I get many questions from regular readers asking how to make coffee taste better. Brewing a great cup of coffee to a coffee shop standard with a great body and full flavor is somewhat of an art wrapped up in science.
There is a lot more behind making coffee taste great and getting barista quality coffee than just hot water, milk, sugar and some coffee grounds. There are specific techniques and variables to be aware of that influence the flavor of your brew.
Keep reading this article to learn what you can do to wave bye bye to bad coffee and say hello to a great tasting pot of coffee.
Let’s kick-start this article with…
How To Make Coffee Taste Good When You Hate It!
Think of a cup of coffee as a recipe, and yourself as a master chef and think about what you can do to make your coffee taste good.
It is perhaps not coffee or the taste of coffee that you don’t like but the taste of a “typical” coffee or brewing method (i.e. instant coffee, yuk!). Coffee, like wine, can have many different flavors and notes depending on where the beans come from, how they were roasted, how your coffee was brewed, to name only a few contributing factors.
Some simple basics you can do to alter the taste include adding milk instead of creamer and vice versa. You can even change the type of milk (OMG oat milk, coffee sent from the heavens above!).
You can also experiment with what it is you use to sweeten your coffee with and get a different tasting coffee!
In my humble opinion, everyone likes coffee – it is just a matter of finding your coffee and what hits the spot for you!
Read: How long after tooth extraction can I drink coffee?
Is It Possible To Force Yourself To Like Coffee?
You like what you like. I am not an advocate of forcing yourself to like a particular taste. You can, however, acquire a taste, sort of like marmite. I started off really hating it, then, without forcing it, I just got used to it. That is without particularly eating much of it.
I acquired the taste by trying similar tasting things to marmite. It is fairly possible that you too could acquire the taste of coffee by trying coffee cakes, coffee biscuits or some food items with that kind of taste.
It is, in my own humble opinion, a matter of finding your own way in coffee culture and a coffee that hits the spot for you.
There are an almost infinite number of brewing techniques and methods, different roasts and beans and, of course, a crazy number of coffee drinks to choose from. I’m not a wine drinker, I don’t particularly like wine at all but a white wine from the Rhine region or a Sparkling white cava wine from Spain I do like the taste of.
As I said coffee is like wine. It is a matter of finding what type of coffee you like, beans, brewing method and which coffee drink.
Did you know that in the unique and standout Vietnamese coffee culture, they drink what is basically a single fruit smoothie of banana, strawberry, coconut or avocado with an espresso shot and also have a great tasting coffee where salt is the main ingredient?
This is exactly what I mean, find *your* coffee, ohh and the salt in coffee, I will talk about that Vietnamese secret later!
Let’s get to the meat and bones of this article and talk more about how to make coffee taste better.
Read: How to clean a coffee maker with bleach?
How To Make Coffee Taste Better
Master the variables, take notes and write down what the variables were in the coffee that you enjoyed so much or what it was that you did to make your coffee taste so much better.
What was the water temperature? How much coffee did you use? How much water? And what was the resulting coffee to water ratio?
Jot down the coffee brewing times and the technique used. Do this, and you will start to get great consistency in brewing coffee by taking out the randomness of it all.
In my coffee shops in Cambodia and Vietnam, we give away free membership cards to customers.
Having such cards helps us to keep track of what coffee they had, how it was brewed, and we offer a little discount for giving a rating of how they liked their coffee. This way, we can serve them the exact same coffee, exactly to the detail as they had it last time and how they love it.
If and when you take notes of the variables that contribute to the flavor of your coffee and develop a skill for brewing it, you too will enjoy barista-brewed coffee quality at home, provided you have the right equipment.
Let’s now detail some tips that you can consider to start making coffee that tastes so much better.
#1 Clean Your Coffee Machine
Taking a few minutes to properly clean your coffee machine can help to improve the flavor. There is nothing worse than stale water or the build up of old, rotten coffee grounds or lime scale building up in your coffee maker and making your brew taste awful.
I strongly advise you to have a proper weekly or bi-weekly cleaning of your coffee machine. If it is an automatic drip coffee machine, a Keurig or a Nespresso Pod coffee maker, you need to ensure that you clean and flush the pipes.
The old coffee can cause the build up of bacteria that is harmful to your health.
Be sure to rinse your machine properly afterward and start thinking about preventative maintenance like using a water filter and flushing your machine after use to help you make great coffee every single time.
#2 Use Filtered Water
Following on from above. Filtered water not only helps you to maintain your machine and coffee brewing equipment like kettles, moka pots, siphon coffee brewers etc. It helps you to make better coffee.
The better and purer your water is, the better your coffee will be. This is why coffee can vary from country to country even when all other variables are the same.
#3 Use Sparkling Or Tonic Water
Speaking of water, one of Vietnam’s little secrets in their stand-out “counter-coffee culture” is tonic coffee. It is simply coffee made with tonic water.
Normally served cold and rather surprising is how the bitter taste of tonic water marries well with coffee.
Sparkling water with coffee adds a nice, refreshing experience. Great for cold brew and well enjoyed on a hot day. Don’t simply just use tap water. Change it and find what you like.
#4 Adjust Your Water Temperature
This was the big eye-opener for me in my coffee journey. The effect of adjusting the temperature of your water has on the flavor of your coffee is outstanding.
The ideal brewing temperature of coffee is 92C to 96C (195F to 205F). If your coffee is sour, increase the temperature. If it is overtly bitter, drop the temperature a little.
You can use an electronic digital gooseneck kettle to program and set the exact temperature. I suggest having a digital thermometer or laser thermometer at hand to check your water temperature and have control of this variable.
you can check if your digital kettle is producing the temperature displayed.
A not so exact method of temperature control used by many is to spend a few minutes boiling water and then letting it cool for 20 to 25 seconds.
Your water temperature is a critical factor in brewing coffee as it directly affects the extraction rate, the rate at which the compounds, caffeine and oils in your coffee grounds get extracted.
Each of the compounds gets extracted at different temperatures. At higher temperatures, it is more difficult to control the extraction rate and can lead to over-extraction and a bitter coffee.
#5 Adjust Your Ratio
The ratio of coffee to water is something that affects the flavor of your Cup of Joe. It may seem trivial, but it is much more important than you would think.
How much coffee to water you have as a ratio will directly influence your brew time, how long you need to steep your grinds for.
I suggest that you use well-established coffee to water ratios and experiment from that and find what suits you. Ratios vary largely depending on which brewing method is used.
#6 Alter The Brew Time
The longer your coffee grounds are steeped in your hot water, the more of the oils, compounds and flavonoids will extract into your brew and the better the flavor of your coffee will be.
You must always be aware of over extraction and not to end up with an overpowering bitter taste. As a paradox, you also need to be conscious of under extraction and a weak under brewed cup of coffee which will taste sour.
As I touched on earlier, there is a relationship between brewing time and the temperature of your water. The hotter the water, the lower the brew time is. Inversely, the colder your water, the longer the brewing time should be.
Lovers of French press coffee often deny themselves an excellent second cup or a top-up by not decanting their brewed coffee into a suitable container. As it sits there it is brewing away and over extracting!
Which is a shame as the French press is an excellent brew method.
#7 Change The Grind Size
When your coffee brews, you want it to brew with consistency. Consistency is the key to successfully brewing a coffee that you absolutely love every single time.
Some variables in the science of brewing coffee I have already mentioned, your grind size is representative of physical consistency. Changing the grind size can and will alter how your coffee ends up tasting.
You absolutely must use the correct grind size for the brewing methods. You will not be able to brew an espresso with a rich creamy thick creama on top with a coarse grind or a great French press coffee with a fine grind.
Try getting a good drip coffee from drip filter machines with a coarse grind or a fine grind. The result will either be over brewed and bitter or under brewed and watery.
The grind size has a direct relationship with brew times. The larger the grind size, the longer your extract time for your coffee will be.
The smaller your grind size is, the shorter your brew time should be. This is why, with a large grind size we can brew our coffee for a few minutes, while an espresso with a very fine powder can be brewed in 25 to 30 seconds.
Thus, the size of your coffee particles is something you can and should pay attention to. If you have been paying attention, you will now know that with a large grind size and a low, cold water temperature your brew time will be very long – this is why you can leave a cold brew coffee to brew for hours and even overnight.
#8 Ditch The Sugar For…
How you sweeten your coffee can, and will have a dramatic effect on how your coffee tastes and completely change the flavor profile of your Cup of Joe. This is something that I regularly change up and switch around.
I promise you, I absolutely promise you, the difference is amazing.
You can switch your regular white sugar to brown unrefined sugar, coconut sugar, cane sugar, Agave and Stevia.
The possibilities of the various sugars are endless.
You can even add honey and try out different types of honey, from regular bees honey to eucalyptus honey, orange honey, rosemary honey and so on. Each coffee you make will give you a distinct flavor depending on what you put in it to sweeten it up.
#9 Spice Up Your Beans!
Rather than dropping in some spices like cinnamon, vanilla and many others to your coffee cup, you can, instead add them to your beans and flavor your coffee beans directly yourself.
Simply take whatever it is you want to flavor your beans with, chop it up and add it to your coffee canister. Give your canister a good shake to distribute your spice evenly, then simply leave it for 24 to 36 hours to absorb the flavor.
The next step is to brew a cup of coffee with your beans.
You can do this and end up with a whole wide range of different types of coffee with different flavors ranging from vanilla, cinnamon, coconut, hazelnut.
Use the actual fresh spice and not a flavoring like a vanilla extract, for example. This is how you will get better, healthier and more delicious flavored coffee when compared to the sugar syrups by Starbucks or the chemical flavoring oils.
#10 Use Coffee Ice Cubes
Making coffee ice cubes is what makes a world of difference to me and really got me into cold coffee and iced coffee during hot summers.
As I have said many times, it is about making tiny adjustments and changing how your Java tastes and turning it into an amazing coffee. For me, I’m a long slow sipper and my iced coffee and cold brew with ice just ended up being watery and weak. Coffee ice cubes turned it from unlikable to barista coffee quality as the flavor was maintained.
#11 Getting Salty
Salt in coffee is amazing.
It really is one of the most surprising additions to coffee that you can think of. Just a tiny amount will dramatically alter the flavor and take away the bitterness.
You can use salt to freshen up old beans.
#12 Try Different Milks
One way that coffee lovers change up their coffee is by using different types of milk. Instead of sticking with the same old boring cow milk you can use goat milk, oat milk (expect amazing coffee!), soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, rice milk and even condensed milk.
In Valencia, Spain, they make an interesting coffee with condensed horchata (tiger nut milk). Do experiment with nut milks of all kinds.
Or even try out the hip and trendy butter in your coffee as an alternative to or with milk for an amazing flavor to your coffee.
#13 Try Different Roasts
Different coffee roasts have different flavors If you have just tried ordinary regular coffee, then, in all probability, you have only tried a dark roasted coffee. A dark roasted coffee has that typical dark, deep “traditional” coffee taste.
If this is what you really don’t like, then change the roast type that you have been drinking to and try different roasts, moving down the roast profile one step at a time from medium-dark to medium, to light and blonde roasts and find what hits the sweet spot for you.
There is a world of difference between the different roasts.
#14 Buy Better Quality Beans
The better your beans, the better your coffee will be – this goes without saying, as it is in cooking, the better the ingredients, the better the meal will be. Coffee is no different.
Amazing coffee beans include Hawaiian Kona coffee, medium-dark roast, Ethiopian yirgacheffe coffee, medium or light roast, are both amazing coffee beans, as are Tanzanian Peaberry coffee beans.
#15 Use Different Brewing Methods And Techniques
You don’t always have to drink hot coffee: you can try cold brew coffee and experience different tasting coffee with the low temperature flavor compounds of coffee and change your experience with coffee completely.
Each different brewing method brings about a very different tasting coffee. Try all different types of manual coffee makers, like a moka pot, a French press, a pour over coffee maker, drip brewing machine (automatic or manual), Chemex, Siphon, Turkish coffee Ibrik, coffee sock to name only a few of the many coffee types.
#16 Use A Coffee Canister
Fresh coffee is the best coffee. Make your coffee fresh and keep your beans as fresh as possible. To do that, you absolutely need a coffee canister.
I’m not talking about a ceramic or a glass jar with the word coffee written on it. I’m talking about a product that is specifically designed for the purpose of prolonging the freshness of your coffee beans.
You have two choices, an air-tight coffee canister with a one-way valve or a vacuum canister.
The best option is an airtight container with a one-way valve as your coffee needs to release carbon dioxide. A vacuum container, while good, does not permit the release of this gas.
#17 Store Your Beans In The Freezer
And to keep your coffee beans even fresher, store them in your coffee canister in your freezer. They will not freeze over. You will end up with better tasting, fresher coffee. Your coffee will also last longer and stay fresher for longer.
#18 Join The Home Roasting Revolution!
At Latte Love Brew we encourage you to join the home roasting revolution. A home coffee roaster is not expensive at all. By far, the best way to learn is to spend a few hours volunteering every week at your local coffee roaster and learn from the roast master.
This is also something that will help you to get the freshest possible coffee every single time. Coffee typically lasts only about a week at peak freshness, after which the taste starts to decline. The general rules is 3 days after roasting and 7 days after that.
Your coffee beans are still good to use for about 2 weeks after roasting, if you store them well, but you will have gone out of that peak freshness window.
Roasting your own beans allows you to make small batches every week. You can also get creative and mix roasts and try and create a coffee that catches all the best flavors of each roast level.
#19 Use Proper Coffee Brewing Equipment
To make your coffee taste better, you can try different coffee drinks using different and proper brewing equipment – the one exemption being cowboy coffee and cold brew coffee, which don’t require any equipment at all.
If you want to make plunger coffee (French press coffee), use a French press. If you want an espresso, use an espresso machine or improvise and use an Italian espresso maker – also known as a moka pot.
#20 Experiment With Different Filters
Changing your filter type can, and will, change the taste profile of your cup of coffee from a clean, crisp taste that you experience with a paper filter to a fuller and bolder taste when you use a cloth or metal filter.
This occurs due to the paper filter removing all the coffee oils from the coffee while a cotton cloth filter removes only some and a metal filter removing none at all.
If you have been drinking drip coffee and don’t like it, try switching your filter to make it taste better.
#21 Make Your Coffee Thicker
From time to time, as a coffee lover and coffee addict, I love to have a good thick coffee. Not a tar, syrup or treacle type, but a coffee with a greater density and texture.
In the art of coffee brewing, you can achieve this by using condensed milk, whipped cream, heavy cream or just a touch of 0.1% (or less) Xanthan gum in your coffee. You can also achieve this by using honey as your sweetener.
Bear in mind, the thickness is only going to be slightly thicker than your regular coffee, sort of like a liquid yoghurt.
#22 Make Your Coffee Taste Less Bitter
Bitterness in coffee is often what puts some people off of drinking coffee. You can negate this by adding a dash of salt. Typically, only a quarter or less of a teaspoon. By far, the best way of adding salt is to make a saline solution and add it in drops.
Other ideas are using more sugar or experimenting with a wide range of sweeteners.
When you get into the art and habit of coffee you can adjust some variables to tone down the bitterness of your coffee and still maintain the rest of the flavor. A good starting point is the temperature of your water and bringing it down a touch.
#23 Double Brew Your Coffee
Double brew your coffee not for more strength in terms of caffeine, but for a fuller, more complete flavor. I love making double brewed and triple brewed cold coffee. Each time you brew, use fresh grounds.
First round, I brew with hot water at 96C (205F) and keep the coffee at room temperature. Because I am using hot water, I need to keep the brew time short and taste and test it every few minutes until it hits the spot taste wise. Then remove the grounds to avoid over extraction.
At this point, you have successfully extracted the high temperature compounds from your grounds and got them into your coffee. The next step is to cool your coffee down to almost freezing point to get it ready for the second round of brewing and the extraction of the cold flavor compounds from your new and freshly ground coffee beans.
When you are ready for the second round of brewing, you can safely put your container in the fridge overnight as extraction can take as long as 12 to 24 hours. Be sure to taste test it after 8 hours and every few hours after that until it tastes perfect for you.
Then remove the grounds to avoid over extraction and enjoy your coffee that has both the low and high temperature flavors extracted into your cup of coffee.
A third optional brewing round that I enjoy on occasions takes this double brewed coffee and deploys the Japanese flash cold brew technique by heating up the coffee to 96C (205F) and drip brewing it over fresh coffee grounds which are ice filtered and made cold in an instant, hence flash cold brew.
#24 Grind Your Own Beans
I religiously encourage you to grind your own coffee beans to get the best possible, and freshest possible cup of coffee.
As soon as you grind your beans, their decay accelerates due to increasing the surface area which is in contact with the air.
For best results, grind your beans only as you are about to brew them. The benefit of grinding your own coffee beans is that you have full control over both the freshness factor at play here and the grind size.
