Last Updated on August 18, 2023 by Barry Gray
While it’s not set in stone, there’s a general rule of thumb that cheaper coffee will just not taste as good as even slightly more expensive coffee. The quality of the beans used will drop with cheap coffee, and that has a significant impact on what the coffee will then taste like.
But I know some people have no option but to buy cheap coffee simply due to budget constraints. So, I don’t want you to miss out on getting a decent brew, so here are some ideas on how to make cheap coffee taste better.
You can improve the taste of cheap coffee by adding sugar, milk, diluting the coffee, adding syrups, changing the brewing method, and even adding more coffee. It can be trial and error to get your cheap coffee to taste better, but it’s certainly possible to do so.
As you can see, there are several ways in which you can improve the taste, and I will take you through each option to explain the best way to get the most out of your brew.
Why Does Cheap Coffee Often Taste So Bad?
But before I go ahead and walk you through the different methods, why does cheap coffee taste so bad?
Well, it’s not always a guarantee that it will taste horrific. So many other factors can actually contribute to the end result.
However, you will certainly be starting off from a disadvantage if you have cheap coffee in your hands.
The problem comes down to the quality of the beans.
With more expensive coffee or even your averagely priced coffee, a great deal of care has been taken over selecting the best quality coffee beans to then be roasted. That doesn’t happen with cheaper coffee.
With cheaper coffee, you will often find the growing conditions have been slightly less than ideal. Also, poorer coffee beans will not have been eliminated from the process.
When you have inferior coffee beans, it will only do one thing, and that’s to affect the flavor you get from your coffee. But hold on and don’t go and throw those beans out because I’m about to tell you how you can improve the flavor, and not for much money.
Diluting Your Coffee
I’ve bought some cheap coffee from time to time as I’ve always been curious as to the different flavor profiles in the world of coffee.
What I’ve found is that cheap coffee can often be pretty intense, and that intensity ramps up the poor flavors you find in the beans. So, it makes sense to then dilute the coffee to lower that intensity.
By adding more water, what you are effectively doing is helping to lower the various flavors that are making the coffee taste so horrific. It’s a basic thing to do, and yet it works well.
But be careful and don’t overdo things with the water. You need to add a splash, try again, and then repeat the process.
Adding Milk and Sugar to Your Coffee
Another way is to add milk and sugar to your coffee. I know some people cannot drink coffee without milk or sugar, but you may need to add more to disguise the taste of the coffee.
The reason why this works is thanks to the fat contained within the dairy helping to counteract the various flavors that appear in cheap coffee. Also, the sweetness of sugar works against those bitter notes making it far easier to drink.
Either milk or cream will help to mellow out the flavors resulting in it not being so difficult to consume the coffee.
But I admit that I do have a slight issue with adding too much milk or sugar to certain coffee as it completely hides the taste of the coffee. You need to have some aspect of the coffee coming through to make it worth your while, even when the coffee in question is not that good.
If it’s Weak, Use More Coffee
In my experience with cheap coffee, there are times when the coffee simply comes out as being too weak. This is thanks to the coffee beans being used to make cheaper coffee actually being inferior.
By growing in the wrong conditions, you alter the taste of the coffee, and the beans may not have been allowed to develop or mature to the extent they needed.
So, if coffee is weak, the only thing you can do is to use more coffee to make it stronger. But there’s also a limit here as you may end up introducing too many of those more horrible notes in the coffee, so it’s trial and error, I’m afraid.
Adding flavored syrup to your coffee is a fantastic way of counteracting the horrible taste that can come with cheap coffee. You have a multitude of flavors out there to choose from, so you should find something that satisfies your tastebuds.
From hazelnut to gingerbread and caramel to vanilla, the number of flavored syrups out there will blow your mind, and they can all do a similar job of masking those horrible flavors.
Also, you don’t need to add too much of the syrup for it to make a huge difference. Just a few drops in a Latte or Cappuccino can change everything. If you then throw in some whipped milk to the top and add some cinnamon powder, there’s no way you will be able to taste that poor coffee.
Change Your Brew Method
When I was starting out with my coffee journey, I had no idea that different ways of brewing coffee would then unlock different flavors. I always believed it would result in the same thing but that people went about making coffee in various ways.
Boy was I completely wrong on that one!
How you brew your coffee will change the end result. So, experiment with different brewing methods even when it’s only cheap coffee in your possession, and you may be surprised at what you can achieve.
For example, if you have been using cheap coffee to make drip coffee, then perhaps shake things up a bit by switching over to a French Press. The way in which each brewing method extracts the flavor from the coffee always leads to it tasting differently.
It could easily be the case that changing the brewing method may completely change your perspective on the coffee, and it could mean you don’t throw out the cheap stuff.
Change the Brewing Time
I’ve discovered that cheaper coffee can also taste weak and inferior, thanks to the difficulty with extracting the flavor. So, when the flavor is lacking, one of the things you can do is to change the brew time and increase it.
When you do this, you give the water more time to work its magic on the coffee grains, which can make a huge difference.
I admit this does tend to work better when I’m using a brewing method that allows me to immerse the coffee in water. So, a French Press is ideal since you can just let the coffee soak for as long as you think you need.
But it does mean you cannot do this with brewing methods such as an Espresso machine. You are unable to control the brew time here, so it’s best to use some of the other options to make your cheap coffee taste better.
Boost the Water Temperature
This kind of almost falls in line with the idea of boosting the brewing time as it’s another method to extract more flavor from cheap coffee when it would otherwise be lacking.
You will often find that cheap coffee is just not roasted evenly, so you get some parts of the coffee where it’s over-extracted and other grains where it’s under-extracted.
Boosting the water temperature helps even this out and leads to a more balanced coffee that doesn’t have those sharp flavors that seem to randomly hit you.
But I have a word of warning. Be careful with this approach when you are using a dark roast coffee. It may be the case that you unleash some horrible flavors if you up the brewing temperature with dark roast beans.
Again, this is a trial and error thing in finding the perfect balance between improving the flavor of cheap coffee and not going too far and ruining it.
My Recap On Improving the Taste of Cheap Coffee
Improving the taste of cheap coffee is possible, so don’t throw it out just yet. However, I’ve covered a number of ways in which you can achieve this, so here’s a recap of the main points I’ve covered.
- Cheap coffee is often poorer quality coffee
- Try diluting if you have made the taste too strong
- Add milk, sugar, or cream to change the flavor. Or a combination of them to suit your tastes
- Cheap coffee can often be weak due to poor roasting and the quality of beans
- Use more coffee in the brewing to get better flavor when it’s too weak
- Use syrups. They will change everything for you
- Try different brewing methods to extract the flavors from the beans
- Increase the brew time when using immersion methods. It will make it taste better
- Boost the water temperature, but not with dark roast beans
While it does mean you need to indulge in several extra steps, there’s no need to shy away from cheap coffee. Sure, it may never win awards, but by doing something to change the flavor profile, you can turn cheap coffee into something that you can actually enjoy.
Cheap coffee is not always something you need to avoid or even throw out. Instead, be creative in how you use it, and you could change the taste without too much hassle.
Dilute, add milk or sugar, use syrups, or even change how you make it, and you may even end up enjoying the end result.
But then, perhaps the best way to avoid cheap coffee is to spend just that little bit more money if you can. It can make a huge difference to your coffee-drinking experience with coffee that’s of a better quality, so that is my main suggestion to you.