Have you ever brewed up a pot of coffee, poured it into your favorite cup and then taken a sip, only to be drastically disappointed with the flavor? It’s happened to us all at one point or another. Perhaps it was that the beans weren’t fresh anymore. Perhaps it was that you didn’t clean out your coffee machine and it’s harboring bacteria that made your brew bitter.
And even still, it could be many other things that are causing your coffee to have an “off” taste. Brewing coffee is a scientific thing, and while coffee makers take much of the guesswork out of the equation, there is still much we can do to help improve our odds of having a perfectly brewed pot of coffee to enjoy every morning.
There are many little mistakes you could be making and knowing what they are will help prevent you from having an unpleasant coffee-drinking experience down the road. Read on to find out about them and what you can do to improve your coffee taste.
Why is there a metallic taste in your coffee?
Wondering why your coffee has an odd, metallic taste? It could be due to quite a number of factors. Here’s what you should think about that could be causing the trouble.
– Bad beans
If you want good coffee, you need to splurge on good beans, plain and simple. But there could be problems with the beans that will lead you to have a less-than-perfect brew. For starters, if those beans aren’t fresh, that is one of the biggest reasons why you might have coffee that tastes metallic.
Coffee has a shelf-life and as soon as you open it up, it will start to lose its flavor. Whole beans are best because they retain flavor for longer, but it’s up to you to store them properly. If you’re buying ground coffee, just stop that nonsense. Get a coffee grinder immediately and start buying whole beans. You’ll thank us later!
Even if you buy the best beans money can buy, they will eventually lose their flavor. Buy only what you need at the time. You’re wasting money if you buy a bulk bag when you live alone. Those beans will lose their flavor before you have a chance to use it.
– Bad roast
Some people like to roast their own beans. If you’re one of them, you could be doing it wrong. But for most people, they rely on the roast of a pro. Even then though, things can go wrong. There are many factors that go into roasting coffee beans and even the best roasters around can make mistakes. If you’ve enjoyed a particular roast for years and this one batch tastes bad, it could be due to bad roasting.
– Low-quality coffee
If you buy the cheapest coffee you can find, guess what? You’re going to get coffee that tastes cheap. Robusta coffee is of a lower quality, so if you see a sale at your supermarket, check the label first. It is much less flavorful than arabica. In addition to that though, there are different beans and roasting techniques. These things are a craft and cost money to do properly. It might take some tasting around to get the kind of coffee flavors that perk you upright, but if you’re buying cheap coffee to save a couple bucks, just know the quality will be lacking.
– Your grind is off
The size of your grind makes a big difference in coffee flavor. Coffee grounds should be soluble enough to give a good flavor but not so small that they get lodged in your filter system. When coffee tastes weak or sour, it’s likely under-extracted. This is because the acids in the bean dissolve too early in the brewing which is often the case when your grounds are too large.
If it tastes really bitter though, you may be over-extracting it which is what happens when the grind is too fine. All it may take to correct the problem is adjusting how you grind your beans.
– You’re not using good water
If the beans aren’t the problem, you might want to look into your water source. Water from the tap can have a bad taste and won’t be so good with coffee. Consider buying a filter for your kitchen sink so that all the water you use for coffee is cleared out of debris and tastes better, or use bottled water.
– The temperature isn’t right
When it comes to making the perfect coffee, the temperature needs to be just right. Ideally, it should be at 205°F (96°C). This makes it ideal because if it’s too hot, it destroys those oils and flavors from the beans. When it’s too cool, it won’t be extracted properly, resulting in a weak cup. Most coffee makers today regulate the temperature for you, however, if you haven’t been properly caring for your coffee maker, it could be diminishing in performance.
– Problems with your equipment
Sometimes, the beans are the best you can get and perfectly roasted. The water you use is immaculate, but yet something else is still wrong. The problem then could be that your coffee machine isn’t doing a good job.
For starters, your coffee maker should be cleaned with regularity. If you neglect to deep clean it on a monthly basis, you get buildup from minerals in the water not to mention disgusting bacteria and mold that can leave a bitter taste and cause health problems. Most people will clean out the grounds and the carafe but not clean out the reservoir where these microorganisms can lurk.
Give your coffee machine a good cleaning and you might find that your coffee tastes wonderful again. But if you follow our recommendations for cleaning it in this post and your coffee still doesn’t taste good, it could be that your coffee pot is just old. If you’ve had it for 5 years or more and you haven’t been cleaning it well, consider yourself lucky it’s lasted so long.
And if you have been cleaning it properly and the coffee you make just doesn’t taste good anymore, it’s likely time to get a new coffee machine!
– You’re not using the right vessel
While most people have enough sense not to pour hot coffee into a plastic cup, your best bets are to choose glass or ceramic mugs when you’re at home. Stainless steel is best when you’re on the go because it keeps your coffee hot.
– Other problems that could arise
What else could go wrong? Oh, plenty! Like tea, coffee needs to brew for just the right amount of time. If it’s too long or too short, it will affect the taste. If you’re percolating on the stove for example, timing is everything! If your coffee maker isn’t doing things right though, see above. You could just need to clean it out to make it function properly or it might be time to replace it.
