Can You Burn Coffee? How to Never Ruin a Cup Again

For some people, the day doesn’t get off the ground without a cup of coffee. Just the smell of it percolating is enough to bring a smile to a person’s face. 

But disaster can strike, and something could go wrong during the brewing process. Your coffee could end up burning and tasting awful! That is a terrible way to start the day!

But can you burn coffee? Let’s take a look at if this is possible and if so, how to prevent it. 

How Do You Burn Coffee? 

As a matter of fact, yes, you can burn coffee. Let’s take a look at the three main ways that can happen. 

  1. The coffee roaster overroasted the coffee beans. 
  2. Using coffee that is stale or past its use by/expiration date.
  3. Leaving a coffee pot on a heat source for too long. 

Overroasted beans aren’t anything you can control. That issue falls on the company who roasted the beans. If you look at the beans and notice they are really dark brown, or almost black, you have overroasted beans. Your coffee will have a burnt taste to it. 

Stale coffee will also have a burnt taste. This has nothing to do with the beans or your technique; it’s just what stale beans taste like when they are ground and brewed. Avoid using stale or expired beans, and you will avoid this issue.

A coffee pot left on a heat source for too long is the most common reason a person encounters burnt coffee. This happens a lot at diners and gas stations. The pot sits on the burner for so long it dries up, or the coffee was heated to an unacceptable temperature. 

No one wants to start their morning off with a cup of burnt coffee. Avoid these three pitfalls, and you can avoid ingesting burnt coffee. A cup of burnt coffee can ruin your day!

How To Tell If You Have Burnt Coffee 

So now that we know you can burn coffee, the next question is how can you tell if you have burnt coffee? Burnt coffee will come with some distinct characteristics. Be on the lookout for these red flags so you can avoid that disappointment.

  • Examine your coffee beans before using them. Coffee beans that are burnt will have a different appearance. They will be much darker in color. Some will even have black spots on the bean. If you see beans like this, discard them.
  • When you drink your coffee and notice a bitter taste, this means you have burnt coffee. While there are a few other reasons for coffee to have a bitter taste, burnt coffee is the most likely culprit. 
  • Another reason is that your beans were old or expired. That can also mimic the taste of burnt coffee. 
  • If you notice a bitter or acrid smell to your beans or your coffee, this is a sign that you have burnt coffee. While some coffees have a distinct or even bitter smell, a burnt coffee smell is different. It will remind you of something that has caught fire; some even say it reminds them of burnt popcorn.
  • Notice the flavor of your coffee as it cools. At high temps our taste buds can’t always distinguish burnt flavors. As coffee cools, then the bitterness of burnt coffee becomes obvious. This common is gas station or diner coffees. 

Is A Dark Roast Coffee Burnt Coffee?

No, dark coffee is not burnt coffee. In a dark roast, the flavors are deeper and bolder—almost tart in some cases. In others, the flavor profile is more acidic, which produces something similar to the tartness mentioned prior. But neither of those indicate that the beans are burnt. It is just the flavor profile of those roasts. 

 How To Not Burn Your Coffee 

No one wants to drink burnt coffee. It smells terrible and tastes even worse. Employ these tips to make sure you brew the perfect pot of coffee that never burns!

  1. Never use stale beans. These won’t brew well and will smell and taste like burnt coffee.
  2. If you purchase whole beans to grind your coffee, inspect the beans before use. Not every coffee roaster is careful about their roasting process. If you use a bean that got burned during the roasting process, you will have coffee that tastes and smells burnt.
  3. Avoid leaving your coffee pot on its heat source all day. It may sound like a good idea to have a warm pot of coffee on the burner, but that does more harm than good. The longer your coffee sits on the heat source, the increased chance you have of burning your coffee. Brew smaller pots of coffee and make a fresh one more frequently. 
  4. Don’t use water that is too hot to make your coffee. If your water is too hot, it will extract too much flavor from your grounds too early, leaving your coffee with a burnt taste. The ideal temperature for water to brew coffee is 202-206 F. 
  5. If you don’t properly clean any burnt residue out of your coffee pot, this will linger and cause future pots of coffee to have that burnt taste and flavor. 

