Avoid These 32 Common Coffee Brewing Mistakes

Wondering why your home coffee doesn’t taste like one from the local café? Read on and discover 32 common coffee brewing mistakes to avoid.

spilled coffee on a pile of papers - coffee brewing mistakes
Even minor mistakes can drastically impact the quality of your brew

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to turn water into coffee, but there is a treasure house of secrets to brewing that perfect cup of Java. Unless you are a professional, chances are there might be some errors in your equation.

This is probably why your home coffee does not really taste like the one you get at your favorite cafe. Unfortunately, even minor mistakes can drastically impact the quality of your brew. If you constantly feel there is something lacking in the flavor and aroma of your home-brewed cuppa, it is time to brush up on your skills.

Here are the 32 common mistakes people usually commit when brewing coffee at home.

1. Using Old Coffee Beans

It is easier to tell stale coffee beans but the old-but-not-stale ones may be hard to identify and they can drastically affect the quality of your brew. The little capsules are powerhouses of great flavor and aroma, but they are not designed to last forever.

They have an expiry date and if the beans sit for too long on the shelves, the volatile compounds will slowly dissipate resulting in a bland cup of coffee. Buy fresh, just like you do with green leafy vegetables, milk, and bread.

When you buy roasted coffee beans next time, make sure you check the roasting date and use it within a month of that date. An important tip is to drink your coffee when it’s still hot because the chemical reactions that continue post brewing process can ruin your coffee.

2. Putting Price Over Quality When Buying Beans

The attractive discount on low-brand coffee beans may look tempting and urge you to save money on your daily cuppa, but think again. Do you really want to put price over quality to have a grimace on your face as you sip on your morning coffee?

Keep cost-cutting for other not-so-important things in life. A cup of coffee can make or break your day, so spare yourself the nightmare of bargain coffee at the supermarket just to save a couple of collars. Buy only the premium quality beans that feel great on your taste buds!

3. Not Maintaining The Right Water-Ground Ratio While Brewing

When you wake up six in the morning and kick yourself out of bed reluctantly, you may not be in the mood to do any calculations. If you carelessly toss a few spoons into the filter and pour water without measuring, chances are your cup of mud will taste terrible.

While your taste buds may excuse your early morning mistakes, spare a moment for the right measurements on other occasions. I would suggest that you invest in a kitchen scale. Keep a measuring scoop accessible so that you can treat yourself to a spectacular cup of coffee every morning.

4. Using The Non-Optimal Brewing Methods

Do you always look for convenience when making coffee? Are you uncomfortable with branching out of your familiar zone and try new methods of brewing? There are several brewing methods that can give you varying levels of coffee quality, aroma, and taste.

While you may still trust your conventional style, it might not give you the best coffee. Try experimenting with other brewing methods to see what they can offer.

Who knows? You might just develop a love affair with the French press or find the espresso life-changing. You do not know THE BEST’ out there until you have tried them all.

5. Not Purchasing Whole Coffee Beans

Buying pre-ground beans is a strict NO. Similar to the process of roasting, when you grind beans, it releases essential oils and gases that are responsible for that unique flavor. While pre-ground coffee may be convenient to use, they have probably lost the good effect by the time they reach you.

Shelf-time plays an important factor in determining the flavor of pre-ground coffee as well as your Java. So, make sure you always stick to whole coffee beans to enjoy the freshest aroma and purest flavor as your drink your cuppa.

6. Using Beans Ground Long Ago

I have already mentioned above that buying pre-ground beans should be ruled out of your book if you wish to brew great coffee. Some people tend to grind fresh beans and then store the excess ground for future use.

While this may look like an easy solution, it can be the reason why your coffee does not taste so good every time! As soon as you grind the beans, they start releasing the flavors that are responsible for making your coffee taste so good.

If you store them and use them to brew after a few days, you have already lost a significant part of the flavor. Get a burr grinder and do this one extra step every time you make coffee and your taste buds will love you!

Read more: Why Are Some Coffee Beans Oily?

7. Not Paying Attention To The Water Temperature

So, you thought the plain hot water was enough? Wrong. If the water is too hot or too cold, the resulting coffee will not taste as good.

If you have been brewing with the wrong water temperature, you are not allowing proper extraction of the coffee grounds. The ideal water temperature for brewing is between 195°F (91°C) and 205°F (96°C).

