Why your coffee tastes burned (and how to fix it)

If you're one of those folks who never EVER burns your coffee, even when it's 6AM and you're sleepy and just sort of blindly pouring hot liquid into what you hope is an AeroPress then fine, go ahead and ignore this post.

But if you're unlucky/normal/human you will occasionally burn your coffee. It will happen. That's ok. Life goes on (even if your morning doesn't) and at least after this you'll be able to guess what went wrong and how to fix it. 

If you'd like to brew alongside us using Kaffeologie coffee, you can get a free sample sent to your home today:

So without further ado, here are three factors that will always affect your coffee's taste:

1. Time

Hot water extracts flavor compounds first, then the bitter compounds that make coffee taste nasty. Wait too long and your coffee will go from tasting like raspberry to tasting like ashes mixed with parsley (yes, it's as bad as it sounds).

So how much is too much? Well that depends on your grind

2. Grind

This is easy: grinding coffee finer makes all the good stuff (and the bad stuff) in the coffee more accessible. The water can soak it out more quickly, so you have less time to check Facebook on your phone while you wait for the coffee to brew.

So basically you can grind whatever size you want as long as you adjust time appropriately. French press coffee takes about 4 minutes, espresso takes about 1 minute in the AeroPress and pour over coffee is 2-3 minutes.

There's one last grind curve ball: if you use a blade grinder you may taste bitterness even if you're not brewing too long. That's because blade grinders tend to produce lots of fine powder no matter how coarsely you grind your coffee. If you have a blade grinder and this bothers you you have two choices: buy a burr grinder or brew quickly.

3. Water Temp

I'm sure coffee bean mothers show pictures like this to their children to scare them into being good little beans...

Keep it simple: don't put boiling water on coffee. It's like torture for coffee beans. I know some people swear that pouring boiling water onto coffee is the only way to ensure that it doesn't cool down too much during the tenth of a second it takes to fall out of the pitcher and hit the grounds. Nah, that's horsefeathers. Coffee always burns unless it's poured into your coffee brewer below 205 F (96 C).

Nerd alert: burned flavors (as produced by boiling water) are technically different than bitter flavors (as caused by grind and time), but since nobody likes either one I figured they really belong in the same how-to-stop-it blog post. Do you care? No, I didn't think so.

What if you don't own a pretty thermometer? The answer is an easy trial and error process: wait a minute after boiling and brew your coffee. If it tastes burned wait 5 minutes next time. If it tastes sour now (which is what happens when you brew too cold) then cut the difference in half (2.5 minutes). I'm willing to bet you'll find goldilocks coffee at one of those three temps.

Myth Busting Time...

Contrary to what some folks believe, coffee filters have absolutely nothing to do with bitterness in coffee. So the S Filter will not magically remove bitterness (of course, neither does it add it). Bitterness comes from coffee, not filters, and because bitter compounds are truly water soluble no filter can catch them on the way through.

This keeps things simple: if you burn your coffee like Tobias on a Cornballer then you can line up your usual suspects and blame grind, time or water temp (or all three). And why should you care? Because next time, hopefully, you can fix it and get back to tasting all the notes! :)