Why is Hipster Coffee Sour? A Controversial Style of Coffee

hipster coffee sour

Picture this. You’ve probably familiar with the experience. 

You’re visiting a friend in a city you’ve never been to and they’ve been raving about a new coffee shop you have to check out. As you walk into the shop, you a greeted by a 30 something with a robust beard and questionable tattoos on one arm. He is the quintessential hipster coffee barista. He asks what you want, and you order a cappuccino. Seems like a good order to see if their coffee is good or not, right?

After taking an inordinate amount of time to produce a small cup of brown liquid, you pay $5 for your small cup of joe and take a sip. At first, it tastes great, but then the flavor turns sour. “It’s so good, right?” your friend exclaims looking for your approval. You nod yes but in your head wonder why they’re so worked up over this sour cup of coffee. Why is hipster coffee sour?

The short answer is that it has to do with the type of beans and the roasting style most thrid wave (or hipster) coffee shops tend to use. While Starbucks and Peets gained notoriety for their European style roasts (dark charcoal color with strong, maybe burnt flavors), hipster coffee shops such a Philz and Blue Bottle prefer using light roasts that have more nuanced flavors. 

Author Note: Lighter roasts preserve some of the coffee bean’s natural acidity, which is why lightly roasted coffee tends to be sourer. So it’s not that all hipster coffee places serve and like sour coffee, its that many tend to use light roasted coffee beans.

But that’s not the only reason why hipster coffee can be sour. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into why hipster coffee is sour, as well as get into the different styles of roasting that are common at hipster coffee shops. We’ll also talk about third-wave coffee – what it is, how it’s different from normal big name brands, and where you can try some yourself.

Let’s get started.

What is Hipster Coffee?

Latte art in a beautiful glossy black coffee cup

When most people say they like a hipster coffee shop, it usually means that it isn’t a mainstream coffee shop like Starbucks. Hipster coffee shops tend to only have one or two locations and have a vibrant following of young patrons who spend several hours a day there.

As we mentioned above, hipster coffee shops also tend to have several different roasts of coffee they like to serve. Since dark roasts have been made mainstream, hipster coffee shops tend to not serve dark roasts in preference of light roasts. The coffee roasting process breaks down a lot of the coffee bean’s natural flavors, one of which is acidity. 

The longer you roast your coffee, the less acidity will remain at the end. So the lighter roasts tend to preserve more acidity, which gives the coffee a more sour flavor. This is true for both espresso and drip coffee. Some people like sour coffee, while others don’t – especially in desserts like tiramisu. Hipster coffee shops sometimes also brew their coffee unfiltered, which can add to the acidity if not done correctly.

What is Third Wave Coffee?

You’ve probably also heard of third-wave coffee. What exactly is third wave coffee? Third-wave coffee is synonymous with hipster coffee. It the emerging wave of coffee shops that are different from Starbucks and the big brands. Third-wave coffee shops are known for their unique coffee blends and roasts, as well as their more “hipster” environment. 

The first wave of coffee happened in the 1960s, which saw coffee drinking become commonplace in the united states. Then in the 1980s with the rise of Starbucks saw the second wave. The third wave started in the early 2000s and is marked by smaller one-off shops and more unique roasts and blends. You can now find third-wave coffee shops all over the world, even at airports.

Author Note: Sour coffee is becoming more popular because consumers are trending towards artisanal coffee roasting – which translates to lighter roasts. Most hipster coffee shops tend to do their own roasting, which allows them to experiment with lighter roasts. 

And as you already know, lighter roasts leave more residual acidity in the beans after roasting, which leads to a more sour cup of coffee. That being said, many people don’t mind their coffee being slightly sour. With more acidity comes a more nuanced flavor profile that reveals delicate flavors. These can include caramel, oats, honey, baked bread, and much more. 

Compare this with traditional dark roasts, where the predominant flavor is charcoal, molasses, and other heavy flavors. 

How Do You Stop Coffee From Being Sour?

That’s it, you’ve had enough of drinking sour hipster coffee. When you make it yourself you are in control. So how do you stop your coffee from being sour? There are actually many ways to ensure your coffee isn’t sour. We’ll list them out in the order we think is easiest to pull off.

