What Makes Coffee Bitter? And Ways To Fix It

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If your regular coffee shop has started producing something closer to motor oil, or if your own personal pot has gone to the really dark side, the grounds are likely to blame for bitter coffee.

Coffee, when properly prepared, can be a boon to both the brain and the taste buds. In this guide you will learn what makes coffee bitter and things you can do to make it taste better.

Why Is My Coffee Bitter?

If your home coffee pot has started churning out something nasty and bitter, check your grinder settings.

Per Anna Brones, an espresso grind coffee run through a drip pot will result in over-steeped, over-extracted and downright nasty coffee.

However, if you’re using the same grind you used last week, it’s time to do some cleaning. Once you get the deposits all removed, you can run hot water through the pot a couple of times, and you’ll be all set.

What Makes Coffee Bitter?

Overexposure to heat is a fast track to nasty coffee. Both in the brewing process and once it’s in the pot, if the water was too hot going through the grounds or if the coffee just sat too long on the burner, it will grow dark and develop a bite.

If you’re using a drip coffee maker, it will be hard to control the water temperature in the brewing process.

Be sure not to overload the filter basket and to avoid piling the coffee in the center of the filter, as this may slow the dripping process and over-steep the grounds in the basket.

For those who use a French press, remember that those four minutes of steeping are crucial and that those four minutes start as soon as you wet the grounds.

Warm the pot with hot water while you wait for your water to come off the boil, then discard that water, start the timer and wet your grounds.

If you’ve got a glass carafe on a burner, use a thermos to remove the coffee from the burner and keep it hot.

Leaving it on the burner probably won’t cause it to boil dry or scorch as most burners shut off automatically after a set amount of time, but by the time the burner does kick off, your coffee will be charred.

How to Make Coffee Less Bitter

For really great coffee every time you brew, you need to get science on your side. Once you’ve found your favorite all-time bean, be ready to start measuring water temperature, coffee grounds by weight and make sure you use a timer.

The perfect coffee extraction is between 18 and 20 percent. Too much results in bitter, biting coffee and too little is, well, very bad tea.

The following factors are critical:

  1. Keep your coffee gear clean. Follow manufacturer’s instructions and rinse or wash your pot as instructed.
  2. Use filtered water whenever possible.
  3. Grounds are very specific. Grind size must be monitored. Fine grind is for espresso, medium grind is for drip, and coarse grind is for French press. A French press grind probably won’t do your espresso maker any good and espresso grind coffee in a French press will result in something that can kindly be called “gritty.”
  4. Water temperature for best coffee brewing is 200 degrees Fahrenheit / 93 degrees Celsius. Don’t pour boiling water over your coffee grounds; they’re only trying to help!
  5. Weigh your grounds rather than scooping. Per Black Bear Coffee, you want about 10 grams of coffee per six fluid ounces of water.
  6. Don’t burn your coffee. Leaving coffee on a burner to keep warm can cause it to turn bitter.

Another quick hack to make coffee less bitter is to add salt. Sounds crazy? Check out the following video by BuzzFeed.

Splurge On The Good Stuff

A basic cup of coffee is tolerable, but rather a waste of water. If you can make and enjoy great coffee every day, why not go for it?

If coffee is what gets you moving in the morning, your brain is worth the good stuff. Cheap coffee may have the same brand name on the bag or can and still be a completely different mix and grind level.

Beans are often over-roasted, and there’s no coming back from that bitterness. Single origin coffees are also a great option. Once you find your favorite bean, great coffee will be a daily occurrence and worth every penny.

Monitor your grind, weigh instead of scoop, don’t scorch it, and keep your gear clean. Your coffee should be spectacular!

Written By Tara Williams

Tara is a food writer that has been editing and authoring articles for KitchenSanity since its founding. Her writing offers personal experience from experimentation with food and recipe creation. If you’re looking for simple tips, she will make your journey in the kitchen straightforward with a dash of fun.