What’s Wrong with My Coffee?

Coffee basics everyone should know

When it comes to coffee, brewing is half the battle. Even quality, well-roasted beans can meet a bitter fate when prepared the wrong way. The key to a great cup lies in the four fundamentals of brewing: proportion, water, grind and freshness.

Watch as Starbucks coffee master Clay Hoffman fixes the most common coffee mistakes you might be making at home.


Proportion (the ratio of coffee to water) allows the flavor of coffee to come through, resulting in a rich, aromatic and balanced cup. Use too little coffee, and you’ll end up with a bitter cup. Use too much coffee, and you’ll get a cup with a weak body and off, sometimes sour flavor.

Basics: We recommend using 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 fluid ounces of water.

Pro Tip: If you want a weaker brew, use the proportion above and dilute with hot water after brewing. That way, the best flavors are still extracted from the beans.


Coffee is 98 percent water, so the water you use has to be tasty to create a tasty cup.

Basics: Start with cool, fresh water and use right after boiling (between 195°F and 205°F).

Pro Tip: Filtered water is ideal for brewing, but avoid distilled and mineral water.
• Distilled is too pure and will pull out bitter flavors.
• Mineral will bring its own flavors to the cup, distracting from the coffee.


The grind helps determine how long the coffee and water are in contact and how much flavor is extracted. Too fine a grind creates bitter coffee. Too coarse a grind makes for sour, grassy-tasting coffee.

Basics: Proper grind is determined by brewing method:
• coarse for press (kosher salt)
• medium for drip (cornmeal)
• fine for pour over/cone (table salt)
• extra fine for espresso (powdered sugar)

Pro Tip: Grind just before brewing to preserve the coffee’s flavor. Whole beans have less surface area, and therefore less exposure to the air.


Coffee’s flavor diminishes over time, and it needs to be protected from light, heat, cold, other foods and moisture.

Basics: Never store coffee in a refrigerator or freezer. Moisture in those appliances condenses onto the coffee each time they’re opened, extracting the coffee’s flavor.
Before you brew: Store in an airtight container (the FlavorLock™ bag is perfect) that doesn’t allow any light in, and use within a week of opening.
Once brewed: Store off heat in an insulated carafe for 30 minutes. Never reheat.

Pro Tip: Unopened whole-bean coffee will last in our FlavorLock™ bags for 34 weeks. For best flavor, brew within one week of opening.

Once you’ve mastered the four fundamentals with your favorite roast, explore our full range of coffees at Starbucks® Coffee at Home.