How to make coffee taste better (even when you don't like coffee)

It's easy to get every sip smooth and sweet, if you know how

How to make coffee taste better, a bottle of cold brew next to a glass of iced coffee on a board in front of a blurred window showing greenery
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According to the National Coffee Association, two-thirds of adults in the US drink coffee daily. If you're in that final third that's not yet found their coffee groove, you might be feeling a bit left out. Even though I'm a qualified barista, that was me too.

A few years ago, I decided that I needed a piece of the pre-workout, fika, and coffee morning pie. I researched how to make coffee taste better, smoother, and sweeter. In part, it's down to your coffee station. The best coffee grinder, most effective coffee makers, and the best beans on the market will make good cups of coffee. 

That's not all though. You need a brewing style that suits your palette too. Cold brew coffee makers brew the smoothest, sweetest, most delicate cups of coffee. However, drip coffee makers and pour-overs can deliver all the health benefits of drinking coffee in one, elegant cup.

How to make coffee taste better: Beans

coffee beans

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It's no secret that quality ingredients culminate in a better taste. If you've been buying cheap coffee, beans with the wrong flavor profile, or you don't store your coffee properly, it's no surprise that you don't like coffee. 

Genevieve Kappler, Director of Coffee at Roasting Plant, recommends 'buying fresh, just-roasted, whole beans. Roasted coffee is highly volatile and loses much of the flavor and aroma within seven to 10 days after roasting. Contact with oxygen causes the natural oils in coffee to become rancid, exhibiting the bad taste which most people assume, wrongly, is just the way black coffee tastes.' 

If you buy pre-ground coffee or instant coffee, more of the surface of the coffee will have been exposed to oxygen, accelerating the staling process. This means that you're more likely to experience unpleasant tastes.

Director of Coffee
Genevieve Kappler
Director of Coffee
Genevieve Kappler

Genevieve Kappler is the Director of Coffee at Roasting Plant. She is also their Roasting Technologist, so knows everything about coffee, down to specific details. She combines coffee brilliance and brains with an extensive knowledge of all things caffeine.

Howard Gill, Head of Coffee at Grind, recommends lighter roasts rather than darker roasts. He describes them as 'the heroes, preserving antioxidants, essential for health, which can be diminished in the roasting process'. Opting for darker roasts may dim the potential health benefits of coffee.

Howard Gill
Howard Gill

Grind's Head of Coffee, Howey, has worked in coffee for nearly 20 years. He joined the Grind team in 2016 to set up their very own roastery in London. Since then, the roastery team has gone from a one-man band of just Howey to over 20 people.

Choosing the best beans for your palette can seem like learning a different language, but once someone explains it to you, you'll be fine. The two main categories for beans are Robusta and Arabica. Robusta beans are grown in lower altitudes and tend to be cheaper. They also generally taste more harsh and acidic, so if you don't like coffee normally, look for Arabica beans.

The general rule is, the higher the altitude, the sweeter the beans. his means that popular options for sweet beans are places like Colombia, Kenya, Guatemala, Panama and Ethiopia. Just make sure to buy Fairtrade and organic where possible too. I’d always recommend Union or Origin coffee. 

How to make coffee taste better: Grinders

A coffee grinder on some hessian

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The one drawback with buying whole beans is that you'll need to invest in a grinder. Grind really matters when it comes to flavor and lots of people aren't careful enough, which is why so many coffees taste acidic and bitter. 

How finely you grind your beans, will affect how the coffee oils are extracted. The finest grind will result in a sweeter, more intense coffee, as long as you don't over-extract it. Most grinders will be able to turn your coffee beans into grounds which look more like powdered sugar than the beans they once were. They don't have to be expensive models to produce great results.  In fact, here are some less expensive grinders which made it into our best coffee grinders roundup.

If you don't want to buy a grinder, look for a specialist coffee shop where you can buy freshly ground coffee. Store it properly and you'll still be able to make a good cup of coffee.

How to make coffee taste better: Brew Style

cream espresso machine on a white countertop

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You’d be surprised at how much brew style can affect the flavor of coffee. If you don’t like coffee you’ve probably had quite basic home brews. French presses are a home classic, but they make quite acidic coffee. If you use finely ground coffee, there are plenty of brewers that make more delicate cups of coffee. Pour-overs, drip, and espresso machines still make intense cups of coffee, but it's an entry point to drinking coffee for lots of people.

