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5 Reasons Your Coffee Tastes Bitter

Ryan Fritzky Ryan Fritzky • October 28, 2021

Wondering why your coffee tastes bitter? You might be surprised by the possible causes, which could actually include the type of coffee cup you're using! Use this checklist to kick the bad flavors and enjoy your coffee the way it should be! 

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5 Reasons Your Coffee Tastes Bitter 

1. The Coffee Is Too Finely Ground

Grinding coffee too fine is a common cause of bitterness (also known as over extraction). How do you know what grind size is right for you? This often requires a little experimentation, but here's a general rule of thumb based on each brew method:

2. The Grounds Steeped Too Long

When using a French press or any brewing method in which coffee grounds are steeped, avoid leaving the coffee grounds submerged in water for more than a few minutes. Expert Tip: We've found the magic number to be four minutes. Serve the coffee immediately after it's done steeping to prevent it from meeting a bitter (over extracted) fate.

3. Your Water Is Too Hot

When it comes to optimal brewing temperature for coffee, 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit (or two to three minutes off-boil) is the sweet spot. If your water is too hot (or over boiled), you'll extract the bitter compounds from the coffee.

4. Your Coffee Is Mismatched to Your Expectations 

Coffee preferences and tastes are very subjective, and our expectations for coffee can vary depending on what we’re used to drinking. Our tastes can change, and our perception of bitter foods can become more or less sensitive over the course of time. A coffee drinker who enjoys a darker roast will often label a lightly-roasted coffee as stale, sour, or tart. If you’re used to lighter roasts, a darker or roastier profile may come across as bitter and unpalatable. This isn't necessarily an issue with your brewing method or an imperfection in the coffee. 

5. It's the Color of Your Cup

Who knew? Even after controlling for freshness, grind, roast profile, time, and temperature, there's a well-known psychological aspect to perceiving bitter coffee: the color of the cup

Because of the color contrast, coffee’s dark color seems even darker compared to the white of your mug, and we are apt to perceive coffee served in a white mug as stronger in profile. By contrast, sipping our coffee from a clear glass, with the sunlight streaming through it, encourages us to imagine we're drinking something lighter and sweeter.

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