment with the brewing time until you get the best brew.

Best solution to fix this problem

If your brew is under or over-extracted, adjust the time accordingly until you get the timing that gives you the best tasting brew.


You made some mistakes

Mistakes can happen when brewing coffee. It’s something normal. If you’re sure about the mistake you made when brewing coffee, you’ll find it easier to avoid making a similar mistake again. However, if you’re not sure of the mistake you made, you’ll need to figure out whether you’re using the right brewing process. Probably, you used excess water or you missed an important step.

Best solution to fix this problem

Take notes when trying the same brew again. Write down each step, the amount of grounds and water you’ve used, and the water temperature. If the brew tastes bad after the second attempt, make adjustments until the problem is fixed.


You’ve brewed excessive coffee

It’s never advised to buy coffee beans or grounds in bulk. Similarly, it’s not advised to brew in bulk. While brewing in bulk may seem to save time, coffee tastes best when fresh. If you’ve stored your brew for several days, it won’t be tasty.

Best solution to fix this problem

Only brew what you can finish, even when brewing for guests. That way, you’ll enjoy taking fresh and tasty coffee.


You dislike that type of coffee

The best type of coffee is the one that tastes best to you. If a certain type of coffee tastes bad, avoid forcing yourself it.

Best solution to fix this problem

Try different coffee beans or use another recipe. Experiment until you find the coffee you enjoy most.


How to Deal With Unpleasant Coffee Tastes

Besides the water temperature used in brewing, there’re other factors that affect the flavor of a coffee brew. If your coffee maker is clean and you’re using fresh coffee beans, but there’s an unpleasant taste in your brew, it’s likely other factors are causing problems. Here’re some unpleasant coffee tastes and how to deal with them.

  1. Sour taste

If your coffee is tasting sour, it’s probably a result of under-extraction. If the grounds you’re using are larger than the recommended grind size for the brewing method, or you haven’t allowed the coffee enough time to brew, the grounds will be under-extracted. You can easily fix this issue by using a finer grind or allow the brewing process more time for sufficient extraction.

  1. Bitter taste

Your brew can taste bitter due to brewing with excessively hot water. The bitter taste can also be as a result of stale beans, a finer grind than required, or brewing longer than necessary.

You can eliminate the bitter taste by adding sugar or milk to the brew. The next time you brew, use the right water temperature, the right grind size, and not brewing longer than necessary.

  1. Burnt taste

If your brew has a burnt taste, the beans were likely over-roasted. Overcooking your brew can also cause a burnt taste. Brewing coffee with extremely hot water for longer than necessary can also cause a burnt taste. After brewing coffee, keep it warm as much as possible. If you keep it too hot long after brewing, you’ll destroy the flavor.

  1. Metallic taste

If the metallic taste in your coffee is not a result of buildup in your coffee maker, it’s probably a result of water quality or flavor. If you’re used to brewing coffee with tap water, you can experience this problem once in a while. Probably, the water may have chlorine or other contaminants that are altering its flavor. The best thing to do is to brew coffee with bottled or filtered water.

  1. Plastic taste

If your brew has a funny plastic taste, it’s probably caused by your coffee maker. New coffee makers with plastic components often cause this problem. Also, if the machine is overused without cleaning it regularly, it can introduce a plastic flavor to your brew.

The best fix for this problem is to clean the coffee machine thoroughly. Start by cleaning the plastic water reservoir. Once rinsed, run a cycle with some hot water. Alternatively, you can run it with a mixture of water and white vinegar (in equal parts) or water and lemon juice (in equal parts), or water and baking soda (in equal parts).

  1. Watery taste

As a coffee lover, the last thing you’d want to drink is a watered-down cup of coffee. There’re several factors that cause this problem including failure to use enough coffee when brewing, not allowing enough time to brew, brewing with a lower water temperature than needed, or using a finer grind size than needed. To fix this problem, use the proper water and coffee ratio. Also, check the water temperature, grind size, and brewing time.

You Now Know What Makes Your Coffee Taste Bad

Now that you know the various reasons why your brew tastes bad, you’ll find it easier to make a perfect brew next time. While some problems may be beyond those discussed in this guide, you can rest assured that you’ll stand higher chances of making a tasty brew by keeping this guide in mind.

Simply think over your recipe, inspect the beans, or get new equipment. By changing different variables one after another, you’ll find out the root cause of the problem and fix it.

As you can see, it takes some effort to become a skilled home barista. With more practice and determination when something goes wrong, you’ll surely become an expert barista.


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