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How to make coffee taste good (without milk or sugar): 8 tips

The worst thing that can happen when you’re drinking a cup of coffee is that you don’t enjoy the taste! Well, that’s one of the worst things that can happen! So you’re looking for answers on how to make coffee taste good. You’ve come to the right place!

First off, coffee is always good 🙂

We’re going to help you make it taste better.

If you take your coffee without milk and sugar and your cup of joe starts tasting strange, there’s probably something wrong with your brewing method that you need to troubleshoot.

There’s a few ways you can go about this. If black coffee is not your thing, then you can add some flavorings to dull the intensity and make your coffee a bit more palatable.

how to make coffee taste good

How to make coffee taste good without milk or sugar

If it’s your black coffee that has started tasting bad, you have a few ways of attempting to tackle this problem. The way to fix coffee is to use better coffee beans, grind just before brewing, tweak your coffee maker, or tweak the water.

1. Use fresh coffee beans

Once you start using freshly roasted coffee beans, you’ll never go back. Pre-ground supermarket coffee just don’t cut it in terms of flavor, because who knows how long the grounds have been sitting around? Within a few hours of grinding, the grounds will lose most of the delicate flavors and you’ll just be left with a dull, boring cup.

If that happens within a few hours, imagine how stale coffee can get in a few months!

There’s just no substitute for using freshly roasted coffee beans. This is the NUMBER 1 rule for brewing good coffee: use freshly roasted cofee beans!

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Don’t even use pre-ground coffee from craft roasters. Buy some beans, and get a grinder to grind just before you brew.

Check out our favorite coffee roasters to get fresh beans from.

2. Grind beans just before brewing

Grinding the beans just before brewing ensures that you have maximum freshness. Once you grind the beans, they start losing their potency, so the best way to go is measure out coffee, grind, and brew right away.

I do realize that grinding is an additional step, but the difference it will make for your coffee’s taste will more than make up for it.

Plus, using a manual grinder can give you a nice coffee workout. Manual grinders will do the job just fine and will be perfect for tight budgets.

If you have a little bit of room to splurge, though, seriously consider getting an automatic burr grinder. It takes less than 20-30 seconds to grind coffee with an automatic grinder.

Finally, if you’re not a morning person and there’s just no way you’re going to grind some beans before you get your fix of coffee, consider a grind and brew coffee maker that has a timer. This way you can program the machine to grind and brew just as you wake up every day.

As you must be aware, you also need to match the brew to the grind. If you’re using the wrong kind of grind, your coffee can end up under-extracted or muddy.

Here’s a quick recap for the kinds of grinds to use for common coffee preparations:

  • Espresso: fine
  • Aeropress: fine-medium
  • Drip/pour over: medium
  • French press: coarse
  • Cold brew: very coarse

3. Clean your coffee maker regularly

Your coffee maker is doing all of the heavy lifting in making your coffee, so if there’s something wrong with your coffee maker, there’s a good chance your coffee will not turn out as nicely as you had hoped.

The insides of coffee makers have a tendency to get dirty. We often don’t realize it because most of the pipes and machinery is well hidden inside the outer casing, but all sorts of nasty things can build up: limescale and bacteria are two repeat offenders.

To clean out limescale and bacteria, you’ll need to flush your machine with descaling solution. You can either use the descaling solution made by the machine’s manufacturer, or you can use a natural descaler like vinegar or citric acid.

Try to flush the machine once a month, or once every two months at the very least.

Put a mixture of water and descaling solution into the water tank, and let the machine run for 2 or 3 cycles. Then, empty the descaling solution from the tank, rinse it out, and flush the machine with regular water a couple of times to get any acid residue out.

The acidic nature of the descaling solution will remove scale and help kill off bacteria.

4. Monitor the water temperature(cold and hot)

The temperature of water is really important. Just a few degrees too many can result in scorched, acidic coffee, and really, who wants to drink that?

The perfect temperature for brewing coffee is around 90 to 95 degrees celcius. If you don’t have a water heater that can do exactly that temperature, just leave the lid open for 30 seconds after boiling. That will help bring the temperature down to the right range.

If you’re using an espresso machine, consider filling the tank with cool water. Cool water and cool milk always work better in an espresso machine.

5. Use good tasting filtered water

Another thing you can try is using filtered water instead of tap water. The less minerals and additives in the water, the better your coffee will be.

