Before we start please do me one favor: whatever people, friends, expert will tell you: always listen to your own taste buds! You make the decision whether you will like black coffee or not!
It’s perfectly fine if Folgers Coffee from the grocery store is still your favorite. Don’t let anybody tell you that a specific coffee for $20 the pound is the only way to get a really good cup of coffee!
Coffee aficionados please don't turn your back on me! I’m not saying there’s no difference - no way! I personally can’t stand any kind of grocery coffee with a “best before” date anymore.
But I refuse to take coffee snobs seriously, when they want to force me into liking coffee the way they savor it. It’s up to me what I enjoy and not! And the same goes for you!
Do you like to add creamer? Go for it!
Sugar or sweetener, be my guest - I wont't stop you!
But...whenever I brew a first cup of coffee at home for visiting friends or family members I ask them to just try it black. Just one sip...or two!
And then they can decide, whether they want to add sweetener or creamer or not. In 8 of 10 cases they did NOT add anything!
Have you ever heard yourself saying: “I like coffee but only with cream and/or sugar! Without creamer or sweetener, black coffee is way too bitter”!
Or how about “I enjoy the smell of coffee, but not the taste!”
Welcome to the family. I did say that too. I thought, black coffee is automatically bitter and I’m just the type of person that needs creamer.
What do you think, when I say, coffee is not bitter because it’s black!?
You think I’m lying? Well, have a look at what scientists in Germany found out about bitterness in coffee!
It's the roast level and brew method that are key factors of bitterness in coffee. And a little bit the caffeine. But less than most people expected. Now that we know, that it's not because the coffee is black, let's move on.
What the study didn't say is how old the coffee is. Of course, if you drink freshly roasted coffee vs old, stale coffee you will for sure taste a huge difference! Old coffee is bitter, period!
In the following sections, you will learn how to brew black coffee! Coffee, not espresso! Black coffee so good that even your grandma who has been drinking Folgers for 80 years is going to make the switch!
I will also show you alternative ways to find out whether you like black coffee at all and that not all black coffee is the same!
At first, just I want to try to motivate you!
I want you to understand and appreciate why it is good to drink coffee black and enjoy it!
Have a look at this:
Add a tablespoon of sugar (12 grams / 48 calories) and 2 tablespoons of half-and-half (37 calories) and you’re already at 85 calories.
A grande Flat White at Starbucks has already 220 calories and 17 grams of sugar.
Now let’s say you drink four coffees per day - one at Starbucks, and 3 with cream and sugar at work or at home. That’s almost 500 calories! And 53 grams of sugar!
In calories, that’s one full meal!
4 Coffees a day with cream and sugar have about the same amount of calories as a full meal!
And looking at the sugar: the daily recommendation for a 2000 calorie diet is 25 grams! Are you still asking yourself why you don’t lose any pounds when all you do is drink coffee?
I'm not even considering health issues with too much sugar and fat (aka double whipped cream topping).
Speaking of whipped cream: I picked a simple Starbucks drink - the Flat White - it’s just espresso and whole milk, no added sweetener.
Are you brave enough to do the same math with a White Chocolate Mocha or Double Whipped Cream Mocha Frappuccino?
Do you feel motivated enough to get into black coffee now? No matter if you have hated the taste of it or never tried it before?
Let’s do it!
The easiest and most convenient way to start liking black coffee is to go to a local coffee shop!
I want to emphasize "local"! Not Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts.
Nothing against Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts! Their coffee is OK - but in my opinion, it’s not a good place to go to get into black coffee! This is not the coffee I want you to try!
Search for local coffee shops. Maybe even coffee shops with their own roastery. These places are awesome! And even better, if it’s not too busy, you can ask the barista where the coffee comes from. What country, region or even farm!
The barista can also tell you what flavor profile to expect. For example, he/she may say: this Colombian Coffee is a smooth coffee, with mellow acidity, with hints of red grape and nectarine.
Don’t expect you will taste exactly what the barista describes. At least I don’t! But who knows, maybe you’re not a hopeless case like me!
Ask for a light or medium roast coffee. Not dark! Not this time! Why? Because light to medium roasted coffee is less bitter. Dark roasts taste earthy, harsh, robust. Dark roast is better for espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes. A strong coffee that is still good with adding milk.
And at last, ask the barista to brew the coffee fresh.
Nothing against Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts! But in my opinion, their coffee is not a good place to get into black coffee! Go to a local coffee shop instead!
In the specialty coffee houses, you can often read on the menu something like “Hario” or “V60” which is pour-over coffee. French Press or Aeropress are also ways to get your coffee freshly brewed.
But expect to pay a little more. And to wait a few minutes. It’s not just pouring coffee from an urn. But I can promise you it’s worth waiting for!
When they finally serve you the coffee, don’t just drink it. Inhale the aroma! What can you smell? Any fruit? Something floral? These are good signs to have a delicious cup of coffee.
Don’t drink it too hot. Some people like it, when the coffee is very hot. Maybe you too. But just this one time, wait a little bit until you only lightly feel the burning feeling on your tongue anymore.
