Not everyone is a coffee expert, and it can be difficult to tell what constitutes a great cup of coffee.
There’s plenty that can go wrong during the barista’s part of the process. Even a small mistake can make huge difference in how the coffee tastes. Here are some of the factors that go into determining how your coffee tastes:
The first one is too fine of a grind. This happens when the coffee hasn’t been given the chance to expand, and that can cause it to burn or taste bitter. You’ve probably experienced that very thing before
What also may happen is the basket could become overstuffed. That’s from having too much coffee in the basket at once, and it can cause the beans to compress. Once the shot is activated, the water won’t be able to pass through the beans as easily, and that creates hard, dry pucks. What experienced baristas will do is use scales for every shot of coffee to ensure the optimum amount is in each basket.
Another possibility is that the barista can use the wrong amount of pressure to tamp the shot. That can change how it comes out, due to it being compacted. For the shot to come out well, the water has to be able to pass through it easily, and if the tamping pressure is off, then your coffee is going to taste off as well.
Lastly, you have to consider the coffee’s age. Coffee does have a use-by date, and unfortunately it is ignored by fast food restaurants and some other establishments. The coffee will have a different quality to it depending on when it was roasted.
Coffee tastes best when it is used within 7-10 days from the roasting date. You want to watch for roasters that will display a use-by date but not bother with a roasted-on date. The older a coffee is, the less gas it has and the bitterer it can become.
You may not know which of these factors is playing into your bitter cup of coffee, but you can use your knowledge of them to help prevent the problem in the future. If you are brewing coffee yourself, keep them in mind to make sure you don’t make your own coffee bitter.