5 Things to Avoid for a Smooth Cup

By DeathWishCoffee — / Coffee Talk

How Do I Make Coffee That Isn't Bitter?

At this point, we can all agree that your morning cup of coffee sets the mood for the rest of your day. How many times have you woken up a little more tired than usual, so ready for your cup of coffee that you dove right into the largest size you could order on the drive-thru menu? How many times has it come out exactly like you wanted it to vs. ruining your morning entirely?  

For those trying to switch to black coffee, let's make the transition even smoother. 

A woman holding a bag of Death Wish Medium Roast Coffee and a Chemex.

One thing you'll often hear from someone looking to switch to black coffee is, "I want coffee that isn't bitter." Hearing that, most will completely rule out any dark or strong coffee, although the two actually have little to do with each other. The majority of the bitterness of a coffee is created at the time of brew, so things like roast shade, origin or caffeine strength have little to do with how smooth or how bitter your coffee is. 

Take a walk on the wild side and let the secrets pour out of your gooseneck kettle. Here’s how to get the smoothest cup—every damn time—without relying on the drive-thru. 

Over-Extraction Makes Coffee Bitter. 

The more control you have over the brewing method, the more likely you are to control extraction. Certain brewing methods leave little or no room for preference and are often optimized more for convenience (Keurig machines, automatic drip machines, etc.). These methods will leave you with a cup that is sometimes less than ideal (including a bitter cup). To best remedy a bitter cup, use brewing methods that will allow you to change the factors that determine whether or not your coffee is bitter (such as a gooseneck kettle).  

Here are a few factors to keep in mind when adjusting extraction: 

1. Coffee-to-Water Ratio

Too much extraction—or too little—can make a big difference for your cup. It’s the difference between a bitter cup or a weak, sour cup. 

Most brewers make that perfect cup by weighing the coffee—and the water. A gram scale will help you be precise with your measurements and guarantee the perfect coffee-to-water ratio when brewing every cup of coffee. 

2. Grind Size

A grind that is too fine for a particular brewer may over-extract.  

A lot of people tend to think that a finer grind = a stronger cup, but because the brewer/filter is not meant to handle so much surface area, the result is over-extraction.  

Coffee should be ground with a quality burr grinder to reduce fines (pieces of coffee that are comparably much too small). The more consistent and correct the grind, the less bitter the cup will be.  

3. Water Temperature 

Water should not be boiling hot when it hits the coffee.

You don't want to cook your coffee! The taste of burnt anything is bitter, especially that of the hypersensitive coffee bean. Keep coffee 200-205 F for best results. 

Don't have a thermometer? Boil a kettle and use the water about 30 seconds off the boil.

4. The Bloom

Skipping the bloom will make your coffee more bitter too. This is the step before extraction begins when you wet the coffee grounds.  

When coffee is blooming, the grounds swell, and bubbles rise to the surface. Those bubbles are the carbon dioxide being released by the beans. That’s a good thing for your coffee because CO2 tastes sour, and until the gas is released, the water can’t extract all of the delicious flavors from your brew. You can bloom with any coffee method (except in an espresso machine).  

It’s worth adding another 30 seconds to your brewing time in order to release the gas. 

5. Extraction Time

For most brewers, extraction should be kept to about four or five minutes. 

Anything greater than the recommended extraction time may yield a cup with beans that have been overused. It’s similar to using the same tea bag over multiple cups of tea—it will eventually impart unwanted flavors.  

Important to note: If you follow these instructions, the resulting cup will not be bitter. If you don’t follow the instructions and push them to the extreme instead, you will alternately end up with a cup that's too sour and under-extracted. Find a great medium and always record your brews so you can recreate the perfect cup.

RELATED: How to Use a Gooseneck Kettle Like a Pro 

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