Coffee served at a café is almost always delicious, but many coffee drinkers struggle to replicate that café-quality at home.
If your home-brewed coffees never taste quite like what a barista serves, or you often find yourself asking the question “why does my coffee taste bitter”, be reassured that you can learn how to make coffee taste better at home.
If you want to know how to make black coffee taste good, how to make coffee taste less bitter or simply how to make better coffee at home, we can help.
With these 22 secrets for success, you can quickly learn how to make your coffee taste better, everyday.
Why Does My Coffee Taste Bad?
Every coffee brew is unique, and there are countless variables that go into how a particular pot or cup of coffee tastes.
Should anything be awry with the beans, grind, water, coffee maker, brewing technique or any number of other variables, the result will be less than ideal.
Thankfully, almost every common mistake that people make when brewing coffee at home — from using stale beans to grinding on the wrong setting — can be easily corrected with the tips below.
How to Make Coffee Taste Better at Home
Incorporating all 22 of these tips into your home brewing process will result in true café-quality coffee.
You may even find that your home brewed coffee becomes better than what the barista down the street serves.
You don’t have to make all 22 of these adjustments to improve your coffee, though.
Each of these will help you learn how to make better coffee at home, and starting to do even just a few of them will have a significant positive impact on how your coffee tastes.
We have grouped our coffee brewing tips below into 7 categories:
Okay, let’s get into it and look at the different ways to make coffee taste better.
Coffee Beans Tips To Brew Better Coffee At Home
If you want to know how to make coffee taste good without creamer or sugar, much of the answer lies in using fresh coffee beans.
Buy Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans
Coffee beans are an agricultural product (the pits of coffee cherries), and they degrade over time just like any produce does.
Roasted coffee beans won’t rot for a very long time, but they will go stale.
A stale coffee bean will never produce a lively brew, since you can’t concoct flavor out of something flavorless.
To ensure your beans are full of flavor, always buy fresh coffee beans.
Many specialty coffee roasters print the roast date on their bags — a date within 2 weeks is ideal and 2 months is suitable.
You will notice that most coffee beans sold at the supermarket do not have a roasted date. They usually include a use by date, which doesn’t tell you how fresh they are.
If you can’t afford to buy specialty coffee for every day drinking, start with the occasional bag of freshly roasted beans to taste the difference.
Expert Tip: Roasted coffee needs time to degas, so you won’t want to brew it on the exact day it’s roasted.
Learn How to Choose High-Quality Coffee Beans
You don’t have to be a coffee expert in order to choose high-quality coffee beans.
Even if you don’t know what “terroir” means and how to conduct a “cupping,” you can still scan descriptions for meaningful terms.
At a broad level, here are some general tips to keep in mind:
Always purchase coffea arabica (as opposed to coffea robusta) beans. Arabica beans are much more flavorful, and virtually all specialty-grade coffee is coffea arabica.
Look for higher growing elevations, as these slow the coffee cherries’ growth and infuse more nuanced flavors. The same principle holds true for shade-grown coffee.
When comparing two coffees from one country, a more specific location (e.g. a specific grower or microlot) is usually a sign of a good coffee. Only good coffees are set aside by themselves and not combined with others. (This principle doesn’t hold true in all regions, as some areas of the world don’t have the infrastructure to trace coffee this precisely.)
Always look for tasting notes that describe flavors you prefer. Regardless of a coffee’s quality, you should always drink something you like.
Store Coffee Beans Correctly
Store your coffee beans properly in order to preserve maximum freshness.
Recently roasted beans will have to give off carbon dioxide (degas), so they should be in a container that allows gas to escape.
You don’t want to let excess air into the container, though. Coffee bags that feature a one-way valve are ideal for storing fresh beans.
You can alternatively use an airtight container, and the carbon dioxide will escape when you open the container to get more beans.
How To Make Coffee Taste Good With The Right Grind
Okay, so now we have covered the essentials for good coffee beans, let’s move on to some grinding tips for making good coffee at home.
Grind Beans on Demand
Only grind coffee beans as you need them for brewing. Grinding beans increases their surface area and contact with the air, which expedites how quickly they lose their freshness.
Grinding on demand is especially important when using a brewing technique that requires an especially fine grind, such as espresso.
All brewing techniques will taste better if you grind each time, though.
Grinding beans on demand will also help prevent your grinder from overheating, which can distort the flavor of the coffee grounds.
Use the Correct Grind Size
Because grind size determines surface area, it has a direct effect on how quickly extraction occurs during brewing.