This temperature stimulates the grounds to release its compounds to the fullest and permeate the water with the goodness of pure caffeine. If you do not have already one, I would suggest that you invest in a kitchen thermometer that lets you measure the water temperature before pouring it through the filter.

Read our guide: What Is The Best Temperature To Brew Coffee?

8. Grinding Coffee Beans Incorrectly

he 6 Best Grinders for a French Press
Strive to create a uniform ground that allows water to easily pass through the filter

Each brewing method and style requires a specific consistency of coffee grounds. This is crucial to ensure that the grounds release the optimal compounds to lend that unique flavor and aroma to your coffee.

This another reason why you should not buy pre-ground coffee as it deprives you of fine-tuning your ground as per the brewing method. When you crush whole coffee beans in a grinder, you must strive to create a uniform ground that allows water to easily pass through the filter to deliver a great taste.

To grind your beans in different consistencies, invest in a good coffee grinder that enables you to achieve 3 different levels of grinding:

  • Coarse grounds will have large and visible particles of coffee beans
  • Medium grounds will be smaller in size than coarse and look more like fine dirt
  • Fine grounds will be extremely smooth with no visible or separate chunks

9. Storing Your Coffee Beans In The Wrong Way And Wrong Place

Unfortunately, many people think that coffee bags can keep the coffee fresh for a longer period but this is not true. To ensure that your beans stay good for long, you must keep them away from oxygen and humidity. You must also be careful about not exposing them to extreme temperatures (cold or hot).

The right way to store your beans is in a high-grade airtight sealed container. Keep them in a clean, cool, and dry place, away from light, air, and humidity.

10. Storing coffee beans in the fridge or freezer

I have already told mentioned the right way to store coffee beans above, but this one certainly deserves an extra mention. I have seen so many people store a bag of coffee beans or ground coffee in the freezer. This is as good as throwing them away!

Your refrigerator is one place that has a lot of smell floating inside a compact space and your coffee can easily get contaminated with unwanted flavors. You would not want your coffee to taste like the Thai red prawn curry you made last night, would you?

11. Brewing Coffee Incorrectly

If you love coffee, it makes sense to spend some time and understand the proper method of brewing. For some people, this remains a mystery, and no wonder they are ones who never manage to brew a great-tasting cup of mud.

Even if you buy the highest-rated Arabica beans, you will need to follow the right brewing method to extract the best flavors out of it. If you are a beginner, start with the tried and tested methods of brewing such as a pour-over or French press.

The French press is the method where you press the fresh coffee ground through steaming hot water. The pour-over is exactly what it says – pouring hot water in the right measure and temperature into the filter containing fresh grounds.

12. Using An Outdated Equipment To Brew Your Cuppa

Every equipment has a lifespan. You may be emotionally attached to your parent’s old coffeemaker but after a point, it stops performing in an optimum way.

No matter how much you clean or maintain the device, it might not have the strength left to perform as it did 10 years ago. So, it’s important to know when it is time to replace your old equipment with a new coffee maker.

Whether you use a high-end espresso machine or a hot water kettle to brew in the pour-over style, keep an eye for the sudden changes in performance. If you notice the quality of your Java dropping, it might be a sign that you need to replace your brewer.

13. Using The Wrong Cup For Your Coffee

This may be more of a personal preference, however, the type of cup you use to enjoy your coffee can impact the experience. Plastic cups are a no-no because they contain the harmful Bisphenol A (BPA) that may pose serious health problems. Plastic cups can also alter the flavor of your coffee.

My recommendation would be to use high-quality ceramic or glass mugs that are specially designed to contain hot liquid. If you are looking for travel mugs to enjoy coffee on the go, get the durable stainless steel mugs to preserve the coffee’s flavor.

14. Adding Low-Quality Extra Ingredients Can Ruin Your Coffee

Unfortunately, many people add low-quality ingredients to premium coffee beans to enhance the taste and this result in an opposite effect. Adding cheap sweeteners and coffee creamers can ruin the taste of a great cup of coffee. Why would you want to do that?

When your coffee means so much to you, why experiment with budget or low-quality mix-ins. Make sure you invest in the right coffee sweeteners and creamers to get the perfect aroma and flavor.

15. Brewing More Than Needed

On the weekends when you wish to go on a coffee binge, it may be tempting to brew a pot full of coffee. However, if you are aiming for an outstanding brew then this may not be a good solution. If you brew a lot of coffee than you normally do, it may get harder to achieve the perfect water to ground ratio.

