Troubleshooting Your Brew

Troubleshooting your brew, or, what to do when your coffee isn’t living up to expectations

Oh, the disappointment! You invested in high-quality coffee, but the cup you just brewed isn’t living up to expectations. Here is a checklist of things that might have come between you and good coffee and how to fix them:

• Coffee tastes weak and/or sour: If you bought specialty-grade coffee (all NanoRoast is in that category) and you have sour or weak-tasting coffee, chances are that it didn’t brew (extract) properly. There are three major things that can go wrong in the brewing process:

    1. Not enough time extracting,
    2. Not enough ground coffee, or
    3. The water may not have been hot enough.
    4. If it really tastes sour and you’ve checked 1-3 above, you may have inadvertently received an under-ripe bean. If that happens, NanoRoast will make it right. See Customer Service.

The method of brewing can impact the strength of your coffee, too, especially if you haven’t adjusted the amount of coffee or grind coarseness to match the need of the brewing method. Read more about brewing method here. This is the place where good coffee comes alive or is is ruined.

• Coffee tastes bitter: Again, if the coffee has the requisite quality and has not been over-roasted to oily charcoal blackness, bitterness can arise from over-extraction. The coffee might have been in contact with the hot water for too long, or the grind is too fine (causing too much exposure of grounds to water), or you may have stale oils on your equipment. Try grinding a bit coarser, after you clean your coffeemaker. (You DO clean your coffee maker at least once a month, right?)

• Flavor doesn’t seem “intense” enough: Read the bit below about NanoRoast not tasting like the green mermaid. Unlike chain store coffee, we celebrate the differences in origins and roasts. We don’t use any Robusta in our coffee blends, either, so there is little of the intense, bitter, rubbery flavor you may be used to in Italian-style espresso. My advice: if you want your high quality coffee really, really intense, order a dark roast from an origin that is naturally intense. India, most Indonesians and Mocha Java are three suggestions. You might also like a very special, funky coffee called Monsooned Malabar. Email me for more information.

• My coffee tastes burned:  Do you keep your drip coffee on a burner to keep warm for any length of time? That is the most probable culprit. If there was leftover old coffee dried on the inside of the carafe, that can also impart burned flavors. I am assuming that your beans didn’t start out burned. They aren’t, right? Try making less at a time. You will enjoy it more, I promise.

• I got a pot that just tastes bad and not like coffee. (Specifically, a Rwanda-Burundi tastes like raw potatoes, OR a Central American tastes like dirt or sulfur.) You have otherwise followed all the directions, but one pot goes horribly wrong. You probably found a bean with potato defect (Rwanda-Burundi) or phenol defect (Central America) that are both impossible to detect until you suddenly discover it in your cup. While it is medically unlikely to poison you and it is very nasty to encounter something like this, it is a rare occurrence, and you are unlikely to have two pots with any defect.

PLEASE NOTE: Many of the coffees we offer that could be subject to these rare defects are already cupped multiple times before you get them, and the risk is very low you would ever encounter them. Since nobody can identify these kind of tainted beans before they get to you, NanoRoast will be happy to replace any defective coffee or otherwise make it right if you let us know within 30 days of your purchase. If you have any concerns at any time, please contact us at [email protected]. We will make sure you are happy.

• My beans don’t have any oil on them:  That is a good thing. Coffee oils should stay in the bean until ground, not sit on the surface and get stale. Dark roasted beans with lots of oil on the surface (not my recommendation) should ideally be used within a week or so to avoid loss of quality due to staling.

• There is a head of foam when I pour hot water on the grounds when using french press or pour over brewer.  Freshly-roasted coffee gives off carbon dioxide that is largely released in the first few hours after roasting. It will continue to outgas CO2 for a week or so until the gas in the bean is expended. The rate the CO2 is released depends on the origin. For example, I find Indonesians still giving off lots of gas even two weeks after roasting. Not to worry–If your ground coffee grows a healthy head of suds when very hot water is poured on it, that is the sign of freshness. Here’s a video of a Pourover with FRESH coffee by way of example. Enjoy!

• There was a “burp” of gas when I opened my airtight container of fresh beans. Are they ok to use? Yes. See the paragraph just before this one. Coffee is roasted to at least 450F, so it’s pretty sterile. We take care to use good food-handling practices so the only way you can get food poisoning from coffee is is you handle them with week-old mayonnaise on your hands. (I am almost serious here.) The risk of food-borne illness from coffee is really, really small, and CO2 escaping is a sign of freshness.

• My coffee has flaky, chaffy stuff on the beans:  Don’t worry; the chaff that clings to the beans until released in the roasting process (or even after) is tasteless and won’t harm either your coffee or your equipment. We vigorously sift the freshly-roasted  beans to remove most of the chaff, but some varieties are notorious for holding onto theirs, especially if they are not super-dark roast. You will see it among the grounds, and it may even leap out of the grinder at you because of static. While it’s odd, chances are the amount that ends up in your batch of ground coffee will be very small. It will get caught in your coffee filter; it won’t hurt your coffee maker or your brewed coffee.

How to remove static-y chaff from the grinder:  Tap the plastic drawer firmly with your hand before you open it. That should release the static so the chaff doesn’t leap out at you.

• Coffee tastes stale too soon:  If you got your coffee from NanoRoast, it will have been roasted within 5 days (at most) of receipt. Check your storage–If beans are exposed to air, they stale very rapidly. Please store them in air-tight containers in a cool, dry place until used, out of direct sun.

A word about refrigeration and freezer storage:  DON’T!  Frost-free climate control in refrigeration units (including freezers) tend to expose the coffee to air and whatever other odors are in the fridge at the time. Do you really want that? Store it like you would store fine wine and it will be fine.

• My coffee doesn’t taste like the green mermaid:  Chain store coffee is mostly very dark roast with little variation in taste profile by design. NanoRoast coffee is selected and roasted to allow a wide range of tastes to shine through. While one is aiming for a signature flavor, NanoRoast is celebrating coffee diversity. You will find NanoRoast coffees have more flavor complexity, less bitterness and may just be “different” tasting compared to what you are used to drinking. Give it a chance. You might get spoiled. You might also want to experiment with different origins and profiles to find out what you really like. Start here.

Quite seriously, if you follow the brewing recommendations and still aren’t happy with your NanoRoast selection, talk to us. We might be able to figure out how the process went wrong with selection, grinding, storage or brewing and set you up to make great coffee next time. We want to make sure you get coffee you are happy drinking.

Got issues with making coffee? Email us for advice at [email protected].

Enjoy your coffee!

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