You could also be making other mistakes like not measuring out the correct amount of water or getting the coffee ratio wrong. You should always think about this when brewing your coffee. When you regularly make enough for two people and suddenly have guests over that you need to make more for, don’t lose sight of that ratio or it could result in coffee that tastes all wrong.
And finally, coffee should taste good to you. Your best friend might like a certain roast, but you might not be impressed with it. Sometimes it’s just trial and error to see which coffee you like best. Once you find it, get the ratios right, take care of your machine, and use quality water to ensure your best taste.
How to get rid of all these problems
Now, some people say that there are people more genetically predisposed to being able to sense chemicals than others. Some of us are indeed more prone to bitterness. This might account for why you may find some brews more bitter than others while other people you know don’t feel the same.
Outgassing is another issue that happens with man-made items like plastics. That’s where “new car smell” comes from. This could be a reason why some people think their coffee maker gives coffee a plastic taste, especially when it’s brand new.
Depending on how long that coffee maker sat on the shelf waiting to be bought, it could have more or less of that plastic smell and taste. There are simple fixes for that though if you find your coffee has a plastic-like flavor to it when you buy a new coffee pot. The first thing anyone should ever do with a new coffee maker is to run a cycle of water through it. In every manual of every coffee maker anywhere, this is what it always suggests. Particles from production and storage can get into the parts and thus a cycle of water will flush these things out.
Bonus tip on how to get rid of the plastic taste
If you still find the plastic taste to be your problem when brewing your coffee, the answer lies in buying a new coffee maker that has a glass or stainless steel reservoir for your water. This isn’t just a great suggestion for those that taste plastic with every brew but also for anyone that wants to avoid using too many plastics. Just like plastic-based cookware lets off particles into your food every time you cook with it, you’re heating up a plastic compartment every time you brew coffee. Whether you can taste it or not might not matter if you know that these particles are breaking down or leaching over time which can be dangerous to your health.
The only way to avoid a plastic taste in your coffee is to buy this kind of coffee maker. This greatly reduces the chance of tasting plastics when you make coffee. But furthermore, it limits your exposure to plastics which is always a good thing.
Can a Cup Affect Coffee’s Taste?
Another area of concern for many coffee drinkers is what they drink their coffee from. You might have a go-to mug with a snarky saying on it. Perhaps yours is artsier. Or you may always use a stainless steel thermos to tote it with you so you can sip on it while you sit in gridlock on the highway.
But whatever you use, do know that the type of material your coffee vessel is made from will affect the taste!
– Plastic and polystyrene foam cups
There’s a reason that free coffee from the car dealership tastes awful. It’s the cups. Well, it’s likely the brewing too, but those cups don’t help. If you were able to use a quality cup instead of one made out of plastic or foam, the coffee probably wouldn’t be so bad. But beyond that, the toxins that are released from these cups when they come into contact with heat is a very bad thing. You should avoid drinking from these kinds of cups like the plague!
– Porcelain mugs
Because they’re not porous and won’t alter the flavor of your drink in any discernable way, porcelain mugs are recommended. One study cited that people claimed white coffee mugs make coffee taste more bitter than the same coffee sipped from a mug of a different color. They concluded it was all a matter of perception.
– Stainless steel thermoses
By and large, if you’re a coffee-drinker on the go, one of the best choices is a stainless steel thermos. There’s nothing wrong with a porcelain mug except that it can’t travel well. Stainless steel thermoses aren’t porous either plus they can keep your coffee hot (or even cold if you prefer it iced) while you’re out and about and all without spilling.
– Paper cups
Paper cups are a better solution than plastic and polystyrene but as paper gets wet, it can get into your coffee. Not exactly delicious, of course. If you work in an office that offers paper cups, do your part for the environment while benefiting your taste buds and keep a mug for use at work at your desk.
Why Does Your Coffee Need a Special Cup?
As you can see, there are many vessels available for coffee. Some are indeed a better choice than others. We recommend the kind you can always reuse for the sake of your health and the environment.
Some of the shapes and designs of our favorite mugs and thermoses might just be all in the mind, or they really might help us enjoy the experience better. Think about wine and how different types of glasses are made for the enjoyment of it. You might prefer a wider glass for a red to help it decant so you can experience the flavors better. Coffee is much the same way. It needs to be appreciated. Surely, you have many mugs in your home that are perfectly suited for safely containing coffee. But isn’t there one in particular you always reach for?
Ideally though, the best vessel is one that keeps your coffee free from toxins, keeps it hot, and makes it easy to grip when it’s hot so you can fully enjoy your coffee.
There are quite a number of reasons your coffee might have a funky taste whether it’s metallic or even plastic. Sometimes it’s the beans you choose. Other times, it’s the water you use. And still other times, it could be the coffee maker or even the cup from which you drink.
Keeping these things in mind and going through a process of elimination will surely help you to have the best coffee every day. Make sure you’re buying quality beans but without overstocking them or else they’ll lose their flavor before you have a chance to use them. Check your water supply. Clean your coffee machine. And in the name of all that is holy, don’t use plastic, polystyrene, or paper cups to drink coffee from.
Don’t forget that it could be as simple as not properly measuring your coffee-to-water ratio too. All of these things can have a big impact on the taste of your coffee. For the best coffee though, make sure your coffee maker is of high quality and try to avoid plastic models for the best possible outcome and the best possible coffee.