15 Reasons Why Your Coffee Tastes Bitter and How to Fix It

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For coffee lovers, there is nothing more frustrating than discovering that your cup of coffee tastes bitter.

While coffee has natural bitterness due to its caffeine content, only about 15% result from caffeine content.

This lower level of bitterness of the caffeine in coffee helps tame coffee acidity and improve flavor.

However, sometimes you can brew your coffee beans only to achieve a strongly bitter and unbalanced coffee. This can be very disappointing for any coffee enthusiast.

So why does my coffee taste bitter? If you have ever found yourself asking this question, you have come to the right page.

This article will help you understand the reasons why your coffee tastes bitter and how to fix it.

The 15 reasons why your coffee tastes bitter and how you can fix it

Why Coffee tastes bitter

1. Brewing Too Much Coffee and Letting it Sit Long

If you love coffee, then you know how it can be tempting to brew up a huge batch of coffee.

Some coffee enthusiasts think that brewing too much coffee will result in strong coffee flavor and still save a lot of time.

However, this is not always the case, as brewing up too much coffee will result in coffee that tastes bitter.

If you brew too much coffee to drink it later and save time, your coffee won’t taste great. Sometimes it can even be undrinkable.

Coffee is best and tastes good when it’s fresh out of the pot. Otherwise, coffee brew quality degrades over time.

There is a big difference between fresh coffee and coffee that has sat for several hours.

How to Fix It

To avoid bitter coffee, brew less coffee more often instead of brewing much and letting it sit. If you are making coffee at home, brew exactly what you and your guests will drink.

It can be a hassle, but the quality and great taste make it worth it.

By doing this, you will always have a fresh and flavored cup of coffee on hand.

2. Your Coffee Beans Aren’t Fresh

Coffee beans start losing their flavor a few days after they have been roasted. They begin to undergo oxidation immediately after the roasting process.

Oxidation changes the chemical composition within the coffee beans, and this makes them stale over time.

Coffee beans have the best taste when they are about four days to two weeks, as this is when they have full flavors.

If you take so long to grind your coffee beans, they might get stale and lose their flavor, leading to bitter coffee.

fresh Coffee beans

How to Fix it

If you buy already roasted coffee beans, try to buy them to your immediate usage patterns rather than buying much coffee at once.

But if you roast coffee beans at home, it’s advisable not to roast excess coffee at once. Roast small amounts of coffee every week to ensure that you always have fresh coffee.

Depending on the roast types, you should wait for about 5 to 10 days to grind your coffee beans for brewing.

Waiting for more than two weeks will make your coffee beans go stale and produce bad-tasting coffee.

3. Wrong Water Temperature

Making coffee is not only about combining coffee beans with hot water. The water temperature matters a lot in determining how your coffee will turn out.

The right temperature for coffee making is 205 degrees Fahrenheit or 96 degrees Celsius.

This temperature allows for the extraction of the essential oils and compounds and oils for the right coffee flavor.

If you use water that is hotter than the recommended temperature, it may lead to over-extraction of the coffee compounds that cause bitter coffee.

Using a temperature that is below 96° C will lead to a weak coffee with little flavor due to poor extraction.

How to Fix This

Fortunately, it’s simple to fix this problem. All you have to do is invest in a quality coffee maker, like the Hamilton Beach Programmable coffee maker.

You can also buy a thermometer to monitor the water temperature when making your coffee.

4. Old or Worn Out Equipment

While coffee makers can last for even a decade, no coffee equipment will last forever. They can break down or wear out.

If your coffee is still bitter even when you use fresh beans, recently cleaned equipment, and the right water temperature, then the problem might be the coffee maker.

Old or Worn Out Equipment

How to Fix It

Once you realize that your coffee maker is broken or worn out, you can have it fixed or simply replace it.

5. Unsuitable Tap Water

When brewing your coffee, you should always keep in mind that water will make up the majority of your cup of coffee.

Water can make or break your coffee flavor. Thus, using unsuitable tap water can negatively affect your coffee flavor.

How to Fix It

If you want to make a perfect cup of coffee, you will want to use clean water and ensure to taste it directly before using it.

When in doubt whether your tap water is right for making coffee, you can filter it with a water filter.

