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Why is my coffee so blah?

Whenever I make coffee at home it's just blah - not good, not bad. What am I doing wrong? We buy organic beans and grind them at the store. We use filtered water. We have a Krups coffee maker. I put in 1 Tb per cup plus 1 Tb for the pot. The only thing we do that might be bad is keeping the coffee in the freezer. It ends up having a dull quality that is very disappointing.

I'm not looking to have the BEST coffee ever but I'd like it to taste better than what I get at the gas station.

Any hints?

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  1. Fresher is always better.

    Punt the freezer. You can store the beens in a resealable container for a couple months (if you must) in a cool dry place. Store them as whole beans and grind them as you need them.

    Use cold water.

    4 Replies
    1. re: lgphil

      I can't grind at home because my young son hates the sound!

      1. re: lupaglupa

        Try a different grinder. I use a non-electric burr grinder, so you don't have that horrible scream that an electric blade grinder makes.

        Use a darker roast, and perhaps a little more coffee. When you don't use enough coffee, it ends up "overextracted," which isn't pleasant.

        When all else fails, clean the coffee maker. (I usually just rinse mine out, but now and then it just needs a good scrubbing.)

        If you're using an automatic drip coffeemaker, try something different. I use a French press most of the time, but have a percolator I take when traveling. (If I'm going to be in a hotel this is ideal, because those in-room coffeemakers are way too small, the coffee they provide is vile, and I just really don't care for drip coffee.)

        1. re: lupaglupa

          Consider buying a darker roast, make sure they're ground properly for your krups, and buy in smaller batches so there's better turn over therefore fresher beans.

          1. re: lupaglupa

            Frankly... this is a test for you as a parent, limits and boundaries: give in: today it's the coffee maker, tomorrow it's somehting else.

            Instead of immediately doing away with all that is slightly offensive to your child, treat it as a game or approach it as something funny. Children sense when you are anxious. The line between protection and needless cofddling may seem irrelevant, but it is the difference between a well adjusted child one who is upset with the slightlest changes or variations.

            Bottom line,

            Seeing as coffee renders me the ability to be a better parent, aside from self injurious behavior on his part... he'll need to get used to it.

        2. I was told by someone in the coffee industry - coffee beans should not be stored in the freezer or refigerator - just keep them in a cool, dry place.

          1. I need more information than given. After coffee is brewed, do you ruin it by adding a dairy product, real or fake, and/or sugar? As you can gather, I drink my coffee without additives.

            9 Replies
            1. re: ChiliDude

              Oh woe - I add both milk AND sugar! But since I also do that when I am out I think I have a solid basis for comparison.

              1. re: lupaglupa

                Don't apologize for milk & sugar...I'm drinking cafe au lait as I type this! I think you need to buy different beans. Try different roasts. A darker, roasted bean might do the trick, or a coffee with more nuance than whatever you're buying now. Fresh is important--are you buying "organic" beans at a store that doesn't sell much organic stuff? Are they properly stored (airtight, etc or in bigt decorative glass jars)? In addition, check the texture of your grind--is it appropriate for the type of filter you're using? Paper, cone-style filters work better with a grind slightly finer than basket-style (not quite as fine as an espresso grind).

                If you're a committed cafe au lait drinker, you owe it to yourself to try coffee & chicory. The chicory gives the coffee body & color (a reddish hue), which make for the perfect au lait (IMHO and the HOs of the rest of south Louisiana). If you can't find a blend in your store, try a tea shop for some loose dried chicory to stir into the grounds before brewing.

                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                  My husband calls my coffee "cake in a cup." But, I use Splenda and 1%, I guess. Kind of watery..but healthy

              2. re: ChiliDude

                I have had wonderful cups of coffee with milk and sugar. People around the world love it that way. Others don't.

                I think that it's the not grinding at home. Can your son learn to go in another room?

                1. re: Diana

                  You can also put the grinder, assuming it's not a larger burr, in an oven mitt to muffle the sound.

