If you haven’t already, check out my 5 Reasons to Drink Black Coffee article before reading this one.
1. Use Fresh Quality Arabica Coffee
This is probably the easiest and most noticeable way to improve the taste of black coffee. If you haven’t tried a fresh, medium roast of Arabica (not Robusta) beans, you would be amazed. High quality and recently roasted coffee is very smooth with a nuanced flavor.
Avoid supermarket coffee. Most supermarket coffee is typically of very low quality in addition to being stale. This coffee may have been sitting in a warehouse for many months before arriving on the store shelf. There are some exceptions to this depending on where you shop.
If you are not purchasing from a local coffee roaster, look for a roasting date on the bag (not an expiration date). I have seen these dates on Peet’s coffee, and they guarantee that their coffee is no older than 90 days. This is better than nothing, folks; some of you instant coffee drinkers might want to start with this and work your way up to fresh roasted coffee.
For more information about beans, check out my post: Selecting Coffee Beans. If you don’t live near a roaster, you will probably have better luck finding quality coffee by purchasing online as opposed to the grocery store. You can easily purchase quality whole bean coffee on Amazon.
2. Use Medium Roasted Coffee
Choosing too dark or light of a roast can affect your transition to black coffee. Light roasts can be a bit pungent with too little roasting flavor, while the darkest roasts can be quite bitter.
Generally, the darker the roast, the more dominant the taste of the roasting process will be.
I recommend medium to medium dark roasts for an appealing balance between the roast flavor and the bean characteristics.
3. Use a Burr Grinder Instead of Blade
When preparing coffee at home, it is preferable to grind your own beans just before brewing. Additionally, the type of grinder matters. Blade grinders smash beans into different sized pieces and create dust which will result in bitterness from over extraction. Burr grinders grind beans into equal-sized pieces and allow you to adjust the setting if you find your coffee too bitter or weak.
If you are willing to invest in a grinder, spend the extra money to purchase a burr grinder. Owning one allows you to purchase coffee in whole bean form. Whole bean coffee has a much longer shelf life and is easier to store and transport.
For more on burr grinders, check out my post: The Burr Grinder: A Short Guide.
4. Use Filtered Water
When preparing coffee at home, you should use filtered water. Heating up tap water will generally bring out a metallic taste and other unwanted flavors. This will often give the coffee a burnt taste. Filtered water makes for a noticeably smoother cup than tap water.
You should still pre-filter water even if your coffee machine has a charcoal filter. Typically, the filter in your refrigerator or even a Brita filter will work better than the charcoal filters found in coffee makers. Although seemingly redundant, it certainly can’t hurt to combine them.
I find the taste of my coffee to be notably harsher when using tap water compared to water from my refrigerator filter in any of my machines.
5. Order Black Coffee at a Restaurant with Food or Dessert
This is the way that I first made the switch. I used to work as a server in a restaurant, and there simply wasn’t time to add cream and sugar to every cup of coffee. Pouring a cup coffee out of the carafe was fast and something I could do while taking care of customers. This was the beginning of my black coffee journey.
If you find yourself at a restaurant, use the opportunity to train your senses by ordering coffee black with food. One of the easiest ways to drink coffee black is to have it along with something sweet to eat. Black coffee pairs wonderfully with desserts of all kinds.
Coffee served at a restaurant is often on the weaker side and is easy to drink. It may not be bursting with flavor, but it will help you establish the habit. I find that many restaurants have tolerable black coffee, and I order it for myself frequently, especially with dessert.
6. Try Certain Brewing Styles
Some brewing styles should be reserved until you have acquired the taste for black coffee. When you first attempt to make the switch, I recommend certain styles over others. This list ranks the most-drinkable black coffee to the least-drinkable based on smoothness and bitterness (in my opinion):
- The caffé americano combines a shot of espresso with water.
- Aeropress coffee (American styled) is similar to the caffe americano, although less nuanced in flavor.
- The pour-over is a single serving of drip coffee where you control all aspects of the extraction.
- French press coffee is ground coarsely and steeped in water for several minutes.
- Automatic drip coffee, or coffee from a standard coffee pot, is easy to use but offers little control.
- Espresso is a super concentrated shot of coffee.
- Mocha pot coffee is cooked on the stove by passing steam through ground coffee.
At home, I recommend Aeropress or pour-over brewed coffee. Both methods are single serving, inexpensive, and can easily be purchased online (links will take you to product listings on Amazon). This should be your starting point for drinking black coffee. You may find the Aeropress more useful because it can make different kinds of drinks. If you are interested in the Aeropress, check out my beginner’s guide.
When visiting coffee shops, I recommend the caffé americano (my personal daily drink). While the aero press can make a pretty convincing American styled coffee, it isn’t truly authentic. If you want to make an authentic caffé americano at home, you’ll need an espresso machine which can be a large investment.
French pressed coffee with nothing added is also wonderful, but this coffee might be a bit heavy at first. You can read more about how to use one in my French Press Guide.
Mocha pot coffee and espresso are both very concentrated and are quite bitter. When starting out, I would recommend always diluting these with water or adding milk…no need for sugar.
If you drink a lot of black coffee, you will eventually acquire the taste to appreciate any method.
Make the Change Today!
I trust you will find these tips useful if you are looking to make the switch to black coffee. I recommend starting by drinking black coffee on specific occasions, such as when you are at a restaurant (like I did).
Try to implement one or two of these suggestions and periodically test your tolerance for black coffee. Always taste your coffee before adding cream or sugar. You just may find that one day black coffee becomes tolerable, then preferable.
If you found this article helpful, please share it! The world is filled with too many sugary coffee drinkers missing out on the purity of black coffee.
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