How Long Can Coffee Sit On A Heat Source?

This has been mentioned quite a bit in this article. The ideal amount of time to leave a coffee pot on a heat source is five hours. After that, you run the risk of overheating and burning the coffee. If you make large pots of coffee and want to keep them warmer longer, transfer them to a thermos.

The ideal temperature of the warming plate of a coffee machine is 165 degrees. Any colder than that, and your coffee isn’t warm. Any hotter than that, it will burn the coffee in the pot. If you notice issues with your coffee pot maintaining the proper temperature, the heat source is likely broken. If you can’t repair it, replace your machine.

How To Clean A Glass Coffee Pot With Burnt Coffee In It

Did you know that you can burn coffee and that burnt coffee can stain a glass pot? While that may be the case, the good news is you can clean it fairly easily. 

First things first, how old is the coffee in the pot? Is it newly burnt, or has it sat there for a while? That will help you figure out what step to take next. For freshly burnt coffee, review the steps outlined below for cleaning. For older coffee that is now a crust, add water to your pot and allow it to soak for a few hours before starting the cleaning process. 

  1. Take the pot off the heat source so it can cool.
  2. Rinse the coffee pot, so you get out any remaining liquid and debris.
  3. Pour half of a cup of salt into your empty coffee pot.
  4. Add enough crushed ice to fill the pot.
  5. Add one cup of water (room temp).
  6. Swirl the mixture in the coffee pot around. You should start to see your water turn dark from the stains and debris inside the pot coming loose.
  7. If your water becomes too dark for you to see, or the pot was severely stained, pour out your mixture, and repeat the process. 
  8. Once you have removed all the stains and debris, wash and dry as usual.

Cleaning the Outside of Your Coffee Pot

The inside of your coffee pot isn’t the only thing you need to worry about cleaning. The outside of your coffee pot can show stains as well. The glass can also show scorch marks from sitting on a heat source for too long. Use the tips below to remove those marks from your glass coffee pot.

  1. Dampen a sponge with water.
  2. Put a couple of teaspoons of baking soda either directly on the sponge or directly onto the burn marks on the coffee pot.
  3. Use the sponge to scrub the burn marks until they are gone.
  4. If this doesn’t remove the stains, rinse clean with water and then spray with ammonia. 
  5. Continue to scrub and rub the surface until the scorch marks are gone.
  6. Wash and dry as usual to ensure you have removed all residue.

Tips and Tricks for Cleaning Your Pot

While cleaning your glass coffee pot, remember these additional tips. 

  • Make sure the pot is cool.
  • Don’t get so excited when swirling the water around that you splash it out of the pot. The coffee water can stain your clothes. 
  • Convert your baking soda into a paste to clean the mouth of the coffee pot.
  • If you need a little extra cleaning help, use white vinegar.
  • Always use soft sponges or cloths to clean your glass coffee pot. Abrasive sponges and cloths will scratch glass surfaces. 
  • If you are using a coffee pot that isn’t glass, there are different cleaning tips based on the material. Refer to this article for how to clean stainless steel coffee pots. 

In Conclusion

Sadly, you can burn coffee. But there are ways to avoid this tragedy and still enjoy a morning cup of joe. 

You can burn coffee by using stale/expired beans or overroasted beans. Another common cause is leaving brewed coffee on its heat source for too long. If you use water that is too hot, that is another reason for burnt coffee. 

To avoid the burnt coffee smell and taste, use water that is the proper temperature and beans that are roasted correctly. Also, don’t leave your coffee pot on the heat source for more than five hours.

A coffee pot that has burnt coffee left in it will also pose problems for taste. You can give your coffee pot some extra TLC by cleaning it with table salt or a baking soda paste. There is no need for harsh chemicals. 

Follow these tips, and you can enjoy great coffee without burning it!

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