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7 Reasons Your Coffee Tastes Burnt: Find Out the Reasons and Solutions 

Have you ever been excited for a caffeine fix only to end up spewing because it tastes burnt? That can be frustrating, especially if you spent time and effort making the drink yourself!

You do not need to be a trained barista to figure out the reasons why your coffee tastes off. Best of all, you can solve the issue with a few quick fixes.

If you are asking why does my coffee taste burnt, we got the answer! From wrong roasting techniques to using a dirty coffeemaker, we’ll explore some of the most common culprits!

Why Does My Coffee Taste Burnt? 

Have you ever had coffee that tastes burnt? Below, we’ll list down some of the reasons, and more importantly, we’ll share what you can do to prevent such.

1. Poor Roasting 

dark roast and medium roast coffee beans

The length of roasting time has a huge impact on the overall flavor of the coffee. Before roasting, the beans are yellowish-green and soft. They start almost bland. It is through roasting that flavors infuse into the beans, making them sweet, fruity, bitter, and burnt. The latter often happens when you roast the beans longer than necessary.

Some people like a strong flavor, so they often resort to a longer roasting time. Nonetheless, it can end up being too much, burning the beans and creating a burnt flavor profile. It can also be ashy.

How to Fix It 

The best solution is to buy high-quality coffee beans. It is best to purchase a small-batch roast. This way, you can be more confident of attention to detail, including roasting time. When beans are roasted in large batches, they are often processed longer because of their quantity, and hence, there is a higher chance of having burnt flavors.

2. Wrong Water Temperature 

pouring hot coffee in a cup

A lot of people give more emphasis on the beans than the water. But the latter is equally important, especially its temperature. It affects the extraction rate, making it influential on the overall flavor profile. The higher the temperature of the water is, the quicker it will extract compounds from the coffee.

How to Fix It 

It is a common misconception that water should be boiling when you make coffee. However, that should not be the case. According to the National Coffee Association USA, the best temperature should be anywhere from 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.

A difference of more than seven degrees may seem little, but it can do a lot to alter the taste of coffee. As mentioned earlier, it can result in over-extraction, taking off more caffeine and other compounds. Hence, there is a burnt and bitter aftertaste.

3. Improper Grind Size 

coffee roasted beans and coffee grounds on a wooden spoon

Like roasting duration and water temperature, grind size is another crucial element that affects coffee flavor. Getting the right size is one of the most important techniques that you need to learn, which you should match to the taste that you expect or the requirement of the specific beans you are using.

The finer the grind size, the larger the exposed surface area will be. In turn, it results in faster extraction. This is why espresso machines require fine grounds, which require water to pass through quickly at a high temperature.

How to Fix It 

The best solution is to pick a grind size that matches your choice of brewing method. For a quick reference, here’s the recommended grind size for some of the most popular coffee brewing techniques:

  • Cold Brew – Extra Coarse
  • Percolator, French Press – Coarse
  • Drip Coffeemaker, Pour-over – Medium
  • Aeropress, Moka pot, Siphon Brewer – Medium Fine
  • Espresso – Fine
  • Turkish Coffee – Super Fine

Read also: Can You Grind Coffee Beans in a Nutribullet?

4. Wrong Brewing Method 

burnt coffee picture

Even if you have the best beans and high-end appliances, they are useless when you choose the wrong brewing method. You need to match the latter with the brewing technique that you will use. Otherwise, coffee will end up with a burnt taste.

How to Fix It 

If you do not want your coffee to taste burnt, then one thing that you should avoid is an automatic drip machine. Most of the machines under this category use boiling water, which can over-extract coffee and give that burnt taste. More advanced models, however, have customizable settings so you can control water temperature.

To lessen the chances that your coffee will have a burnt taste, we recommend using immersion brewers, such as French press. AeroPress, a pressurized brewer, can also achieve the same thing.

