Why Can't I Make Good Coffee??

mingtea(z9 Tucson)December 7, 2005

okay, this is my cry for help:

why does my coffee taste so acrid and bitter?

i follow the standard recipe of 1 tbsp freshly ground coffee per 6 ounces of water (which is posted all over the web and which my favorite barista told me), and no matter what i try, my boyfriend spits it out and i can hardly drink it.

i have a permanent gold filter, a french press and a kitchenaid coffee maker and it all ends up about the same. i think i'm jinxed. i buy fair trade organic beans, but i used to buy the same beans my favorite coffee house in oregon had, and their brew and mine couldn't be more different.

is it something in the water or the temperature of the water that i use? i'm a bit of a coffee snob and it really pains me that i can't get the body and flavor i enjoy...much less, decent coffee. plus, i'm trying to save money. help!


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tisha_(z7 OKC)

Well, I'm afraid I probably won't be much help. I just use the medium blend Folgers and a plain jane Mr. Coffee...and lots of sweet&low. LOL I guess my only suggestion would be to fiddle w/ the measurements a little. I am pretty wimpy. I only use one scoop of coffee for 6 cups (well, the 6 cup measurement on the pot...whatever real measurement that is, I have no idea.) LOL

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 9:23AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Well, Sorry Tisha,

But can that really be right? One scoop of coffee per 6 cups, that would make it dishwater or bathwater for sure!

Hi Ming,

Not sure what to suggest, but have an idea. Many folks don't actually know how true their measures are: that is to say is yr. tablespoon a true tablespoon? Ditto for yr. 6 oz cup.

Example: I don't use spoons, rather the scoops that comes in the coffee can (or did yrs. ago), but I use large cups to drink in, so my coffee cups tend to me more 8-10 oz.

A 6 oz. cup is actually a true 3/4 cup (since a true cup is comprised of 8 oz). This is more what old-fashioned china tea cups measured (you know, the British style ones, where one would daintily leave one's pinky out, etc.)

As a last resort, pls. consider asking of the place where you buy your coffee; paying all that for organic & getting sludge anyway, that ain't right & I'm sure they'd help you improve it. (Maybe even take yr. measuring increments in to them to show/measure there).

Just so you know you're not the only one, 20 yrs. ago I was serving coffee in 12-16 oz cups, but only putting enough coffee for 6-8 oz coffee cups. My Father & sister were really yuked out, to this day my sister won't try my coffee again & its vastly improved.

Hope some of this helps ya!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 6:58PM
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Try cleaning your coffee maker with vinegar. Fill up the pot and brew. Then repeat with water as many times as you need so it gets rid of vinegar taste. Works for me.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 10:03PM
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GrowHappy(z7 MD)

I agree with Senga. Your pot may need a good white vinegar cleaning. It'll remove all the build up and deposits, all of which can make your coffee taste less than perfect.

Exacting measures will ensure that you get a great cup of Joe everytime. Add more coffee if you like it on the strong side. Also, using cold water greatly improves taste.


    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 10:20PM
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mingtea(z9 Tucson)

hmm. i have plenty of white vinegar so i'll try to clean out my coffee makign supplies.
i usually only make my coffee with a permanent gold filter straight into a mug or with a french press. i have a coffee maker but i don't like to use it since i only make one cup.

how do you brew with cold water? should i just pour in cold water and let it percolate through or steep the grinds in the french press? then do i warm it up later? i know that's how cold toddy is made for iced coffee, but i always thought reheating ruined the flavor.

keep the good ideas coming!

p.s. tell me, truthfully, do i sound dumb for not knowing the first thing about making coffee?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2005 at 11:02PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I don't do french press, just a good old Melitta drip. Just when you boil the water for it make sure it's cold to start, it does help.

No, I don't think you sound dumb, whereas I felt really dumb since I was raised in Brazil (one of the largest & foremost coffee producing countries in the world)!

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 1:42AM
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tisha_(z7 OKC)

Yes, Pirate. The "6" mark on my pot. I fill it to that and then add one scoop (the scoop that comes w/ the coffee) to the filter. Like I said. I'm a wimp. No need to make fun and call it bathwater though. That's a little harsh. Just weak and sweet...the way I like it. :-)

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 9:14AM
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fishies(Ottawa z4a or 5)

Holy weak coffee, Tisha! Sweetie, I've got to side with the Pirate on this one... wow. I'd be clutching my head in caffeine withdrawal after coffee like that. But then I use those one-or-two cup stove-top espresso makers for my morning jolt. Other end of a caffeine addict's spectrum.

