bitter vs sour coffee

Sour Vs Bitter Coffee | Know The Governing Parameters

For most of us, a cup of coffee is a booster that wakes us up for the day. It’s undeniably one of the most consumed beverage in the world. 

Everyone has their taste preference when if comes to coffee. A well-brewed cup of coffee will have a perfect blend of acid and bitter tastes. But sometimes your coffee may start tasting overly bitter or sour, and you would be left wondering why is my coffee bitter? Well there are a number of reasons why it might be happening to you. It can be caused by over-extracting or under-extracting of the coffee bean, or poor quality of the bean and sometimes even there might be an issue with your equipment! 

So we are bringing forth this article to throw a light on what causes coffee bitter and why is coffee sour. We have listed all the sour vs bitter coffee aspects that might help you to figure out what makes coffee sour or bitter. 

What is Sour Coffee?

Some coffees, particularly light roasts, have a pleasantly sour taste. But an overly sour cup of coffee is a terrible thing to taste. Sour coffee is a symptom of under-extraction during the brewing process. This is because the water hasn’t had enough opportunity to break down enough sugars to balance with the acids from the first part of the extraction. 

What Makes Coffee Sour? 

A cup of overly sour coffee is not the right thing to taste first in the morning and you might be wondering why is my coffee sour? It can be caused by a number of reasons –

  1. Quality of coffee beans: Sour coffee can occasionally be caused by unsuitable quality coffee beans. Some under-roasted coffee beans have a strong, tangy taste, and coffee beans that are old or improperly packaged can be extremely stale, making your coffee sour.
  2. Water temperature not hot enough: When the temperature is too low, the compounds and flavors and aroma are not fully extracted, resulting in a sour brew.
  3. Coarse grind: If the coffee grounds you use are too large, they may not be sufficiently extracted. As a result, the majority of the solids in your coffee will be the early-extracting acidic compounds and this is what make coffee sour. This is also one one of the reasons you may complain of watery coffee.

What is Bitter Coffee? 

Bitter coffee is usually the result of over-extraction. Extraction is the process of retrieving the flavor from the coffee, transforming clear water into that delectably dark brew. As water and coffee grounds come into contact, a chemical reaction occurs that releases flavor and aroma. The key is to extract the good ones rather than the bitter ones, which show up over time.

What Causes Bitter Coffee?

Bitterness in coffee can be caused by a number of reasons –  

  1. Coffee steeped for too long: Overcooking your coffee is one of the most common causes of bitterness. Coffee obtains its flavour and aroma from steeping in hot water and if it’s left to steep for too long, the bitter flavors will overpower the coffee.
  2. Water is too hot: For making balanced coffee, water between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Anything more will over-extract the coffee, and is what causes bitter coffee
  3. Dirty equipment: This issue can sometimes be caused by a dirty coffee machine. Coffee residue frequently adds bitterness and makes your most recent brew taste burnt.

Types of Kinds of  Coffee Beans and their Natural Flavors

Robusta Beans

Among the hundreds of coffee species, Robusta is the world’s second most popular. Robusta coffee is a type of coffee obtained from the beans of the African Coffee canephora plant. It is frequently found in instant coffee and espresso blends. Many people believe Robusta has an oatmeal-like flavor that varies between neutral and harsh. Unroasted Robusta beans have a raw-peanutty smell to them. Robusta beans of high quality have a creamy texture, are low in acid content, and often have a hint of chocolate in their taste. It is also ideal for those who enjoy their coffee with sugar and cream, since it does not lose flavor when milk or sweetener are added.

Arabica Beans

Arabica beans are perhaps the most widely used coffee bean. These delicious beans originated many centuries earlier in Ethiopia’s highlands, and they may have been the first coffee beans ever consumed! Arabica beans are cultivated at high altitudes in regions with abundant shade and continuous rainfall. Arabica beans have shiny colors and less bitterness. They typically have more diverse flavor combinations, aromas, and a pleasant level of sourness, which makes them more popular among coffee enthusiasts. It has a citrusy, enticing, and fruity flavor with hints of dried nuts and unsweetened chocolate.

Darker Roasts

Dark Roast coffees have a dark brown color that is almost smoky. To get darker roasts, beans are toasted at a temperature of 440°F. Dark Roast coffee has a strong, complete body. These coffees are low in acidity and unveil stronger, darker flavors. Dark roasts have fruitier flavors since the sugars in the coffee beans have had time to caramelize, but they also have a harsh, smoky, or even burned flavor. They have an oily luster on the surface, which is usually visible in the cup when brewed with dark roast coffee. In stores, dark-roasted coffees are frequently termed as “French Roast” or “Italian Roast.”

Factors that Influence Sourness and Bitterness of Coffee

1. Brew Time

The length of the brew time is the most influential concern here, with the two undesirable possibilities (sour and bitter) at two extremes of the brewing spectrum. You would like to brew for a good amount of time to bring out the aromas that will complement the acidity and hit that perfect balance of flavor. Usually if you brew for eight minutes, you will notice a very strong, dark smoky flavor that you may not have anticipated from your coffee.

Your brewing aspects must also be compatible with both the coffee and the brew method. They may even need to be readjusted in the particular scenario of espresso to adhere to temperature ranges such as heat, humidity, and altitude. Even during a simple manual brew process, changes in brewing factors can mean the difference between a good and a great cup of coffee. 

2. Brew Temperature

brew temperature bitter vs sour coffee

Water temperature is important in coffee brewing because it extracts bitter compounds if it is too hot. High water temperatures produce a much more bitter cup than low water temperatures. It is recommended that the water temperature be kept between 90 and 95 degrees Celsius. Because too low a temperature can result in a sour, plain quality and aroma profile. If the temperature is too low, the flavors will not be fully extracted.

Temperature control may be limited if you use a drip coffee maker. However, if you use a pour over, a French press, or any other device that draws water from a pot, a thing to keep in mind is to bring your water to a full boil, then remove it from the heat and wait thirty seconds before brewing. This will result in the perfect cup of coffee that you have been looking for. For automatic grind and brew coffee makers, however, temperature control is rather precise.

3. Grind Size

grind size bitter vs sour coffee

The grind size, or particle size, has a significant influence on the bitter and sour taste of coffee. It alters the dissolution of taste and aroma of the coffee. Finely ground beans provide a larger extraction surface for the water to run through, causing over-extraction. Because there is a larger surface area, more bitter flavors can be extracted. Meanwhile, when beans are grounded very coarsely, acidic compounds overwhelm the brew.

Different brewing methods will necessitate different grinds, and you’ll need to explore to find the perfect balance, but if you’re getting a bitter cup every time, your grounds are probably a little too finely ground. Furthermore, it is preferable to grind your freshly roasted beans with a burr grinding machine rather than a blade grinder because it allows for more control of the grind and with a more precise finished product.

Final words

By now, you might probably know what causes coffee bitter or sour. Oftentimes, all the above reasons are the cause of a bad cup of coffee. If you take a note of these, you won’t have to go through the bitter experience again. Always use sufficiently extracted coffee beans. Wash your coffee makers regularly. They can also be a culprit of bad tasting coffee. Keep track of time when you’re steeping your coffee. You won’t like it overcooked or undercooked.

These are the simple rules that you need to keep in mind for a better cup of coffee to kick start you day.

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