Bitterness is a common occurrence in coffee and coffee-related drinks because coffee’s flavor profile depends on bitterness, and sometimes, it just gets overdone. Many things can be the culprit of a poorly brewed cup, as coffee can be quite finicky. In this article, we’ll examine ways to make your coffee less bitter, as well as how to troubleshoot the problem after the coffee has already been brewed. Maybe you need a different coffee bean, brewing process, or local coffee shop, but whatever the issue may be, we’ve got you covered.
Have you gotten coffee at a local café that simply wasn’t worth the long wait? The problem might actually be how long it took for the coffee to be made! The back end of a coffee brew is typically where all the bitter notes come from, so if you leave a coffee brewing for too long, you’re mostly extracting bitter flavors. This is why there’s a trend in specialty coffee where baristas will let a shot of espresso continue to pull, but will move the glass that the espresso is being pulled into to avoid getting any of the bitter profile.
So, the solution is simple: If your cup of coffee is too bitter, brew it for less time. If this is happening at your favorite coffee shop, maybe it’s time to explore the neighborhood a bit.
When we make a cup of coffee, it is so easy to just sit back with the finished product and relax. After all, you did go through quite the process: You had to buy the beans and grind them, then you had to heat up water. It’s all so very much, and in this busy world, who can afford an extra step?
The bad news is that coffee is an irrefutable stingy drink in that it requires the cleanest of environments to be brewed at its best. This is evident in its sponge-like qualities, which affects the beans all the way from storage to brewing. Not only does coffee give off strong flavors, but it absorbs them as well.
Fixing this problem is easy: Clean your equipment after every single use! Every aspect of the brewing mechanism will affect the taste later on.
Many coffee drinkers like their coffee hot. Like, hot hot. That is part of the appeal, but you should be warned that the desire for really hot coffee could affect the flavor for the worse.
Coffee drinkers who make instant coffee or French presses or pour overs tend to boil the water before introducing it to the coffee grinds. This makes sense, as generally when we need hot water, we boil it. With coffee, however, that’s no good. It actually burns the grinds as it goes through. Therefore, it is most commonly recommended to only heat your water up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (the boiling point is 212 degrees, so yes, it’s playing it close!)
The lesson here? Stop burning your beans!
As mentioned, coffee is a persnickety culinary pursuit. Each detail of making coffee can affect how bitter it is in the end, and this is not limited to the size of the grind. In fact, that might be one of the most important aspects of coffee when it comes to flavor. The reason a fine grind can lead to bitterness is that it causes over-extraction to happen more easily, and as we’ve learned, that means you are extracting the bitter elements since those come at the end of the brew.
So, don’t forget: If you don’t grind too fine, then you’ll be fine with your grind!
A common misconception is that adding more coffee to what you are brewing will strengthen your cup of coffee, giving you maximum amounts of caffeine. Not only is this not true, but it can make your cup taste worse! The same principle applies here as it does with a finer grind and a longer brew: The more coffee there is, the more that the water has to travel, and the more that the water has to travel, the longer it takes. The longer it takes, the higher chance you have of over-extraction!
So, even if you are a fiend for caffeine, adding more coffee won’t tend to your needs. It’ll only leave both you and your cup with bitter disappointment.
One life saying that often comes to mind is the classic, “You get what you pay for.” Granted, in the world of coffee, you can find decent beans at low prices, but they are few and far between. Beans that cost less are cheaper for a reason. They could have been grown and picked at low altitudes, not taken care of very well, roasted poorly to cover up mistakes, etc. There’s so many reasons that cheap coffee is cheap, and if you like the taste, that’s great, but here’s the thing: There’s a really good chance that a cup of cheap coffee will be bitter.
There are so many different types of coffee drinkers in the world, but if you want a less bitter cup, then it just may be time to ditch the tin can and go for the specialty stuff.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to reduce the bitterness of your favorite drink! Try a few for yourself!
Featured image credit: juliakaarlsson, Pixabay