Does Your Coffee Taste Burnt? 5 Things to Check

Does Your Coffee Taste Burnt? 5 Things to Check

Jake Bonneman Jake Bonneman
4 minutes of coffee drinking

Welp, it's happened again. You've made a pot of coffee, taken that first blissful sip... and it tastes burnt.

You check the beans, the grind, the water, the filter, and everything looks fine.

So what gives? Why does your coffee taste burnt? Why can't you enjoy that first cup of the day? Can’t anything go right?

There are a few potential culprits when it comes to burnt coffee. By troubleshooting each step of your coffee-making process and eliminating suspects along the way, we’ll figure out where the problem lies—and how to fix it.

Here are 5 things to check the next time your coffee tastes burnt:

#1 The Coffee Was Brewed Using Water That Was Too Hot

Ah, the most usual suspect of them all—brewing coffee with water that's too hot. Water that's boiling (or close to it) will extract more caffeine (and bitter flavor) from the coffee beans, but it can also scald the coffee grounds, giving the final cup a burnt taste.

The fix for this one is pretty simple: let boiling water cool for a minute or two before using it to brew your coffee. That way, it won't be quite so aggressive in extracting flavor from the beans.

Unfortunately, there's no saving coffee that's already been brewed with water that's too hot. Dump it out and start again with water that's at a lower temperature.

#2 The Beans Were Roasted Too Long or at Too High of a Temperature

We all—well, a lot of us anyway—love a nice dark roast. Just not that dark. When coffee beans are roasted for too long at too high of a temperature, they can start to taste burnt. This is one of the more common reasons for coffee that tastes burnt. And all you can really do is to throw out the beans that were roasted too long/too hot and start over with a new package of coffee beans.

#3 The Coffee Was Left on the Heat Source for Too Long

This is especially common with drip coffee makers. If the coffee isn't removed from the heat immediately after brewing, it will continue to "cook" and start to taste burnt. And no one wants that. So remove the pot of coffee (and set it on a safe, heat-proof surface, of course) as soon as it's finished brewing.

#4 Your Grind is Too Fine

When your coffee grounds are too fine, the water can take too long to filter through them. Not only can this result in over-extraction, making your coffee taste bitter, but the hot water can burn your coffee grounds. This can happen faster than you might think.

Not much more to say, really. Just try a coarser grind setting on your coffee grinder next time and see if that fixes the problem.

#5 The Milk or Cream in the Coffee Was Scorched

If you add milk or cream to your coffee, and the coffee is too hot, it can start to scorch. This can also happen very easily if you microwave or otherwise reheat your coffee with milk in it.

When the milk is burnt, it can make your whole cup of coffee taste burnt (and give it a very unpleasant aroma, to boot).

If you froth your own milk at home, be very careful not to overdo it. There are many ways you can ruin a cup of coffee to varying degrees, and scorched milk is definitely up there near the top.

Final Thoughts

There are a few potential culprits when it comes to burnt coffee, but most of them are pretty easy to fix. Be more careful with the water temperature, throw out over-roasted beans, and take the coffee off the heat as soon as it's finished brewing.

Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

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If your cup of dark roast has notes of burnt popcorn and acrylamide instead of say, chocolate and caramel... well, I'd say something went dreadfully wrong somewhere, sir.

Fortunately, it's most likely one of the five issues listed above. So go ahead and give them a once-over.

Chances are, you'll be able to enjoy a deliciously non-burnt cup of coffee in no time.

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