5. Too Much Coffee

a spoon in a cup fo coffee and jar

Another reason can be as simple as using too much coffee. Some people are too confident of their skills that they end up not having the right measurements. Especially if you are using coffee with strong flavors and aroma, going more than the recommended quantity will create a burnt flavor.

How to Fix It 

We suggest that you measure the coffee and water accordingly for the perfect brew. Take note of the right brewing ratio, so you won’t use more coffee grounds than necessary. The golden ratio for brewing coffee is one to two tablespoons for six ounces of water. Adjust accordingly depending on your preference.

It is also a good idea to use a measuring cup or a scale. This is great for those who would like to play it by the book and prevent a guessing game when it comes to how much coffee is necessary.

6. Stale Coffee 

Over time, the exposure of coffee to external elements will affect its flavor profile, making it taste burnt. For instance, if you leave it in the open, it can suffer from oxidation. Heat and moisture can also be the culprits.

How to Fix It 

The easiest way to prevent stale coffee is to ensure proper storage. Keep it in a tight lid. Secure the lid, making sure that air won’t pass through. Keep it away from direct heat. Store in a cool and dark place. 

Alternatively, you should also consume the coffee immediately so it won’t go stale and will not have a burnt aftertaste. Whether it is whole beans or ground, take note of its expiration date. In all instances, fresh is best, so do not buy more than what you can consume immediately.

7. Dirty Appliances 

If you have the best beans and the right brewing methodology, when equipment is dirty, your coffee will probably have an off taste, including a burnt flavor. With regular use, the coffee maker is exposed to dirt and debris, which affect its ability to brew the perfect cup.

How to Fix It 

The easiest way to fix the problem is to clean the coffeemaker regularly. Consult the manual and religiously follow the instructions from the manufacturer. Clean it after every use.

Once every few months, we recommend a deep cleaning. Use natural materials like lemon and vinegar. Avoid harsh cleaners with toxic components that can impact an awkward flavor in your coffee.

Distinguishing Burnt Coffee From Other Tastes 

Being burnt is not the only way your coffee might end up tasting off. Below, we’ll talk about some of the other flavors that you can expect from a not-so-perfect caffeine fix, so you can differentiate it from being burnt.

If the coffee is burnt, it drips slower and will have evident black pores. It has a slower liquid volume regardless of the duration of its extraction. It will taste moldy and will have overpowering bitterness.

Bitter 

Most people will confuse burnt with bitter taste. They taste almost alike, but there are differences. Most of the time, the coffee ends up being bitter because it uses extremely hot water. Using beans with fine grounds or that are stale can also be the suspects.

To determine if the coffee is bitter, you can go beyond its flavor. One thing that you can do is to pour it out of the pot. It will have a pale yellow and watery stream when it is bitter.

Sour 

If there is a coffee flavor spectrum, sour will be on the exact opposite side of burnt. Burnt coffee is often a result of over-extraction. On the other hand, under-extraction makes coffee sour. Large coffee grounds and incomplete brewing are also some reasons why coffee is sour. If the coffee is yellowish-brown and not dark brown, it can also be an indication of its sour flavor.

Metallic 

Coffee can also have a metallic aftertaste, which will be harder to distinguish compared to bitter, burnt, and sour. Most of the time, there will be no visual indication. In most cases, your coffee has a metallic taste because of poor water quality or dirty equipment. When you use tap water, it can have contaminants that will make your caffeine fix metallic.

Plastic-like 

Like metallic, it is almost impossible to tell that coffee will taste plastic-like simply by looking at it. This taste is common when your coffeemaker is new. The best solution is to clean the unit using water, vinegar, or lemon, among other materials. Through time, your coffee will taste better.

Conclusion 

If your coffee tastes burnt, you have several factors to blame for its off flavor. The most common culprits include poor roasting technique, wrong water temperature, incorrect grind size, using too much coffee, and having dirty appliances, among other things.

Avatar for Krista Haws

Known among her friends as 'the caffeine fiend', Krista loves all things coffee. From an extremely short, strong espresso to a 3 day cold brew, Krista loves them all.

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