6. Using Less Water with too much Coffee

If you use too much coffee with less water, you are likely to end up with a bitter cup of coffee.

In most cases, various coffee makers come with instructions on how much coffee you should add to a certain amount of water.

Using more coffee or less water than the recommended will result in a too strong and bitter coffee brew.

How to Fix It

Always use the recommended coffee to water ratio indicated on your coffee maker to avoid bitter coffee.

7.  Using Low-Quality Coffee

While buying cheap coffee may help your pocketbook, it might negatively affect your coffee drinking experience.

However, it’s not always true that all expensive coffee brands taste better than the cheaper ones.

You can still find high-quality coffee at a quite affordable price. Buying low-quality coffee can result in a bitter coffee brew.

How to Fix It

Whatever amount of money you want to spend on coffee, make sure you get the best out of it.

You can talk to people who know coffee well and do some research to find the best coffee quality for your money.

8. Bad Roast

Bad roast is another significant reason why your coffee tastes bitter. If you roast your own coffee beans and don't have the experience, there are higher chances of achieving a bad roast.

Poorly roasted beans will mess up your cup of coffee as the coffee compounds are distorted.

Brewing Too Much Coffee

How to Fix It

If you like roasting your own coffee beans, ensure to learn how to do it and get more consistent with your roasting technique.

But if you usually buy from a store, you may want to switch to a new vendor.

9. You Made a Mistake When Making the Coffee

The coffee-making process requires consistency and knowledge of how to do it. If you make errors in any of the coffee-making steps, it can lead to bitter-tasting coffee.

Some of the common mistakes in the coffee-making process include incorrect water or ground measurement or missing a step.

How to Fix It

You can make a basic checklist for yourself to avoid making mistakes when making coffee. You can also learn some tips online for brewing tasty coffee.

10. You Are Over-Extracting Your Coffee

Over-extraction usually happens when you pass too much water through the coffee grounds.

Some coffee machines are also poorly made and can be blamed for bitter coffee.

How to Fix It

After extracting your shot of coffee, you should stop allowing more water through the beans to avoid over-extraction. Don’t let your coffee steep for too long.

If you think that the problem lies with your machine, consider purchasing a better coffee maker.

FAQs

What Takes the Bitterness Out of Coffee?

Sometimes coffee tastes bitter but it is acidic in nature. In a situation where you end up with very bitter coffee, there are ways you can reduce their bitterness.

The first way to reduce bitterness is by adding cream, sugar, or salt. Depending on the type of coffee and your preference, adding one of these products will reduce coffee's bitterness.

While preparing coffee, you can reduce its bitterness by adjusting the ground size, the roast, extraction method, and the brewing water temperature.

Is There a Coffee That is Not Bitter?

All coffee is naturally bitter, but some are less bitter than others. There is even coffee, which is not bitter at all. It all depends on the variety and the method of preparation. For instance;

High-quality Arabica cold-brewed coffee is barely bitter while Robusta prepared the same way will be strongly bitter.

If you enjoy the sweet aroma of brewed coffee but hate even the slightest bitterness, there are various ways for brewing coffee that are not bitter at all.

Cold-brew coffees tend to be less bitter than hot coffee. High temperatures will over-extract the bitter elements in the coffee beans.

There are two main ways to get sweet tasting coffee with a nice aroma. The first one is to avoid over extracting, and the second way is by roasting the beans to a good degree.

Over roasted beans will give your nothing other than a very bitter beverage.

You can reduce over-extraction by using coarse-grind, using cold brews, and reducing the extraction period.

Why Does My Coffee Taste Bad All of a Sudden?

You have been consistently brewing sweet and nice smelling coffee, but suddenly you start getting sour and bitter coffee that doesn't smell good. There are many causes of this:

Low-Quality Coffee

Not all coffee varieties taste the same. For instance;

Arabica is of high quality and can last longer. Robusta is stronger, and it mainly uses instant coffees. If you switched between the varieties, then the taste won't be the same.

Type of Roast

Nothing tastes bitter than coffee made from over-roasted coffee. If you have been making coffee with carefully roasted coffee beans and suddenly change to over-roasted ones, the taste will be compromised.

