It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves: why does my coffee taste bad? Well, there’s a number of reasons this could be happening. We often tell you how to make your coffee taste great, but sometimes that’s not the same thing as explaining why it tastes bad. Let’s look at some reasons why this could be happening!

Poor Extraction

Whether you use a high end semi-automatic espresso machine, a drip coffee maker, precision pour over equipment, or anything in between, poor extraction leads to bad coffee. But what does this mean? To put it simply, extraction is the bonding of your hot water and your coffee grounds to create the brew. You need proper heat, ratio of water to coffee grounds, and grind size to make sure your coffee is properly extracted.

How does this actually affect flavor? Under extracted coffee tends to taste sour. This is usually caused by water that isn’t hot enough or having too coarse of a grind. Over extracted coffee will have a bitter taste. This can be caused by water that is too hot or using too fine of a grind. One easy way to tell if your coffee is extracting properly is the time it takes to brew. In the case of espresso shots, you’ll want a shot time around 25 seconds to properly extract. There’s a lot of variability here based on the volume of your shot and the type of bean, but if your shot pulls in 10 or 40 seconds you’ll know something is off.

So how do you fix this? Unfortunately, the answer is practice, and making sure you have the right equipment. You’ll want to make sure your grinder is appropriate for your brewing style, and make adjustments to the grind size. You’ll also need to make sure you have proper water temperature, which can be a notable issue in cheaper machines. Using a scale or other measuring device to ensure the proper ratio of coffee to water will help as well. The good thing is that if you ensure the proper ratio and water heat then you know you just need a coarser grind to correct for bitter coffee and a finer grind to correct for sour coffee.

Fresh Equipment, Fresh Coffee

If your coffee tastes stale or mildewy then there’s a good chance that your coffee equipment needs some love. Coffee oils build up in coffee makers and grinders, which can lead to stale tasting coffee as the oils sit. Using some cleaning products will help freshen up your gear to help you get the very best out of it. You also may want to run a descaling program to help break down any limescale buildup. This should be done regularly according to your manual.

Another reason your coffee might taste stale is freshness. More and more roasters are indicating that their coffee will stay fresh in the bag for over a month before you notice any flavor fall off. In fact, many coffees reach their optimal flavor about three weeks after the roast date. However, if you aren’t going to drink your coffee within six weeks you will want to store it in a dedicated container. The good news here is that if you brew some old coffee and it tastes stale, you don’t have to worry about your health. The coffee won’t go “bad” for years, but the flavor will begin to fall off and it’ll have that bit of stale after taste.

Other Culprits

Other common culprits include things like warming plates scorching your coffee, being able to detect a metallic taste from thermal carafes, water with too many or too few minerals, or just a simple mismatch between expectations and actual taste. A huge cause for folks not liking coffee is expecting one kind of flavor profile based on notes and getting something different. There aren’t many ways to solve for this given that coffee tastes are so subjective!

We hope this has provided some insight into why you might not be enjoying your coffee. Be sure to try some of these remedies, and consider getting a drip brew from your local coffee shop to make sure you still like our favorite caffeinated beverage in the first place!