french press

If your morning coffee tastes more like a boozy cocktail than a rich and smooth cup of joe, you may be wondering why it's so alcoholic. In this blog post, we'll unravel the mystery behind this strange taste and explore the possible causes, from contaminated equipment to the type of beans used. Get ready to discover how to fix this uncommon coffee issue and enjoy a delicious cup of coffee again!

Why Coffee Tastes Like Alcohol

Fermentation Process

The fermentation process plays a significant role in the taste of coffee. During the processing of coffee beans, the pulp is removed from the beans, and then they are fermented for a specific period. If this fermentation process is not handled properly or takes too long, it can cause the beans to develop an alcoholic-like taste. Moreover, the presence of certain microorganisms during fermentation can lead to the production of alcohol and other compounds that add an unwanted flavor to the end product.

Bacteria and Contamination

Bacteria and contamination present on coffee beans, either in the field or during processing, can contribute to the development of an alcohol-like taste in coffee. Unclean coffee cherries, insufficient washing of beans, and the use of contaminated water during processing can result in the growth of bacteria that lead to off-flavors in the final brewed coffee. It's essential to follow proper washing procedures, and ensure clean conditions when processing the beans to prevent this issue.

Roasting Process

The roasting process also has an impact on the taste of coffee. If coffee beans are roasted at improper temperatures or for the wrong duration, they can develop flavors similar to alcohol. Certain chemical reactions occur during roasting that transform the beans' sugars and other compounds, and if not properly controlled, these reactions can lead to the formation of undesirable flavors. It's important to follow the recommended roasting temperature and duration to obtain the best flavor profile from your coffee beans.

Improper Storage

Improper storage of coffee beans can lead to an alcohol-like taste in your brewed coffee. Factors such as high humidity, extreme temperature fluctuations, and exposure to light or air can negatively affect the beans' flavors. These conditions can cause chemical changes in the beans, leading to the development of off-flavors. It's crucial to store coffee beans in an airtight container, away from direct sunlight, and at a stable temperature to maintain their freshness and prevent the occurrence of any unwanted flavors.

To sum up, various factors can contribute to a coffee's alcohol-like taste, including the fermentation process, bacterial contamination, the roasting process, and improper storage. By understanding these factors and taking appropriate measures, you can ensure that your coffee always tastes its best.

Factors Affecting Coffee Taste

Coffee Bean Types

The type of coffee beans used plays a significant role in the taste of the coffee. There are two main types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans are generally considered to be of higher quality and have a more delicate, nuanced flavor profile compared to the bolder, more robust taste of Robusta beans. The processing of these beans, such as washing and fermenting, can also affect the taste. Improper processing or storage of the beans might result in methanol contamination, which can cause the coffee to taste like rubbing alcohol.

Grind Size

Grind size is another crucial factor affecting the taste of coffee. Coffee grounds should be consistent in size to ensure even extraction of flavors during the brewing process. Different brewing methods require various grind sizes, ranging from coarse for a French press to fine for espresso. Using the wrong grind size can lead to over-extracted or under-extracted coffee, which can taste bitter or sour, respectively.

Water Quality

The water used for brewing coffee significantly impacts the final taste. Hard water, with high mineral content, can affect the extraction process and result in a dull or weak taste in the coffee. On the other hand, using pure, filtered water can help highlight the coffee's natural flavors and avoid unwanted taste profiles.

Brewing Time

Each brewing method has an optimal brewing time that ensures proper extraction of flavors from the coffee grounds. Over-brewing coffee can cause over-extraction, which leads to a bitter taste, while under-brewing can result in under-extracted coffee, which tastes weak or sour. To achieve the desired taste, it is essential to adhere to recommended brewing times for specific brewing methods.


The extraction process involves drawing out the flavor compounds from the coffee grounds through contact with water. Several factors influence extraction, such as water temperature, brewing method, and grind size. For example, using water that is too hot can lead to over-extraction, while water that is too cool may result in under-extraction. Additionally, using an incorrect grind size, as mentioned earlier, can impact the extraction process and affect the taste of the coffee.

To avoid an alcoholic taste in coffee, it is crucial to consider these factors: selecting the right coffee beans, ensuring proper grind size, using high-quality water, following recommended brewing times, and maintaining optimal extraction conditions. By paying attention to these details, you can enjoy a delicious cup of coffee with a balanced and pleasing flavor profile.

Cold Brew and Kombucha Coffee Effects

Specifics of Cold Brew Taste

Cold brew coffee is known for its distinct flavor, which is created by leaving coarse coffee grounds in cold water for 12 to 24 hours. This process extracts the flavors from the coffee beans slowly, resulting in a smoother, less acidic taste when compared to traditional hot coffee.

