Coffee Tastes Bitter (And How to Fix It) – 9 Most Common Mistakes

There’s just no fun when your coffee starts to taste even slightly more bitter than you prefer. Sometimes the brew is so bitter that you cannot taste the delicious flavors infused into your coffee. Agreed that coffee does have a bitter taste but this bitterness is not supposed to feel so harsh on your taste buds. In that case, let’s find out why coffee tastes bitter and how to fix it?
Is the problem a part of the way you’re brewing your coffee? Or is it just the type of roast or coffee beans you’ve bought? It could be anything. So let’s find out the source of all that unwanted, unpleasant bitterness. And then try to eliminate it.

Is Coffee Supposed to Taste Bitter?

Coffee and bitterness usually go hand in hand, right? A delicious cup of coffee always has a certain level of bitterness to offer, no doubt about that. But if this bitterness is the dominant factor, then there’s a problem.
Nowadays coffee is available in all kinds of different flavors. There are chocolate notes, spicy notes, floral notes, and lots more. So if all you can taste in your brew is bitterness and none of these exotic flavors, then you have to find out why that is. And once you know the reason, you can fix the problem.

Coffee Tastes Bitter – Possible Reasons and Their Solutions

Tasting Coffee
Brewing coffee has turned into a scientific experiment, hasn’t it? One of the most common reasons for all that excessive bitterness is over-extraction. You know how extraction is what pulls all the rich, delicious, and aromatic flavors from your coffee, right? This particular process is what turns water into a pleasant, delightful, dark brew.
Coffee grounds, upon coming in contact with hot water, create a chemical response. This reaction dissolves all the flavor compounds present within the coffee. So the trick here is to extract only the good flavor compounds, not the ones that taste bitter. And the bitter ones only come out when more time has passed, which means over-extraction.
Now that you have a clear idea about how coffee extraction works, let’s get to the root of the problem.

1. Steeping Your Coffee for Too Long

This is the most common yet most neglected error when using a French Press. After brewing, more often than not, people leave their coffee inside the French Press coffee maker. And if you too are guilty of committing this particular coffee brewing crime, then it’s only natural for over-extraction to take place because the coffee grounds remain in contact with water.
So what’s the solution? It’s a simple one if you ask me. You either drink your freshly prepared brew immediately, all of it I mean. Or you can pour the contents from your French Press into a thermal carafe. In that case, your brew is bound to stay hot for a longer time as well.

2. Not Using the Right Grind Size

When you grind your coffee beans, what you’re also doing is changing the way the flavor compounds present in the coffee dissolve. Meaning a very coarse grind size runs the risk of under-extraction. As a result, you get a sour-tasting brew. On the contrary, when the grind size is too fine, then over-extraction is inevitable. Therefore, bitter-tasting coffee.
Now comes the point when I tell you something you probably know. That different methods of brewing demand different grind sizes. For example, the French Press demands a coarse grind size. So if you use too finely ground coffee for this, it’s impossible to prevent over-extraction and excessive bitterness. Even a Percolator requires coarsely ground coffee.
The medium grind size is the most suitable for regular coffee makers equipped with flat filters. Then comes finely ground coffee, which works best with coffee makers that have cone shape filters. And lastly, extra-fine grinds are perfect for steam and pump espresso machines.
Speaking of different brewing methods, if you’re into brewing your coffee manually, then I think you might want to know what is the best manual method of brewing coffee.

3. Too High Water Temperature

Measuring Brew Temperature
More often than not, the water temperature is boiling hot, quite literally. So it’s only logical that this water is going to extract bitter compounds. So what is the ideal water temperature for brewing coffee? It’s between 195 degrees Fahrenheit and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s when optimal extraction occurs.
At the boiling point, the temperature is 212 degrees Fahrenheit. So once the water reaches this boiling point, turn off the heat. And let the hot water sit for an entire minute before you pour it into your coffee maker for brewing.

