There’s nothing quite like a good cup of coffee in the morning to get you prepared for the day ahead. However, it takes just one mistake to turn that ordinarily delicious brew into one that’s bitter and almost unpalatable.
If you’re not partial to bitter flavors, or you’re looking to do your coffee beans justice, there are ways to reduce the bitterness and save your brew.
However, first, it’s important to understand what bitter coffee is, and what it means. Coffee, in its natural form, does contain bitter-tasting compounds.
In fact, the very thing you seek in a coffee – caffeine – is the most significant instigator of this taste. However, if you find your coffee tastes bitter once you’ve brewed it, it’s the sign of a larger problem.
It’s all well and good to blame caffeine for the bitter or sour taste, but if coffee is grown, roasted and brewed correctly, it’s more likely going to taste sweet rather than bitter.
So, what does bitter coffee mean? It means you haven’t yet mastered the real art of making coffee, and we’ve outlined ways in which to do so to avoid the bitter brew below.
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Method one: Avoid scalding your beans
The easiest way to brew bitter coffee is by using water that’s too hot. However, it’s easy to assume that boiling water straight from the kettle is acceptable.
If you’re looking to avoid tasting that bitterness that’s so often found in improperly brewed coffee, don’t scald the coffee beans with boiling water.
According to the National Coffee Association, the ideal time for extraction is between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. As the boiling point for water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s in your best interests to allow the water to sit until just below boiling before pouring.
Follow these steps for the perfect cup of coffee every time:
1. Grind your coffee beans to the desired consistency and measure out the grounds.
Tip: We recommend adding two tablespoons of coffee grounds to your coffee machine for every six ounces of coffee you are brewing.
2. Put a coffee filter in your machine’s filter basket.
3. Add water to the machine using the tip above – six ounces for every two tablespoons of grounds added.
Tip: To avoid scalding your beans, check the machine’s default boiling method. If you can, adjust the temperature to the NCA’s recommended 195-205 degrees-Fahrenheit.
Method two: Add salt
If your coffee is too bitter, but you don’t have time to brew more, try adding salt to your cup. Just like on food, salt’s job is to enhance the flavor, and you can apply the same concept to coffee. According to coffee experts, salt can suppress the bitterness of the coffee, all the while enhancing the flavor of the coffee itself.
The best type of salt to add to your coffee is common table salt as it won’t make your coffee taste salty, nor will it ruin the beautiful coffee flavor.
Method three: Don’t over-extract your coffee
Brewing the perfect cup of coffee, and learning how to make coffee less bitter, is a fine art. No one will make the ideal coffee on the first go, and it can take a bit of research to realize the best brewing methods for each coffee bean and machine.
However, if there’s one thing that’s universal between brewing methods, it’s the knowledge that over-extracting your coffee can cause bitterness.
The ultimate goal when you’re brewing is to achieve 18 to 20 percent extraction, anything over or under will make your coffee inadequate. If you brew over 20 percent, your coffee is likely to be bitter, and if it’s under 18 percent, it will be weak and unpleasant.
Brewing at home can take trial and error as you’re not able to accurately calculate that extraction percentage.
However, it’s easy to figure it out by taste. If the coffee is sweet and delicious, you’ve hit the mark, and if not, you’ll know for next time.
If you’re not sure how to make your coffee less bitter, or how to ensure you’ve extracted the correct amount, think about how you’re making the coffee.
Use the proper grind settings for your machine, weigh your coffee, use a consistent grounds-to-water ratio, and measure, measure, measure!
Method four: Keep your brewing equipment clean
As you quickly make a coffee in the morning before racing out the door at work, it can be easy to get a little behind with maintenance and cleaning (source). However, ensuring your brewing equipment is well maintained can be the difference between a perfect brew, or a bitter coffee.
You can refer to your machine’s maintenance guide for correct cleaning methods. However, we’ve included additional, universal step below:
- 1Clean out any coffee grounds remaining in the filter, and wash the carafe and filter basket.
- 2Fill the water chamber with white vinegar and water (equal parts).
- 3Turn the coffee maker on. Let it run half a cycle, then turn it off and leave to sit for 30 to 60 minutes.
- 4Finish the cycle, then tip out the solution and run a cycle with fresh water.
Method five: Try a different roast
Everyone’s taste buds are different, and what someone else finds delicious, you might find problems with. Therefore, if you’ve decided that the bitterness in your coffee is more to do with the strength than the brewing method, it might be time to try a different, or lighter, roast.
There is a myriad of options available to suit all kinds of coffee drinkers. If you prefer the deep, rich, yet intense flavors of coffee, medium-dark or dark roast are going to suit you the best (source). However, if you prefer subtle flavors, light to medium roast could be more suitable for your morning brew.
Tip: Before you make the switch, first ensure the water you’re brewing with isn’t too hot, and that your grind to water ratio is perfect.
Method six: Adjust your grind
Most coffee connoisseurs know that to achieve the perfect coffee that’s sweet rather than bitter, it’s helpful to grind your own beans. Freshly ground beans not only taste better, but you receive satisfaction at knowing that your own hands made the coffee you’re drinking.
However, if you find your coffee is that touch too bitter, adjusting your grind might solve the problem.
The size of your grind can wholly depend on the machine you’re using to make your coffee, and it can also affect the taste. It might take some time to achieve the perfect grinding method, but as you take the first sip of that ideal brew, you will know it has all been worth it.
We’ve included some grind tips below:
If you don’t grind your own coffee, the grocery store offers plenty of different ground coffee varieties that will suit your machine and your taste buds.
Knowing how to make coffee less bitter can often be a process of masking the taste. However, it’s also an opportunity to learn how to brew it better. Take note of the methods above, and revolutionize your morning coffee to start your day off on the right foot.