However, several factors can influence the taste of cold brew coffee. To avoid a bitter or alcoholic taste, it is essential to start with freshly roasted and coarsely ground coffee beans. Grind size matters for cold brew, as too fine a grind can lead to over-extraction and a bitter taste. Using clean, filtered water, and ensuring that the coffee-to-water ratio is correct, will also contribute to the ideal flavor profile.

Alcohol Taste in Kombucha Coffee

Kombucha coffee is a unique blend of fermented tea and coffee, which results in a beverage that contains both caffeine and probiotics. The fermentation process imparts a slightly tangy, effervescent flavor, which some may describe as similar to alcohol.

The presence of alcohol taste in kombucha coffee can primarily be attributed to the fermentation process. As the kombucha tea ferments, yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. While some of the alcohol is metabolized by acid-producing bacteria to produce acetic acid, a small percentage of alcohol may remain in the final product.

To ensure the best possible taste for both cold brew and kombucha coffee, it is necessary to consider the quality of ingredients, the brewing process, and storage conditions. If you encounter an unwelcome alcoholic taste in your coffee, reevaluate these factors and make adjustments where needed to achieve the desired flavor profile.

How to Improve Coffee Taste

Selecting Quality Beans

For coffee lovers, it is essential to start with high-quality beans in order to enjoy a delicious cup of fresh coffee. The taste of your coffee can be heavily influenced by factors such as the bean's origin, processing, and roast level. Always look for reputable suppliers who can provide information on the sourcing and quality of their beans.

Proper Storage

Storing your coffee properly can greatly impact the taste. Poor storage conditions can lead to stale, bitter coffee. Coffee beans are sensitive to air, moisture, and light, so it's best to store them in an airtight container, in a cool and dark place. Avoid clear containers, as they can allow light to damage the freshness of the coffee beans. Additionally, try to only buy as much coffee as you will consume within a two-week period to ensure optimal freshness.

Grinding and Brewing Techniques

Using the correct grinding and brewing techniques can significantly improve the taste of your coffee. A consistent grind size is crucial, as it affects the extraction of flavors from the coffee grounds. Coarser grinds are suitable for French press brewing, while finer grinds are best for espresso. Adjusting the brewing time and temperature can also help to balance acidity, bitterness, and sweetness. Generally, a temperature of 195-205°F (90-96°C) and a brewing time of 2-4 minutes is recommended.

Brewing Method Grind Size Brewing Time Ideal Temperature
French Press Coarse 4 Minutes 200°F (93°C)
Espresso Fine 25-30 Seconds 195-205°F (90-96°C)

Balancing Sugars, Acids, and Bitter Flavor

A balanced cup of coffee requires a proper mix of sugars, acids, and bitter flavors. Under-extracted coffee can taste sour, as the acids dissolve early in the brewing process. Over-extracted coffee, on the other hand, may taste bitter because excessive extraction dissolves too many oils and bitter compounds.

To achieve a balanced taste, consider adjusting the brewing time, grind size, water temperature, and coffee-to-water ratio. Experimenting with various brewing methods can also help balance sugars, acids, and bitter flavor in your cup of coffee.

The Importance of Water

Coffee is made up of 98% water, meaning the quality of water used in the brewing process significantly affects the taste. Using filtered water is preferable, as chemicals like chlorine present in tap water can contribute to unpleasant flavors.

  • Use filtered water
  • Ensure water is fresh
  • Heat water to the appropriate temperature

By paying special attention to selecting quality beans, proper storage, grinding and brewing techniques, and balancing sugar, acid, and bitter flavors, you can significantly improve the taste of your coffee, and delight in a flavorful cup every time.

Allergies and Coffee Taste

Allergies can indeed influence the taste of coffee. When a person is allergic to a component of the coffee, their immune system perceives these substances as potential threats, leading to an immune response. Common symptoms of a caffeine allergy include itchiness in the mouth, tongue, or lips area, swelling of lips or tongue, and hives. These physical sensations can change the way coffee tastes to the affected individual.

In some cases, unclean coffee beans may contribute to an altered taste in coffee, potentially resembling the taste of alcohol. The coffee cherry has to be washed with water, and the beans must be thoroughly cleaned before brewing. Issues with this process can lead to impurities that may impact the flavor of the final product. When the beans are not properly washed and cleaned, it can result in a taste that is often described as resembling alcohol or other off-putting flavors. To minimize these undesired flavor notes, it is essential to:

  • Ensure the coffee beans are sourced from a reputable supplier that follows proper processing and storage practices.
  • Regularly clean and maintain brewing equipment to prevent contamination and build-up of residue.
  • Store coffee beans in a suitable environment to preserve their freshness and quality.

Being mindful of these factors can help reduce the likelihood of experiencing an altered coffee taste due to allergies or impurities. By paying attention to the cleanliness of both the beans and the brewing equipment, individuals can make certain that their coffee's intended taste is what they ultimately enjoy.

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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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