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Coffee Brewing Mistakes and How to Make a Better Cup of Coffee

Does your coffee leave something to be desired? Are you tired of bitter-tasting brews? How can you make a better-tasting cup of coffee? We'll address some common brewing mistakes and how to correct them to make your coffee taste better.

line drawing of coffee brewing methods

Issues with the Brew

Often, we blame the coffee beans for our bad-tasting coffee, but is it truly the fault of the beans? Possibly, however, it could be how they're brewed. If you experience a bitter, sour, weak, strong, dusty, or watery coffee, there may be a fault in the brewing process.

If your coffee tastes bitter, the beans have been over-extracted. This means that the water has been in contact with the grounds for too long, pulling through the bitter flavors that are typically left behind when the coffee is properly brewed. There are a couple of ways to fix this issue:

  1. Add more coffee
  2. Use less water
  3. Use a coarser grind
  4. Steep the coffee for a shorter time
  5. Your water temperature may be too high

What if the opposite happens, and your coffee tastes sour instead? In this case, the water is in contact with the grounds for too little time. Not enough of the flavors pull through, giving your coffee a sour taste. To fix this issue, try one of these solutions:

  1. Use less coffee
  2. Use more water
  3. Use a finer grind
  4. Steep the coffee a little longer
  5. Your water temperature may be too low

When your coffee is too weak, the best way to fix it is to add more coffee grounds or use less water. If it's too strong, use fewer coffee grounds or more water. Too watery? Use less water, a longer brewing time, or a finer grind. Finally, if your coffee tastes dusty or powdery, use more water, a shorter brewing time, or a coarser grind.

Keep Track

As you can see, there are a few different possible fixes for any of the problems you might experience with your coffee. Depending on how intricate you want to get with your coffee, you might want to keep a coffee diary. Log the type of bean, the roast, the grind, and more, along with a description of the flavor. This way, you can find your favorite coffee, as well as the perfect brew parameters for your palate.

Store Your Beans Properly

Okay, let's say it is your beans. Maybe the flavors have degraded due to age, improper storage, or both. Coffee's flavor starts to dissipate as soon as it is roasted. Keeping your beans in an airtight container, out of direct light, and away from extreme temperatures can all help to extend the life and flavor of your coffee beans. Choosing to grind your beans just before brewing can also help with the flavor, as grinding can cause the flavor to diminish even faster.

Roast Level

Matching the roast level of your coffee to your brew method can also make a difference in the flavors extracted. Drip brew extracts medium roast coffees the best. For French press brewing, choose a light or medium roast. Pour over is best for medium to medium dark roasts, and espresso does well with medium to dark roasts.

Grind Level

How coarse or fine the grind is can make a difference to the brewing method. If you're using a brewing method that allows the water to be in contact with the coffee grounds for a longer period of time, you'll want a coarser grind. Conversely, if your brew method pushes the water through the coffee grounds quickly, you'll want a finer grind. If you use a coarse grind for espresso, your coffee is going to taste sour, while a finely ground coffee in a French press will surely taste bitter. Choose the correct grind for the brewing method you're using.

Bonus tip: Be sure your coffee grounds are consistent. If some of your coffee is finely ground and some coarsely ground, you are going to get an uneven extraction.

Coffee to Water Ratio

Another thing to keep in mind when diagnosing your coffee is how much water and how many coffee grounds are you using? Measuring volume will suffice, but if you really want to take complete control of your coffee, measuring by weight is the way to go. One gram of coffee grounds to seventeen grams of water is considered the ideal ratio.

Speaking of Water

How is your water? Do you drink it straight from the tap, or do you filter it? If you're filtering your water for drinking, be sure you're filtering it for making your coffee. The better tasting your water, the better your coffee.

Timing

How long the water is in contact with the coffee grounds can make a difference in the flavor of your coffee. French press brewing allows water and grounds to mingle for quite some time as opposed to an espresso machine which forces the water through in just a few seconds. If you use the incorrect coffee grounds for either method, your coffee will taste horrible. If you want complete control over the timing of your brewing, use a pour-over method.

Water Temperature

If you are using a brewing method that gives you control over the temperature of the water, be sure you are using water between 195 degrees Fahrenheit and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the optimal temperature for flavor extraction. Use an electric kettle with temperature control to make this process easy. Otherwise, a meat or candy thermometer will work just fine.

Nuance

Paying attention to all of the above can help you brew a delicious cup of coffee. If you want to, however, you can take even more control over your brew. Blooming your grounds before pouring the rest of your water can make a subtle difference in the flavor as can the type of filter you use, how clean your equipment is, leaving your brewed coffee sitting in the French press, and leaving your drip coffee on a too hot heat plate all have an effect on the flavor of your coffee. Be aware of these things and adjust accordingly.

We hope this helps you troubleshoot your coffee. If you're still having a hard time diagnosing your coffee issues, leave us a comment and we'll help you out!

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