What Does Burnt Coffee Taste Like? Learn Coffee Flavor Profiles

What Does Burnt Coffee Taste Like

The last thing you want before starting a long day at work is to have a cup of coffee that tastes burnt. It especially hurts if you paid a lot for it! In that case, there’s not much you can do besides spending your money somewhere else. If the coffee you made yourself tastes burnt, that’s a whole different story. What does burnt coffee taste like?

The short answer is that burnt coffee tastes ashy, bitter, and smoky. It’s an unpleasant mix, indeed. The reason why it tastes like this is that the coffee beans were roasted under high enough heat that they began to go through the chemical reaction of burning. Just like how firewood burns in a fire!

But there is a lot more to get into to determine what burnt coffee tastes like and why. In this article, we’ll tell you how to know that your coffee is burnt and how to avoid it.

How to Distinguish Burnt Taste from Other Tastes

Roasted coffee poured into an old silver spoon

In order to solve the issue of burnt coffee, you need to make sure that burning is the reason your coffee tastes bad in the first place. Your coffee may taste burnt, sour, bitter, metallic, plastic-like, or watery. Let’s see how you can tell these tastes apart.


When your coffee is burnt, it’ll drip into the cup slower than usual. Besides, it’ll be full of dark pores that wouldn’t be there in good coffee. Not to mention that the liquid volume will be smaller than usual, regardless of how long you extracted it.

Bitterness is not the only characteristic of burnt coffee. There’ll also be a stale taste that’s more moldy than smoky. It’ll taste like a burnt clump of toast. Drinking burnt coffee could also cause you to develop an aversion to coffee. You can also get a hint of bitterness with coffee that is burnt.


If there’s a spectrum of coffee tastes, sour will be on the other side of burnt. While the burnt taste is likely a result of over-extraction, the sour taste usually results from under-extraction. In that case, the water will have run too quickly through the coffee.

Author Note: Alternatively, the taste can be a result of an incomplete brew. Large coffee grounds can also cause a sour taste.

You can predict that your coffee will taste sour before taking a sip by observing it. If it’s sour, it’ll gush out of the pot quicker than it should. On top of that, its color will be leaning toward yellowish-brown, rather than the regular dark brown.


Most people can’t tell bitter taste from the burnt coffee taste. The bitterness occurs when you brew your coffee using water that’s too hot. Aside from that, it can be a result of stale beans or fine grounds.

To distinguish the bitterness, you should take a look at the puck. It’ll be too soggy for your liking. In addition to the puck, the coffee will pour out of the pot in a pale yellow watery stream.

To get rid of the bitter taste, you can add some cream and sugar to the coffee. To avoid getting it again, you should adjust your brew time. The extraction should take only 25–35 seconds. Anything longer than that, the coffee will taste bad.


Coffee that tastes metallic won’t have any changes in its shape, so you won’t be able to identify it. As for the taste, there won’t be any sign of bitterness or sourness; there will just be a subtle metallic aftertaste.

When your coffee tastes metallic, the reason is either the water or the machine. There’s a high chance it’s a build-up in your machine that’s causing the taste. If it’s not that, then using tap water may be the issue.

Tap water will likely have remnants of contaminants that change its flavor. To fix this, you may want to use filtered water to brew your coffee instead. Using a Brita system or something similar with a carbon filter will help get rid of any bad odors in your water.


Plastic-like coffee is the same as metallic coffee. You won’t see it in the liquid, but you’ll taste it in your mouth alongside the delicious taste of the coffee beans.

Plastic taste in coffee is a pretty common occurrence between people with new machines. Most machines will result in that taste at first. However, if that’s not the case with you, it may be a result of non-thorough cleaning.

You should give your machine a thorough clean every now and then. An essential part of cleaning is to give it a brew cycle with hot water. The cafe and barista favorite is Urnex Cafiza. It will clean your espresso machine with backflushing and get rid of coffee oils in your Chemex. That way, no build-up occurs, and the coffee keeps tasting good.


We all made watery coffee at least once in our lives. It’s a pretty common occurrence; you add too much water, and you end up with a bland cup of coffee!

