Bitter Coffee - 5 Reasons It Tastes Bad (How To Fix It)

Statistics say that 54% of Americans drink coffee on a daily basis. My personal statistics would say that 99% of people cannot properly function without coffee (got one beside me right now in a mug that says “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee”).

No one is born a coffee lover – like fine wine its an acquired taste – however there are times when your face may scrunch up after trying a new brew as a result of the bitterness. But what makes coffee bitter?

1 - Are you Over Steeping your Coffee?

​Steeping is a term that we use to describe a method of brewing coffee where you directly mix your grinds with water (as opposed to passing it through a filter). Its common in most types of ‘press’ coffee makers, for example, the French press or the Aero press.

The danger, however, lies in your ability to know how long to steep for, because if you over-steep your coffee you’ll be left with a harsh, bittery mess.

When you use an automatic espresso machine, or a drip coffee maker, there is a low chance of over-steeping your brew, in-fact, its almost impossible. Use a French press or an Aeropress however, and you’ll want to be on point when it comes time to plunge.​

2 - How Clean is your Equipment?

This one’s obvious – keep your s**t clean!

Rinsing your French press after every use is fine, however if you are using a machine you should be running fresh water through your coffee maker at least once a week to make sure to get rid of the “coffee-from-yesterday” taste.

This way, when you brew coffee, you only get to savor the coffee from today.

3 - Maybe your Grind and Brewing Method’s Don’t Align

I use a manual coffee grinder to grind my own coffee because it helps me control the size of my grind, depending on what contraption I’ll be brewing with. With great power comes great responsibility - you’re going to need to know your ideal grind setting first.

This way, your coffee tastes exactly like how it should; just enough bitterness. Here’s a table to explain further:​

Grind Size

Brewing method


French Press



Your regular household coffee maker with flat filters


Coffee Makers with Cone Shaped Filters

Extra Fine

Pump and Steam espresso machines

Have you Checked your Water clarity and Temperature?

​We all know that coffee should be prepared hot. But did you know that factors such as water type and temperature play a significant role to brewing the perfect ‘cuppa’? You need to be meticulous with the water you use!

It’s fairly easy to ruin a perfect cup of grind coffee just because of unfiltered water. Distilled water is not advisable as well because of its mineral content. Bottled spring water is your best choice because it doesn’t have a discernable taste.

Secondly, you need to play close attention to your water temperature. Ideally, it should be between 195 F to 205 F. The closer it is to 205 F, the better, because bitterness will be more prominent if the water is cooler.

You can still have your cake and eat it too, however, if you want cold coffee, minus the bitterness. I’m sure you have heard of cold drip coffee:​

4 - Staleness: Are Your Beans Going Bad?

If your coffee is tasting bitter, another factor that could be playing into the problem might be the beans themselves. Most serious coffee drinkers are aware that coffee beans don’t stay fresh forever, but did you know that old beans can actually be adding to the bitterness of your brew?

There are a few different points at which they begin to “go bad.”

After being processed, pre-roasted beans are typically lauded as being good for months or even years. However, our good friends over at Sweet Maria’s beg to differ. These green bean friends tend to put the limit on their green bean storage at 5-6 months after receiving them in the U.S.

Truth be told, though, often other companies don’t adhere to such strict standards.

Green coffee beans aside, once a coffee bean has been roasted, it’s usually a matter of hours to a few days before the beans get past their “peak flavor.” That’s why companies like Volcanica Coffee make it a priority to roast the beans only after they’ve received your order and can ship them off ASAP.

Once the beans have been roasted, and especially after they’ve been ground — an event that should only happen within minutes of brewing — things like oxidation, moisture, and CO2 depletion begin to factor in, bringing a “staleness” to their taste very quickly. 

And brewing stale coffee often introduces something you really don’t want in your cup: bitterness.

PRO TIP: If you’re struggling with old, stale beans, try checking out our list of the best coffee storage containers! They’ll help keep your coffee beans fresh and ready to brew for quite a bit longer than if you just leave them in the bag they came in!

5 - Maybe You Just Haven’t Found the Coffee to Suit Your Taste... Yet

There are so many coffee varieties out there and chances are, if you don’t like the bitterness of the coffee you have now, you haven’t found the perfect coffee for your taste just yet. I won’t give you a lecture on all the types of coffee varieties but its noteworthy to know that they have distinct differences that make them taste differently as well.

Let’s take for example two of the most popular coffees in the world – Robusta and Arabica. Robusta is much more bitter than Arabica and has more caffeine.

Most popular Coffee

There are also light, medium, medium-dark, and dark roasts. Aside from color, these different roasts also differ in taste. The darker the roast, the bitterer your coffee will be. Therefore, this means that caffeine content isn’t the only factor that can contribute to bitterness, roasting is a key factor as well.

If you want light roasted coffee, go for Cinnamon or Half City; medium roasts are American or Breakfast and dark roasts are the famous Italian, French, Espresso and Continental beans.​

The Verdict

Don’t forget that coffee is inherently bitter – which is what gives it It’s ‘kick’ however if if your coffee is extra bitter (as in: intolerably bitter) then remember everything that you have just learned:

  • ​Don’t over steep your coffee if you are using a ‘press’ maker
  • Use clean equipment
  • Use the right grind for your brewing method
  • Water – not to hot, not too cold, and definitely not dirty
  • Try out different varieties

So now when someone asks you “why is my coffee so damn bitter?” you’ll be able to explain like the coffee hipster you were born to be! Further expand your coffee wisdom by visiting our homepage

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 1 comments
carol t - March 27, 2018

its the coffee we buy that’s bitter, not our coffee pot!


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