There may be nothing worse than opening your bleary eyes, shuffling over to your coffee-making apparatus of choice, filling up your mug with the black brew, and finding that you made your morning cup too bitter. I mean, coffee is supposed to be the best part of waking up, right?
Can you fix this liquid you already made? Should you throw out this cup of coffee and start over? How do you prevent this bitter-tasting coffee from happening, again?
There are ways to tone down the bitterness of your java with the right additives including cream, sugar, and even salt! Also, there are ways to control the bitterness before it starts by your choice of coffee bean, watching your brewing methods, and choosing what apparatus you use.
Let’s get your cup of coffee back (or at least close) to where you wanted it by adding one or more key ingredients to your cup.
Additives You Can Include In Your Java
I live by the motto: “Life is too short to drink bad coffee.” But if you are the kind of person that can’t stand careless waste… or perhaps you were scraping the bottom of your coffee supply to make this bitter pot, there is still hope! Your coffee can be saved if you made it too bitter. Put your cape on and get ready to save your coffee, and your morning, with these simple additions:
Add A Fat
A great way to counteract the bitterness in your coffee is by adding in a fat of your choice. Adding a fat such as milk, cream, or even butter to your coffee can tone down the bitterness and acidity while also bringing out the delicious flavors in your cup of coffee.
Cream is my personal favorite to mellow out a cup of coffee. For an extra bitter cup, just add an extra splash of cream or milk than you usually would.
Many also swear by their “bulletproof coffee,” which contains butter and coconut oil. Also adding “medium-chain fats” (like coconut oil) has been known to add health benefits to improve energy and focus, and also help with controlling your hunger. That’s a win-win-win!
Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice
Sugar is known for toning down the bitterness of a cup of coffee. In fact, many Europeans drink their espressos all day long with two packets of sugar and nothing else. Cocoa can also round off the bitter edge and give your coffee a rich taste.
Adding cinnamon, nutmeg, syrup, or even lavender or other ingredients can confuse your taste buds with other pleasant flavors so the bitterness isn’t so central. You can also choose a creamer to just cover all the bases with sweet, spice, and cream. Who doesn’t love a mocha?
A Pinch Of Salt
This one sounds strange, but it came recommended by a former WWII vet for treating bitter coffee in the war. Desperate times called for desperate measures! This can be a good choice for the purist coffee drinker that is serious about drinking his or her coffee black.
A pinch of salt to your pot or a few granules per cup (very few) can help the bitterness blues go away. Just be sure not to add too much, or you may end up with salty coffee and an “I don’t know why she swallowed the fly” situation on your hands! Less is always more here.
Some Citrus Rind
Adding a little acid can help counteract the bitterness. If a squeeze of lemon is too much, you can put orange or lemon rind in the pot. If you have ever seen a coffee served with a lemon or an orange wedge, this is very likely the reason behind it!
A Splash of Water
Some people also water down coffee with water. If it’s too bitter, it’s very likely that the problem was that the ratio of coffee to water leaned toward too much coffee. You can correct this after the fact with hot water. You may lose some of the rich coffee flavors by watering it down after the brew, but it will serve the purpose of making your coffee less bitter. This is the idea behind an “Americano”– making a weaker coffee out of espresso by adding water.
Choosing your bean
If you are finding that your coffee is consistently too bitter and can’t figure out how you can so consistently miss the mark (like me in archery class), there are ways to prevent a bitter cup in the future by paying attention to a few details. Let’s get down to the grit… or, in this case, the ground.
The Best Coffee Beans
When choosing your bean, you will have two main choices: Arabica or Robusta. There are a lot of specialty coffee variations you can find, like Kona coffee, or beans pooped out of a bat… but the beans themselves usually originated in one of these two types. If you are drinking black coffee, investing in quality coffee will probably be the most important decision will you make as this adds the richness and flavor that will make your taste buds tingle.
While Robusta sounds like it should give you a nice “robust” flavor, the truth is that they are the low-budget bean that tends to start off with a harsh, bitter flavor. You can put a lot of effort into your coffee-making method, but Robusta beans may still fight against you when you are trying to make that perfect cup.
Arabica is the high-quality counterpart of the Robusta bean. A lot of work and love has usually been part of the growing process of Arabica beans and it shows in the flavor. They generally contain a smoother, sweeter taste. Words like “chocolate,” “sugar,” and “hints of berries” are often used to describe the flavors found in Arabica, while words like “harsh,” “bitter,” “rubbery” are often used to describe Robusta. Need we go on?
The Perfect Coffee Grind Size
I usually always find myself gravitating towards the middle ground in most decisions. And while medium grind is the way to go for your traditional coffee maker, it may not be the best decision for every method. For the best coffee, you will want to make sure that the grind size matches your brew method! If not, you may end up with under-extracted coffee, which can give a sour taste to your pot, or over-extracted coffee, which can make your coffee taste bitter.