You can use a reverse osmosis system to get really pure water, and that will produce good coffee and also scale up your machine much less.

Alternatively, some coffee machines have filters built into them.

6. Try another blend or roast

If you don’t like the coffee you’re drinking, consider switching it up and picking a different blend or roast.

Light roasts will have the mildest taste.

Medium roasts will have a hint of strength and boldness.

Dark roasts will be really intense!

Most roasters also specify the flavor profiles you can expect to taste and smell from their beans, so you can pick and choose.

7. Drink at a different temperature

Did you know the temperature of coffee will affect the taste? If you’ve followed all the steps up till now and still don’t like the taste of your coffee, try drinking it warmer or cooler than you usually do. You’ll notice that the temperature difference will bring out other flavors.

7. Add flavorings(you’ll need milk and sugar here)

For a quick fix, though, one thing you can do to make coffee taste better is to just add some flavorings. At this point, it doesn’t really matter if you’re drinking instant coffee, old coffee, or freshly roasted beans.

Chances are the flavorings will overpower the subtleties of the coffee flavor, and you’ll get the warmth, a touch of boldness, and of course, the caffeine hit!

If you’re already rinking coffee made from freshly roasted beans, however, I would suggest going easy on the additives as you just want to add enough to dull the bitterness and not too much as to overpower the entire brew. With that said, here are our favorite ways to make your coffee taste good.

Milk

The classical way to improve the taste of coffee is to add milk to it. There are so many ways to do this: you can just add a splash to french press or drip coffee to counter the bitterness, or you can steam some milk and add it to an espresso for a whole variety of drinks ranging from cappuccinos to lattes to macchiatos and more.

Brown sugar

You really can’t go wrong with brown sugar. Taste is subjective, but I feel that brown sugar has a more natural taste than white sugar. You can use any variant of brown sugar – some folks prefer demerara, which has a nice earthy, sweet taste.

Sugar isn’t the healthiest option, but it’s the most commonly available and the only flavor it will contribute is sweetness.

Honey

You can also sweeten coffee using honey. Any kind of honey will do, but remember that most honeys have their own flavor profiles, so make sure it’s something that balances out with the coffee. If the coffee is too strong and the honey is too strong on the other end of the spectrum, you may not really enjoy the result.

Another huge plus is that honey is really good for you!

Maple syrup

Not a big fan of honey, but love pancakes and waffles? Maple syrup is also a really effective coffee sweetener. It’s a lot like honey in some ways, so it will dissolve nicely into the coffee and add a mild nutty, sweet taste. Plus maple syrup is good for you, too.

Cinnamon

If you want to skimp out on any kind of sugar, natural or otherwise, consider adding a dash of cinnamon. Cinnamon actually has a sweetening effect without all the calories, and it’s a nearly universally loved flavoring that tastes good in just about anything.

Sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon into your coffee and experience the magic. It tastes wonderful on top of a cappuccino, too.

Vanilla

A drop of vanilla flavor can also do wonders. The aroma and flavor of vanilla is just something else, and you will find that a drop of it can really uplift a cup of coffee.

Butter

Yes, you read that right. Butter! Add a tablespoon of butter to your morning black coffee and blitz in a high speed blender. The result is a creamy, rich coffee that will keep you full for the whole morning.

If you have high cholesterol or are watching your calories, I would stay away from butter, though 🙂

Syrups

There is a wide variety of coffee syrups available that you can use to add a splash of flavoring to your coffee. Check them out here.

Creamer

I’m recommending this last, because creamer is generally very unhealthy, but since I got my start into coffee by taking it with creamer, I suppose it’s unfair to totally discount it here.

Creamer will totally overpower the coffee but add a thick mouthfeel to the coffee while still preserving some of the coffee smell. If you can’t tolerate coffee any other way but still want to drink it, you can try using creamer.

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Conclusion

I hope you can use the methods above to fix your cup of coffee. Life is too short to be drinking bad coffee!

Frequently asked questions

How should coffee taste?

There’s no straightforward answer here, but coffee will usually be smooth, have a pleasant bit of acidity, and have aromas of various flavors like fruits, chocolate, and nuts(Depending on the coffee).

Why does coffee taste burnt?

It’s possible to overcook coffee. If you leave it on a heating plate for too long, you can burn it.

Can coffee taste sour?

Many coffees and brewing methods bring out the acidity in coffee, so they can have a sour taste.

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About Shabbir

Shabbir is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee In My Veins. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.

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