While it may be necessary to make a lot of coffee for a party or when you have guests at home, stick to brewing only as much needed when brewing for one or two people. This will minimize errors and give you optimum coffee enjoyment.

16. Not Paying Attention To The Quality Of Water

If the reason why your home coffee tastes so bland is a mystery to you, maybe the answer lies in the quality of tap water you use. While your advanced coffee maker may promise to brew a quick cup of Joe, it cannot improve the taste if you are using bad quality water.

filling a drinking glass with water
Hard and soft water is not ideal for coffee

Tap water often contains chemicals and minerals that may interact with your brew and ruin the taste. Both hard and soft water is not ideal for coffee. Whether you use a pour-over coffee maker or drip-coffee machine, make sure you use filtered (simple filtration process) or purified water only.

For more info: Can I Use Tap Water To Make Coffee?

17. Not Rinsing Or Replacing Your Coffee Filter

I know rinsing filters may seem like a chore and I have been guilty of leaving them for another time. Trust me, that’s a recipe for disaster! Whether you use a paper or metal for filtering, make sure you clean the filter immediately after use because the leftovers may go rancid and affect your future brews.

If you use paper filters, remember to remove them after use and rinse the filter basket thoroughly. If your brewer uses a reusable filter, rinse it properly after each use. You may need to replace the reusable filter if you notice that your coffee quality has reduced over time.

18. Using a Dirty Coffee Maker

Just like any other kitchen equipment, your coffee maker also needs maintenance to keep it working in the best condition. If you do not clean your coffee maker frequently, it will have deposits of dirt and attract outside flavors over time. It may also get unwanted bacteria and contaminants that can alter the flavor of the highest quality coffee.

Refer to the cleaning instructions provided in the product manual or watch a YouTube video to see how to clean your specific brewing equipment. A regular cleaning will not only add more years to your coffee maker but also keep your future brews free of contaminants.

19. Not Knowing Exactly What You Like

Many people, especially beginners may not know what they like and there is nothing to be ashamed about that. It takes time to develop your taste for different varieties of coffee, however, ignorance while brewing can certainly impact your experience as you are brewing blindly’.

I would suggest that you explore with different brewing methods, flavors, and experiences to develop your palate. Try brewing coffee in a traditional Moka pot or pamper yourself with a rich and creamy espresso. Go ahead and experiment to discover and refine your love for different types of coffee!

20. Adding Milk And Sugar When Not Needed

According to a coffee expert, people add milk and sugar to hide the bitterness and defects of not-so-good coffee. If you use the freshest coffee beans that are perfectly roasted and rightly ground, you may not have to add anything to your brew.

While adding sugar and milk is not bad, it usually does the work of camouflaging the bad flavors. I would recommend that you taste your coffee first and then decide whether you need to add anything extra to balance any bitterness.

21. Buying Instant Coffee To Get A Quick And Cheap Fix

I know instant coffee is cheap and quick to make. It may be the go-to thing for you when you need a quick fix with not much brewing items available at hand. While all this is true, you cannot deny the fact that instant coffee is almost like depriving yourself of the true flavors of coffee.

The process of making instant coffee is extremely technical and it involves high-pressure brewing and freeze-drying which robs the beans of its authentic flavors. Those who have been drinking instant coffee are living in the oblivion and have no idea what real coffee can taste like.

Besides the taste, buying instant coffee also impacts the profit margin of the farmers. There is a long supply chain in the process of making instant coffee and very often farmers are not paid the right price. I would recommend that you buy whole coffee beans only to enjoy the real flavor of coffee.

22. Not Knowing How Much Caffeine You Are Consuming

If you drink a cup of Joe or maybe two as a daily ritual, you may avoid overdoing your caffeine intake. Unfortunately, many people have misconceptions on this and they believe espresso has the highest level of caffeine.

You may have seen friends and colleagues wanting a caffeine fix head to a coffee shop to buy a double espresso. The truth is that espressos have a denser intensity of caffeine, not higher.

You traditional filter coffee has more caffeine in it because of the time it takes to brew. Thus, the amount of caffeine you consume with your coffee daily is determined by the time taken to brew, not the density or pressure.

23. Not Using The Right Tamper Or Tamping Technique

If you want to make a barista-style espresso at home, you need to invest in a good tamper and use the right tamper technique. While there are numerous types of tampers available, it is essential that you use the one that fits into your palm properly. It should also be heavy enough to give you enough pressure to tamp the coffee grounds effectively.

