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How Do I Make My Coffee Less Bitter?

By 06/25/2015Coffeecademy, Tasting

Over-extracting coffee during brewing produces a bitter taste that no one likes. This places a responsibility on you, as the brewer, to make a great cup of coffee. By the time you receive a shipment from us, those beans have been well cared for by a farmer, processor and us, the roaster. It’s up to you to brew them well so that you might enjoy the bean’s fine qualities. Here’s how you can brew them without creating a bitter cup.

Don’t Scald Your Beans

Although coffee’s brewed with hot water (unless you’re making a cold-brew), boiling water will scald beans. Just as blackened toast tastes bitter, burnt grounds will also taste bitter. You can avoid burning your coffee by using water that’s just off of a boil.

Coffee should be brewed with water around 200°F, not with water that’s 212°F. If you have a thermometer on your kettle, heat the water you use up to somewhere between 195°F and 205°F. If you don’t have a temperature-display kettle, you can boil water and then let it sit for 30 seconds before brewing your coffee.

Avoid Over-Extraction

Coffee tastes best when it’s extracted just right, not too little and not too much. Under-extracted coffee has a thin mouthfeel and sour taste, while over-extracted coffee tastes bitter. When you hit the sweet spot, which is between 18 and 20 percent extracted, you’ll be able to taste the coffee’s sweetness. It won’t be bitter.

If your brews consistently have a bitter taste, review how you’re making coffee. Be sure you’re:

  • using the proper grind setting for your coffee maker
  • brewing your coffee for the proper amount of time
  • weighing your coffee and using the correct grounds-to-water ratio

Using a grind that’s too fine, brewing your coffee for too long and using too much coffee will all increase the extraction and produce a bitter taste. If everything else is correct, but you aren’t weighing your coffee, try using a kitchen scale to ensure you have the precise coffee-to-water ratio. For, as we discussed in this post, weighing coffee is more accurate than measuring it with a scoop.

Switch to a Lighter Roast

If you’re doing everything right, but your coffee is still bitter for your taste, you might just not like the roast. Try switching to a lighter roast, such as our Fruity Profile or Balanced Profile, and see if those coffees are more suited to your preferences. Some people simply don’t like dark roasts as much as they enjoy medium and light ones, which is why we have four different roast profiles.

Brewing, the final step to creating a cup of coffee, is an involved process that includes many factors. If your coffee bitter, first make sure you aren’t using water that’s too hot, and that you’re grind, time and ratio are correct. If they are and the coffee’s still bitter, experiment with a lighter roast level. Eventually, you’ll find a well-roasted, well-brewed cup that tastes just right.

Have you tried our Rinse & Grind kit? If not, try out our four roast profiles by going to our subscription page.

Author Scott

Scott is a professional writer for Driftaway Coffee. He worked as a barista for eight years, but today prefers to enjoy his beverages from the other side of the counter. When not drinking Driftaway Coffee, Scott usually has a mug of his own roasted coffee nearby.

More posts by Scott
  • Matthias Dailey

    If I use too little coffee grounds (less than one half the recommended amount), could that lead to bitter coffee?

    I think with more grounds, less water will come in contact with each bit of grounds, and the water will be less hot per tablespoon (at least marginally less hot).

    Take two extreme examples: brewing 6 cups through 1 Tbsp of grounds, versus brewing 6 cups through 5 lb of grounds (300 Tbsp).
    · The brewing will be different: the 5 lb of grounds will be cooler on average, if the water is evenly dispersed, since the relative coldness of the large mass of grounds cools off the boiling water as it comes in contact. 1 Tbsp of grounds will be much hotter.
    · Also, the amount of water flowing through each unit of grounds is different: 6 cups of water flows through 1 Tbsp of grounds, versus (6 cups / 300 Tbsp = 0.02 cups through each Tbsp).
    · But overall, each tablespoon of grounds will spend the same amount of time soaking in water.

    You can imagine that these two extremes cause large differences in the brewing, but I don’t know how large the difference would be with less extreme variations (e.g. 6 Tbsp instead of 12 Tbsp).

    Thoughts?

    • https://driftaway.coffee Driftaway Coffee

      Hi Matthias – its a good theory and idea, one that merits an experiment for sure. My suspicion is that you will notice thinness (less strong) coffee if you reduce the amount of coffee used first, before you are able to get to bitter vs. sweet. It’ll be watery.
      If you are less extreme in the coffee to water ratio change, then this could work. May be try with -10% grounds then see how it goes?

  • git_it

    Thanks for the coffee writings! Just being a grammar cop here: “and that you’re grind, time and ratio are correct.” Your, not you’re.

    • Michael

      I have been brewing my coffee in a Bialetti 9 cup for a mug of gold…. In the basket, 2 scoops, hears the thing, when it’s dark roast, two scoops is about 17 grams and when it’s light it ends up being about 21….. My problem is when I switched to weighing my coffee it all went to hell….. For simplistic reasons I do a 20:1 ration when I use my pour over or automatic . 1.3 L and about 65 grams.

      My coffee has been coming out bitter. Maybe to coarse on the drip but on the moka pot I made it finer and it got sweeter again?: