Avoiding sour or bitter coffee

If your coffee has a very sour or bitter taste it could be down to the following factors. So if you are struggling to work out why your coffee tastes bitter or sour, read on and take note.

However if you prefer lemons, vinegar, bitter greens and sour sweets then you can use this information to make your coffee even more bitter or sour!

Coffee is very much a matter of personal preference and taste. Some people appreciate a hint of bitterness in their coffee whereas others prefer a nice smooth taste. Our aim here is to help you to adjust your coffee making method to produce the taste you prefer.

Why does my coffee taste bitter?

Over extracting the coffee pulls out more caffeine and this has a very bitter taste. To shorten the extraction time on a coffee maker increase the pressure if this is an option and cut the shot pulling time. This can vary according to bean type and grind coarseness so there is a big element of fine tuning required.

If you are using a French press then you are probably taking too long to steep the coffee. On a pour over coffee maker you should open up the pour rate if this is an option to allow faster extraction, alternatively use less water and top it up with hot tap water.

Bitter coffee from Pod coffee machines.

Pod coffee makers such as the Tassimo, Nespresso, Dolce Gusto and Illy are popular but most people with these try to fill the cup with coffee.

Instead aim to extract a very short shot of coffee, espresso style (just one or two fluid ounces typically done in around 20-25 seconds). Then top up with hot water and milk according to taste. Most allow you to stop the extraction by pressing the button again or by setting an extraction time.

Do not try to fill the cup with coffee from a single shot of coffee grinds, or you’ll get a very bitter coffee.


Temperature of water used can cause bitterness in coffee. If the water is too hot it will pull out the bitter notes and scorch the grinds. Aim for 90-95 C° or around 200 °F

Some cheaper stove top coffee makers and some cheaper home espresso machines rely on steam over pressure to extract the coffee, and this is generally far too hot.

Sour coffee taste

A coarse grind will usually cause the coffee to be under extracted and this can add a very sour note to the coffee.

A sour taste can also be down to the bean chosen and light roasts tend to be on the sour side. Just like a fine win though you can build an appreciation for the bitter and sour notes in coffee and refine your tastebuds.

Grind and its effect on sourness and bitterness.

If the grind is too fine you can over extract the coffee. A finer grind allows more compounds to flow from the bean to the extracted shot, and sometimes this is not a good thing unless you are making Turkish coffee, .

The ideal grind coarseness depends on

Robusta coffee beans tend to add a bitter note to coffee so you might want to revise your blend and go with a higher Arabica content coffee or 100% Arabica.