Why Your Coffee Tastes Sour

Are you getting that citrusy, sour taste in your cup of coffee? You don’t need to be a scientist to know that something must be off during the brewing or extracting process. Unless, you’ve forgotten a slice of lemon in your coffee cup prior to pouring coffee.

Discerning coffee strength is easy. It’s either too watery or too strong because the water is not enough. If too strong, the problem is easily solved by adding a little more water to it!

Sourness, however, is the result of how you brew your coffee and that entails a process known as coffee extraction. Extraction, however, is a little more involving process and it might take you a few runs to master it. The solution to sour tasting coffee entails making minor adjustments to how you brew the coffee.

Under Extraction

Extraction (in coffee brewing) refers to how much of the coffee bean compounds have been mixed into your water. If under extracted, your coffee will have a sour taste because the fruity acidity is the first to come out.  This happens when insufficient flavour is extracted out of the coffee grounds as you brew. The longer it brews, the more sugars get extracted from the coffee grounds making your coffee taste sweeter.

However, brew too long and your coffee will taste bitter due to over-extraction as the compounds that create acidity and sweetness will be overwhelmed. The solution lies in balancing your taste by managing and controlling the process of extraction.

Grind Size

The grind size of your coffee beans can greatly impact the flavor of your coffee based drink. Why? Because they need to be soluble enough if they are to impart good flavour yet insoluble enough if they are to stay out of the filter system.

The best route is to go for a more medium beans grind size. If they are too coarse it may cause under-extraction. Even a medium-size grind can lead to under extraction when using fast brewing methods such as AeroPress or Espresso.

If you are using a French Press, the grind options available to you are limited by what passes through the filter. That being said, the best trick to great coffee is figuring out exactly how fine each brewing method needs by experimenting until you get the right balance.

The Timing is Off

If, for illustration purposes, you are making herbal tea, you are not likely to care too much if it steeps a bit longer than you had intended. For coffee, that’s not how it works. If your brew runs too long or too short you may have under- or over-extracted coffee. You should, for example, brew percolated coffee in 6 to 10 minutes, otherwise everything goes off balance.

If trying a new coffee recipe, a bit of experimentation doesn’t hurt as you seek to get the perfect time balance. For filter brewing, remember that changing the beans grind size greatly affects the brewing time because the finer the grind, the slower the brew time.

Final Words of Coffee Wisdom

Your coffee beans are of good quality, your water has been filtered and properly heated, and you recently cleaned the equipment yet your cup of Joe still tastes sour. If that’s your predicament, you probably need a new coffee brewing machine. There’s really not much that can be done when your coffee making equipment starts breaking down, except to look for a new grinder or coffee maker.

Also, remember to use the proper equipment designed for the particular type of beverage you plan to make in order to avoid sourness and bitterness in taste. Just keep on tinkering with your brewing method and in no time, you will have that great tasting cup of Joe!

Frequently Asked Questions
Why does my cold brew taste sour?

Sourness indicates that your coffee is under-extracted. Leave it to cold brew for longer in the fridge or try cold brewing at room temperature. If you’re worried it’s the beans that are sour, try brewing them in your drip coffee maker or French press to see if they’re still sour when brewed hot.

Is cold brew coffee less bitter?

Yes, cold brew is less bitter as it’s not as easy to over-extract, causing bitterness. The long brew time of the cold brew coffee method enhances the smoothness without bitterness and is less acidic too.