What coffee drinker hasn't had a sip of coffee and thought it was a bit too bitter? Whether you like your coffee black or with cream and sugar, there are ways to make sure that the coffee tastes smoother. While we do believe that bitterness, like all tastes, has its place in moderation, an excessively bitter cup of coffee might be off-putting - especially if you're not used to drinking black coffee regularly. This article will go over five tips for making your coffee less bitter!
Why is coffee bitter?
There are several reasons coffee can be bitter. First, coffee is naturally acidic and contains high levels of tannins (a type of polyphenol). Generally, acidity results in astringent and sour tastes and most people might call it bitter due to "bitter sour confusion". While some people enjoy drinking coffee with cream or milk to counteract this acidity, if you drink your coffee black you will experience the coffee's full complexity, including its bitterness.
Bitter coffee is caused by chemical substances called tannins, which occur naturally in the beans. These compounds are usually heavier and more difficult to extract than the acid components when brewing your cup of coffee. The more you extract, the more your coffee will be stronger overall and the balance of tastes in your cup will incline towards the bitter side. So, if you feel your coffee is overly harsh or has an unpleasant burnt flavour, you might want to keep the extraction rates down.
How to brew coffee less bitter
1. Use a coarser grind
One of the easiest ways to extract less when brewing coffee is to grind beans more coarse. In this case, coffee does not steep as long and is not absorbed as evenly. This means that the coffee will be less bitter because you are only extracting certain components from it. If you brew for the same amount of time, you’ll get less extraction, and therefore less bitterness. It's always helpful to check the coffee grind size guide.
2. Brew for less time
If you do not have access to a coffee grinder or do not want to change your grind setting, you can brew for less time. This will also help you extract less coffee, resulting in a coffee that is not as bitter.
Brewing your coffee for longer periods of time can cause it to become over-extracted and therefore result in a more bitter taste. If your preferred method of brewing is one that allows for full control of brewing time such as French press or Aeropress, try reducing 10-15 seconds when making coffee and you should get a cup that is less bitter while still full of sweetness.
3. Brew weaker coffee
One factor that might be affecting the coffee's bitterness is its strength.
Brewing coffee with less ground coffee beans or more water will result in a weaker coffee, which means you are only extracting certain components of your cup and not all of them. Changing the coffee to water ratio will affect your coffee's total intensity, while tweaking grind size or brew time will affect the balance of flavours.
4. Try lighter roasts
Another way of changing your coffee bitterness is trying lighter roasts. If you're currently drinking a dark roast, try a medium or light roast instead. While dark roasts do not have to be overly bitter, they are the type of roast that brings out most of the bitter side of coffee beans, so if you're sensitive to that flavour a lighter roast might be more enjoyable.
5. Buy better coffee
Not all coffee is created equal. The disadvantage of cheap, non-specialty coffee is that it's usually over-roasted to mask the flaws caused by limited altitude growth and large harvesting. When coffee is over-roasted, it has a harsh, burnt flavour rather than the fruit from which it is derived. You can't unburned beans once they've been scorched.
Choosing coffee from a specialty coffee store will guarantee higher quality beans. Even better if it's from a Toronto coffee roaster. If you're used to buying quantity over quality a 12oz bag of premium coffee may seem expensive, but when you realize that it comes out to measly cents a cup (compared to $2-3 at a coffee shop chain) and you actually taste the drastic difference, you’ll never want to go back to the world of bitter beans ever again.