Different brew techniques need different extraction rates, and they therefore require different grind sizes.
Using the correct grind size for your chosen brewing technique will help ensure optimal extraction.
|Brew Method||Grind Size|
|Espresso (Stove Top)||Medium-Fine|
|Aeropress (Standard Method)||Medium|
|Manual Pour-Over (Generic)||Medium|
|Manual Pour-Over (Chemex)||Medium|
|Automatic Drip (Cone Filter)||Medium|
|Automatic Drip (Flat-Bottomed Filter)||Medium-Coarse|
Grind With a Burr Grinder
We know that the grind size is important for optimal extraction. But to achieve a consistent grind size, a burr grinder is essential.
Coffee grinders on the market come in two styles:
- Blade grinders – use a blade to chop coffee beans, much like how a food processor works.
- Burr grinders – have a set of burrs that rub together, grinding coffee beans as they pass between the burrs.
The problem with blade grinders is that they are known to create non-uniform grounds. This is not good for a quality extraction.
Burr grinders are cheaper than burr grinders, but they are simply not the right tool for the job.
Always use a burr grinder when you grind coffee beans.
Because the beans must pass between the two burrs, burr grinders produce a much more consistent grind than blade grinders do.
Burr grinders come in both ceramic and stainless steel. Both are good, but in commercial grade grinders you will mostly find steel.
If you aren’t ready to purchase an expensive electric coffee grinder, there are many great manual coffee grinders on the market. See our review of the top manual grinders here.
Measure Coffee Grounds With a Scale
When measuring out your coffee beans to grind, use a scale instead of a scoop.
Coffee bean density varies depending on bean varietal, bean size and roast level. A volumetric scoop (e.g. a tablespoon) can’t account for such variances, so you can’t possibly be consistent with the weight of coffee you are using.
A coffee scale will account for these variances and ensure that you always have the proper amount of coffee to brew.
And if you are wondering what a coffee scale is, read this article.
How To Make The Best Coffee With The Right Water
Okay now we are going to look at water. Often overlooked, it is a critical component to making great coffee at home.
Consider Using Filtered Water
Despite all of the attention that goes to coffee beans, brewed coffee is still mostly water.
How good is your tap water? Do you drink it? If you live in a hard water area or you don’t enjoy the taste of your tap water, consider using filtered water to brew your coffee.
With filtered water you won’t have any impurities interfering with the extraction of the chemicals that give coffee its taste.
This is often a major reason why cafes — which have filtration systems — brew better-tasting coffee.
Maintain the Proper Water Temperature
Brewing coffee with boiling water will actually scald the grounds and destroy some of their more nuanced flavors.
Instead of using boiling water, brew with water that’s between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit (90 – 96 degrees Celcius).
There are temperature-setting kettles on the market that help you achieve the proper brewing temperature for water for manual pour overs, French press coffee and aeropress brews.
If you don’t want to buy a high-end kettle, heating water to a boil and then letting it cool for 30 seconds will have the water roughly within the desired range.
Follow the Standard Coffee-to-Water Ratio
The coffee-to-water ratio states how much coffee is used in relation to how much water you’re brewing with.
If you want to know how to make the best tasting coffee, pay attention to the coffee:water ratio.
This ratio is critical to the quality of your brew, as increasing or decreasing it will affect extraction.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America has a golden ratio of 1:18 for most brewing techniques.
This means there should be 1 gram of coffee for every 18 grams (or milliliters) of water. That works out to 55.5 grams of coffee per 1,000 milliliters (1 litre).
A coffee scale makes checking the coffee to water ratio much simpler, especially when they convert grams to ounces for you.
It is one of the most popular coffee accessories amongst the barista community!
Ways To Make Coffee Taste Better With Your Coffee Maker
An essential category for brewing great coffee – coffee makers. Let’s look at how they can impact the quality of your brew.
Invest in a Good-Quality Coffee Maker
Whatever brewing method you use, invest in a coffee maker that’s well-made.
The criteria to look for will depend on what kind of coffee maker you need, but every coffee maker has elements that make a difference.
The screen quality in a French press, the quality of an automatic’s drip dispersion and an espresso machine’s steam wand pressure are all little details that can have a big difference.
If you are in the market for a new coffee maker, here are some of our top reviews.
Clean Your Coffee Equipment Regularly
If you don’t clean your coffee equipment periodically, minerals from water and oils from coffee grounds will build up over time. Have you ever looked in the bottom of your coffee maker?
