Help, my coffee tastes like rain-soaked cigars!

in Brewing Coffee, Serving Coffee

     Question: “Hi Marc, I’m 48 and have never liked coffee, but I’m approaching it with an open mind and learning to love it. Friends and family, all avowed coffee drinkers, tell me it is an acquired taste. We’ll see.

“I carefully researched what I thought might be the best brewing option (your website was a great help) and, on the recent occasion of my 48th birthday, my wife presented me with my very own Bodum French press and a burr mill grinder. I have been grinding my beans to a course grind and preparing my brew according to instructions gleaned here and elsewhere. My difficulty is that I want to learn to love coffee, but it’s difficult. My question is, should my brewed coffee taste like a rain-soaked cigar, or am I doing something wrong? It isn’t particularly bitter, but just doesn’t taste good either. Perhaps this is all normal and I’ll adjust in the fullness of time. Just wondering how normal my experience is. Are there folks who take their first sip of coffee and love it, or is this normally a rocky road?

Thanks, Chris”

Answer: Chris, thanks for the e-mail, and sorry that I laughed out loud when I read the part about your coffee tasting like rain-soaked cigars.  It might be one of the funniest comparisons I’ve ever heard.

I have some suggestions, and they involve easing yourself into enjoying a straight-up cup of black coffee.  Bear in mind that much of coffee’s rise in popularity over time has been through people’s ability to customize it to taste.

Cream and sugar: I drink my coffee black today, but drank it with two creams and two sugars for most of my life.  Purists would tell me I must not like coffee to add so much to it, but I disagree with that, even today as I only take my coffee black.  Coffee should be enjoyed however its drinker prefers, and people have been adding cream and sugar to coffee for as long as coffee has been popular.  Add sugar to offset the natural bitter of coffee – sweetness and bitterness are two of the four basic tastes.  This may not be the answer for you, as you mention the bitterness is not what is bothering you.  Add cream or milk to make a “creamier” drink of your coffee.  The fattier the dairy, the creamier it will make the coffee; the less fatty the dairy, the less it will really impact and change your impression of the coffee.  In other words, if this improves the flavor for you, I suggest a dollop of cream instead of a lot more skim milk.

     – The Cafe Mocha: The combination of coffee and chocolate is more popular than ever.  If you like chocolate but aren’t catching on to coffee the way you’d like, check out our Cafe Mocha Recipes to learn different ways to make coffee with chocolate.  You would still use your French Press to brew the coffee – as mentioned on that page of the site, the rules of making good coffee shouldn’t change even when making a Cafe Mocha.

Origin of Coffee: You might just not have found the origin of coffee that you’re looking for.  Try a medium-roasted coffee and experiment with different origins.  Go to your local coffee roaster, and find their signature blend, usually referred to as “House Blend” or some other catchy name containing “Blend”.

Good luck!  I hope this helps, and I hope you make the connection with coffee.  I can tell by your message that you’d like to, and I think these suggestions might help.



  1. I cannot thank you enough for the blog.Much thanks again. Cool.

    Comment by Elmer Calton — October 2, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

  2. Happy to help, Elmer.

    Comment by Marc Wortman — October 3, 2012 @ 1:14 am

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