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5 Reasons Why Your Coffee Tastes Bitter

5 Reasons Why Your Coffee Tastes Bitter

No one deserves to be drinking bad coffee in the morning – especially you! Here’s our troubleshooting guide on how to fix it:

Bitter or Sour – The Two Most Common Complaints

You’ll notice a bitter-tasting coffee on the back of your tongue; if that’s your issue, then the coffee is over-extracted. That means too much water has poured through the ground coffee, which has washed away the rich coffee taste.

When we experience a sour flavour (think sucking on a lemon wedge), almost everyone scrunches up their face in disgust. If your coffee is causing a reaction like that, more than likely, it is under-extracted – not enough water has gone through the coffee grounds. The acids in the coffee have dissolved too early in the brewing process.

Your Grind Size is Incorrect

When you start to play around with grind size adjustments, it’s a good idea to take a few notes to remind you what worked and what didn’t. One of the reasons why your coffee tastes bitter or sour is the grind size. So the best place to start is by adjusting the grind size rather than the amount of water.

Here’s a Handy Grind Size Chart:

Brewing Method Grind
Cold-Brew Coffee Extra coarse
French Press Coarse
Cone-Shaped Pour-Over (Hario V60) Medium
Aeropress Medium Fine
Espresso, Moka Pot Fine

Detailed Grind Size Reference

Find Your Perfect Coffee Brewing Recipe

Find a recipe that works for you. We use the same recipe (ground coffee to water ratio) for all methods except espresso:

Quantity Ratio
Four people 60grams of coffee to 1 litre of water
Single cup Divide by four: 15grams of coffee to 250ml of water
Espresso Coffee to water ratio commonly used is 1:2

Your Coffee Beans Aren’t Fresh

Trust the nose! If you take a whiff of your coffee beans and they smell musty, that’s usually the first sign that the coffee is stale. Brew stale coffee, and both flavour and aroma will be flat and relatively tasteless.

If you’re only brewing a couple of cups a day, don’t buy your coffee in bulk; only buy what you need to last a couple of weeks.

Many coffee bags come with one-way valves, which allow the coffee beans to release CO2 slowly, and the beans will remain fresh in the bag for up to four weeks after opening.

Alternatively, an AirScape storage container has a patented inner lid that forces air out to lock in flavour.

Your Water is Too Hot

Often overlooked when troubleshooting, the water temperature can also cause the coffee to taste bitter. Too hot, and the coffee extracts too quickly, resulting in a loss of flavour. The ideal temperature for pour-over and French Press is between 195°F and 205°F, which is a little below the boiling point of water. A kettle with a digital temperature display is the ultimate solution, but you can start by bringing the water to a boil and remove from the heat for 30 seconds before pouring.

Your equipment needs a cleanup

Home espresso machines need a good backflush every couple of weeks to remove residual oils. Even a simple French Press can get buildup, especially in the wires of the plunger. Don’t forget your trusty travel mug – we like to toss in a teaspoon of backflush detergent and boiling water, let it sit for ten minutes, then rinse.

If you’ve got some troubleshooting tips you’d like to share, please do! And don’t hesitate to come in and see us if you have further questions about adjusting your grind size, coffee to water ratios, or if you’d like a suggestion on a new coffee to try.

Join us for a coffee class where we teach you the fundamentals of making espresso and beautiful latte art. Register here.

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