Does your Hario V60 coffee tend to come out burnt and bitter tasting? That’s not necessary and with some small changes you can likely produce a much more pleasant cup of coffee from your V60. Here’s what you want to know.
The most likely reason your Hario V60 brews burnt tasting coffee is because dark roasted and/or low quality Robusta coffee is used. Hot water can contribute to burnt tasting coffee but is usually not the main reason.
There are some other potential causes for burnt V60 coffee like grind size and how you pour the water. Find out more below.
- 1 6 Reasons Why V60 Coffee Tastes Burnt
- 2 1. Dark Roasted Coffee
- 3 2. Type of Beans
- 4 3. Quality Of The Coffee
- 5 4. Stale Coffee
- 6 5. Fine Grind Size
- 7 6. Water Too Hot
- 8 7. Pouring Causes Agitation
6 Reasons Why V60 Coffee Tastes Burnt
There are a few reasons why V60 coffee can turn out burnt. Many people think using boiling water will cause this. While water that’s too hot can cause extra bitterness and an unpleasant cup, it’s generally not the main reason for a burnt tasting coffee.
Next time you brew some coffee that doesn’t taste good, really try to notice if it tastes burnt or just very harshly bitter. There is a difference. A burnt taste is likely the result of a bad roast or wrong beans being used. Harsh bitterness can to some degree be corrected with brew methods but with dark roasts, it’s not possible to get rid of all the bitterness.
Either way, here are the main reasons for burnt tasting coffee.
1. Dark Roasted Coffee
The biggest reason why you probably get a burnt or harshly bitter taste is because of the coffee used. Dark roasted the coffee will have more bitterness and is easier to over extract which basically means you pull all the bad tastes out of the grounds.
The darker a bean is roasted, the more caramelization happens and just like with sugar, the darker the color, the more bitterness. This bitterness is often confused with a burnt flavor. Dark roasted coffee doesn’t have to have that super harsh bitterness though. While dark roasts will always have a lot of it, it doesn’t have to be the harsh cutting type.
A dark roasted coffee is going to be bitter but doesn’t necessarily have a burnt taste although the two often get confused.
The darker a coffee is roasted, the more open the cell structure becomes as well. This means the water can extract the grounds more easily. Coffee grounds give up their sour and sweet tasting compounds first and the bitter ones later. So with dark roasted coffee it’s easier to get to the bitter compounds.
How To Reduce The Burnt Taste Of Dark Roasted Coffee
Try using a bit more coffee grounds for the same amount of water. This might seem counterintuitive but will likely reduce the burnt taste and bitterness. With more grounds, the water extracts less which means you get less bitter compounds in the cup. If the bean has a burnt taste in it, this will extract this less as well.
Another option is to try a medium roasted coffee next time.
2. Type of Beans
The next reason for an unpleasant bitterness is the type of beans used. There are two general types of beans; Arabica and Robusta. Robusta beans often have many more dark, bitter and burnt taste notes than Arabica beans.
Robusta is regarded as lower quality coffee because the taste notes that are naturally occurring in Robusta are not good to many people. Burnt rubber is a common taste note for Robusta which is just not very pleasant.
Check your coffee and see if it lists the type of bean that’s used. If it’s a bag from the supermarket and it doesn’t explicitly state that it’s 100% Arabica, there is a high likelyhood there is at least some Robusta in there.
While there is good tasting Robusta out in the world, most of it is produced to be as cheap as possible and is used for things like instant coffee, cups, mass produced supermarket coffee, etc as a filler.
Because Robusta is a much sturdier plant (hence the name), it can grow much easier in places where Arabica doesn’t. That means it’s more available and easier to grow. A Robusta plant also produces more coffee cherries and sometimes can yield more than one crop a year. For those reasons Robusta beans are quite common in cheaper coffees.
On the plus side, Robusta has more caffeine and works well in Espresso since it produces more crema,
How To Get The Right Type Of Beans
Go for coffee that is 100% Arabica. Using high quality coffee from a good source also helps. Price is an indicator of quality but not the only one. Buying coffee that has the origin on the bag tends to be of higher quality. Try to buy bags that at least state which country the coffee came from.