                  1. re: Diana

                    He goes into other rooms but he cries. I just don't care about coffee enough for that :)

                    1. re: lupaglupa

                      I used to take my coffee grinder to the garage and do it there! Thankfully the kids have outgrown their hate of that sound!

                    2. re: Diana

                      Huh? I don't understand the 'son' question!

                      1. re: ChiliDude

                        lupaglupa, the OP here, can't grind her beans at home because the operation frightens/disturbs her son too much. She feels it is just not worth it.

                  2. I agree with keeping the beans out of the freezer. As long as they're in an airtight container, they'll stay pretty fresh (unground).

                    I always thought you're supposed to use 2 Tb coffee per cup of water. So maybe you're just drinking diluted coffee and that's why it's so blah?


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: leanneabe

                      ...and my machine defines a "cup" as 5 ounces!!!
                      also check to see what grind is required...for example the French Press that some people are referring to requires a coarser grind hence more coffee used than a drip machine which usually needs a finer grind..

                    2. Our coffee was also blah. We did three things. #1 we now store the coffee in a canister on the counter at room temperature instead of in the freezer. #2 we replaced our coffee maker with a french press. We use filtered water from our fridge dispenser and use 1 Tbs of ground coffee per 8-oz of water. #3 we buy Starbucks ground coffee. Our coffee went from bland to really good.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Antilope

                        We store ours - 1/2 pound at a time - in a canister, as you say, also use French Press, I do use NYC tap water, and do 1 TB for about 5oz of water. We use La Semeuse.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          I just checked this morning - I use 4.5 scoops (7grams each) for about 18 oz of water.

                        2. re: Antilope

                          If you must use a coffee maker, don't use paper filters. I believe the coffee oils (along with flavor) gets trapped in the paper. Use one of the screen type filters.

                        3. Try using 2 Tb coffee per cup. Sounds like yours is just weak.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Bat Guano

                            Yep, there are plenty of ways to make a great cup of coffee, but none of them work if you skimp on the amount of ground beans.

                            1. re: Zeldog

                              Yup. You're using about half the freshly ground coffee you should be.

                              2 T. water to 6 ounces of water. Not a cup.

                            2. re: Bat Guano

                              Agreed. At home we make two cups of coffee with a probably 6 tablspoon of ground coffee (freshly ground of course).

                            3. I used to make the worst coffee in the world until I 1) got a decent coffee maker 2) switched to a gold filter 3) buy good beans 4) have the shop grind my beans for the right consistency 5) store in a ceramic canister 6) invested in a "coffee scoop"

                              It could also be the water, maybe bottled water might help.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: MrsT

                                What size grind do you use for the gold filter? I usually grind my coffee on the fine side, closer to espresso size, but started using the gold filter and found some of the grinds went through. I can't find the right balance. I don't know how easy it would be to describe that, though...

                                1. re: chowser

                                  Truthfully I don't know. I have the shop grind it for me. They have settings for espresso machines, french press, paper filter, and gold. I think the gold filter grind is a little more corse than fine.

                                  I would love to try a French Press, but I'm intimidated by it.

                                  1. re: MrsT

                                    Thanks. I've been playing with the grind.

                                    I go back and forth between the french press and drip. When you get the french press right, it's the best coffee but it's taken me a lot of trial and error and I still can get it wrong. The drip is just dependable but not as good as that great cup you can get.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      The grind is definitely more corse. I went to check the grind :)

                                      The only time I have the french press coffee is at this wonderful coffee/tea bar in my neighborhood. I'm just afraid to make it myself...fear of a french press...

                                      1. re: MrsT

                                        Really - nothing to fear - at all - I promise!

                                            1. re: MrsT

                                              Can you get the folks at the bar to show you how to make coffe in a french press? That way you know you're doing it right, so it's not so much of a waste.

