Why Does My Coffee Taste Sour, Bitter, And Bad?

Imagine you wake up for your morning coffee.

Then, on your first sip, you feel the coffee tastes sour, bitter, and/or bad.

What do you do? Especially if you don’t know how you can fix a full cup of bitter coffee!

I bet this is a very common case for many of us!

It happens to me more often than I would like.

So my husband, Jack, and I decided to figure out why, and what we can do to prevent it. 

In fact, for many of us, the java is a reward for crawling out of bed when is the last thing you want to do. 

Of course, when I find ways to make anything coffee, I share the facts with you so you all can enjoy your joe everyday.

If you use some coffee hacks it can change your morning.

So here we go!

5 Questions About Coffee Taste

I have always wondered why my coffee sometimes doesn’t taste like coffee.

One day my coffee tastes exactly how I want it to, and other days it doesn’t taste right at all.

So I put together a list of the most common questions I ask myself on those bad days.

After Googling a whole broad day, I found the following answers.

#1: Why Does My Coffee Taste Sour?

Extraction has a lot to do with the taste of our coffee. Sour coffee is a result of too little extraction.

Sometimes improper storing of coffee can be a reason of coffee taste.

Another cause of sour tasting coffee is the grind size.

If you grind too fine as turkish coffee, or too coarse, it affects the amount of extraction your coffee gets.

What to look for

The coffee pours out in under 15 seconds and looks pale yellow and bubbly.

The coffee grinds that remain in your basket after you have run the coffee through, known as the “puck”, are really dry and powdery.


Your coffee appears blonde and pale and bubbly.

The light brown oils that float on top of your coffee also dissipates rapidly and the taste appears thin and sour.


Adjust your grinder to a slightly finer grind. This helps the water seep through the grind more evenly without too much resistance.


Think about the tart flavor of citrus fruit, or green apples. Those flavors come from acidic compounds.

The sourness needs to be balanced by sweetness to give your coffee a good taste.


The aroma of sour coffee smells just about as acidic as it tastes. These aromas can vary, from citrus to an onion or melon scent.

Overall, sour coffee has a very tart smell that not everybody finds appealing.

#2: What Is REALLY Making My Coffee Bitter?

The cause of bitter tasting coffee also has to do with the amount of extraction as well as the amount of time you brew.

If the coffee is over extracted, it gives you a harsh, bitter taste. The longer it brews, the more extraction you get.

What to look for 

Your puck is very soggy and sloppy.

A thin white or light yellow watery pour comes out and spirals at the end.

Big patches of white foam appear in the floating oils at the top of the coffee.


The coffee starts coming out in a light blonde color. This is almost pure caffeine which has a very bitter taste.

The bitterness in the coffee is most commonly a taste you get on the back of your tongue, closer to your throat.


Adjust your grind size to a more coarse grind. 

If the pour continues to turn the blonde color, start over and adjust the grind size again.

Too fine of a grind makes your coffee pour out slower which over extracts it. 


Think about the flavor of dark chocolate, garlic, or medicine. They do not taste sour nor sweet.

Bitter coffee takes longer to develop any sweet or sour flavors.

If your coffee is bitter, it tastes as if it was put on a stronger brew setting. 

It may also taste as if too much coffee and not enough water was added.


Bitterness is always in coffee, but it should be pleasant, not overwhelming or nasty.

The smell of coffee when it is way too bitter has a super strong coffee scent. Almost too much of an aroma to handle. 

If you like your coffee extra strong, then you are probably used to a bitter taste. 

If it has more of a bitter taste than usual, this remedy should help you. 

#3: My Coffee Tastes Stale And Flat.

Stale tasting coffee can come from the timing of grinding coffee beans.

Don’t leave the beans or grounds unused for a long period of time.

What to look for 

There isn’t much of a tell-tale sign to what stale coffee looks like when it is pouring.

The main thing is to buy pre-ground coffee beans at the best date.

Or keep track of the date that you grind the beans yourself.


You know when chop up an apple and leave it, it turns brown and you have to throw it away?

Coffee works the same way.

The fact is - pre-ground coffee or beans that you grind yourself can be the same when they get stale.

I always kan eye on the date! It remains very useful in this matter.


After opening a fresh bag of coffee, try to use it within a week to ten days, keeping it as well-sealed as you can during that time.

If you are grinding your own beans, try to use them immediately. 

If you're storing coffee for a long period of time or grinding it a few days before brewing, stale coffee is inevitable.

Taste: The taste of stale coffee is pretty simple. It just tastes old or bland without the good coffee flavor we crave.

Have you ever tasted a stale tortilla chip?

It’s the same concept with coffee.

If you leave it for too long, the flavors start to disintegrate.

Smell: Stale coffee usually has a shimmer of oil at the surface.

Really stale coffee eventually loses this sheen and smells like cardboard and ash.

#4 How Did I Get A Burnt Coffee Taste?

Water temperature, grind size, and sitting time might be the reasons.

If you add boiling water to your coffee maker, the final outcome tastes burnt because it pretty much burns out the good flavors.

Also, if you make a whole pot of coffee and take your time drinking it, the hot plates that heat the pot continue to stay hot.

Its like leaving hot dogs on the grill for too long, they get charred.

What to look for 

Burnt coffee has a dark or black color pouring out. The puck looks soggy and sloppy, just like bitter tasting coffee.

