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If your morning coffee tastes more like bitter medicine than a rich and smooth cup of joe, you may be wondering why it's so bitter. In this blog post, we'll discover the reasons behind this unpleasant taste and explore the possible causes, from the type of beans used to the brewing time. Get ready to discover solutions to fix this common coffee issue and enjoy a more balanced and flavorful cup of coffee!

Why Does Coffee Taste Bitter?

Acidity and Bitterness

Bitterness in coffee is often caused by a combination of acidity and other taste compounds. Extraction is the process of pulling flavors from the coffee grounds into the water. The first compounds to be extracted are acids and sugars that give a pleasant, bright taste, whereas the last ones to be extracted are the components responsible for bitterness. Prolonged extraction results in an overload of bitter taste, which can be remedied by shortening the brewing time or using coarser grounds.

Caffeine Content

Caffeine is one of the primary causes of bitterness in coffee. There is a direct correlation between the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee and its bitterness. Robusta beans, for example, have a higher caffeine content compared to Arabica beans, which contributes to their stronger, more bitter taste. Lowering the caffeine content can help reduce the bitterness. This can be achieved by substituting some high-caffeine coffee beans with a lower-caffeine variety, such as Arabica beans.

Coffee Bean Types

There are two main species of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans have a milder, more delicate flavor, while Robusta beans are known for their stronger, more bitter taste. This difference in flavor can be attributed to the higher caffeine and chlorogenic acid content found in Robusta beans. To avoid bitterness, opt for higher-quality Arabica beans instead of Robusta or a blend of both varieties.

Coffee Roasts

The roast level of your coffee beans can also have a significant impact on bitterness. Dark roast coffee is characterized by a deeper, more intense flavor and can often taste more bitter compared to lighter roasts. This is due to the breakdown of chemical compounds and caramelization of sugars that occurs during the roasting process. To decrease bitterness, choose a lighter roast coffee or experiment with different roasts to find a balance that suits your taste preferences.

Brewing Techniques and Bitter Taste

French Press

A common cause of bitter taste in coffee prepared with a French press is leaving the coffee to brew for too long. To avoid this, it's recommended to set a timer for 4 minutes and press the plunger after that time has passed. Moreover, using the correct grind size is essential; opt for a more coarse grind when using a French press to prevent over-extraction.

Pour Over

For pour-over coffee, the key factors affecting bitterness include grind size, brew time, and water temperature. A medium-fine grind size is typically better for this method. Pay close attention to the brew time and aim for about 3 to 4 minutes. Additionally, the water temperature should be slightly below boiling, around 195-205°F (90-96°C). This ensures the coffee doesn't over-extract or burn, leading to a bitter taste.

Drip Coffee

Drip coffee makers can also produce bitter coffee if not optimized properly. Similar to pour-over, use a medium-fine grind size and keep water temperature within the 195-205°F (90-96°C) range. Make sure to clean your brewing equipment regularly, as residue and debris can cause a bitter taste. Moreover, use a proper coffee-to-water ratio, usually around 1:15 to achieve a balanced flavor.

Keurig Coffee

Keurig coffee machines are known for their convenience, but such machines can sometimes produce bitter-tasting coffee. Ensure that the coffee pods are fresh, and change the water filter regularly. Experiment with the water temperature settings, aiming for 195-205°F (90-96°C). Moreover, adjust the brew size to avoid over-extraction, which can lead to bitterness.

Cold Brew

Cold brew coffee usually has a smoother taste due to its longer brewing process and lower temperature, making it less prone to bitterness. However, using the wrong coffee-to-water ratio can still result in a bitter taste. Aim for a 1:4 to 1:8 ratio, depending on personal preference. Additionally, using coarser grounds and steeping the coffee for 16 to 24 hours works best for this brewing technique. Remember to filter out any coarse particles to avoid bitter flavors in the final product.

Influence of Water and Coffee-to-Water Ratio

Water Quality

The quality of water used in brewing coffee can have a significant impact on its taste. When water contains impurities or has a high mineral content, it can cause the coffee to taste bitter. Using filtered or purified water ensures that these impurities do not adversely affect the taste of the coffee.