                                2. Which are the "gold" filters you guys are suggesting? I am assuming not the cheap-o paper ones I've been buying. ha ha ha

                                  However, we did just notice a WOW-inspiring change in our coffee (and our enjoyment of it) -- freshly ground beans. For some reason, I was hesitating on getting these (although we have the Cuisinart coffee maker with the grinder built in) as I thought it would be more expensive. Totally, totally worth it. I don't think it's actually more expensive, either.

                                  Could you grind your own at home when your son is out playing (out of earshot) or off with another family member somewhere? Even if you ground enough for a couple of days instead of grinding each morning, you would still taste the difference in quality.

                                  I'm so happy we switched. I too was feeling frustrated with "blah" coffee although I simply won't buy it out on principle - the cost of a coffee out, each, for a household of two coffee-drinkin-adults can be about $35 a week! Akkk! (We insist on ordering extra larges when out... so $2.25-$2.50 each). I now only splurge on coffee out during road trips. I won't say no if someone gets me a Dunkin' Donuts card for the holidays, though... ;)

                                  1. Start with something basic. The cup gradiations on your pot are for 6 oz. per cup. So if you're using two 12 oz mugs, you might call that "2 cups," but your coffee pot thinks that's 4 cups. So start with 1 T of coffee grounds for each 6 oz of water. Then work your way up untill the coffee gets better. It seems like every time we go out of the country, when we get back we make our coffee stronger.

                                    1. I'm going to start at the beginning- BEANS. You say "organic", but what kind of beans are you using? Where are they from, how dark are they roasted?

                                      Agreed with the freezer part. Also, I'd add more coffee than you do, but I like a strong cup.

                                      I add half and half to my coffee, it makes it, in my opinion!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: cheesemonger

                                        Half & half is fine for the office, but at home it's boiled or steamed (whole) milk, all the way.

                                      2. Just a hunch, but are you buying your beans at Whole Foods? They leave their beans out in those open barrells. It's really cute, but the coffee oxidizes and goes real stale. If your Coffee seller isn't selling it from sealed bags or air tight containers, don't get it. Try finding a place that roasts the beans themselves. Buy whole beans and grind them daily yourself for best flavor, and keep them in an airtight locking container.

                                        Remember "Organic" is an FDA rules term. It doens't mean "good", nor does it necessarily mean "Healthy", sadly.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Diana

                                          I attended a talk about a year go with a woman who owned a small local chain of coffee outlets. She spoke very highly IN THEORY of the practice of growing coffee organically using legitimate fair trade standards. However she also said, regretfully, that she found many of these organic fair trade coffees were not up to an acceptable standard, flavourwise, and so wasn't carrying as much of this type of product as she would like. I assume that with time this will change and better quality coffees will become available. I suggest that you might want to do some comparison drinking - your problem could very well be the beans you're buying. And I also suggest you try different roasts. A deeper roast - or even a blend - might just make you happier. Of course, it helps to grind freshly at home but if you buy in small enough quantities, a good, flavourful pre-ground coffee should still be acceptable.

                                          1. re: Diana

                                            The open barrel is ideal for storing coffee for the first three days after roasting. The beans need about that long to off-gas the CO2 that's created during the roasting process. Some Whole Foods stores roast on site and post the roast date on the barrel. Others, however, just dump bulk beans into the barrel to get stale.

                                          2. I live in the Pacific Northwest, where coffee is a religion. We have drive-thru coffee stands on every street corner and the line is always at least five cars long. Several Christmases ago my mother-in-law bought me the Capresso automatic coffee maker with built-in burr grinder. It is my morning alarm clock. At 6:45 a.m., I hear it grinding the beans and within minutes the wonderful smell of freshly brewed coffee waffs around the house. If I am making six cups of coffee, I program the machine to think it is making eight, which makes for a stronger brew. There is also a button for weak, medium or strong brew, and I always select *strong*. I use unbleached coffee filters to avoid a bitter aftertaste, and I buy only the best quality beans, preferably Costa Rican, Tanzania Peaberry or Molokai. I read something recently that really slammed French press machines because of a health matter, but for the life of me I can't remember the issue with them, and I own several. Of course it's taken me years to narrow down my personal coffee preferences, with a lot of trial and error. Just keep at it and you will find what works for you. Good luck!