By the time you can see the deposits and grime, they’re certainly imparting off-flavors into your brew.
The following are general cleaning guidelines that work well for most people.
|Equipment||Cleaning Frequency||How to Clean|
|Coffee Maker Removable Parts||Each Use||Rinse|
|Coffee Maker||Weekly||Wash All Parts|
|Espresso Maker||Weekly – Monthly||Use Cleaning Tablet|
|Grinder||Each New Coffee||Wipe Out Grounds|
|Grinder||1 – 6 Months||Disassemble & Wipe Out|
For equipment with a range listed above, how frequently you should clean it depends on how often it’s used.
Many components can be cleaned with warm soapy water, a specialized coffee cleaner, or equally effective with white vinegar or lemon juice.
Make a solution with warm water, and let elements sit in the solution for a few hours to remove stubborn deposits.
How To Make Your Coffee Taste Better When Brewing
There are many specific brewing tips for each kind of coffee brewing method, but here we are going to cover the essentials to good coffee brewing for all kinds of coffee makers.
Understand Brewing Time
Time has a direct impact on extraction, and brewing for the right amount of time will help ensure a consistently good cup of coffee.
In fact, you can often taste the difference if your brewing process is too short or too long.
Cutting time short results in an under-extracted brew, which creates a sour flavor.
Why does coffee taste bitter? A bitter flavor is a sign that the coffee is over-extracted, possibly due to brewing for too long.
The following are commonly recommended times for different brewing techniques.
|Brew Method||Brew Time|
|Espresso (Machine)||15-30 seconds|
|Espresso (Stove Top)||4-6 minutes|
|Aeropress (Standard Method)||2-3 minutes|
|Manual Pour-Over (Generic)||4-5 minutes|
|Manual Pour-Over (Chemex)||4-5 minutes|
|Automatic Drip (Cone Filter)||3-10 minutes|
|Automatic Drip (Flat-Bottomed Filter)||3-10 minutes|
|French Press||4-6 minutes|
|Cold Brew||12-24 hours|
Let Fresh Grounds Bloom
The carbon dioxide that’s trapped in freshly roasted coffee will interfere with brewing if it’s not given an opportunity to escape before brewing.
The gas will form microscopic bubbles around the grounds, thus preventing proper extraction of the grounds.
To prevent this from happening, freshly roasted coffee should be allowed to “bloom” when you brew with it.
Allowing freshly roasted coffee grounds to bloom is simple:
- Dampen the grounds with hot water.
- Allow the damp grounds to sit for 40 seconds.
- Continue brewing as normal.
Note the 40-second bloom isn’t included in your brew time.
Pair Roast Level and Brewing Technique
Both roast level and brewing technique influence body and acidity, and they can be paired together as a result.
These are great expert tips to take on board if you want to know how to make coffee taste good without sugar or creamer:
- Brewing techniques where the coffee grounds and water are in contact for a long period of time tend to enhance body and reduce acidity. These pair well with darker roast levels, which do the same. Immersion (e.g. French press and Cold Brew) and percolation are examples of such brewing techniques.
- Brewing techniques where coffee grounds and water are in contact for less time produce less body and more acidity. These pair well with lighter roast levels, which emphasize the same. Drip brewing (e.g. pour-overs and automatic drips) are examples.
- Pressurized brewing techniques produce exotic flavors and are fun to try with all roast types. Espresso is an example.
Experiment with Different Brew Methods
Everyone develops their go-to brewing method, but don’t get too stuck making coffee one particular way.
You may be surprised to find you enjoy the taste of coffee more when it is brewed using a different method.
Experiment with different brew methods, and see what you discover as you try various varietal, roast and brew combinations.
Trying out new things is the best way to learn more about coffee.
How To Make Coffee Taste Less Bitter With Additions
We couldn’t share a list of ways to make coffee better without talking about flavors.
Especially useful when brewing with supermarket or older beans, here we cover what to add to coffee to make it taste better.
Appreciate the Role of Sugar
Sugar does much more than merely sweeten coffee, and there’s a good reason why many people add it to their brews.
When sugar dissolves in coffee, the sugar compounds surround the caffeine molecules in mini-bubbles.
This reduces how much the caffeine molecules — which are bitter — contact the tongue.
The result is a cup that’s both sweeter and less bitter. If you are looking for how to make coffee taste less like coffee, sugar is a good addition.