Water temperature plays a vital role in the brewing process. When water is too hot, it can cause the coffee to taste bitter. This happens because the hot water extracts bitter flavors from the coffee beans earlier than intended. As a result, the coffee can taste harsh and unbalanced. To avoid this problem, it is essential to use water between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit.

Coffee-to-Water Ratio

The ratio of coffee grounds to water has a direct influence on the taste of the brewed coffee. If the coffee-to-water ratio is not balanced, it can lead to bitter coffee. When there is too much water for the amount of coffee used, it can cause over-extraction. This means that the water extracts more than the ideal amount of bitterness from the coffee grounds. It is important to maintain the proper ratio of coffee to water during the brewing process to avoid overly bitter coffee.

It is essential to keep these factors in mind when brewing coffee to ensure a pleasant and balanced taste. By paying attention to water quality, temperature, and coffee-to-water ratio, one can avoid bitter coffee and enjoy a satisfying cup of joe.

Coffee Grind and Over-Extraction

Grind Size Variations

The grind size of coffee beans plays a crucial role in determining the flavor of your coffee. Different brewing methods require different grind sizes to achieve a balanced taste. Using the incorrect grind size may lead to bitter or weak coffee. Generally, a coarser grind is recommended for methods with shorter brewing times, while a finer grind is suitable for methods with longer brewing times.

Stages of Extraction

During the brewing process, coffee compounds are extracted from the grounds at different stages. Initially, the pleasant and aromatic flavors are extracted, followed by the sweeter and more complex tastes. However, as the extraction process continues, the bitter and less desirable compounds emerge. Over-extraction occurs when too many of these bitter compounds are drawn out, resulting in a bitter coffee taste. Various factors can contribute to over-extraction, such as the brewing method, water temperature, and brewing time.

Brewing Method Ideal Grind Size Extraction Stages
Espresso Fine Short
Drip Coffee Medium Moderate
French Press Coarse Longer

Preventing Over-Extraction

To minimize over-extraction and achieve a balanced coffee taste, consider taking the following steps:

  1. Grind size: Choose the right grind size depending on your brewing method. A coarser grind is recommended for shorter brewing times, while a finer grind should be used for longer brewing times.
  2. Brewing time: Adjust your brewing time to prevent extracting the bitter compounds. Shorter brewing times are better suited for coarser grinds, while longer brewing times work well with finer grinds.
  3. Water temperature: Maintain a water temperature between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Overly hot water can extract bitter flavors too early, resulting in an unbalanced coffee taste.
  4. Coffee-to-water ratio: Keep a consistent coffee-to-water ratio to ensure proper extraction. Generally, a ratio of 1:15 to 1:18 (coffee to water) is recommended, depending on personal preference.
  5. Cleanliness: Make sure to clean your coffee maker regularly, as a buildup of residue can alter the taste of your coffee.

By implementing these suggestions, you can avoid over-extraction and enjoy a more pleasant, balanced cup of coffee.

Coffee Bean Quality and Bitterness

Low-Quality Beans

Bitter coffee can often be a result of using low-quality beans. These beans may contain impurities or inconsistencies that lead to undesirable flavors in the final brew. Consequently, it is essential to invest in high-quality beans to avoid a bitter cup of coffee. Specialty-grade beans, which are the highest quality grade, are recommended to ensure optimal taste and minimal bitterness.

Robusta vs Arabica

The species of coffee bean can also contribute to bitterness. There are two main species: robusta and arabica. Robusta coffee tends to have a more bitter taste compared to arabica due to its higher caffeine content and distinct flavor profile. While some people might prefer the stronger taste of robusta, it can be too bitter for others. If you find your coffee consistently bitter, consider switching to arabica beans, which are less acidic and have a smoother, more balanced flavor.


Freshness plays a critical role in the taste and quality of coffee beans. As beans age, they lose their natural oils and flavors, which can result in a bitter taste in the final brew. To ensure the best flavor, purchase beans that have been roasted within the past few weeks, and store them in an airtight container away from heat, light, and moisture.

