Why Is My Coffee Bitter?

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Have you taken that first glorious sip of coffee and gagged a bit? Made a face that all was not well in your cup? And it wasn’t the fact that you accidentally put way too much sugar in? Then it might be because your coffee is too bitter.

It happens. A barista makes a mistake or you messed up a bit making your own at home. It can happen to anyone. But there are ways to balance out a bitter brew. We are here to give you the scoop about bitter coffee, why it happens, and how you can avoid it in the future.

What’s Going Wrong?

What the heck happened that made your coffee taste like this? Your coffee could be bitter because of how it was brewed.

Your equipment is funky

When was the last time you cleaned your machine? Ran your cleaning pod through the Keurig? Descaled your machine? If none of that is ringing a bell, or you can’t remember when the last time you did it was, then you need a nice deep clean on your equipment.

Take it all apart, wash all of it, and make sure you get in all of the crevices where gross stuff builds up. Coffee grounds can get in the sneakiest of places. When you haven’t cleaned your machine properly your old coffee grinds build up. They get more and more burnt. Taking care of your machine, pour over, or French press is important for them to last longer, sure, but also so your coffee doesn’t taste like bitter sludge.

Don’t forget your other equipment

Do you roast your beans? Do you grind your beans? You might want to check on that stuff too. Make sure everything has a nice warm soapy bath. You might tend to overlook the other instruments you use to make your coffee. Clean your grinder and your roaster.

Your water is wonky

You are using water that is too hot. This can mess with the grinds. You can be bringing the bitterness out yourself. If your water is hotter than 212 degrees, let it cool down. Water that is too hot can burn the grounds and bring that bitter taste right up front and center. That’s not going to taste good. The sweet spot temperature is around 205 degrees.

You could also be using too much water. That’s a thing we learned, guys. You have to be Goldilocks on this one. You can’t have too much water, but you can’t skimp on the water either. It has to be just right. The coffee to water ratio should be 1 to 2. That label on the coffee canister isn’t just for show.

Bean quality is everything

A big reason why your coffee could be tasting on the bitter side is your coffee itself. There are 2 main things you need to know about your coffee grounds.

How fresh your coffee is

Do you know when you opened that bag of grounds? Honestly, do you? Exactly. We don’t either. But it makes a world of a difference to the taste of your coffee. Coffee does have a shelf life. The second you open that bag, the coffee’s clock is ticking.

If you can never remember when you opened it (hello, that’s us too) get in the habit of writing the date on the bag. You only have about 2 weeks until those grounds are only good for making body scrubs.

How good your beans are

This might be the more important of the two. But we need you to get the good stuff. If you aren’t sure if what you got is good enough, get a smaller sample-sized bag. You can get smaller bags from local coffee shops or those coffee of the month box clubs.

Spending a bit more on amazing beans is better. You’ll enjoy the coffee more. They will last longer because you won’t need to use them as much. And guys, cheap beans are bitter as crap. Cheaper beans are more than likely not roasted properly. They are usually over roasted. It’s the beans.

Fresh is best as well. You should get a bag of whole beans and grind them to order. This will also help them last longer. Grinders are not that expensive and you will notice the difference the first time you brew a pot.

Other issues

What’s another reason your coffee is leaving your pout frowning? It could be the roast itself. Some coffees do have a bitter bite to them. You could not like the roast. Some people like a darker roast.

We prefer a blonde roast. It’s up to your palate. Try a few different ones to see if it’s only the roast you don’t like. Darker roasts are going to be more bitter. Lighter roasts less so. Your palate could not like how darker roasts are.

It could also be the actual size of the grounds. If you are grinding your beans, this could be a huge issue. You need to find the right balance. The problem is you are grinding the beans too small. We get that it could be a nice way to get out some aggression, but save it for the gym. Beans that are ground too fine will turn out bitter coffee.

Along with that, you could be using the wrong size grounds for the wrong machine. Mind blown, right? A tried and true Mr. Coffee style pot needs medium size grounds. But a French press warrants a coarser ground. Read the instructions on your machine (if you still have them, if not, there’s Google) and see if you are using the right ones. That could solve your problem quickly.

What did we learn from this?

If you are thinking that was way too much information in a short amount of time, we hear you. Let’s leave you with a quick recap of the more important things we found out about bitter coffee.

  • Clean your equipment, all of it, regularly
  • Spend money on the good beans
  • Water shouldn’t be too hot, 205 degrees is the goal
  • Get your arm workout in another way, grind the beans less
  • Make sure you are using the right size grounds for the right machine

If you remember nothing else, remember these tips. Even if you aren’t new to the world of coffee, you could still be making some of these reasonable mistakes. But also know that some coffee is just bitter, and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. But at least now you know why and how to brew a better cup next time.

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