8 Common Coffee Brewing Mistakes (And How to Fix Them!)

If you’re like most coffee drinkers, you brew coffee at home at least some of the time. But are you making any of these 8 common coffee brewing mistakes? Let our Coffee Quality Control Tech, Hillary, walk you through our top brewing tips — so you get a great cup of coffee every time.

Watch the video below to get the tips, or scroll down for a full explanation!

What Are the Common Coffee Brewing Mistakes?

Here are the brewing mistakes we’ve identified — and advice that will help you do better!

Mistake #1: Don’t store coffee in the fridge or freezer! When you store coffee in the fridge or freezer, the grounds can absorb moisture and odors from that space, which will negatively affect the taste of your coffee. Instead, store coffee in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.

Mistake #2: Don’t over- or under-heat your water! Sometimes your coffee will taste off just because it was brewed with water that was too hot, or not hot enough. The ideal temperature is between 195F and 205F. Unfortunately, many home brewers just aren’t strong enough to heat water to the proper temperature for a good cup of coffee, so it’s worth investing in a high quality machine if that’s your preferred method.

Mistake #3: Don’t use a blade grinder or spice grinder! If you’re grinding your beans at home, use a burr grinder. Blade and spice grinders will chop your beans unevenly, leading to a poor extraction that will make your coffee taste off. A burr grinder crushes your beans in a way that gives you a uniform grind, an even extraction, and a better cup.

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Mistake #4: Don’t use a dirty grinder! Stale grounds and oils can build up in your grinder and affect the taste of your fresh beans, so it’s important your grinder clean. You can use a commercial product, or grind a scoop of uncooked white rice to clean out old grounds and absorb oils.

Mistake #5: Don’t use the wrong grind for your brew method! Using the wrong grind size for your brewer can lead to weak or bitter coffee, so make sure you know and use the proper grind for your method. Coarse-grind coffee (French press) should resemble kosher or sea salt in texture, medium-grind coffee (drip brewer) should be similar to granulated sugar and fine-grind coffee (home espresso maker) should resemble confectioner’s sugar.

Mistake #6: Don’t use a dirty brewer! Minerals and scale can build up in your brewer, negatively affect the taste of your coffee, so make sure to keep it clean. You can use a commercial cleaning product, or run a cycle of 50/50 white vinegar and water mixture through your brewer to clean it out. Just make sure to run a cycle of plain water through the brewer after that, before you start brewing coffee again.

Mistake #7: Don’t use bad-tasting, unfiltered or distilled water! When it comes to the taste of coffee, the water you use plays a huge role. If you wouldn’t enjoy drinking it from the tap, don’t brew coffee with it. We recommend brewing with filtered tap or bottled water.

Mistake #8: Don’t use an inconsistent or unmeasured amount of coffee! Using too much or too little coffee can drastically affect the taste of your cup, so it’s important to properly measure your grounds. We recommend a 17:1 water-to-coffee ratio, but you can also weigh your coffee according to the specifications of your brew method. From there, you can adjust to taste: if your coffee tastes too strong or bitter, use less coffee, and if it tastes weak or grassy, use more coffee.

Keep these tips in mind to make the most out of your fairly traded coffee whenever you brew at home!


  1. kennywally | 30th Nov 19

    too bad you didn’t warn folks of how most commercial heating elements overheat and ruin the good flavor after being over-heated by
    the heating element, 1st off it overheats the brew to almost scalding the consumer, then it boils off all the aromatic oils which give coffee the aroma and flavor and turn the brew into swill ! So I always look for telltale signs of muddy looking water telling me it’s old, so therefore I ask and wait for freshbrewed, most workers just want to serve the customer and really aren’t concerned coffee drinkers……

  2. Miriam | 31st Jul 19

    Does the 17:1 ratio mean I oz. (1 scoop) of ground coffee per 17 oz. of water?
    Most bags of coffee say to use two scoops per 6 oz. of water.
    Don’t most coffee maker markings assume a cup is 5 oz.?
    That means 17 oz. of water is 3 2/5 cups–not an easy target to eyeball.
    Please convert the 17:1 ratio to vocabulary that is applicable to everyday life.

    • Kate Chess | 2nd Aug 19

      Thanks for your question. Miriam. I checked in with our Coffee Quality Coordinator, Mike, and he stands by that 17:1 ratio. The trick is that it’s a weight-to-weight measure. We recommend using a small kitchen scale to get it right. Mike passed on the following example: “Let’s say I weigh my coffee on a scale before brewing, and I have 20 grams of coffee to use (about one cup), then I know that I simply multiply 20 by 17 to get 340. 340 grams is the weight of the water I use for the brew.” We hope that clears things up!

  3. Sr. Karen Somerville, SND | 29th Jan 19

    I usually buy large amounts of coffee and store it in the freezer. Hillary wrote “do not freeze”. If i don’t freeze it, how long will it stay fresh?

    • Kate Chess | 30th Jan 19

      If you keep it in an opaque airtight container away from light, heat, and moisture, ground coffee will stay fresh for 3-5 months and whole bean for 6-9 months!

  4. Connie Mack Lain | 6th Dec 18

    Hillary does a really good job. I appreciate that advice a lot.

  5. Julie King | 21st Sep 17

    When using the 17:1 ratio, is the measured by weight or volume?

  6. Rosel | 19th Sep 17

    What about filtered vs unfiltered methods?

  7. Barry Ésau | 24th Mar 17

    What’s the ideal grind for an Italian moka pot? Thanks.

    • Gary Goodman | 3rd Apr 17

      The most popular grind for a moka pot is a very fine grind, like espresso.

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