If you ordered a lighter roast coffee, you will notice some more acidity. And maybe some sweetness. There is always some bitterness in coffee, but it should be minimal. And if the coffee is brewed properly, you should not have the desire to add creamer or sugar.
Try it! And then please let me know in the comments below what you think of black coffee now.
Brewing coffee at home is nothing special! You go to the store, by a blue box of Maxwell Coffee and start brewing. And maybe you’re even one of them that likes grocery store coffee black.
Well, it’s cheap, right? And we all have to save money somehow.
And I am not here to tell you, that you need to change! No way! Who am I to tell you what you enjoy or not?
But you obviously searched for something like how to like black coffee. So I’m assuming you do not like the black coffee you have been drinking so far.
So what can you do at home to change it?
The one thing we don’t do is to change your coffee maker! Not at first! It’s the last thing we consider!
Of course, we look at the beans first!
If you can, buy whole beans, not pre-ground coffee. With "if you can" I mean, if you have the possibility to grind the beans at home. But more in a little bit!
The reason to buy whole beans is, that pre-ground coffee is very delicate and goes stale quickly. By quickly I mean days!
Coffee snobs will probably tell you, within hours or even minutes but I’ll see it more relaxed. Until an average coffee drinker like you and me really taste a difference, a few days will pass - at least!
Buy whole bean coffee, not pre-ground. The reason is, that pre-ground coffee goes stale within days.
But here’s the problem!
If the coffee in the store was freshly ground - it would be totally fine to buy. But it’s NOT!
Even the better ground coffee like Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts is pre-ground weeks ago. When not months.
So if you don’t have a coffee grinder buy whole beans and grind them in the store.
As a side note: a blade grinder would be enough for now. You know, the small ones you grind spices with.
But don’t make the mistake and keep the ground coffee in the bag you bought it. Refill it in an airtight container. Best if it’s opaque. Because coffee does not like light and air. It will become stale faster.
So let’s move on!
Now that you know to buy whole beans you need to know what roast level is best for the first cup of black coffee!
In case you don’t know how coffee gets its brown color.
Raw coffee is green. You need to roast it before it looks like the dark brown bean that you are familiar with.
But there are different roast levels. Think of a steak, there’s rare, medium and well-done. And a few stages between.
For your first cup of black coffee I want you to try light or medium roast coffee. I want you to taste fruity flavors, citrus, some acidity and just a bit of bitterness for the balance!
Same with coffee beans. There is light roast, medium roast, and dark roast. The longer you roast, the darker the bean gets, but also the stronger, harsher, it tastes. Light and medium roasts are more citrusy or fruity, sometimes floral in aromas and flavors.
This is the roast level we need for black coffee. Light to medium! We need fruity flavors, citrus acidity and just a tiny bit of bitterness for the balance.
The problem is, though, you will have a hard time to find light roast coffees in grocery stores. Rather medium, which is fine. But in the next chapter, I’ll explain to you why we do not want to buy our coffee in grocery stores.
You have four options to buy whole beans:
In the grocery store, in a coffee house, at a coffee roastery, or online.
Whole beans from the shelf are good, but usually not fresh. To be more specific, whole beans stay fresh a few weeks but until a bag of roasted coffee hits the shelf of a regular grocery store, several weeks will pass.
So I doubt that we will achieve your goal of enjoying black coffee without creamer or sugar with coffee from the grocery store at all.
Except - the grocery store offers fresh coffee beans from local roasters. Whole Foods, for example, has a section with specialty coffee.
Fresh coffee beans have a "roasted at" label, not a "best before" date!
Do you know how to easily find whether coffee is freshly roasted or not?
Look for a “roasted at” label!
If you see a “best before” date, it’s likely already roasted weeks ago.
So for this purpose of getting you to like black coffee, get a bag of coffee with a “roasted at” label or look somewhere else.
For example, at your local coffee house. These shops often sell coffee from local roasters. And this coffee is usually of high quality and also freshly roasted. You will highly likely not find any bag of coffee with a “best before” label.
On top, you can probably try the coffee before you buy it because the coffee shop likely uses the same coffee on their menu. Just ask them!
The other good thing about buying coffee in the coffee shop is, that those people know what they’re talking about - most of the times.
They can tell you what to expect, how to brew it, and how to make the coffee taste better at home.
Coffee roasters usually sell their coffee in their own coffee house or to other coffee shops.
Some of them also sell the freshly roasted coffee directly to you.
You can’t get coffee fresher than roasted and picked up from a local roaster.
The only disadvantage is, that you can only pick from a view different roasts and regions.
There's usually not a huge selection of different coffees. But the region or farm should not be your biggest concern yet.
We’re still in stage one of how to enjoy black coffee.
Speaking of ‘huge selection’.
Between 2013 and 2016 there has been an online subscription model boom with an increase of over 3000%. Including coffee subscriptions.
There are some roasters that offer their own coffee subscriptions but you only get the coffee from one roaster. As mentioned before, it’s totally fine.
Believe me. as you get into black coffee, you will want to find out yourself where coffee comes from!
