Can You Burn Coffee While Roasting Or Brewing?

By Shabbir
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Some coffees taste like charcoal, and even its aroma gives a little pungent smell. While some of us prefer dark Italian roast, but there is a significant difference between a deep roasted coffee and a burnt one. So can you burn coffee? Is it possible?

By the term “burn” we mean bitter taste, dark brownish-blackish color and a not so pleasing “ashy flavor”. Below are the reasons why coffee might taste burnt.

  1. Over roasting is the primary reason for burnt taste. If the beans appear over brownish (near black shade) then your java is going to taste different, no matter whichever brewing method you choose.
  2. Stale beans are also going to taste burnt and acidic. You may also taste very sour flavors. More than the beans, coffee grounds easily go stale, hard, musty, and dry. The best thing to do is to grind just before brewing.
  3. A fresh pot of coffee, if kept for long hours on heat plates is also going to taste sharp. Basically drip machines use these plates to keep the coffees warm, but over the hours, they get over-cooked.

You will experience these kinds of coffee in cheap java serving stores. Or mostly you will be preparing a burnt coffee yourself. And a burnt overcooked taste is the worst! They kill your morning pick-me ups.

There was a time when traditional coffees were served right out of a boiling pan. Modern coffee makers don’ t go that far in terms of temperatures.

can you burn coffee

Can you burn coffee with boiling water?

A bold NO to the above raised question! Burning a coffee over boiling water (specifically 100 degrees) is not exactly true.

Yes, it is possible to burn coffee if someone continues to cook it for prolonged hours. But a specific 100 degree Celsius is not the burning point for coffee.

You will observe many of coffee makers very specifically measuring water temperature. And they will put the grounds when the water will be 90 to 95 degrees. They will avoid going as high as 100 degrees. Their justification – if you put coffee beans or grounds in hot boiling water – it will kill the flavor and scald the coffee!

The above thought is completely nonscientific. There are two reasons why boiling water is not the reason for bad coffee.

  1. When beans are roasted they are way above 100 degrees. Boiling water is 100 degrees and not more. So basically the beans handle a lot higher temperatures than above 100.
  2. There is not much difference between 95 and 100 in terms of thermal physics. And 100 degrees boils water – not coffee! Every compound has its own distinct boiling and melting point. And seldom does one’s boiling temperature affect other compound’s chemical break down.

As we already mentioned principally it is the over roasting of beans and over cooking which stimulates a burnt flavor sensation.

It is not the boiling water which is the culprit. Rather how long your java sits on hot water while brewing coffee is relevant. The time factor is the more prominent cause for the burned issue.

However for a perfect, not-bitter taste and an enchanting aroma – prepare your cup in between 90 to 95 degrees. Most coffee makers nowadays come with in-built thermometers where you will be able to check the water’s temperature. And of course you will save yourself from burnt coffee accusations.

Boiling water is considered hot in relation to coffee extraction. Although it will not burn your coffee but definitely it will over-distill the flavors.

How do you stop coffee from burning?

If your brewed coffee mostly tastes over-extracted (or even a bit close to over-extraction), then you need to get your cooking process straight. Overcooking the beans releases chemicals called tannins that have a bitter, or “burnt” taste. Stop exactly before this release.

Here are some things you might be doing wrong – and some tips which can help in achieving a perfect press.

Avoiding burning while Roasting

Most importantly – DON’T OVER ROAST. Measure the temperature and make sure to listen for the cracks. The first crack is when the bean is first ready for brewing, and this is a light roast.

Between the first and second crack is medium roast, and dark roast goes past the second crack.

Don’t roast big batches of beans. Roast a maximums of week’s or fortnight’s quantity. The origin flavors fade very quickly (sometimes in just a week’s time).

A lot of people go for a 3 months batch. This long period increases the chances of reactions between your coffee and air.

Go for fresh beans and completely avoid stale ones. Don’t mix fresh ones with stale ones either. Even a small quantity of leftover beans are enough to pass the chemical toxicity to the whole pot.

Check out some of the best home coffee roasters.

While Brewing

Freeze dried grounds when exposed to a blast of boiling water result in a bitter cup. Keep the ground powder out until it matches room temperature – and then start your brewing. This will completely change how your coffee tastes.

When you heat up your water, leave it off the boil for about 30 seconds to a minute. This will help get your water down to the ideal temperature, and it’s a good way to gauge the temperature if you don’t have a thermometer on hand.

The best way to brew is to time it. French press, for example, takes 4 minutes to brew.

Don’t leave the pot on the heater for prolonged hours. If a second cup is needed after half an hour, brew a second cup!

Don’t reheat your cup time and again. Even reheating in microwaves can make it taste bitter.

The optimum temperature for brewing coffee is 85 to 90 degrees. Most famous chefs and even large coffee brands prepare the drink at this temperature. The amount of heat at these degrees is best for your brew’s chemical decomposition and their evenly mixing with water.

Is boiled coffee good for you?

Before we go into medical science first let us define what boiled coffee means here.

Boiled coffee is prepared exactly the way tea is made. You pour boiling water on the grounds or vice versa. This preparation lacks in built filters. In a boiled beverage beans juices and chemicals are completely extracted. However this type has a low amount of caffeine.

The second method – brewed coffee is processed in electric machines which have filters, which effortlessly mix grounds and hot water and filter the mixture. As the minerals do not decompose completely, this type has high caffeine concentrations. Although it will taste a little mild in comparison to the boiled beverage.

The primary process (boiling) has several health effects. Below we have classified reports from the beast health organisations answering how this boiled drink affects your health.

Aha Journals conducted a study on how elimination of filtered coffee and boiled coffee affects blood pressure. This the conclusive result published online – “consumption of unfiltered boiled coffee may cause a slight but significant rise in systolic blood pressure”.

Harvard Health published their findings on cholesterol and coffee in one of the articles. They claimed that cholesterol-raising effect of coffees is limited to unfiltered coffee. This kind includes Turkish brew, a French press, and boiled coffee – the Scandinavian style.

Mayo Clinic’s research on cholesterol levels goes hand in hand with Harvard Science. These are their words – “High consumption of unfiltered coffee (boiled or espresso) has been associated with mild elevations in cholesterol levels”.

These reports hint that boiling cappuccino does not just give scalded taste – it affects you biologically too.

But there is another side to the coin too.

Filtered (or rather semi brewed) coffee has high caffeine concentrations. A prolonged exposure to high amount of caffeine can affect you neurologically and can even make you addictive. After all caffeine is the most handy psychoactive drug in the world!

There is another famous preparation – the Greek Style. In Greek type of beverage – you boil coffee rather than brewing it.

Greek coffee

Many people believe that Greek coffee is very healthy. Some say that this kind is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants.  And because in boiling – as the drink contains only a moderate amount of caffeine, it seems to have healthier results than other types.

However it should be noted that boiling is not the magic pill in Greek coffees. The actual science is in the fine grind of coffee beans. The process of grinding is very sophisticated – which keeps the healthier compounds intact. And then boiling adds the cap by reducing the amount of caffeine.

Enjoy your favorite drink!

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About Shabbir

Shab is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee Brewster. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.