3. Quality Of The Coffee
As a continuation of the previous point, the quality of the coffee has a big impact as well. There are different ways to gauge quality of a coffee but in the most important in the end is taste. Better tasting coffees will often be of higher quality with less defects etc. These coffees will often cost more. Better taste often means a smoother, more well rounded taste which is pleasant to most people.
Spending a lot of money isn’t necessary to get a good cup of coffee. However, if you want to spend less than for specialty coffee, buying from a trusted source that roasts their own coffee is a good option.
4. Stale Coffee
Coffee grounds or beans that are too old can start producing some weird tasting coffee. The compounds in coffee beans or grounds that produce the tastes are volatile. That means they can evaporate and/or oxidize. This dramatically changes the taste over time. This doesn’t necessarily result in bitter coffee but it will just be unpleasant and in some coffees can result in a burnt taste.
Coffee is usually good up to 6 weeks after roasting if stored in an airtight container. Up to 8 weeks you’ll likely not notice a terrible taste but if the coffee is older than that, it will start tasting off. That’s for beans. Grounds go stale much faster because they’re exposed to the air more.
How To Prevent Stale Coffee
There are a few ways to prevent having coffee stale while in the cupboard;
- Use vacuum containers: The biggest impact on staling is exposure to oxygen. Every time you open the bag, new oxygen comes in, the emptier the bag is, the more oxygen is inside after closing. Vacuum containers minimize the oxygen exposure during storage.
- Buy smaller bags: Ideally buy an amount where you have to buy a new bag every 2-4 weeks.
- Use whole beans: Whole beans go stale slower than pre-ground.
- Split up bags: If you buy a big bag of coffee, split it up in weekly portions. That way you can leave most of the beans sealed and not exposed to air every time you open the bag.
- Freeze coffee: For long term storage, freezing coffee is a good option. Combine this with splitting up larger amounts into small containers since you don’t want to freeze and defrost beans multiple times. Freezing and defrosting once has no noticeable impact on taste.
5. Fine Grind Size
If the coffee beans are ground too fine, this can cause a burnt, bitter taste. A finer grind size means there is more surface area on an amount of grounds of the same weight. More surface area means the water is touching more grounds at the same time. This leads to a faster extraction. More extraction means more burnt and bitter tastes.
In a V60, a finer grind size will also lead to a slower draw down. The gaps between the coffee particles are smaller which creates more resistance for the water to flow through. If the water flows slower, there is more contact time between the grounds and the water. The longer the contact time, the more extraction happens.
So you can see a grind size that’s too fine makes coffee bitter and burnt in two ways.
How To Fix A Fine Grind Size
A Hario V60 is pretty picky regarding grind size and a pre-ground bag of coffee is likely not going to cut it. Get a good adjustable burr grinder to start off with. This also allows you to grind fresh beans which also helps brew better coffee.
When you get your grinder, start with a grind size that’s about the same coarseness as sea salt. From there adjust step by step until you get what you like. If the coffee is too bitter and burnt, go coarser. However, if the coffee is too weak and sour, go finer.
6. Water Too Hot
Ok, there it is, the hot water. Brewing a V60 with water that’s too hot can cause bitter and burnt tastes to get into your cup. This probably means they were already present in the grounds, the hot water just washed those flavors out, into the cup.
Just like washing with hot water gets rid of dirt faster, brewing coffee with hot water dissolves all the compounds in the grounds faster. And the compounds that come out last, are the most bitter and taste the most burnt. So the hotter the water, the more likely you’ll get those nasty tastes.
Especially with a dark roasted coffee this can be a problem. Dark roasted coffee is more ‘open’ and can be extracted easier. So using hot water with a dark roast compounds the problem. With a medium or especially light roast this is much less likely to be a problem.
The solution is quite simple. After the kettle boils, wait about a minute before starting to pour the water. This lets the water cool down to about 95 degrees Celsius which is a good temperature. If you feel it’s still too hot, wait up to 1.5 minute. If that doesn’t help, the hot water is likely not the problem.
7. Pouring Causes Agitation
In a V60 it’s quite important how you pour the water in. Doing it gently keeps the coffee bed intact and doesn’t swirl them around. Just like a washing machine washes out stains better by tumbling the clothes, coffee grounds extract faster with a lot of agitation.
It’s going to be a minor change in taste but changing to a gooseneck kettle will result in slightly less harshness and more sweetness in the taste.
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