Many people would say that coffee already tastes “burnt”, so how can you burn it? It’s a liquid, after all.
Short answer: Yes, you can burn coffee.
Now, the taste of burnt coffee can come from a few sources. As with most things, there isn’t just one way for it to go wrong.
You might be curious, just had a terrible cup of coffee, or found that your pot of joe at home just isn’t up to snuff no matter what. We will be looking at why it could be letting you down and ways to fix the problem.
How Does Coffee Burn?
There are three main ways coffee burns and numerous reasons why it can. These are some ways to avoid those pitfalls and have a smooth cup of coffee at home.
The first way coffee can burn is at the roasters. This isn’t in your control at all. It is the fault of the person or company who roasted the beans.
Roasting the beans too hot too fast scorches them and gives that overwhelming burnt taste. It’s bitter and not a flavor enjoyed by many, especially if you’re a big coffee lover.
Now, this is not to be confused with dark roast coffee. Dark roast coffee beans are darker in color and have an oily sheen. They have a deep, rich coffee flavor for people who really enjoy the taste of coffee.
Dark roast does not equal burnt.
Over-roasted coffee beans will be dark and dull or have black specks on the outer surface showing poor roasting.
How to Avoid This
You aren’t to blame if a bag of coffee you buy is cooked the wrong way, but to avoid it try to:
- Buy from a reputable coffee roaster.
- Check the beans before you buy– if possible.
- Go for a light roast.
Ah, you might not think coffee beans go bad. But in reality, brewing and drinking beans after they’ve gone past their expiration date can give you the same flavor as burnt coffee.
When you get coffee out in the world, you can never tell when the beans go bad.
Stale coffee beans don’t brew right and leave the flavor tasting bitter and burnt.
How to Avoid This
Reasonably simple answer: don’t buy or brew stale beans. Use fresh coffee beans.
Check your expiration dates and toss out what isn’t up to snuff. It’s crucial to control what beans you’re using and grinding if you are drinking coffee at home.
This might not be the only factor, but it is one that you might not have expected.
Leaving It on a Heat Source
If you’ve had a gas station or diner coffee, you’ve probably tasted the burnt coffee the old regulars drink by the mug-full. This might be your only experience with burnt coffee in general.
The burnt flavor actually comes from burning.
They’ve left the coffee pot for hours on coffee warmers. They might have forgotten it, or someone may have neglected their turn to brew a fresh batch.
The constant application to heat scorches the bottom and raises the temperature too high, giving the overheated coffee a very bitter, unpleasant taste.
This can happen at home, too. If you make large pots of coffee early in the day and keep them on low heat, this extended exposure can really alter the flavor.
How to Avoid This
- Ask for a fresh pot of coffee if you’re out.
- Make smaller batches more often.
- Keep the warming plate of your coffee at an ideal temperature of 165 degrees F.
- Don’t leave the coffee on a burner longer than 4-5 hours.
So, now you know the most common enemies of a good cup of coffee. You’ve got the knowledge to combat it and have the best coffee you can manage all the time.
To recap, the reasons why your coffee or coffee you got at a restaurant tasted burnt are:
- The company burnt the beans during roasting.
- The coffee beans were stale.
- The brewed coffee was on a heat source for too long.
All of these have simple fixes to minimize the possibility of burnt, bitter coffee. Keep fresh, good-quality beans on hand and keep your coffee maker working with fresh batches of delicious coffee at home.
Sometimes it’s entirely out of your hands at a restaurant or gas station. The solution there is to find local coffee shops with great beans to get your coffee fix.
And who knows, you might even like the taste of burnt coffee– now you know how to maximize the flavor or avoid it altogether.