Ming, the difference in taste might be due more to the brewing method than to incompetency on your part :) Most coffee joints percolate coffee (rather than drip or press), and that gives coffee a richer flavour. You can invest in a percolator, but those tend to be pretty pricy. I've found that the best way to mimic that perc-ed taste is to make my coffee in a stove-top espresso maker (they're little silver thingies, and run about $20), and to use a rich, full-bodied (but not acidic) bean - Sumatran or a French Roast of almost any bean are favourites, but I've also found most Ethiopian coffees work well, too. If you go to a health food store, you'll probably find descriptions of the various types of coffee on the bin, so you can avoid anything acidic, and look for descriptions like "full-bodied," "rich blend," etc. Also a lot of "breakfast blends" tend to be rich, without being overwhelming.

You can't use cold water for a french press - too bad for that, I say, since icy coffee is so yummifying in the summer, and the wait time for coffee to cool is such a hassle! But you CAN add cinnamon to your coffee - just add a teaspoon or less to the ground beans when you go to make a pot. It'll change the taste, of course, and if you don't like cinnamon or are a coffee purist, then this tip is not for you. But I find that cinnamon adds depth to what might otherwise be a pretty lackluster coffee - you know, old and stale or bitter beans... that kind of thing.

Good luck with your coffee experimentation! It's kind of fun, eh?

Oh yeah! Sometimes, the cream you use can alter the taste of your coffee! If my cream isn't fresh, even if it hasn't ~really~ gone bad yet, then my coffee tastes SO bitter.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 10:07AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Well Tisha,

I'll apologize if you felt my teasing was harsh or hurtful (not intended to hurt, just play). You yourself did say weak, I was just further qualifying but OK, I'll stop now.

But seriously, let's just look at yr. comment again, in the 1st comment you said 6 cups & now just above you said 6" (mark on the container, I think), likely two very diff. things.

So just to sate my curious self (if you're willing), pls. fill that pot to the 6" mark & then empty it out into a real measuring cup, then well know exactly what you've got.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 1:25PM
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fishies(Ottawa z4a or 5)

Yikes, the fallibility of coffee decanter measurements have spawned baking nightmares for me. For the first few months when I started baking my own bread, I didn't have a big measuring cup, so I used the measurements on my coffee decanter to measure out the flour. BAD idea. Bad, bad, bad idea. They're not quite the right measurements, dontcha know. Well, I didn't know. And I could never quite figure out why my bread wouldn't rise...

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 2:03PM
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tisha_(z7 OKC)

I didn't say 6 inch mark. I said 6 in quotes. Meaning, I have no idea what the six means. It says that it's 6 cups on the directions. But I don't know if that means 6 cups as in what you drink out of...or 6 cups as in a measuring cup. Know what I mean?

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 4:05PM
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tisha_(z7 OKC)

P.S. I'll try to remember to measure out what the 6 on my pot actually means...I won't be able to post about it until Monday though.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 4:07PM
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greenelbows1(z9--so LA)

I'm wondering about the difference in water in Corvallis`and in`Tucson. I could be wrong--happens several times a day--but I'm assuming the` water in Corvallis is like Eugene's, soft and slightly acid. And it's strictly a guess, but isn't Tucspm's water hard and alkaline? You might try bottled water and see if it helps.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2005 at 12:20AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Ok Tisha,

Checking back now I DO see yr. quotes around the 6 rather than " as inch mark, pls. excuse me, my bad. I would be curious abt the measure if you get to it, if not, it's not important.

Abt the water in diff. locales, now THERE's an idea, why didn't I think of that? That may well be an answer to Ming's problem!

So Ming, pls. let us know what you find!

    Bookmark   December 10, 2005 at 12:56AM
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mingtea(z9 Tucson)

man, for some reason gardenweb doesn't like my followups! something about an illegal string... so let me try again:

here is what i did: i went out and bought some of the best coffee i could find in tucson. it was from a local roaster in bisbee, and he said to just disregard measuring things out with his beans... add "lots" to my french press, steep 6 minutes and enjoy. i used cold water like everyone said and added about the same amount of ground beans i usually do, and it turned out drinkable! even geoff drank a cup. i guess i was buying the wrong kind of beans. i like sumatra a lot and the roaster said something about that particular flavor being very unbalanced and hard to make at home. he suggested a south american bean and said it was pretty much foolproof.
one tip he mentioned was that if you can eat the roasted bean raw and enjoy the flavor, then it's the bean for you.
i think i'll be going to this guy from now on. i feel like a real homemaker! thanks for all the help guys.


    Bookmark   December 11, 2005 at 9:47PM
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mingtea(z9 Tucson)

i guess gardenweb just didn't like my posting the coffee guy's link. if anyone wants a good bean, let me know and i'll send you the site!


    Bookmark   December 11, 2005 at 9:48PM
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tisha_(z7 OKC)

I did the measure thing on Friday night. Of course, I forgot to write it down, but if I remember correctly, it came out to approx. 3.75 measuring cups.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 9:26AM
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