Use Darker Roasts

Man pouring milk in steamed coffee

This is probably the easiest method to ensure your coffee isn’t sour: don’t use light roasts! As we’ve said multiple times, lighter roasts tend to be sourer. Focus on darker blends where the beans have been roasted for a longer period of time. If you’re unsure if your coffee will be sour, talk to your local barista and buy something they recommend form their shop. 

Baristas know the coffee they make better than anyone, and will easily be able to point you in the right direction. 

Grind Your Coffee Beans Finer

Another great way to reduce the acidity of your coffee is to use finer ground beans. Using finer ground beans allows more flavors to be extracted from your coffee grinds and ensures your coffee isn’t thin – which usually leads to a sour flavor.

If you’re wondering how to get your beans ground finer, we recommend getting a burr grinder. Burr grinders use burrs to grind your beans instead of blades, which gives you much more control over the grind size. Most burr grinders cost slightly more than blade grinders but are definitely worth the money.

Let Your Grinds Soak Longer

Along with using a finer ground coffee, allowing your coffee to steep longer will extract more flavors and prevent sourness. Depending on the type of coffee and size of grinds, we recommend testing how long you let your coffee steep to see what it tastes like.

Top Tip: If you find your coffee is usually sourer than you like it, try leaving it in your filter longer and allowing it to extract more flavor from the grinds. This can be hard to do with a traditional drip coffee maker, so try making your coffee or espresso in a Chemex or Moka pot.

Add Milk or Cream to Your Coffee

While purists might disagree, adding milk or cream to your coffee will enhance and bring out more nuanced flavors. They both also do a great job of cutting the acidity of sour coffee. This is because the milk fat coats your mouth and reduces your ability to pick up on acidic flavors. It helps the coffee taste more balanced and less harsh.

You can also add some sugar to your coffee to reduce the perceived acidity. Sugar tricks your taste buds into thinking the coffee is less sour because it balances out the harsher acid notes.

Increase Your Water Temperature

As with decreases in your grind size and letting your coffee steep longer, using hotter water will help extract more flavor from your coffee grounds. The extraction process will double for every 10 degrees Celsius increase in water temperature you use. We recommend heating your water up just below boiling, then letting it cool for a minute before using it in your coffee maker. This will ensure it isn’t too hot when you brew your coffee.

You don’t want to use too hot of water, however, as this can lead to a very bitter cup of coffee or espresso. This is called over-extracted coffee.

Use the Right Coffee to Water Ratio

Coffee cup, Backgrounds of Latte coffee

Another way to decrease the acidity of your coffee is to use the proper coffee to water ratio. If you use too little coffee grounds and too much water, the coffee will end up weak and sour tasting. You want to make sure you use enough coffee grounds to get a strong cup of coffee.

We recommend using a 1:5 or 1:4 ratio for the volume of coffee grounds to water. This will ensure your coffee has enough grounds to extract flavor from. The last thing you want is weak and sour coffee due to not using enough grounds.

What About Sour Cold Brew Coffee?

If you’ve ever tried to make cold brew coffee, you’ve probably experienced a batch that turned out sour. If you’re looking to avoid sour cold brew coffee, here are several tips that will help.

  • Do all the same things you would to avoid normal sour coffee. This means use a finer grind, a darker roast, use a higher coffee to water ratio, and let it brew for longer. 
  • You can also try heating your water up before adding the coffee grounds – then letting it sit overnight. Heating the water up will help extract more flavor from the coffee and make it less sour.
  • Add cream or milk to your cold brew coffee. Much like normal coffee, adding cream or milk will help cut the acidity in the flavor profile. 


While most people can agree that hipster coffee tends to be sourer then mainstream coffee, the jury is still out on if it is better. The lighter roasts tend to have more complex flavor profiles, along with a higher amount of caffeine per fluid ounce. So all is not bad!

We hope you found this article informative and now know why hipster coffee is sour. If you have a favorite hipster coffee shop you would like to share with us or a different technique in reducing how sour your coffee is, please share it with us in the comments below.

Stay caffeinated friends!

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