To get a great grind consistency and eliminate the problem of heat, which is a detracting factor to freshness and taste, the type of grinder that you should get your hands on is a conical ceramic burr grinder.
Coffee For Those Who Don’t Like Coffee
If you don’t like coffee, there is always the option of trying out coffee that doesn’t taste like your typical coffee. You can try out a range of flavored lattes or flavored cappuccinos. I’ll extend that to the fruitful coffee in, what is, in my opinion, the world’s best coffee culture – Vietnam!
Try a vanilla latte, cinnamon latte or a hazelnut latte if you don’t like coffee. The light flavor and milky taste can ease you into coffee. These are essentially espresso drinks with milk and a flavoring either added as a syrup or to the beans themselves.
Vietnam, and their fruit-based coffees make them with whole fruit, be it orange, banana, strawberry durian, or my favorite – avocado. Blend the fruit and add in a dash, a double shot of espresso. Sometimes the shot of espresso is blended with condensed milk and then added to the blended fruit.
The coffee shot is typically poured over and mixed with a spoon and not blended into the fruit mix.
Best Coffee For New Drinkers
If you are a beginner or new coffee drinker, you can start off with lighter tasting coffees like a Mocha, Caffe Americano, Latte or Cappuccino.
Be sure to experiment with iced lattes, flavored lattes and cold-brewed coffee.
Frequently Asked Questions About How To Make Coffee Taste Better
How To Make Coffee Taste Less Bitter
The most obvious way of making your coffee taste less bitter is to use sugar, and alternative sugar or honey.
The type of sugar you use will have a dramatic change in how your coffee tastes. Brown sugar, for example, will bring around more caramel-like notes to your beverage.
You will also get an equally dramatic change by using alternative sweeteners like agave and my current favorite, agave.
Also, there is honey which not only sweetens your drink it also adds a honey flavor and above all add additional nutrients to your morning coffee for a healthier brew.
The less obvious is to monitor your brewing method and technique and use slightly larger grinds or a slightly shorter brewing time.
How To Make Coffee Taste Smoother
You can make your coffee taste smoother, less acidic and bitter by slightly lowering the brewing temperature by a degree or two (Celsius) 33F to 35F to get a rounder and more balanced brew. You can also experiment with different milks and different amounts of milk.
What To Add To Coffee To Make It Taste Better
There is a lot that you can add to coffee to make it taste better, including a wider range of spices including star anise, cardamom, ginger spice, allspice, nutmeg, pumpkin spice, turmeric, cinnamon and more.
You can also add flavored syrups like vanilla, caramel, salted caramel, mocha sauce, Irish cream.
How To Make Coffee Taste Sweet
You can make coffee taste sweet by using simple syrups. Simple syrups are just liquid sugar. They are much better than regular sugar as they have a better and more even distribution of sweetness throughout your beverage.
How To Make Coffee Taste Good At Home
To make truly great tasting coffee at home, focus on just one or two brewing methods and stick with them until you truly master that method. There are many brewing techniques to choose from, including:
- French press.
- Moka pot.
- Pour over.
- Cold Brew.
- Coffee Sock.
There are more methods and techniques. Master two then move on and try others.
How To Make Coffee Taste Good With Milk
You can make coffee taste great with milk by learning how to steam it properly and properly froth it. frothing and steaming changes the structure and texture of the milk and how it coats your tongue and affects flavor.
Then experiment with different milks. Before jumping to alternative milks, use regular milk with different amounts of fat content; low fat, no fat, whole fat, half-and-half and heavy cream.
Alternative milks produce a different texture and different taste. You will also quickly notice that regular alternative milks are very hit-and-miss, some are great to work with for coffee, others are horrible and curdle easily. The secret that all baristas and coffee shops use is to use the barista of alternative milks.
Their milks have an oat milk base to increase the fat and protein content to stabilize the milk and make it better for steaming and frothing. Some of the alternative milks that they have use gellan which is a stabilizer which helps to, well, stabilize the milk and make it better for using with coffee beverages.
Frappé-Ing It All Up – How To Make Coffee Taste Better
Know you know exactly how to make coffee taste better for yourself, your family, your friends and guests. Be sure to put into practice what you have learned in this rather detailed article and study the tips that I have given you and let me know how you get on by dropping us a line on social media.
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