- Updated Mar 27, 2020
- Writen by Robert Smith
6 Reasons Your Coffee Tastes Bitter & 5 Ways to Fix it
- Updated Jul 31, 2019
- Writen by Robert Smith
If you always find yourself adding lots of sugar and cream to your coffee, the chances are that it is because your coffee is bitter, and so these additives are meant to try and cover it.
The excessive amounts of sugar and cream can make the coffee more bearable, but they also cover up the nice coffee flavors, and so you will not get an enjoyable coffee experience.
And while many people tend to assume coffee always has some bitterness, this is hardly true because properly brewed coffee will have some bold and rich flavors that cannot be necessarily described as bitter.
Bitter coffee often results from different elements in the coffee-making process from the selection of the beans to the brewing method. Here we highlight the common sources of bitterness in coffee and also show you how to reduce or fix the problem.
Is Bitterness In Coffee Bad?
Bitterness in coffee is not always bad and will only become an issue if it goes beyond certain levels. Many coffee lovers will drink this beverage mostly because of that strong, bold or bitter taste.
If the coffee is not bitter it will be more acidic and you can find it unbearable. Hence, the key is always to strike a perfect balance by having a little bitterness to complement other flavors in the coffee.
In a good cup of coffee, the bitterness should not be the most dominant taste but should only make up a small part of the larger coffee flavor wheel.
Why Coffee Gets Bitter
There are countless reasons why coffee can get bitter and in many instances, your coffee gets too bitter due to a combination of factors. The key reasons why you can end up with bitter coffee range from poor beans selection to over-extraction and even using dirty coffee making equipment. Here is a more detailed overview of what makes coffee bitter.
1. Poor Quality Beans
Choosing your coffee beans is always the first step of the process if you prefer to make your coffee from scratch. And if you make the wrong choice here, you can easily end up with bitter coffee.
Coffee grows in different parts of the world and the same way some regions are known to have good quality beans, some are also known to produce poor quality ones that are likely to give you bitter coffee.
Also, Robusta coffee beans are generally stronger and bitterer than Arabica beans, and so you are more likely to have bitter coffee when using them.
Read More: Robusta vs. Arabica
2. Over-Roasting Beans
Even if you choose the best quality coffee beans, you can still mess them up in the roasting process and end up with a bitter cup of coffee.
If you are not sure how to get the roast right, you are better off buying pre-roasted beans. And those that prefer dark roasts are more likely to end up with bitter coffee if they do not get it right.
3. Bad Beans Grind
Your grind will also affect the quality of coffee you get and failing to get it right can also mean you end up with bitter coffee.
In most instances, grinding your coffee too fine is what causes bitterness while larger grind sizes will leave you with weaker coffee due to under extraction.
With super fine grind size, the coffee will be over-extracted, and so besides the nice flavors, more of the bitter elements will also end up in your cup.
4. Using Too Hot Water
Different coffee making methods will require different water temperatures to ensure excellent extraction. For example, for the French press, it is around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and so if the temperature exceeds this, you are highly like to get bitter coffee due to over or poor extraction.
Water that is too hot is more likely to extract the bitter compounds from the coffee and can also burn the coffee grounds and make the brew bitter.
5. Brewing with Bad Quality Tap Water
While tap water might taste fine, it will still contain particles that can affect your coffee’s flavor greatly. Because coffee making is a complex process that requires you to get everything right, introducing these foreign elements from the water can make your coffee bitter.
6. Steeping Grounds Too Long
Over-steeping your coffee grounds is perhaps the main cause of coffee bitterness because it means that besides extracting all the flavors from the coffee, the extra time also allows the bitter elements to be extracted.
This problem is particularly more common when using immersion methods like French press as many coffee drinkers tend to leave the coffee in the press even after pushing down the plunger and hence causing over-extraction.
Read More: How Long to Steep Coffee
How to Reduce Coffee Bitterness
Now that you know the things that make your coffee bitter, it is also important to know how to prevent them and ensure you always end up with a tasty and less bitter cup of coffee. And the following are some of the most effective ways of reducing coffee bitterness.
1. Change your Coffee
Changing your coffee beans and going for a type known to be less bitter such as high-quality Arabica beans can help solve the bitterness problem for you.
Also, if you buy pre-roasted coffee and do not want to end up with a bitter brew, you should stick with a medium or light roast as these tend to have a less bitter flavor than dark roasts.
2. Adjust the Grind Size
Another effective way of ensuring you do not end up with bitter coffee is by adjusting your grind size. Finely ground coffee can easily be over-extracted which causes bitterness, and so making the grind size coarser can help solve this problem.
But, keep in mind that different coffee-making methods will require different grind sizes, and so you will need to grind coffee according to your brewing method. And in most instances, you might need to experiment with different grind sizes before you get that less bitter flavor you want.
3. Check the Water Temperature
Using water that is too hot also causes coffee to taste bitter, and so by simply checking the water temperature before you start brewing can ensure you do not end up with an overly bitter cup of coffee.
You should aim to keep the water temperature between 190 and 205 degrees for most coffee-making methods and make sure you never leave the water to boil beyond the 210 degrees Fahrenheit mark.
Developing a habit of leaving the hot water to cool down for a few minutes after boiling before you can use it to make coffee is a good way to ensure you will not use water that is too hot.
4. Add Sugar, Creamer or Salt
Once the coffee is brewed and you realize that it is too bitter to your liking, it is still possible to make it more bearable as there several things that you can add.
As weird as it might sound, a small dash of salt can make your coffee less bitter. Salt will help to suppress some of the bitterness as the sodium chloride makes the sodium present on coffee more distinct which means the bitterness will be less pronounced.
If adding salt to your cup of coffee does not look like a good idea, you can make it less bitter by sticking with the traditional coffee lighteners which are milk, creamer, and salt. But, make sure you never put too much of them in your coffee as they can cover the coffee flavors.
5. Keep your Coffee Making Equipment Clean
Sometimes your coffee might have a bitter taste only because you made it with dirty equipment. Using dirty equipment means the leftovers from your previous brews will have accumulated and the coffee residue will add some bitterness to your brew.
Rinsing out everything that you use to make your coffee after every brew and before the next one will ensure there is no leftover residue that can add bitterness to your coffee. And make sure you use hot water to clean and rinse them out to ensure proper cleanup.
Read More: 5 Best Ways to Clean Coffee Maker
Coffee is a refreshing beverage that will always give you the energy boost you need to face the day ahead and also keep you alert. But as delicious and refreshing as coffee might be, a bitter cup can ruin the experience for you.
Bitter coffee results from things like using bad quality beans, over-roasting the beans, grinding the coffee too finely, over-steeping and also using dirty equipment.
The good news is that all these things are in your control and you can easily correct them by paying close attention to all the steps in the coffee-making process.
And if by any chance you still end up with bitter coffee, a dash of salt, sugar, milk or creamer should make your brew less bitter or at least more bearable.