Is Black Coffee Always Bitter? (Here’s How To Improve it!)

Made your first cup of black coffee and don’t love the bitterness? Black coffee isn’t for everyone, but there’s a good chance that your coffee can be improved upon. Before we go there, let’s get the burning question out of the way.

Is black coffee always bitter? Black Coffee has a touch of bitterness to it. You can control and keep the bitterness to a minimum by opting for light roast or medium roast, fresh beans, correct grind size and suitable brewing method, and other factors. Proper extraction techniques are also important to achieving the perfect cup of black coffee.

Why Is My Black Coffee Bitter?

“I love my bitter black coffee”, said no one ever.

Unfortunately, it happens once in a while and it goes wild on your taste buds.

But why did your black coffee go bitter?

Black coffee can be overwhelmingly bitter due to over-extraction, wrong grind size, stale beans, improper brewing, wrong roast, the ratio of water to coffee, dirty equipment, wrong choice of water, brewing method incompatibility, and several other factors.

Let’s discuss the factors in more detail.

Over Extraction

When water and ground coffee are in contact for too much time, your get over-extracted coffee.

When the coffee ground to water ratio is not right i.e. if you don’t have enough water during the brewing process, you get over-extracted coffee.

Over-extracted coffee is often bitter. 

When you nail the extraction process, your coffee will taste more flavourful. 

Pick the right amount of water and coffee, and make sure it doesn’t brew longer than required.

Wrong Grind Size

Coffee grind size

Grinding your coffee beans right will always yield a delicious cup of coffee.

But if you go too coarse or too fine, then the resulting coffee from your household coffee maker won’t be as tasty. 

When it comes to bitterness, you are likely dealing with a grind size that is too fine. 

A medium grind is the right way to go if you’re a beginner. Of course, there are uses for fine and coarse grinds, but when you’re new, it is safer to play with a medium-sized grind.

If you’re a bit savvy, here’s a table that might help.

Brewing MethodGrind Size
EspressoFine
French PressCoarse
Moka PotFine
Pour-OverMedium
DripMedium
Vacuum/SiphonMedium
Cold BrewCoarse
Turkish CoffeeSuper Fine

Choice of Beans

There are two aspects to look out for here.

First, the type of beans is important.

Arabica beans deliver delicious coffee when compared to Robusta beans, every single time. 

When you brew coffee from Arabica beans and do it right, you get an almost sweet-tasting coffee that is nowhere near bitter.

Robusta beans carry a harsh taste and come with more caffeine. So even with the slightest over-extraction, you’re going to get bitter coffee. 

If possible, get your hands on the best Arabica beans on the market. They are a tad more expensive, but worth the taste.

The second aspect is the freshness of the beans.

When you roast your beans, you’re putting a cap on the shelf life of those beans. The later you use those beans, the staler they’re going to be.

Fresh beans will give you the best coffee. It is suggested that you roast only the quantity you can consume in a short period, like a week or two. Roasting and grinding more coffee beans increase the chances of them getting wasted.

Wrong Roast

If you’re not a fan of bitter coffee, then you should never be in the same room as a dark roast coffee bean. 

Darker the roast, the more chances of your coffee being bitter.

A light roast will give you the sweetest coffee possible. 

Some might even argue that it’s not real coffee, but preference is personal, right?

A medium roast strikes a balance and is accepted widely by most people. If you’re starting your journey as a coffee connoisseur, then a medium roast is a great way to get things rolling.

Miscellaneous

Having dirty equipment is another reason why your coffee is bitter. Make sure there is no coffee residue left from last use as it can affect your coffee’s taste.

Another simple yet overlooked reason is the water temperature. If your water is too hot, then you’re going to get bitter coffee as hot water will help the over-extraction of your coffee. 

The quality of water you use will also play a role, but that is secondary when you compare it with the above two. 

Don’t use distilled water (ever) to make coffee. Its lack of minerals will deliver a bland taste.

Bottled spring water is, always, the best choice when it comes to making the perfect cup of coffee.

How Do You Make Black Coffee Less Bitter?

Black coffee made with fresh, light-roasted Arabica beans with the right grind and brewing method will not be bitter. You can make your brewed black coffee less bitter by adding a pinch of salt. You can also sweeten your coffee to combat the bitterness.

The above answer works, but let’s get into some detail.

Get Fresh Coffee 

Make sure you get fresh coffee from the local store. If it is 3 to 4 months old, it is already stale enough.

Once you store it on your shelf for another month (or two), imagine how that’s going to affect your coffee.

Though coffee won’t expire, you will lose the important notes that make it flavorsome. 

Also, take care when storing it. Always use an airtight container so that you prevent oxidation.

Take a look at vacuum-sealing coffee beans. It is not the only way to store your beans but works great for small amounts. Also works great for green beans.

Stick To Light Roast

Light roast coffee might not carry the same traditional taste that coffee is known for, but it will guarantee you the least bitter coffee every time.

Pour-over is the best brewing method when dealing with light roasted coffee beans. This method is inexpensive and delivers a solid cup without fail.

Arabica Beans Over Robusta

Choosing Arabica beans is another surefire way to get a good cup of joe.

Yes, Arabica is more expensive than Robusta, but you will get a much better taste profile.

This doesn’t mean you can’t make good coffee with Robusta beans.

With the right grind and right brew method, you will be able to make fine coffee. But it falls short in taste when compared to Arabica beans.

Nail The Brewing Method

Find the brewing method that works for you.

Pour-over is a great place to start. You can use medium grind coffee and add water to get a nice cup of java. It is also beginner-friendly, so anyone can try and succeed.

Making cold brew is another way to get delicious coffee. You will need to use coarse grounds, but the resulting drink is nothing short of fantastic.

French press, Percolator, Moka Pot, Siphon, and Espresso are all awesome methods that will give you delightful coffee when done with the right coffee bean and grind.

Most people are often torn between the French press and Percolator. Our French Press vs Percolator post gives you all the information you need. Do read if you’re interested in this topic.

Okay, You’ve Brewed Bitter Black Coffee, Now What?

The best way to improve the taste of your bitter black coffee is by adding a pinch of salt. Salt does a great job in masking the bitterness when compared to other additives like sugar. It also enhances the flavor of the drink.

Don’t add more than a pinch of salt as you’d end up with a drink that is terrible in more than one way.

We wrote a full blog post that explains adding salt to coffee. A must-read to bring down the bitterness and improve the taste of your black coffee.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to cut down on salt intake, then adding salt probably isn’t a good idea. You can try other ways to sweeten your coffee

Alternatively, you can also try getting used to coffee without any sugar.

Is There A Coffee That Isn’t Bitter?

To be honest, there is a touch of bitterness in every cup of coffee you drink. 

It’s all about how much bitterness you can tolerate and not find overpowering.

Coffee isn’t bitter when

  • Arabica beans are used over Robusta beans
  • Light roast or medium roast beans are used over dark roast beans
  • Fresh coffee bean/ground is used
  • Ground coffee from local/specialty roasters are used

If you’re new to the world of coffee, you might find black coffee to be a bit too strong.

Even the perfect cup of coffee can be intense.

When this is the case, you can try drinking small amounts of coffee. Is a full cup intimidating? Then, try a third of it and you’ll find that less challenging.

Over a week, you’ll develop a taste for black coffee and soon you’ll be teaching newbies the ins and out of drinking coffee, black.

That’s all we’ve got to add to this topic. We hope you found it useful.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

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