4. Wrong Coffee-to-Water Ratio

Just because your coffee tastes so good doesn’t mean you add more of it. Too much coffee with too little water is obviously going to lead to too much bitterness.
The fix is to use the ideal coffee to water ratio. For every 1 gram of coffee, add 18 grams of water. This is known as the golden ratio. Needless to say, you can tweak it a bit, but just slightly more or less. For example, 16:1 or 19:1.

5. Dirty Coffee Maker

Your coffee maker and/or grinder may have some residue leftover from the previous brewing batch or batches. So don’t be lazy and clean the equipment. Koobies Coffee instructs you how to do it best using the most effective cleaners and descalers for your coffee maker.
Just keep in mind that leftover coffee gunk affects the coffee flavor of the current batch, thus making your brew taste overly bitter.

6. Using Cheap Quality Coffee

Many people chose quantity over quality. So if you too belong to that category, then that’s the problem here. There are many coffee brands that over-roast their coffee in order to counterbalance the negative effects of mass harvesting and low-altitude growing. That explains the exceedingly bitter taste.
The only solution is to shell out extra bucks for premium coffee. Choose brands that are popular for both their classic and experimental varieties or flavors of coffee. Even if your choice of coffee is instant, like these high-quality, easy-to-prepare instant coffee brands.

7. Using Stale, Old Coffee Beans

When you decide to brew with coffee beans that are not freshly roasted, the end result is bound to be a very bitter-tasting brew. But how can you tell if your coffee beans have gone bad?
Let’s say your regular cup of coffee begins to taste stale or a bit off. The flavors are not as fresh and delightful to your taste buds as they used to be. Even the aroma has somehow diminished.
So how do you deal with this? Simply by buying freshly roasted coffee beans and using them within 1-2 weeks. This also brings into the picture an airtight container for storing your coffee beans to preserve freshness.

8. Using the Wrong Coffee Roast Type

Consider the possibility that maybe you’re not buying the right roast for your taste buds and coffee cravings. There’s no denying that darker roasts are more bitter-tasting than their lighter counterparts.
So if your French roast is too bitter and strong for you, then go for a medium or light roast.

9. Using the Wrong Variety of Coffee Beans

Different Coffee Beans
By variety here, I mean the 2 different species of coffee plants. One is Arabica and the other is Robusta. The latter is way more bitter in comparison to the former. It also contains more caffeine. But Robusta grows faster and is more resistant to pests. No wonder it’s relatively less expensive than the more flavorful Arabica coffee beans.
So if you’re averse or sensitive to too much bitterness, then avoid Robusta. Choose premium Arabica coffee beans instead.

Does Salt Really Reduce the Bitterness of Coffee?

Yes, fortunately, it does. Adding a pinch of salt in your coffee neutralizes the bitterness. In fact, salt has the ability to naturally suppress coffee bitterness while also enhancing its flavors. Just make sure you’re adding a little bit of salt.
If you ask me, salt works better than adding extra sugar when it comes to neutralizing the excessive bitterness.

The End

Let me make one this very clear here. That a little bit of bitterness is a part of every coffee sipping experience. Even when the coffee beans are specialty-grade. And that, more often than not, is not a bad thing. Mild, balanced bitterness produces deep flavors that allow the brighter notes of your coffee to stand out.
So this good bitterness tastes creamy and deep, much like dark chocolate. It’s also complex and warm, like chestnut. And bitter-sweet, like pineapples. If this is what the bitterness has to offer, that means your drinking the right kind of coffee.
Without this type of inherent bitterness, genuine coffee lovers are more likely to not enjoy their brew. Because it’s this particular good side of bitterness that offers the kick you crave so much. But if the inherent bitterness turns into intolerable bitterness, then that’s a problem.
And I have discussed all possible reasons for excessively bitter-tasting coffee. Along with their respective solutions. So the next time someone says that they don’t like to drink coffee because it tastes so bitter, you can proudly defend the honor of coffee.