Unlike bitter and burnt coffee, watery coffee won’t leave an aftertaste. You’ll only have the urge to add a spoon of coffee grounds as you’re drinking.

Watery coffee can also result from too quick brewing, low brewing temperature, or too large grind size. However, we’re pretty sure that adjusting the water/coffee ratio ought to solve it.

Reasons Your Coffee Tastes Burnt

Roasted medium and dark coffee

There are multiple reasons why you may be having a cup of burnt coffee for breakfast. Here’s a brief about each reason and how to deal with it.

Stale Coffee Beans

Author Note: If you leave your coffee beans in the open for too long, there’s a high chance they’ll turn stale. After all, roasted beans interact with the oxygen around them, thereby oxidizing and becoming drier than they should.

Stale coffee beans will result in a burnt taste, which you want to avoid. So, you’ll want to keep your coffee beans fresh by storing them away from moisture and heat. You can also keep them in an airtight container to make sure they stay as fresh as possible.

Bad Roasting

If the coffee beans you’re using weren’t appropriately roasted, they’d likely leave you with a burnt cup of coffee later on. They may also cause a bitter taste; it depends on how the roasting was done.

Roasting the beans for too long will get them burned. They’ll look darker than usual so you’ll be able to identify them when purchasing. If the roasting was only a tad longer than it should, it’ll leave a slightly bitter taste.

If you can’t land on the perfect roast, take some time to try different roasts first. That way, you’ll taste the difference, and you’ll be able to decide which one you like the best.

Unclean Equipment

An overused coffee machine can leave a burnt taste if you don’t clean it thoroughly enough. ِAny remnants of coffee oils will turn stale, and it’ll alter the taste of your cup. Whether it’s an espresso machine, french press, or regular coffee maker, make sure to keep it clean. Again, I recommend using Cafiza to keep your equipment clean and in great working condition.

Non-Fresh Brew

Making a large batch in the morning will make your life easier, but coffee tastes best while it’s still fresh. Leaving the pot on the heat plate for long will cause the coffee to be overcooked. This will leave a burnt taste in the last few cups.

If you want to avoid any burnt taste, only drink coffee that’s been freshly-brewed.

How to Prevent Your Coffee From Tasting Burnt

There are a couple of measures you can take to prevent your coffee from tasting burnt. Let’s see a brief about each one.

Use High-quality Coffee

No one says no to a cost-efficient deal; however, saving money on coffee beans or grounds will ruin 90% of your mornings. That’s an approximate percent, but you get what we’re saying!

Low-quality coffee will likely be improperly roasted. As a result, your coffee will taste burnt and bitter. That’s why you should opt for coffee that you guarantee will taste well. It’s not necessarily the high price tag that’ll determine it, but the roast, color, and ground will give it away.

Adjust the Temperature

Beautiful coffeebean blured for background.

There’s no such thing as the perfect temperature, but there’s nothing wrong with trying. If your coffee is tasting burnt, there’s a high chance you’re brewing it at the wrong temperature. It should be around 95 °C, but that depends on your machine.

Author Note: What’s important is that the water doesn’t get too hot. It could compromise the subtle, delicious taste of the beans, thereby leaving a stale taste. On the other hand, cold water will cause your coffee to turn out sour as a result of under-extraction.

You should opt for a medium temperature that works well with your grind. Anywhere from 195 to 205F usually works best, depending on whether you have a light roast or a dark roast.

Pick the Right Grind

The grind of your beans is the major contributor to the taste of your coffee. Like the temperature, you need to find the right grind that’ll work with the roast. The coffee should be soluble enough to preserve its flavor but a bit insoluble for filtration.

Large grind won’t dissolve like it should, therefore causing an unpleasant flavor. On the other hand, too fine grinding will leave a bitter taste, courtesy of over-extraction. You should choose your grind according to the type of coffee you’ll be making.

Closing Thoughts

No one likes to wake up to a cup of burnt coffee. You don’t have to go through that again if you follow the measures above. Just make sure everything is going well with the coffee you’re using, and it’ll turn out alright.

Besides, make sure to keep your equipment clean and to make fresh coffee. That way, you won’t end up with a bitter aftertaste!

Stay caffeinated, friends!

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