Starting with a whole bean and grinding it yourself allows you to have fresh coffee on a daily basis and get the right grind for your brew. A burr grinder can be a great way to set the grind for your coffee brewing needs without using heat as part of the grinding process. The finer your grind, the less amount of time you will need to extract the flavors, and the faster your coffee will go from the “tastes great” point to “why is this so bitter?!.”
Choose Your Roast
Different roasts also affect the bitterness level of your black coffee. Darker roasts are roasted for a longer amount of time, or at a higher temperature. This causes the beans to lose more moisture and become more single-note in flavor. With a dark roast coffee, you will get a stronger tasting coffee with more bitter accents. With a lighter roast, you will pick up less bitterness and more coffee flavor notes from the bean.
Also, the darker the roast, the less caffeine you will be drinking in your morning cup. So, if your coffee tastes bitter, you can try a medium roast or light roast instead.
Avoid Stale Beans
The age of your beans can affect the flavor of your brew. Aged wine is usually best, but coffee grounds just tend to get stale after sitting too long. The rule of thumb is to buy only as much ground coffee as you will be able to drink in a week. This will keep the robust flavor and you can avoid brewing a bitter pot with stale beans. Also, make sure to keep your coffee stored in an opaque air-tight container away from light and heat to ensure fresh-tasting coffee.
You can get the best flavor by starting with whole coffee beans, especially use them within 7-14 days after being roasted! A local coffee roaster can provide you with a reliable, well-roasted bean to start your coffee preparation with high quality!
Brewing Methods – Gotta Try ’em All
So now that you have found your “cup of tea…er coffee” when it comes to bean choice, you can practice your method for brewing a better and less bitter cup of coffee.
The Golden Ratio of Coffee
Your coffee to water ratio is one of the most important ways to control the bitterness in your final cup of coffee. A 1:15 ratio is a good aim for your perfect brew target. One serving of coffee is about 250 g of water, so for this ratio, you would use 17 g of coffee grounds per cup of coffee. A classic coffee scoop holds 10 g of coffee grounds for reference.
Simply put, measure your grounds consistently, and if you are consistently getting a bitter cup of coffee, then you can start adding more water to your ratio.
Time Temperature Abuse
Just like perishable food suffers from time-temperature abuse if left out too long in the sun, your cup of coffee can suffer if you brew it at the wrong time or temperature. Coffee lovers agree that boiling water can destroy a perfectly good cup of coffee while, if it is not hot enough, the flavors won’t extract properly. The ideal temperature for most brewing methods is somewhere between 195°F and 205°F.
Your Brewing Machine
Choosing your brewing equipment also can affect how bitter your coffee is. Some makers have more ways to control coffee bitterness than others.
Some methods, like a percolator or Moka pot, can make good coffee, but you can also quickly go from done to burned and bitter in these methods. Make sure you take the pot off the heat in time!
If you are using a Keurig, there is not much you can control as far as time or temperature go since Keurigs usually regulate this on their own. Pretty much the only control you have over bitterness is the type of coffee you choose to use in the pod.
Drip Coffee Maker
Drip Coffee is the go-to standard all-American method. The time and temperature are controlled, so if you are getting bitter coffee you can change the water-to-coffee ratio you are using.
For the French press, you pretty much can control all the ways to influence a less bitter cup of coffee. This is great because you have a lot of variables to ensure a combination for the best coffee. This can also be a downside because you have to control all the variables including, time, temp, ratio, roast, grind…
Crema of the Crop
This is a coffee lover favorite! An espresso coffee machine can make an excellent cup of coffee that embodies the rich, full flavor that made you a coffee drinker in the first place. Espresso machines add pressure into the equation to extract a perfect cup with the espresso foam called crema on top! This makes for a great-tasting coffee.
Cold brew coffee is a genius way to avoid those bitter undertones in your brew. One of the most common ways coffee is made bitter is by using water that is too hot! So why not just avoid the heat and let it seep?
Cold brew might sound fancy, but it really doesn’t have to take any effort at all.
Start by grinding your beans up very coarsely. You don’t need a special cold brew gadget, just load the grounds into your French Press! Fill it up with water and leave it in your fridge overnight without pressing down the plunger. Easy!
Pour-over coffee may just be the coffee artisan’s number one choice of brew methods. Why leave a drip machine to burn your brew when you can take the matter into your own hands and control every aspect from the temperature to the pour itself.
A perfect pour-over brew will beat a drip machine brew any day, leaving you wondering where it has been all your life!
The AeroPress may just be a clever scientist’s brain-child. Essentially just a massive syringe, these coffee tubes produce a coffee that’s somewhere between a pour-over and a French Press brew.
It initially begins the brew like a french press, by immersing the coffee grounds. Then the coffee is pushed through a paper filter, which removes oils and sediment. It’s bold like a french press brew, but smooth and clean like drip or pour over coffee.
There’s nothing better than a fresh coffee to start your morning off right! We hope these ideas help you find your balance in your cup of coffee! The additives you choose as well as your coffee beans, brewing methods, and your coffee machine all influence how your final coffee tastes. If all else fails, you can ask a barista from your local coffee shop to brew up your favorite drink.