Add Frothed Milk
If you prefer coffee with cream and want to know how to make home coffee taste better, a good tip is to use a milk frother to aerate and texture the milk.
Once frothed, the milk has a sweeter and creamier taste, which makes for a better tasting brew.
A frother will work best with fatty milk additions, such as heavy cream, half and half and whole milk.
You can use a frother to make any dairy or non-dairy milk more smooth and creamy, though.
Heat some milk on the stove, froth it and add it to your coffee for a cafe-like misto or latte.
Consider Adding Flavors
When you roast with beans that are less than fresh, you can still get good coffee from them by adding flavors.
There are several ways to add or infuse flavors into coffee:
- Store beans near something scented (e.g. in an old whiskey bottle) to infuse flavor
- Sprinkle spices (e.g. pie spices) on grounds before brewing to add flavor
- Use plant-based milks, honey, agave, or other cream and sugar alternatives for different tastes
- Add flavored syrups after brewing for a strongly increased flavor.
Expert Tip: Because all of these mask the actual flavor of coffee beans to at least some extent, they’re best reserved for less-than-ideal beans.
Pair Coffee With Food
Pairing coffee with the right foods will really highlight the notes in the coffee.
Choose foods that taste like what the coffee’s notes are, and you’ll see how those notes come out.
A chocolate bar will make a coffee with subtleties of cocoa really taste like chocolate, for example.
How To Improve Coffee Taste When Drinking
Drink Coffee Right Away
Coffee will taste best if it’s enjoyed promptly after brewing.
As coffee cools and oxidizes, some of the more nuanced notes are lost.
Depending on the quality of the beans you started with, brewed coffee that’s sat out may taste generally sweet or bitter.
Regardless of bean quality, though, it won’t be nearly as complex 30 minutes or more after brewing.
Keep Coffee Warm in a Carafe
If you won’t be drinking coffee for some time, the best way to keep it warm is in an insulated carafe or mug.
Anything that actively generates heat (e.g. a hot plate) will cause bitter acids to form in the coffee, giving it the classic bitter taste of diner or gas station coffee that was brewed hours ago.
A passive solution, such as a high-quality carafe or mug, won’t generate those acids.
Frequently Asked Questions About How To Make The Best Tasting Coffee
1. How to make instant coffee taste better?
Wondering how to make Folgers coffee taste good, or another brand of instant coffee?
The steps to make instant coffee taste better are the same steps as you’d take with any other coffee.
Purchase the best instant coffee you’re able to (there are some decent ones available now), and follow your brewing recipe’s ratio, time, etc.
You may focus more on the post-brewing additions, such as creams and sugars, as they’ll mask any bitterness in the instant coffee and most instant coffees are strong enough to stand up to additions.
2. How to make Keurig coffee taste better?
A common question is “why does my Keurig coffee taste bitter”.
The Keurig brewing system dictates many aspects of the brewing process, so your efforts will have to focus on post-brew.
Try adding different creamers, sugars and flavors to see what you like.
Also, don’t put too much money into buying a super-fancy Keurig pod. The coffee in pods isn’t fresh, and the system isn’t designed to allow for a bloom like fresh grounds require.
3. How to make drip coffee taste better?
Drip coffee affords many opportunities to make it taste better, since you have control over many aspects of the brewing process.
As always, start with freshly roasted beans that are ground on demand and filtered water.
Follow your drip brew recipe precisely, paying special attention to the grind setting and coffee-to-water ratio.
After brewing, don’t leave the coffee on your drip machine’s hot plate. Drink it promptly or transfer it to a carafe instead.
4. How to make black coffee taste better?
Drinking coffee black is the best way to fully appreciate the beans’ flavors, so make sure your coffee selection and brewing process are top-notch when having black coffee.
Depending on your current process, you might want to purchase freshly roasted coffee, a burr coffee grinder, a scale or a temperature-control kettle.
5. How to make espresso taste better?
Espresso tastes best when it’s made with medium or dark roasts.
It is also worth noting that the process of pulling a shot is highly technical.
Whereas other brewing methods may offer some leeway for inaccuracies and minor errors, every misstep will show up in a shot of espresso.
Make sure your grind, tamp and time are all perfect. You may need to practice them for a manual machine, or calibrate them if you use an automatic.
There are many ways to make your coffee taste better at home, and using any of these tips will help improve your daily brew.
Experiment with one at a time so that you can see how it specifically changes your coffee, and enjoy the progress you make as you incorporate more and more tips.
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