Five Shocking Reasons
Your Coffee STILL Tastes Bitter
and Five Easy Ways to Fix It!

September 4, 2019 | Insta Barista

Does your coffee still taste bitter- even after a series of adjustments to your coffee-brewing workflow? In a previous article; we discussed several common factors that affect the taste of your coffee, and offered practical solutions. If you’ve tried these suggestions, but still have a bitter cup on your hands, you may want to take a closer look at how you are preparing your morning joe. Sometimes, even your local water supply can be the culprit in the bitter coffee caper! Here are five shocking reasons your coffee STILL tastes bitter, and five quick, easy ways to make it taste better.

Bitter Coffee Shocker #1: You're in Hot Water
Who doesn’t love a warm mug of coffee on a crisp autumn morning? And what coffee drinker isn’t thoroughly disappointed when that toasty aroma leads to a cup of absolute bitterness? Did you know that coffee can actually taste bitter if the water is too hot? As water temperature rises, more flavor is extracted, but once water has reached it's boiling point, it can scald the beans. This may destroy other flavor notes result in coffee that tastes flat and bitter.

Easy Coffee Fix: Water should be between 91°C and 96°C when it makes contact with ground coffee. Use a kitchen/candy thermometer to check water temperature before brewing in a pour-over filter or French press. If you must bring your water to a boil before brewing, allow water to cool for at least 30 seconds, and be sure that it the temperature has dropped to the appropriate range prior to making coffee.

Bitter Coffee Shocker #2: Clean Your Machine! If you knew what was growing in your pod-machine, you’d probably put on a hazmat suit just to drink from it!  Your coffee maker could be a mold jungle! If your coffee tastes bitter, it may be from the accumulation of fungus, mineral deposits and oxidized coffee residue inside your machine!  In a busy office, it might be a bit more difficult to ensure that the coffee pot is cleaned at consistent intervals.
If employees start to express their concern over bitter coffee it might be time to consider on-site beverage service.

Easy Coffee Fix: Clean and descale your coffee maker to avoid the accumulation of bitter residue. According to Good Housekeeping Research Institute, in hard water areas like Ottawa, a drip coffee maker should be deep-cleaned once a month, and the same applies to an espresso machine. Pod-based machines can go for 3-6 months, depending on frequency of use.

There are many commercial descaling products on the market. Similar results can be usually be accomplished by running a mix of equal parts white vinegar and water through the machine, and then flushing the machine with plain water until the vinegar odor has dissipated. This may not be appropriate for all machines, so it’s best to consult your owners’ manual if you are concerned about how vinegar could affect the interior components of your coffee maker.

Bitter Coffee Shocker #3: The pH Factor: Even clean, healthy drinking water can make coffee taste bitter! According to statistics on the City of Ottawa website, the water in Ottawa, ON has been adjusted to a pH between 9.2-9.4, to minimize the amount of lead and other contaminants that can dissolve in drinking water. This gives the water an alkaline quality, which poses no health risks, but may affect the taste of tap water, and ultimately affect the taste of your coffee.

Easy Coffee Fix: Particularly in cities like Ottawa, where water is alkaline, consider brewing your coffee with bottled distilled water that has a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. It’s also possible to install a household or commercial water softening system which exchanges sodium for other minerals in the water, but this may be undesirable to those who are restricting their sodium intake. You may also want to consider on-site beverage service. Professional coffee providers offer machines with advanced features such as water filtration, and descale your machine periodically, at no additional cost.

Bitter Coffee Shocker #4: Cup Build-Up
If you’re a creature of habit, your coffee could taste bitter because your cup isn’t clean enough. It might be accumulating coffee residue, which over time can oxidize and affect the taste of fresh coffee, especially if the cup or mug appears to be stained. Furthermore, it might not even be the coffee residue, but an accumulation of dish soap or dishwashing detergent.

Easy Coffee Fix: For a stained coffee mug, make a paste of salt and water, and leave on the brown spots for 20-30 minutes. Scrub gently and rinse well. If you’re concerned about soap or detergent residue, rinse your mug for 30 seconds, or until water runs without any bubbles before filling it with coffee. 

Bitter Coffee Shocker #5: It’s Not Your Coffee at All
The reason your coffee tastes bitter might not have anything to do with how you’re preparing your coffee, and everything to do with what you’re adding to it! If you’ve recently made changes in your diet, it could be your milk or sweetener. Reduced fat milk, skim milk, and non-dairy milk alternatives have a thinner texture than whole milk or cream, and as a result, your coffee may not taste the same as it did. Sugar substitutes like saccharine, aspartame and sucralose may have a bitter taste, especially if used in large quantities.

Easy Coffee Fix: Experiment with different amounts of creamers and sweeteners, as well as different brands and varieties. If you’re feeling brave, skip the fixings entirely, and try drinking your coffee straight up. You might be surprised by how delicious coffee tastes all by itself, especially when all of the other variables are working together in harmony.

It’s more than just the beans!
As you may have gathered from this article, the taste of your coffee is affected by more than just your beans or your brewing method.  Especially if your workplace coffee tastes bitter all the time, you may want to consider connecting with an on-site beverage service professional.

The right on-site beverage company will help you find the right machine for your office, and provide routine maintenance along with all the necessary supplies. This means there is nothing to clean, de-scale or adjust. All you have to do decide what you’d like to drink!  

Do you think any of these shocking coffee buzz-kills are making your cup taste bitter? Have you ever tried one of these easy coffee fixes? Which bitter coffee shocker surprised you the most?


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