Help, this coffee is so bitter!

It’s the holiday season and, if you are anything like us, that means coffee! Lots and lots of coffee. Coffee at home, coffee at the office, coffee with friends and loved ones. Good coffee, okay coffee, and bad coffee… that, dear readers, is where we start today, with those painful-to-swallow (though sometimes vital) undesirably bitter cups of coffee. Be it at home or out and about, here are our tips on how to save your coffee (and your tastebuds!).

Home brews

We’ve all had that moment — that horrible, tastebud crushing, mouth-puckering moment when we discover our beloved morning coffee has been replaced by a bitter, barely drinkable imposter. If your home brew is tasting a little bitter after troubleshooting, your cup culprit is likely one of the below:

The roast is too dark. If your coffee tastes like dark, bitter chocolate, opt for a lighter roasted bean. Acidity creates much of a bean’s natural, delicate, sweetness; it is also burned off during roasting. Dark roasted coffees have less acidity, and thus natural sweetness than lighter roasts. The bitterness you taste may just be a roast characteristic of the chosen roast.

The grounds are over-extracted. French press brewed coffee is very, very easy to over-steep and over-extract, resulting in an increasingly bitter cup of coffee. If you brew with a French press, try reducing your steep time by one minute and / or be sure to pour your coffee out of your press and into your cup at the end of the steeping period rather than allowing it to sit in the press carafe. Generally, six-minutes is the maximum recommended steep time for French pressed coffee. If you brew with a pour over, try increasing the grind size. The larger the grind, the faster the water travels through, reducing the risk of over-extraction.

Try a new brew method. Different brew methods highlight different aspects of a coffee’s character and different flavor tones. Immersion and pressure brewing, for example, brew heavier, richer cups than filter brewing methods and often accentuate a bean’s darker, bitterer base notes. Filtration brew methods, on the other hand, accentuate a bean’s lighter, sweeter, brighter upper notes.

Out and about

With the holidays here, losing control over the quality of coffee sitting in your cup is a very real possibility. Thankfully, there are a few easy, non-sugar-based tricks that can turn a bitter brew into a very drinkable cup of coffee.

Add salt. Powerful, wonderful, plentiful salt — just one pinch of this beloved seasoning added to your cup neutralizes the coffee’s acidity, allowing the bean’s sweeter notes to shine through. You can add the salt to the grinds before brewing or directly to your brewed cup.

Squeeze in some citrus. Citrus, particularly lemon, lime, and orange neutralizes acidity in a coffee, again allowing the bean’s natural sweetness to emerge. Next time you’re battling a bitter cup, rub the cup’s rim with a citrus peel or squeeze a drop of citrus juice directly into your cup.

Add water. If you are stuck with a very thickly brewed, strong coffee add hot (not boiling) water directly to your cup to dilute the coffee. We promise, this is not sacrilege in the coffee world, it’s merely a means of strong coffee survival.

If you enjoyed this entry, you may also like:

Troubleshooting your morning cup

Coffee tips to make your brew even better

Things people add to espresso

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