A lot of people love coffee but many also hate it. Among others, one of the most common reasons why it is disliked is its bitterness. Nonetheless, good coffee should never be bitter. If it tastes that way, then something is wrong!
Read on as we talk about the bitterness of coffee. We’ll share some of the most common reasons why it is bitter, and more importantly, the best ways to counter its bitterness and make it more pleasant to drink.
Why Your Coffee Tastes Bitter?
Have you ever had coffee and ended up almost trying to spit it out because it is bitter? Instead of swearing never to drink coffee again because of one bad cup, a better thing to do is to understand why it ended that way.
That said, below are some of the most common reasons for the bitterness of coffee.
Wrong Choice of Grind & Brewing Method
Making coffee is an art and a science. Not a lot of people will have the knowledge and skills to make a good-tasting brew. If it tastes bitter, two of the things that you can blame are the grind size and brewing method. They should be aligned with each other.
It is common for coffee to end up being bitter when the beans are too fine. This is the reason why espresso is bitter. The smaller the grind size, the quicker the water extraction. It can result in coffee being over-extracted.
Meanwhile, your choice of brewing method also matters. It should match the size of the beans to yield optimal flavor. For instance, espresso requires an extra-fine grind. Meanwhile, percolator and French press require coarse grind.
Anyone who makes coffee from scratch would know how critical the quality of beans is. It can be because you are using old or stale beans.
They do not stay fresh forever, so it is best to use them while they are still new. When they go bad, they can incorporate bitterness into your coffee.
Poor Water Quality
While many people often ignore its importance, water is another crucial factor in your coffee. Using unfiltered water contributes to bitterness. Distilled water can also make coffee bitter.
If possible, use bottled spring water, which does not have a discernable flavor. The temperature of the water is also a potential culprit. When the water is too hot, there is a higher likelihood that coffee will be bitter.
The roast level is one more thing to look at when evaluating the flavor of the coffee. In general, darker roasts have more pronounced bitterness. The longer and stronger coffee is brewed, the harsher it can taste, which can incorporate bitterness in your drink.
A good cup of coffee is not just all about the ingredients. Your equipment also matters, especially its cleanliness. Residues in your coffeemaker can ruin your caffeine fix. Any leftovers from your last brewing can make your coffee bitter.
How to Make Coffee Less Bitter
You do not have to be a trained barista or buy expensive beans and equipment to reduce the bitterness in coffee. Below are some of the techniques that might work.
Change Your Brew
On top of the list is changing your brew. It requires modifying all factors that influence the brew, such as the beans, water, and even equipment.
Choose the Right Beans
The beans you use are one of the most influential factors in the overall flavor profile of coffee. Choose one with low quality, and you can expect your drink to have inferior flavors, including pronounced bitterness.
If you are choosing beans, pick Arabica over Robusta if you want your coffee less bitter. Robusta contains more chlorogenic acid, which is the chemical compound in beans responsible for its bitterness. It also has more caffeine, which makes it bitter.
It is not enough that you pick the right beans. The grind size is also contributory to the bitterness of coffee, so it requires attention. If you want your drink to be less bitter, an easy solution is to match the grind size to the brewing method. In turn, it ensures proper extraction, which will yield the optimal flavor.
By preparing your coffee at home, you can enjoy the ability to customize grind size. If your coffee is too bitter, a trick that might work is to grind coarser next time. In most cases, the finer you grind the beans, the more bitter coffee will be.
Brew for a Shorter Time
Proper timing is another crucial technique that you should learn when making coffee. It is best to have a timer handy instead of always guessing when you are done brewing your caffeine fix.
This will make it easier to ensure the right brewing time. The longer you brew coffee, the more compounds it can extract, which also means that it will be more bitter.
The amount of time that the coffee grounds are in contact with water has a huge role in the resulting flavor. This will depend on your chosen brewing method. In drip systems, brewing should be five minutes.
In the French press, it is two to four minutes. Meanwhile, espresso requires brewing for only 20 to 30 seconds.
Change Water Ratio
Even when you have the right beans and clean water, it is not enough assurance that your coffee is less bitter. One thing that you can do is adjust the coffee-to-water ratio. Proper measurements are necessary for making your coffee like a pro.
The golden ratio is one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. You can adjust it to suit your personal preference. Nonetheless, take note that using more coffee or less water will result in a more prominent bitterness in your drink.
Depending on the brewer that you are using, most of them will have built-in markers. This way, you will know how much water to use. Take note, however, that some brewing methods result in the evaporation of water, so you might need to use more.