Ground-Size

Different brewing methods require different grind sizes. If you mismatch the method and the ground size, you may end up with very bitter or less tasty coffee.

Brewing Temperature

Hot temperatures and cold temperatures will not give coffees the same taste. Too high-temperature will lead to bitter coffee.

Is Coffee Supposed to Be Bitter?

Some people dislike coffee due to its bitterness. While all types of coffees can be bitter, there is a difference in the level of their bitterness.

Coffee is not supposed to be very bitter. If it has to be, then at least to some extent, that is pleasant. Flaws in the preparation process introduce bitterness in coffee.

To avoid bitterness, always buy coffee beans that are roasted carefully. You will be sure they are not over-roasted if you buy whole grains and grind them by yourself.

If you don't have a grinder to grind coffee that doesn’t taste bitter, you can buy ground coffee from small scale sellers. They tend to be more careful while roasting coffee and offer non bitter coffee brands.

What Does Bitter Coffee Taste Like?

Although every type of coffee is bitter, the bitterness varies from one type to another. There is good and terrible bitterness.

A coffee from freshly ground coffee can have some hint of bitterness, which adds up to the coffee's flavor. This kind of bitterness is good.

There is the other bitterness that results from over-extraction and over-roasted beans that is unpleasant. Such bitterness is bad and irritating.

11. Using the Wrong Equipment

As with other kitchen machines, the different types of coffee makers are designed for making different types of coffee. For instance;

Trying to make espresso without an espresso machine is not a good idea as you may not get the best results.

How to Fix It

To fix this issue, you should always use the right coffee brewer when making a specific type of coffee.

12. The Equipment is Not Clean

Dirty brewing equipment will mess up with the taste of the coffee.

If you don't wash the coffee equipment after brewing, the leftover coffee will continue going bad. It will find its way into the next coffee you make with the same equipment.

How to Fix It

It is always a good practice to clean equipment with fresh water after using them.

Unfortunately, some equipment like the automatic drip coffee maker cannot be washed easily. You should run water through them once in a while to keep things fresh.

For efficiency in cleaning, you should clean the equipment immediately after brewing. If you leave the coffee to dry, it will be even harder to clean.

13. Your Timing is Off

If your coffee tastes bad after descaling Nespresso or your coffee maker, then the problem may be your timing.

Good timing is a critical aspect of coffee making. If your brew runs too long or too shortly, you might end up with a bitter cup of coffee.

pouring coffee

How to Fix It

Do some research and adjust your timing appropriately to achieve the best taste.

14. The Ground Size

The texture of the coffee grind determines the bitterness of coffee to a great extent.

A coarsely ground coffee will be under-extracted, which will give flat and less bitter coffee. A finer grind will be over-extracted, and it is likely to give bitter coffee.

Different ground sizes are suitable for different brewing methods. Some methods can give tasty and less bitter coffee with the fine ground, while other methods will give the same taste with a coarse grind.

If you use the coarse grind and still get bitter tasting coffee, you are using the wrong method or stale beans.

However, in many cases, fine coffee-grind is the major cause of bitter coffee.

How to Fix It

To fix this problem, you have find out the best ground size for your brewing method.

15. You Are Using Bad Coffee Beans

The primary step in the coffee brewing process is to choose fresh and good quality coffee. You get stale beans, and the coffee will be very bitter and smelly.

Moreover, there are coffee types that are stronger than others. For instance;

Robusta is stronger than Arabica coffee. If you brew Robusta coffee with the same method for Arabica, you may end up with bitter coffee.

How to Fix It

Coffee beans don't go bad easily, but roasted coffee does. Once you have roasted the coffee, please don't leave them for too long before using them.

Ensure to use your ground coffee immediately. Ground coffee left for some time will undergo some chemical reactions like oxidation, which will affect its taste.

Wrap Up

There are many reasons why your coffee taste becomes bitter. Most of these reasons are based on the coffee beans used, equipment, water, or even the brewing process's mistakes.

Fortunately, all these causes of bitter coffee can be solved easily with a little bit of effort.

If your brewed coffee tastes bitter, see if any of the above reasons could be the cause and fix it with the solution provided. In no time, you’ll start making flavored and delicious coffee.


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