Even after a long extraction time, you get a small amount of liquid which heats up a lot faster, therefore tastes burnt.


Burnt coffee can be because the boiling water is flowing through too slowly while heating the grounds too much.

This gives you a harsh, burnt taste.

Your coffee grind may also be too fine, giving you too much resistance for the water to get through.


For a water temperature issue, make sure the water is just hot instead of boiling.

Recommended water temperature for coffee is 96°C (204.8°F).

For a grind size related issue, try grinding to a more coarse grind so there’s not as much resistance.

Lastly, don’t leave the coffee sitting in the pot for a long period of time.


The taste of burnt coffee is, well, burnt.

If you’ve accidentally burned food, you notice how it tastes charred, and a little nasty.

It’s the same with coffee. It is also a possibility that it has a taste kind of like ashes.


Because the coffee is burning, it can have a smell similar to that of wood, pipe tobacco, leather, clove, or black pepper.

Sometimes, it may even smell like an old ashtray, which is usually not that appealing.

#5: Why Does My Coffee Have Other Off Flavors?

Your coffee can have “off flavors” for a number of reasons.

It means, it just doesn’t taste like it’s supposed to.

These consist of poor quality coffee beans, lack of fresh water, dirty equipment, or even any leftover coffee that was left in the pot (before brewing again).

What to look for 

Clean your coffee maker and pot before you start.

Dirty pots usually make your coffee taste anywhere between burnt or old.

If you use expired coffee beans, it has a major effect on coffee flavor. 

Moreover, never compromise with getting some good brands of coffee beans.

Water with high bacteria levels can also be put in the “poor water quality” category. 

In fact, water can amazingly change your cup of coffee.


The only way to tell if your coffee is “off”, would be to smell and taste it.

I always believe that if it does not smell appealing to you, it probably tastes just as unappealing.


The first thing you should try is to clean your coffee maker to get rid of any leftover gunk.

Second, try to invest in the best beans. Some are really cheap, but don’t have the greatest taste.

And lastly, if you suspect your water is the issue, try getting a some spring water and brew your coffee with that instead.


An example of an “off flavor” is brewed coffee that has sat on a burner overnight.

It is likely to taste briny or maybe salty.

If you like your coffee black with two sugars, bad coffee might taste like you added salt instead of sugar, and its not a great taste.


Bad coffee may let off an “earthy” aroma meaning it can smell like mildew.

It could be because mold has developed.

This is another reason to keep your coffee pot clean.

Try and think of the way wet clothes smell when they have been sitting in the washer overnight and not put in the dryer.

Personally, that is one smell that I absolutely can’t stand.

Grind And Its Effects On Sourness And Bitterness

While it may not seem that important, grinds are one of the main factors of bad tasting coffee.

Grind size affects the amount of extraction in coffee, making it not taste the way it is supposed to.


The type of bean you should use depends on what flavor you prefer, however there are certain things you should look for when choosing coffee beans.

Different coffee making methods require different grind sizes.

#1: Bean Characteristics

To find the best kind of coffee bean, there are certain things to look for to insure you get good quality beans.

For starters, you want to make sure your beans are fresh.

I always look for a clear printed roast date.

If it is roasted more than 2 weeks prior to buying, I simply avoid those because they probably don’t taste fresh.

Next, make sure the beans are right for your brewing method.

For example, espresso roast or filter roast clearly describes the best way to brew those specific beans.

#2: Type Of Coffee Maker Being Used

Flavor also depends on what coffee maker you choose to use.

There are many different types of coffee makers, all them serving the same purpose.

But if you choose a drip pour with heating plates, you might get a burnt taste.

If you choose an AeroPress or a French press, you are likely to get the flavor you are looking for because you can keep a closer eye on what is going into your cup. Do you know, I can make cold brew coffee by using French Press.

Single cup makers such as a Keurig allows you to make each cup different to suit your preference.

#3: Preferred Taste

Of course, you have a taste preference.

Some people like their coffee extra strong, while others want a lighter flavor.

Most pre-ground coffee beans state the kind of brew they result in, such as light roast, medium roast, and dark roast.

Each of these have different grind sizes.

But what if you want to grind your own beans?

If you like a light brew, it is best to use coarse grounds so the water can flow through, just picking up light amounts of coffee flavor.

If you prefer a strong brew, a fine grind is the way to go.

The finer your grounds, the more extracted your coffee is.

#4: Required Coffee Shot

A “shot” refers to the dosage.

The standard dosage for a normal 6 fluid ounce cup is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee, or 10.6 grams if you prefer to measure by weight.


However, it is best to measure by weight instead due to different coffees having different densities.

If you would rather your coffee be stronger, you can add more grounds. 

If you prefer a light brew, simply put less coffee into the basket.

What Mistake Did You Make? Did You Try These To Fix Your Bitter Coffee?

A cup of bitter or sour coffee actually means you are making the same mistake(s) over and over.

Could you identify your reason? Or you have some different issues? How do you fix those sort of issues?

Use the comment section below and let me know. Moreover, if you have any other tips, we always love to learn them.

And of course, feel free to put any questions in the comment box.

Don’t forget to share with all of your coffee addict friends to help them make their perfect cup.

Sarah Price

Creator & editor here at House Of Arabica. I'm a proud mother of one baby girl. Passionate about coffees and their variations. Love to review coffee accessories! Please feel free to put your comment below.

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