While the tampers that come with your espresso machine may be good enough to get started, you may want to invest in a better-quality tamper as you gain some experience. Do not get intimidated by the price, these extra tools are worth it and they will last for long.

24. Using A Spice Grinder Or Blade Grinder

When grinding your beans at home, it may be tempting to use the spice or blade grinder to save money but this can adversely impact your coffee flavor. The spice grinder is meant for spices, not beans and a blade will chop the coffee beans instead of evenly grinding them.

My recommendation is that you get a burr grinder. If you prefer an electric one, look at the detailed review of Quiseen One-Touch Electric Coffee Grinder.

If manual grinding is more your thing, check out the JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder. A burr grinder works by crushing the coffee beans in a uniform way to encourage an even extraction.

25. Not Using The Right Type Of Sugar Or Milk

pouring milk to a coffee
Use whole milk only to maintain the rich taste

While adding sugar and milk to your brew or not adding them is completely a personal choice, I would recommend that you use the right type if you go for it. You can find brown packs of raw sugar, also known as turbinado sugar in the coffee shops and it works best for sweetening coffee.

When adding milk to coffee, make sure you use whole milk only to maintain the rich taste. Using non-fat or toned milk can dilute the coffee and make it feel watery.

26. Not Cleaning Your Grinder Properly

Just like your coffee machine and filter, you also need to clean the grinder properly. The ground that remains inside the grinder can go rancid and release acidic oils. This can build up inside the grinder and affect the taste of future grinds.

To clean the grinder thoroughly, you may use a commercial cleaner or grind a handful of uncooked rice to remove stale grounds and absorb oils.

27. Not Starting Brew Process With Hot Water

Many people who use a drip machine often complain that their coffee does not taste right. The problem lies in the extraction process because the machine is not heating the water to the right temperature.

To fix this, make sure you add hot water to the machine. When hot water is further heated, it will achieve the right temperature needed for optimal extraction of the grounds.

28. Brewing Less Than 3.5 – 4 Minutes When Using French Press

If you are using a French Press to make coffee, make sure you let it brew for at least 4 minutes before pulling the plunger down. Not allowing enough time to brew will result in incomplete extraction of the grounds. When the grind size is right, you will able to achieve full extraction in about 3.5 minutes.

29. Leaving Your Coffee In The French Press

You just brewed a great cup of French press coffee and you were so excited to enjoy it that you left the remaining brew in the machine. This is a common mistake and it results in subsequent cups not tasting as good as the first one. Even after you push down the plunger, coffee keeps brewing and results in over-extraction.

Brew only as much coffee you wish to drink. If you do not want your second cup of French press coffee to taste bitter, make sure you pour out all coffee into a separate carafe to avoid over-extraction.

30. Not Following The Manufacturer’s Instructions Properly

When you purchase a new coffee machine, it comes with an instruction manual on how to use the product. It may include instructions on how to clean the brewing device, what to use for cleaning, what not to do, etc.

No matter how long you have been using coffee makers, a new advanced model may come with its specific set of requirements. So, make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions properly and follow them carefully to get the best quality brew.

31. Pouring Coffee Into A Cold Cup

Not many people give it much heed but this may be an important point for people who drinking hot coffee. Pouring your brew into a cold container will immediately reduce the temperature and your coffee will not stay hot for long.

To ensure that your Java stays warm enough to please your senses, pre-warm the cup before pouring coffee into it. You may rinse your pour-over or French press with hot water before adding grounds to keep your coffee warm for longer.

Tip: Buy a good coffee mug warmer

32. Forgetting To Take Notes About The Perfect Cuppa

I know this is not an enjoyable thing to do but trust me this can make you a better home barista. If you managed to pull out a pot of great tasting coffee, take notes of the water and ground ratio used, water temperature, etc. You can refer to the notes when you have guests at home next time and deliver spot on once again!

Coffee Brewing Mistakes: The Final Word

The best cup of mud may differ for different people, but avoiding the common mistakes will at least ensure that you are putting your efforts in the right direction. Whether you are the type who likes to brew a quick morning Joe or the one who invests good time into brewing that outstanding drink, chances are you may be doing a few things wrong.

My objective of creating this extensive list of common mistakes to avoid while brewing is to help beginners, as well as home baristas, identify what they have been doing wrong. It’s never too late to learn a thing or two or discover the secrets of brew better-tasting coffee!

I hope this information helps you brew a delicious cup of coffee consistently in the café-style to make your mornings better and impress the hell out of your friends!


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.