What is Acrid Coffee? And 5 Tips to Fix it

Have you ever taken a sip of coffee that made you cringe? Not because it was too hot or too bitter, but because it had an unpleasantly sharp, pungent taste? If so, you’ve experienced acrid coffee.

Acrid coffee refers to coffee that tastes sharp, bitter, and unpleasant due to issues during the brewing process. Understanding what causes acrid coffee and how to avoid it can help you brew a balanced, flavorful cup every time.

So, what is acrid coffee? Let’s find out.

What is acrid coffee

What Causes Acrid Coffee?

There are a few potential culprits that can lead to acrid-tasting coffee:


Overextraction is when too many coffee solubles are extracted from the grounds, leading to astringent, bitter flavors. This often happens when:

  • The coffee is ground too finely
  •  The brewing time is too long
  •  The water temperature is too high

To avoid overextraction:

  • Use a proper grind size
  • Follow recommended brew times
  • Use water just under boiling temperature between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit

These tips will help avoid overextraction.


On the flip side, underextraction is when not enough coffee solubles are extracted, resulting in weak, sour-flavored coffee. Underextraction can occur when:

  • The coffee is ground too coarsely
  •  The brew time is too short
  •  The water temperature is too low

To avoid underextraction:

  • Use a medium grind size
  • Extend brew times
  • Ensure that the water is hot enough

These steps will help you avoid underextraction.

Chlorogenic Acid Breakdown

Boiling water causes chlorogenic acids in coffee to break down into acrid compounds called quinides and phenols.

Brew coffee with water between 195-205°F to avoid this.

Stale Coffee Beans

As coffee beans oxidize and stale, they lose pleasant flavors and take on sharp, bitter notes. Always brew with fresh, high-quality coffee beans.

Store beans in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Use within two weeks of the roast date for the best flavor.

Water Quality

Hard water or water with impurities can accentuate acrid flavors in coffee. Use filtered water for a smoother, more balanced cup.

What is acrid coffee

How to Fix Acrid Coffee

If your coffee turns out unpleasantly astringent or bitter, there are a few tricks to mellow out the acrid flavors:

  • Add a pinch of salt – Salt suppresses bitterness. Add just a tiny pinch to your cup and give it a stir.
  •  Try milk or cream – A splash of milk or cream can smooth out acrid coffee notes. The fat coats your mouth and balances the bitterness.
  •  Brew a fresh cup – Start over with an adjusted grind size, water temp, or brew time to extract a more balanced cup.
  •  Add sugar – Just a bit of sugar can mask bitterness. Add to taste, but take care not to overpower the coffee.
  •  Experiment with brew method – Try a pour-over, French press, or cold brew. Different methods can often improve acrid coffee.

Tips to Avoid Acrid Coffee

Now that you know what causes acrid coffee and how to fix it. Use these pro tips to improve your drip coffee brew:

  • Use medium grind size – Finer than French press but coarser than espresso. This prevents under and overextraction.
  •  Weigh coffee and water – For consistent extraction. Use a 17:1 water-to-coffee ratio.
  •  Heat water to 195-205°F – Just under boiling to prevent burning compounds.
  •  Rinse paper filters – Pre-wetting removes paper taste and warms equipment.
  •  Clean equipment – Rinse away residual coffee oils, which can go rancid.
  •  Stay vigilant – Taste and adjust as needed. Don’t let bad habits creep in!

Final Thoughts

Remember that coffee freshness and roast quality impact flavor. Buy from reputable roasters and use beans within two weeks of the roast date for the best tasting cup.

With an understanding of what causes acrid coffee and how to prevent it, you can consistently brew smooth, balanced coffee every morning.

Happy caffeinating!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Acrid Coffee?

Acrid coffee is coffee that has an unusually bitter and harsh taste. It’s like a punch to your taste buds that isn’t pleasant. This can be caused by several factors, such as over-extraction during the brewing process or the use of low-quality coffee beans.

Why does my coffee taste acrid?

There are a couple of reasons why your coffee may taste acrid. One of the most common reasons is over-extraction. This happens when water is in contact with the coffee grounds for too long, causing the bitter elements to dominate. Using water that is too hot can also cause this harsh taste.

How can I prevent my coffee from tasting acrid?

The best way to prevent your coffee from tasting acrid is to ensure that you’re using the right brewing techniques. Make sure not to over-extract your coffee and use the correct water temperature. Also, using high-quality coffee beans can make a big difference. Remember, good coffee is an art!

Can the type of coffee beans used cause acrid coffee?

Absolutely! The quality of your coffee beans is the foundation of your coffee. Low-quality or stale coffee beans can easily lead to an acrid taste. So if you’re serious about avoiding acrid coffee, invest in high-quality beans.

Are there health risks associated with drinking acrid coffee?

While acrid coffee isn’t necessarily harmful, it’s definitely not enjoyable. Consuming anything that doesn’t taste right isn’t usually a good idea. If your coffee consistently tastes acrid, it might be a sign you need to change your brewing method or the quality of your beans.

Picture of About the Author Kris Silvey

About the Author Kris Silvey

As a semi-professional at-home barista and full-time software engineer, my love for coffee borders on obsession. By combining my passion for coffee with an engineering mindset, I strive to perfect my brewing process and share that knowledge with each of you.

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