By paying close attention to factors such as bean quality, species, and freshness, you can significantly improve the taste of your coffee and avoid the unpleasant bitterness that can sometimes occur. Remember to source high-quality arabica beans and ensure they are fresh to reduce the likelihood of a bitter brew.

Flavor Profiles and Pairings to Counteract Bitterness

Dark Chocolate

When a coffee tastes bitter, it often pairs well with dark chocolate. This rich, intense flavor profile complements the bitterness of coffee, creating a balance between the two. It's essential to select a high-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa content of at least 70% for the best effect. By including dark chocolate as a pairing option, it can enhance and harmonize the flavors within the coffee, making it more enjoyable and less bitter.


Believe it or not, rice can be an effective pairing for bitter coffee as well. This staple grain has mild, almost neutral flavors that can help to balance and mellow out a bitter coffee. One can try pairing bitter coffee with rice-based dishes such as rice pudding or rice cakes, which can temper the bitterness and create a more satisfying taste experience.


Rum, with its sweet and warming notes, can act as an effective counterbalance to bitterness in coffee. Select a high-quality rum with a smooth and well-rounded flavor profile to pair with your coffee. By adding a splash of rum to your bitter coffee, you can create a unique and delicious beverage combination. The rum's sweetness will mingle with the coffee's bitterness, producing a pleasantly complex taste experience.


Introducing sweetness to bitter coffee may seem like an obvious solution, but it's important to choose the right kind of sweetener. Natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup can gently balance the bitterness without overpowering the coffee's natural flavors. Additionally, flavored syrups such as vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut can add not only sweetness but also depth and complexity to a bitter coffee, further enhancing its overall flavor profile.

In conclusion, bitterness in coffee can be addressed by carefully selecting ingredients and pairings that complement and balance the flavor. Experimenting with the options listed above, such as dark chocolate, rice, rum, and various sweeteners, can enhance the coffee-drinking experience and help you enjoy your cup of coffee to the fullest.

Additional Tips

When it comes to improving the taste of your coffee and reducing bitterness, there are several factors to consider. In this section, we will provide additional tips related to brewing time, aroma, and coffee club that can help enhance your coffee experience.

Brewing time plays a crucial role in determining the taste of your coffee. Over-extraction, which occurs when water is in contact with the coffee grounds for too long, can lead to excessive bitterness. It is essential to know the appropriate brewing time for your chosen method. For example, when using a French press, set a timer and press the plunger after 4 minutes to avoid bitterness.

Aroma is another significant aspect that contributes to your overall coffee experience. Freshly ground coffee beans release oils and volatile compounds that create the unique, complex aroma of coffee. Using freshly ground beans can make a noticeable difference in reducing bitterness and enhancing flavor. Ensure that the coffee-to-water ratio is appropriate for your brewing method. A common ratio for drip coffee is 1:15 to 1:17 (about 1.5 scoops of coffee grounds for an 8-ounce cup).

Joining a coffee club can be an excellent way to explore different coffee beans and brewing techniques. Coffee clubs often provide curated selections of beans, offering opportunities to experiment with various roasts, origins, and flavors. These clubs can also provide valuable resources and expert advice on brewing techniques and equipment maintenance.

Remember that water temperature also affects the extraction process. Many people boil their water and start brewing immediately, but 212°F is too hot for coffee brewing. Aim for a temperature range between 195°F and 205°F to avoid extracting unwanted bitter compounds from the coffee grounds.

Lastly, ensure that your brewing equipment is clean. Dirty equipment can accumulate oils and residues from previous brews, imparting unpleasant bitter flavors to your coffee. Regularly cleaning your coffee maker, French press, or other coffee equipment can vastly improve the taste of your brew.

Incorporating these tips into your coffee routine will help you create a more enjoyable, less bitter coffee experience. From paying attention to brewing time and water temperature to exploring new beans through a coffee club, there are numerous ways to enhance the flavor profile and aroma of your coffee.

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Tony Barlow

Tony Barlow

Majesty Coffee Technical Sales Expert - Meet the Team

Tony Barlow, with over a decade of experience in the coffee industry, is the go-to technical sales expert at Majesty Coffee. He's passionate about helping businesses find the right espresso equipment for their needs.

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