What To Do If Coffee Is Bitter?

Die-hard coffee lovers just can’t relate, but some people just don’t like coffee. When asked why, their answer usually has to do with flavor – specifically, how bitter it is.

Even if you love a daily cup (or more), you might find yourself with a bitter cup of coffee every now and then, so you need to know what to do so it doesn’t turn out that way again.

Coffee beans are roasted and ground to get them ready to become your morning coffee. When the grounds are too small or are roasted too long, the result can be bitter coffee. Water that has impurities can also make your coffee taste bitter. 

Let’s delve into a little of the science behind what makes coffee bitter, as well as what you can do to fix it!

How to Fix Bitter Coffee

If your coffee isn’t usually bitter, there is probably an issue with the way it was brewed this one time.

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that there are several things that could be causing your coffee to be bitter on this particular occasion.

You may have to try several remedies to fix it.

Here are a few things to try:

  • Buy high-quality beans – There are no substitutes for high-quality, perfectly roasted beans.
  • Use water that is the correct temperature – Water that is too hot or too cold can cause irregular results for daily coffee drinkers.
  • Don’t grind beans as fine – Courser grounds don’t allow so much of the flavor (aka acid and oils) to be absorbed by the water.
  • Brew shorter – Likewise, a shorter brew time helps prevent bitter coffee because the water isn’t in contact with the grounds for as long.
  • Purify water or use distilled – water out of the tap can be hard water, loaded with minerals and chemicals, which directly affect the coffee’s taste.

The best way is to prevent bitter coffee. But if you can’t avoid it because you didn’t brew it or don’t have access to high-quality coffee, you may have heard that adding salt helps remove the bitter flavor from the coffee.

You’ll be happy to know that it actually does, adding salt will actually remove some of the bitter taste from your coffee, so if you end up with a bad cup of coffee at a restaurant (or at home, for that matter), there’s no need to pour it out or ask for another.

Just add a few granules of salt at a time, stir, and taste.

Be careful not to add too much at one time, and your coffee should lose its bitter taste within a minute.

Why Does Coffee Taste Bitter? 

Now that you know what to do if coffee is bitter, the causes of bitter coffee will make a little more sense.

  • Over-extraction – When the brewing process takes too long, coffee grounds are in contact with the water for a longer time than needed. This pulls out too many of the organic compounds (acids, sugars, oils, and flavors) within the grounds, making it too bitter.
  • Over-roasting – Over-roasting is the process of making dark roasts (because some people do actually enjoy bitter coffee like French roast, Italian roast, and espresso). But for most of us, over-roasting results in coffee that are too bitter to enjoy. Over-roasting is also used on low-quality beans sometimes to disguise their flavor.
  • Bad beans or water – Bad ingredients result in bad coffee. Poor quality beans or water that has impurities in it will carry their bad flavor over to the coffee. Water that is too hot burns coffee during brewing.

Does It Have Any Effect On Me?

While it doesn’t taste good to most people, bitter coffee won’t hurt you. In fact, a little bitterness is good because it balances out the sweetness and other flavors in coffee.

The ideal level of bitterness does not exist. It is purely a matter of preference.

Final Thoughts and Takeaway

Coffee is a personal preference in every possible way: from the roast, you prefer to the add-ins you like to how much you drink in a day.

But if bitter coffee has started to turn you off from a beverage you once loved, there are a few things you can do!

Buy the best coffee you can and choose a roast that suits your taste. If you start with a lighter roast, you’re less likely to end up with a bitter cup of coffee.

As far as your brewing process, remember these tips:

  • Purify the water that you use to make coffee, especially if your home has hard water or a strong chemical taste due to city water treatment processes.
  • You can also buy courser grounds (or grind them less if you do it yourself) to keep some of the flavors within the grounds and shorten brewing time.
  • If all else fails, add a sprinkle of salt to your bitter cup of coffee!