A cup of extremely bitter coffee can be quite a terrible way to start the day. Each coffee drinker has their own definition of coffee bitterness, a new coffee drinker might find their coffee remarkably bitter and undrinkable, while a more experienced coffee drinker might appreciate the bitterness to a certain extent. Coffee bitterness plays an important role when it comes to a delicious cup of coffee, but it’s usually never the dominating taste. So if you have experienced a terribly bitter coffee in your time, then you probably still remember that awful taste that had you disturbed throughout that day. So without further ado let’s go over the notorious questions “why is my coffee bitter?” and “how to make coffee less bitter?”
My bitter coffee experience remains fresh in my memory as if it happened yesterday. I can still remember myself reading the instructions on the coffee package over and over again, and trying to figure out what happened or where I got it all wrong. It was to my surprise that there was nothing wrong with the coffee, and it was my preparation that was faulty.
You may not know this, but there’s more to preparing coffee than following the usual grind and brew routine. So let’s take a look at what makes your coffee taste bitter and how we can go about fixing it!
What makes coffee bitter?
It’s indisputable that coffee usually has a naturally bitter taste except for when your coffee falls victim to some of the things listed below. However, some coffee bitterness can be utterly awful. Below I listed a few reasons why your coffee might be bitter.
Grinding your coffee beans too finely
Grinding your coffee beans is the first step in coffee preparation, and it can also be the main culprit behind making your coffee bitter. One of the reasons for bitter coffee is brewing extremely fine ground coffee with the wrong coffee brewer. The science behind this is that it doesn’t take much time for water to pass through finely-ground coffee leading to over-extraction. The longer the water has contact with the coffee the more the bitterness. There are about 1800 compounds in coffee beans that contribute to its flavour. Some of which are distributed on the surface of the beans while others in the interior part. Grinding your beans too finely will expose all the compounds including the bitter ones to the brewing water causing you to over-extract much easier.
How to make coffee less bitter? Grind your coffee beans coarsely
Don’t grind your coffee too fine. Brewing with coarse coffee grounds will reduce its risk to over-extraction. Leaving you with a sweeter tasting coffee.
Over-brewing your coffee
Coffee can be brewed in many ways, from an automatic drip machine, pour-over, espresso machine or a French press. However, among these brewing methods, the French press brewer usually leads to over-extraction because the water and ground beans are in constant contact during the brewing process.
Over-steeping or over-extraction occurs when the ground coffee sits in the water for too long. This can easily occur when brewing with a French press or AeroPress coffee maker. So if you brew your coffee for more than 4-minutes in your French press, expect to taste strong bitter coffee.
How to make coffee less bitter? Don’t over-steep your coffee
Keep an eye on the brewing time, and experiment. If you are brewing with a French press, make sure your steeping time doesn’t exceed 4-minutes to prevent over-extraction.
Your coffee grind size and brewing method doesn’t align
Each coffee grind size has its own appropriate brewing method. So when brewing coffee, it’s important that you pair up the right coffee grind size with the right coffee brewer. Using our coffee grind size guide linked above you will be able to get one step closer to that perfect brew. You can always adjust if needed.
How to make coffee less bitter? Choose the appropriate coffee grind size for your brewing method
As a rule of thumb, coarse grounds brew well with a French press/Moka Pot, medium and fine grounds brew well with drip coffee machines and extra-fine grounds for espresso machines and Turkish coffee pots. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try out different grind sizes until you get a satisfying sweeter taste.
Brewing your coffee with water at the boiling temperature will cause over-extraction. Meanwhile, drinking your coffee cold is far worse because bitterness is more prominent in cooler temperatures.
How to make coffee less bitter? Steep your ground coffee at the right temperature
Brew your coffee at a temperature within the range of 195⁰F to 205⁰F, the closer it is to 205⁰F the better. To do this, boil your water and let it cool for about 30-seconds, or heat your water using a kettle with temperature control.
The water to coffee ratio
Your water to coffee ratio matters a lot. When there is more ground coffee to water, the mixture results in a bitter coffee. So, to avoid bitter coffee, one must mix the water and ground coffee using the appropriate ratio.
How to make coffee less bitter? Balance your coffee-water ratio
The rule of thumb says that your coffee to water ratio should be 1:18. It implies that 1 gram of coffee will go with 18 grams of water to prevent bitterness. You can also experiment with 1:19 or 1:17 and see which one is best for your taste. For best results, investing in a coffee/food scale is a must. You can accurately measure out your grounds and brew consistent coffee.
The cost of your coffee beans
Choosing quantity over quality is another reason for bitter-tasting coffee. low-grade blends will produce bad-tasting coffee. So if you’re buying cheap coffee beans, then that is possibly the main reason why your coffee is tasting bitter.
How to make coffee less bitter? Choose quality over quantity
Quality coffee comes at expensive prices, probably within $35 to $50 per bag. However, one very certain thing is that the moment you taste a coffee that falls within this price range, you will never choose quantity over quality in your life again.
Stale coffee beans
Once coffee beans go through the roasting process then it’s only a matter of a few days until their peak freshness starts to dwindle, especially if you are buying your coffee already ground.
How to make coffee less bitter? Buy an appropriate amount and store it properly
When buying coffee, always buy what you can drink. A coffee supply for a week or two is ideal, anything more and you might be drinking stale coffee. Also, make sure you are sealing your coffee in an airtight container and keeping it in a dry spot, like the cupboard. Never put your coffee in the fridge or freezer.
Type of Coffee Roast
When it comes to coffee roasts, the darker the roast the more bitter the coffee. Coffee roasting plays a very important role in your coffee bitterness, the longer the coffee is roasted the harsher the taste will be. (1)
How to make coffee less bitter? Experiment with various coffee roasts
So if you’re looking to avoid the “bitterness” as much as possible, then aim for a light or medium roast. It’s also good to experiment with a wide range of roasts and see which one fits with your taste buds.
Using dirty coffee equipment to brew your coffee can also be the reason for the bitterness. The natural bitter taste of coffee comes from its acidity. Brewing your ground coffee in dirty equipment with concentrated acidity will only increase the acidity of the coffee which will result in an awful bitter taste.
How to make coffee less bitter? Clean your coffee makers regularly
Clean your coffee equipment at least once a week. The filter should be washed immediately after each use. And if possible, washed thoroughly after every usage. If you are using a drip machine, then running fresh water through it at least once a week can do your gear some good. By doing this, you will be getting rid of left-over acids in the coffee makers.
Everyone has a different tolerance to bitterness. My coffee might be sweet for you, while your coffee might be bitter to me. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference and experimentation. So the next time you find yourself taking a sip of an unpleasantly bitter coffee, analyze the situation and use some of the steps above to fix it! Enjoy!
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