Usually, you only answer a few questions. Something like your preferred roast type, how many bags and how often you want it shipped. That’s it. Super easy.
Alright, now you now to buy whole beans and the options you have to get them.
Your halfway through, you got some good fresh coffee. Now we just have to make sure to not mess it up at home.
So if you haven’t pre-ground the coffee in the store you need to grind them at home. A coffee aficionado will tell you, you must have a conical burr grinder!
Why? Because it’s the only grinder that can grind your beans evenly.
Otherwise, your coffee tastes awful, underdeveloped or over-extracted, blah blah.
Do you have one of those friends too? Those black and white friends. The ones that only accept one way! No compromises allowed.
A conical burr grinder is of course better than a blade grinder. But at what cost? For drip coffee makers, you can use your blade grinder for now!
It’s not that they are wrong. Of course, a conical burr grinder would be best. Will you taste a difference? Maybe. But at what cost?
Are you willing to spend $100 - $200 for a coffee grinder while you just start trying to like coffee? If yes, go ahead and check my post about coffee grinders under $200. Don’t go crazy! If you become a coffee addict yourself, then you know exactly what you want and can still spend more money on coffee equipment.
Back to the grinders. If you do not want to spend so much money, maybe you have a spice grinder. You know those black or white ones with the blades.
They’re not perfect. But good enough for drip coffee makers or pour overs. Pour-over is the kind of drip coffee maker where you pour the water by hand.
Grind the coffee beans until they have reached a medium grind size - like table salt. If there are a few coarser junks in there it’s not a big deal. Just make sure to not grind too fine.
When you grind coffee too fine your brewed coffee can end up being over-extracted.
The result: bitter coffee. And we don’t want that!
I’m assuming you have a drip coffee maker and are now ready to brew your coffee.
The last question: How much water and how much coffee should you use?
Often you read about coffee to water ratios like “for every 5 oz of water use 10 grams of coffee”. Honestly - I hate that! It frustrates me. I do not want to measure first water in ounces and then coffee in grams. I want to be quick.
Of course, if you always want to have the exact coffee to water ratio you need a scale. But for starters, let’s try this simple, easy to remember example, considering a full pot of coffee.
4 cup coffee maker -> 4 scoops
8 cup coffee maker -> 8 scoops
12 cup coffee maker -> 12 scoops
And if you want your coffee to be stronger, use half a scoop or a scoop more. But again, as long as the grind size is medium, your coffee won’t taste bitter, just stronger!
Bitterness in coffee is a sign of over-extraction. It means either the coffee is too long in contact with water or the grind size of your coffee is too fine for the brew duration of your drip coffee maker.
Bitterness in coffee is a sign of over-extraction.
Either the coffee is too long in contact with water or the grind size is too fine for the brew duration of your drip coffee maker.
Got it? Great. Then it’s time to confuse you if you want. I’ll add the calculation how I came up with the coffee to water ratio for your coffee maker. Just in case you’re curious:
But only read if you want to feel confused! Don’t say I haven’t warned you!
A typical coffee machine has 4, 8, or 12 cups. A cup is mostly considered 5 ounces. So depending on your coffee maker, you either have 20, 40 or 60 ounces of water for a full pot.
A coffee scoop is about 10 grams or 0.36 ounces of coffee.
A good coffee to water ratio to start with is 1:15 (1 part coffee:15 parts water). So for a 4 cup coffee maker, 20 ounces divided by 15 = 1.33 ounces of coffee!
To calculate the scoops we only have to divide 1.33 ounces by 0.36, which is 3.69, so almost 4 scoops.
Although the freshness of the beans is most important, your coffee maker also affects your level of black coffee enjoyment.
So if you think a new coffee maker is your next step I have a few posts you should check out before you make a buying decision:
Best Coffee Makers - This post is about types of coffee makers.
Drip Coffee Makers - As the name says, this post is 100% about drip coffee makers.
Coffee Makers With Grinder - In case you want to grind and brew in one step.
Thermal Carafe Coffee Makers - This post is about drip coffee makers with thermal carafe.
SCAA Approved Coffee Makers - All drip coffee makers, that the smart coffee guys officially certified.
By now you should have freshly brewed coffee in your mug. Please tell me you like. If it’s ok but not perfect, try different coffees from different countries, regions or farms. Stick with light to medium roasts for black coffee.
You might also want to consider brewing your coffee manually. For example with a Pour Over Dripper or a French Press.
But I must warn you:
If you start with manual coffee brewing, you will enter the crazy coffee addict territory!
Once started you can’t stop! Don’t come back and tell me, because of my post you are now hooked to black coffee and your kitchen is full of coffee makers, grinders, and beans.
Don't say I haven't warned you!
Tell me, how do you enjoy black coffee now? Is your coffee still bitter? What's your favorite roast?
Let me know in the comments section below.
Coffee lover and Dad on a budget. Since the wishes of my beautiful wife and two charming kids are of course of much higher priority than my own ones, I always keep an eye out for coffee products which give me the biggest bang for the buck!
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