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: pilotgirl210

                                              the concern about french press coffee has to do with diterpenes - a type of alcohol found in coffee oils. regular filters remove these substances, bbut french presses don't.studies have shown that people who drink french press coffee instead of filtered end up consuming these diterpenes, resulting in elevated blood levels of certain enzymes that indicate liver stress/compromise function, as well as increased LDL ["bad"] cholesterol.

                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                Not so fast.

                                                Don't be so quick to condemn French presses OR diterpenes.

                                                Diterpenes have powerful antioxident and anti-carcinogenic properties, as well as properties that PROTECT the liver, according to a November, 2007, medical study (Hepatoprotective and antioxidant effects of the coffee diterpenes kahweol and cafestol, Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Nov;45(11):2118-25).

                                                So, coffee drinkers, do what the heck you want.

                                                Just for a real twist on things, a 2003 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that using coffee FILTERS raised serum cholesterol!

                                                Meaning, French-pressed coffee was better. Or (gold-) mesh-filtered coffee.

                                                Here's the real point about all these coffee studies: none of them are conclusive. I went to the world's repository of medical studies -- PubMed, MedLine and The Nat'l Library of Medicine -- and went back through ten years of research studies on coffee. None of the studies on the same thing ever found the same results consistently and repeatedly. The conclusions varied across the board and were sometimes downright contradictory. Case in point, above.

                                                So again, do what the heck you want. If you enjoy coffee and tolerate it well, drink it. Strong, filtered, French-pressed, any way you like, dairy/soy or not, whatever.

                                                But the details are everything: Quality beans, fresh-roasted on site where they're purchased, ground just before using. Good water, good cream/soy, good method for brewing (filter, press,etc.). All the tiny tweaks incrementally contribute flavor.

                                                Note to Goodhealthgourmet: I am happy to point you in the direction of all the research (some published just last month) I have read on diterpenes and coffee in general, diterpenes' effects on lipids/cholesterol, and coffee's/diterpenes' antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic and hepatoprotective properties. Please write me at the email address on my profile. Thanks.

                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                  oh, i wasn't condemning [nor was i necessarily agreeing with the reseach...i was simply responding to this line from pilotgirl's post:

                                                  "I read something recently that really slammed French press machines because of a health matter, but for the life of me I can't remember the issue with them, and I own several."

                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet


                                                    Sounded like you were agreeing with the inaccurate info that you passed along because you made no indication otherwise.

                                                    Good to know you don't, and thanks for the clarification.

                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                      actually, i appreciate your concern about the accuracy, as well as your offer to provide the information. i'm something of an academic myself with a bit of a research background, so it peeves me when people jump to conclusions without sufficient facts to justify their claims.

                                                      i think when i posted my initial reply i was too tired to complete my thought...when i said "studies have shown..." i should have clarified that they weren't necessarily reputable studies...or definitive conclusions.

                                                      that'll teach me to post at 3 a.m. :)

                                                      thanks again, maria.

                                                      oh, and a note to pilotgirl: press away!

                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                          Will do, GHG. And thanx for the clarification. I knew I'd read something recently, and 3 a.m. or not, you did a great job of explaining diterpenes!

                                              2. It's blah because it needs some Kahlua and Baileys in it! Just don't do it before or during work! :D

                                                /not a coffee drinker, but for special occasions...

                                                1. After living in Brazil for 6 years -- I really have to have to have good coffee daily.
                                                  I have found that a french press method works well with Illy coffee. Already ground or grind yourself. None of the organic coffees really come close to Illy. But everyone has their own taste.

