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Prevent Bitter Coffee..

Prevent Bitter Coffee...

Coffee shouldn't actually be bitter.  Depending on the origin of the coffee, it can certainly produce some earthiness and smokey flavors, but nowhere near the levels we are all accustomed to with poor quality coffee.  Your smokey flavor should be in your Scotch Whiskey, not in your coffee!  Here are simple steps to prevent coffee from tasting crappy:

1. Don't use crappy coffee

This may be the most obvious, but if the coffee bean itself is low quality, you can only polish a turd so much.  Many cheap and low-cost coffees use a bean called Robusta.  Robusta itself is a very durable and weather/insect/fungus resistant bean.  It produces a higher yield than its higher quality Arabica bean.  It also actually has more caffeine, but at the cost of everything that matters: taste.  Robusta tastes like someone poured gasoline down your throat.  It's harsh. It's bitter.  It burns.  It's nothing you want to be drinking.

That doesn't exclude Arabica coffee from being able to produce the same flavors.  This is why we stick to Single Origin coffee.  Our coffee is from a specific region of the world, known for producing distinct characteristics and attributes.  Many blends are simply using a majority of the cheapest coffee they can find, and then masking its lackluster flavor with some other higher quality beans in efforts to improve their profit margins.

2. Bad roasting 

Ever wonder why your conglomerate chain coffee always tastes burnt and bitter?  When extremely large coffee companies are producing billions of cups of coffee per day, they just need to source the lowest-priced coffee they can, throw it all together, and roast it as fast as possible.  But they also still need to produce a consistent, uniformed cup of coffee across tens of thousands of locations worldwide.  Customers still don't want to be surprised; we are creatures of habit.  So how do you roast all these different coffees together to all taste the same across the world? You burn the crap INTO it.  Over-roasting is a very simple way to make all these different coffees taste the same.

When you roast coffee too much, you will bring a lot of the oils inside the coffee to the outside.  So when a coffee is too oily, not only will the coffee spoil faster, all those oils produce a gnarly bitter and smokey cup of coffee.  Those oils belong in the bean, and should be drawn out the proper way using hot water that causes an explosion of processes to produce several different amino acids that contribute to flavors of joe.  You're not getting much of that when your beans are over-roasted.

3. Inferior grinder

If you're grinding your own beans, and you have that little grind that looks like a blender for dry material, do you think your "grinder" is grinding, or chopping/blending?  Those blades just chop the beans at an incredibly high rate, and end up actually burning the beans AGAIN (see a trend here?).  A proper burr grinder actually crushes the beans (and to a far more consistent grind size) instead of chopping them.  You can typically find a conical burr grinder for $55-$100 in the entry level market of the coffee world, and they're more than good enough for everything besides constantly brewing espresso.

4. Flawed brewing

The coffee brewer being used might be subpar.  The design of the water sprayer in the drip machine could be just harshly spraying water, or just dipping water in one place.  The cone itself could be causing a lot of backup or drainage issues that also yields in the coffee brewing too long.  Maybe you're leaving your coffee way too long in the French Press.  Either way, if you're actually using high quality coffee and it's somehow still coming out bitter, this may be why.

In the end, the higher quality your coffee is, the more wiggle room you have to make some mistakes and still end up with great coffee.  The stronger your foundation, the stronger your finished product!