Change Water Temperature
The water temperature affects the extraction rate, making it another critical factor in the bitterness of coffee. When the water is hotter, it is quicker to extract acids, caffeine, and oils from coffee, which are responsible for its bitter flavor. If it is not hot enough, however, the flavor will be bland.
The next time you make coffee, make sure that your water is hot enough. According to the National Coffee Association, the ideal temperature is anywhere from 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. It will promote optimal extraction.
Nonetheless, the temperature recommendation above should also consider the roast level of the coffee. For instance, if you want it light roast, the brewing temperature must be slightly higher. Meanwhile, you should make it slightly lower for dark roasts.
Brew Less Coffee
A lot of people want their coffee intense, so they end up adding more. Nonetheless, this is not helping make your brew more drinkable. Instead, what it is doing is that it adds bitterness. Hence, if you want the flavor to be a bit weaker without being too diluted, brew using less coffee.
The more coffee you have in the brewer, the more there is a need for water to travel. This results in a longer brew time, hence, extracting more compounds that are responsible for the bitterness of coffee.
Clean Your Brewing Equipment
You do not need the most expensive coffee equipment available. Instead, they just must be clean. Especially if you use it often, coffee particles can get stuck. If you do not clean them, they will give your coffee off-flavors, including pronounced bitterness.
Clean your coffee maker every single use. The same thing is true for your grinder or anything else that you are using when making coffee. Once done cleaning, make sure to leave it to dry before storage and using again.
Consider Add-Ons to Your Brew
Bitterness is a strong flavor. It can be too late before you realize its taste in coffee. Nonetheless, even when you are done brewing, it does not mean that you should throw away your coffee if it is bitter. It can still be spared by using the right add-on, including those we’ll talk about below.
This is one thing that might seem weird to some people, but it works if you want your coffee less bitter. There is a science behind it. It was a method popularized by Alton Brown in 2009, who recommended adding half a teaspoon of salt for every cup of water and two teaspoons of coffee.
Salt has sodium ions that will bond to your tongue’s salt receptors. In turn, it will inhibit the bitterness inherent in coffee.
Most people will instantly grab sugar when their coffee is bitter. It changes the flavor and makes it sweeter. Nonetheless, sugar often has a bad reputation because of health concerns.
However, if you use it moderately and if you use the right kind of sugar, then it should not be an issue.
Aside from sugar, milk is another additive that can effectively tame the bitterness in coffee. It contains proteins, which will bind to the polyphenolic compounds present in coffee, effectively masking its bitterness.
According to health experts, you should avoid using whole milk. Almond milk is a better option. Like sugar, you should also use milk in moderation to preserve the natural flavors of your coffee.
You might find the idea appalling and unbelievable, but citrus can do wonders in your coffee, especially if it is bitter. Citrus is a great source of Vitamin C and antioxidants, making it a guilt-free addition to your coffee.
It is also assumed that it can help in weight loss, although more research is warranted to prove such an assertion.
Elevate the flavor of your cup of joe by adding cinnamon on top. It will alter the taste, making it less bitter. This is also a great way to make it sweeter for those who are staying away from sugar.
Plus, it can give an extra energy boost, which will complement the caffeine in coffee. Adding ¼ cup of cinnamon to one cup of coffee is enough to improve flavor.
The last on this list is one item that might raise an eyebrow. However, once you try it, you will know that it works! A raw egg is added not when coffee is done but before it is brewed.
This will make the mixture look like potting soil. The eggs will provide clarifying effects and extract bitterness from the coffee.
At the end of the day, it could be because you are using too much coffee, making your cup of joe bitter. As mentioned before, you must pay attention to the ratio of water and coffee for optimal flavor.
To add, using lighter-flavored coffee can also do the trick. This can be a result of the beans or roast levels, as earlier mentioned.
Speaking of lightening up, one of the concepts you must be familiar with is the Maillard reaction. In a nutshell, this chemical reaction is between amino acids and reducing sugars. It is a caramelizing action, which is also what makes coffee brown during roasting. By lightening up the roasting level, it is possible to avoid too much caramelization and bitterness.
Eat Something Sweet
Earlier, we talked about some of the add-ons that can make coffee less bitter. This time, however, we are recommending that you eat something sweet to balance out the flavor. Health buffs might instantly frown at this thought, but if you do it in moderation, it should not be alarming.
On the top of the list is a slice of cake. Pair it with a cup of coffee and you will enjoy a sugary treat that lessens the intensity of caffeine. Pastries will also do the trick. Crepes and pancakes are also great.