Coffee has a complex flavour, and it is lazy to say that all coffee is bitter, but it is definitely true that there are a lot of varieties that people do find bitter, and that sweetening up your coffee is nothing to be ashamed of.
The world of coffee has changed in the last 10, 20, or 30 years, and there are so many more methods for making coffee than there used to be. So, while some coffee can taste bitter to many palates, there are things you can do. Let’s dive into some tips for making coffee less bitter.
Choose a better variety of coffee
What sort of coffee beans are you using to make your drink? This is such a key component in whether or not the coffee has a horrible, bitter taste. For instance, cheap blends of coffee might be made up of whatever is cheapest on the market, and they may contain robusta coffee. Some robusta is tasty, but it tends to be more bitter, and it is not popular among those who want a bit of sweetness.
Choosing single origin coffees that have more complex flavours and often have sweeter notes to the flavour can be a good option.
“Roasting is the key factor driving bitter taste in coffee beans. So the stronger you roast the coffee, the more harsh it tends to get.”
A quote from Thomas Hofmann, Ph.D who teaches molecular sensory science. So, it is safe to say that he knows what he is talking about. Lighter roasts of coffee definitely have a far less bitter flavour to them, and this means you don’t have to add things to balance out the bitterness.
You will rarely find coffee advertised with a “light” roast but it does happen, and you can definitely find “medium” roast coffees. Some use a system of rating the roast between one and five, and three is about as high as you should go if you find that coffee is too bitter for you in general.
Filter coffee machines tend to be a good way to get a result you are happy with, which isn’t too bitter to handle. A lot of us use things like pod and capsule coffee machines in the modern age, and some of these can also create “barista-style” drinks.
If you brew using an espresso machine you get a far more concentrated end result, and this can end up being quite bitter. However, you may not drink the espresso on its own. In fact, if you are the kind of person who doesn’t like the bitter taste of coffee, espresso isn’t the place to start, but espresso–based drinks might be. This leads us nicely onto the next point…
Milk (or cream)
Milk is probably the most common way people make coffee less bitter in taste, followed by cream, which is very popular in the United States.
If you go into a coffee shop and order a latte, for instance, a huge majority of the drink is milk, which tends to be very sweet, and balance out the flavours.
So, while an espresso shot is very bitter, add it to a cup of steamed milk and you will end up with quite a sweet result.
Some people opt for chocolate to combat the bitterness as well as milk. Whether it is just a dusting on your cappuccino or you decide that you are going to start out drinking mocha (a combination of drinking chocolate and coffee) this is a certain way to make the coffee have more of a sweet taste.
A lot of people start out drinking mocha or chocolate-based coffee drinks and eventually move onto other barista-style drinks. As we get older, our palates tend to change anyway allowing us to handle the slightly bitter tastes.
Syrups in coffee have become really common, and they give it a bit of a twist in terms of flavour. For example, you might decide you like a hazelnut or cinnamon flavour in your coffee. You can order lattes with these syrups from virtually any coffee shop now, especially if you go to chain stores. On top of that, you can also get them for your own home, and keep syrups in the kitchen ready to sweeten up your coffee with a bit of caramel or hazelnut whenever you want.
This divides opinion but we think that sugar should be something of a last resort when it comes to sweetening up your coffee. It doesn’t add much to the flavour or make it more interesting, it just tends to get rid of some of the notes you might otherwise get and make coffee taste a bit samey. It’s fine if you feel you need it, but there are other options.
There is a whole arsenal of tools you can use to sweeten up your coffee, whether it is more milk, syrup, or just changing the way you brew. If coffee is too bitter for you, it doesn’t have to be the end of the love affair.