                                                  1. Lots of good suggestions on this thread, no matter what brewing method you use! I drink coffee with a touch of whole milk and NO sugar. Have done this all my life....so I have to make sure that the coffee beans and roast are just right (Colombian). My grown son has taught me to add a touch of cocoa to the coffee while it is brewing
                                                    .........adds a new, richer and darker flavor.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Lisbet

                                                      I don't add any sugar to my coffee either, but we recently tried adding just a smidgeon of sugar to the grounds. I really like the way it enhances the flavor of the coffee, without actually tasting sweet. I'm going to try your cocoa trick -- thanks! :)

                                                    2. Add salt, my parents used to do that. It will remove bitterness...just a dash or then it backfires.

                                                      1. Lots of great suggestions. The right coffee beans (and correct grind) is of course really important. I've also realized that the water is important as well. We were using bottled water and great beans, but still found the coffee lacking and flat tasting. We now use our own tap water, cold and straight from the tap. I would never drink this water without it being filtered, but for some reason it makes much better coffee if I use it straight from the tap. I'm wondering if it has something to do with the airation or minerals from the tap water, but whatever it is, it mite be worth trying just plain old tap water. Good Luck!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: jackie de

                                                          Yes I've heard that too. Same with a tea pot always to use fresh water from the tap for the oxygen, makes it taste bettah! Flat water= yucky tea and coffee.

                                                        2. You might want to try a more intensely flavored coffee. My current cup is a medium-dark roasted Sumatra Mandheling: earthy, full-bodied, and rich. Certainly not blah.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                            Am I glad someone started this thread. I go to a bagel shop and get coffee, which is outstanding. Recently they started selling their beans that they roast. So I bought a pound, made a cup, and it was BLAH! So I'm reading all the responses, and thinking, (a) no freezer; (b) better coffee maker (I use a $20 black and decker); and (c) no more paper filters, although they use paper filters in the store.

                                                            1. re: ariellasdaddy

                                                              A word of caution on dumping those paper filters. At our last apartment, we clogged up the sink more than once with coffee grounds, since you can't get all the wet grounds out of the gold filter and have rinse some of them out. And since it happened more than once, they made us pay their plumber for the second visit (which was unfair, 'cause I had switched to paper by then, but that's another story).

                                                              1. re: julietg

                                                                If you're composting, coffee grounds & paper filters are a good addition to your compost heap.

                                                          2. I use a dash of salt, but like the other poster said, just a dash. Everyone always comments on how good our coffee is at home.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: foodiemommy

                                                              Tried to suggestion of stirring the coffee bens as I'm pouring the water on and it worked! Much better.

                                                            2. Lots of great suggestions here. Jfood's points:

                                                              - Try a darker roast
                                                              - You sound like a great parent because you placed your son's desires over yours, nice. Because of this you may not have ground the beans fine enough for a drip. Drips really need a fine ground
                                                              - mrs jfood always uses more coffee when she makes jfood's coffee and hers is better (love that woman). Try using more coffee.
                                                              - white paper filters ruin coffee. First choice is gold with no paper and if you must use paper, then try to find the unbleached. You can absolutely taste the difference.
                                                              - your coffee maker may not bring the water hot enough. if the water is not hot enough the full flavor and oils will not come out. try a french press, a chemex or try a new electric drip coffee maker
                                                              - Never put the coffee in the freezer or fridge. Air tight room temperature. The myth of the 70's was to keep in the freezer. Lousy way to keep coffee and will ruin it.
                                                              - Milk and sugar- do as you may, a good cup of coffee should be able to handle milk and sugar.
                                                              - jfood uses a coffee scoop he purchased 25 years ago. no level tablespoon or the like, you may want t o consider this as you measuring tool

                                                              Sounds like a lot, but once you get everything in place you can do it in your sleep. In fact jfood would bet that most people on this board do it in their sleep every morning.

                                                              Good luck.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                does the world need one more take on great coffee? Here's ours: after many years (20!) of working on our coffee making technique using many labor-intensive methods-- we made daily cappuccino for a while with a stovetop maker, then an electric machine; we used a french press for many years; I used a chemex for a while in college under the influence of a boyfriend-- we have settled on a great cup from an ordinary DRIP maker. For a truly satisfying cup- almost without fail- we make our coffee as follows: we use locally roasted or Starbucks beans- honestly just about any variety is good as long as beans are fresh (after years of thinking we did not like french roast, we've happily returned to it- but we like sumatra and any of the medium-to-darker blends). We leave the beans in a drawer in their bag, not in the freezer- we buy them by the pound and go through them quickly. We use a Krups ProAroma drip maker- pretty standard stuff- and a Braun grinder. To make 6 cups of coffee (as measured by Krups- I'm sure they are 5 oz. as other posters have mentioned), we fill the grinder exactly to the top with beans. A standard, non-burr grinder (we used a burr grinder for years but somehow have returned to this easy basic one), grind it fine, fill the filter (no paper cone, just whatever metal it came with, not gold) and let drip. Warm milk on the stove- 2% is fine- foam it a little with our whisk if we have the energy- and there's a GREAT cup of coffee. (we will also use the microwave to warm the milk- that's ok- right now I'm loving the stovetop steamed milk). Honestly I am not exaggerating when I say that for twenty years we have worked on a great cup of coffee. My husband and I both count this among our greatest pleasures. This works for us every morning! oh- one more thing- we pour ourselves a cup, then put the remainder in one of those vacuum pots- this makes a HUGE difference for that second cup!

                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                  Whether salt will help depends on your water. Worth a try.

                                                                  What Jfood says is all good except I use a cone filter and am careful to let the water cool from boiling a few seconds before pouring. Also, begin by pouring just enough water to get the grounds all wet. Let it sit while you feed the cats and change their water and pour boiling water into the mugs to get them nice and hot, then pour the rest of the water through.

                                                                  1. re: atheorist

                                                                    this is an excellent addition to the process that jfood forgot toplace on his post. 212 is too hot and placing some hot water to soak the beans first is the correct process for a chemex.

                                                                    thank atheorist

                                                                2. Thank you all for your many suggestions! So far I've taken small steps. I bought vacuum packed beans (the organic I was getting were in a bin at the local Co-op). I used a bit more coffee per cup. I think jfood is onto something when he says the water is not hot enough - I find the coffee is a bit lukewarm even when freshly made. I will have to look into a better coffee maker. I am having fun drinking my various efforts. Thanks again!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: lupaglupa

                                                                    The temp. should be 195 ..ish....I have used my temperature probe to ascertain that my older model drip machine was not achieving this...now I call the company and ask what a specific model's brewing temperature is....

                                                                  2. I would strongly suggest a vacuum coffee maker. It makes very smooth coffee with very little bitterness. I adore it and it looks very cool too.
                                                                    Yama is my favorite so far (we tried 4 different ones over the years) and it goes on the stove. One thing is we bought a glass filter rod (Cory, you can still find them on ebay) instead of the the cloth one that comes with it.



                                                                    1. Use a french press and a coarse ground dark roast coffee. I know it's anathema to the coffee nazis but I buy a bag of whole bean french roast and grind the whole thing at the market. It's quick, easy and is good black or with milk and/or sugar. I don't like sweet coffee so I nuke milk in a cup in the morning, buzz it with my little frother and add coffee. A $4.00 Starbucks latte in my kitchen every day.

                                                                      1. The vacuum pots are a very good idea and not just because they look cool. They hold the coffee at temp vs. a traditional drip where it continues to 'cook' on the burner.
                                                                        A problem I have with my Krups is that it doesn't initially hold the coffee in the filter basket long enough so I start my coffee but don't put the pot in for several minutes. That allows the filter to fill with water and TOTALLY saturate your coffee which creates a much deeper, interesting flavor.
                                                                        I've had several different Krups over the past 15 years and I used to love them but I'm not to sure if I'll be staying loyal to them the next time I purchase, they don't seem to be as good as they once were.