Genevieve Kappler, Director of Coffee at Roasting Plant, who spoke with us about beans, also recommended different brewing styles. She says that methods which use a paper filter will 'elegantly make a more pristine cup of coffee, by removing any type of sediment and retaining more of the oils - they bring out vibrancy, highlighting the brighter aromas.' She recommends using a Chemex with Ethiopian beans or a Kalita with Guatemalan beans.

I've tested a range of these coffee makers and these are the best ones for pour-over, drip, and espresso coffees:

If none of these appeal to you, cold brew coffee is your solution. You can drink this coffee hot, but you initially brew the ‘concentrate’ cold. It’s a slow brewing technique, which can take up to 24 hours, whilst it extracts coffee slowly and gently. The resulting brew is a much smoother and sweeter blend that has converted lots of non-coffee coffee drinkers.

Jai Lott, VP of Product at Blank Street Coffee, says that 'for newcomers to the world of coffee, cold brew is the perfect choice for testing the icy waters. It's a stronger, smoother, and more well-rounded alternative to iced coffee.' Thankfully, there are lots of processes through which you can make cold brew. You can make cold brew coffee at home, in a French press, or with a specialist cold brew coffee maker. These are some of the best:

Coffee Expert
Jai Lott
Coffee Expert
Jai Lott

Jai is responsible or the development of coffee at Blank Street. He's a coffee specialist and is involved in their speciality coffee program, team training, and product development.

I would also take a look at recipes for coffee smoothies, dalgona and bulletproof coffee. Both of these use coffee to make a delicious drink, but they certainly taste more like a treat. Dalgona coffee is an espresso and sugar whipped together to make a dessert-like foam. Bulletproof coffee is a high-protein, high-fat energy hit, that lots of people enjoy for breakfast.

How to make coffee taste better: Extra Flavors

Cold brew coffee on a stoneware table

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If all else fails, there's no harm in adding some extras to your morning cup. Start with milks. Adding some dairy or non-dairy milks to your cup of joe helps to balance the acidic notes in coffee. They make it naturally taste a little sweeter. I prefer almond milk, because it enhances the marzipan notes in one of my favorite coffees.

If that's not enough for you, I would suggest adding cinnamon or vanilla, into your coffee grounds when you make pour over or drip coffee. These notes will naturally infuse with the coffee, accentuating the naturally sweet flavors. You could also add unsweetened cocoa powder to make a mocha or even try the viral TikTok trend where you add a pinch of salt to your cup of joe. The saltiness accentuates the natural aromas of your coffee. 

If that's still not hitting the spot, there are, of course syrups which you can add. From sugar-free hazelnut to birthday cake, if you can think of a flavor, you can almost guarantee that there will be a syrup for it.


What can you add to coffee to make it taste better?

There's no end of options, which is part of the fun of coffee. You can add spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla, a variety of milks, cocoa powder, ice cream, salt, and honey. I could go on, but you'll have to check your pantry.

How do you make really tasty coffee?

There are a few important factors to making really tasty coffee. Picking the right bean type for your palette is paramount. If you don't want zesty notes, steer clear of beans which typically have those in. I'd also recommend that you use freshly ground coffee, which you measure carefully. This will help you to extract the optimal amount of coffee oils from your grounds. Make sure that you're also using filtered water, as the minerals can interact with your coffee and make strange flavors.

How do you make coffee taste good for beginners?

The trick is not to start with basic, instant coffee. That's like trying to make someone like wine and starting with a cheap bottle. Make sure you use good quality beans, filtered water, and a good, clean coffee maker. Before choosing your beans, think about the flavors that you like and try to pick a variety that would suit your palette.

What are healthy ways that I can make my coffee taste better?

There are lots of natural products that you can add to your coffee to make it taste better. I'd recommend trying cinnamon, vanilla extract, almond milk, and unsweetened cocoa powder. However, it's also worth trying the viral TikTok pinch of salt to your coffee too. I've written an article on how to sweeten coffee without adding sugar if you'd like more tips.

A cup of coffee on the table with a pain au raisin and some glasses

(Image credit: GettyImages)

There are so many ways to make coffee taste better. As a converted coffee drinker and qualified barista, I speak from experience. 

My favorite brewing style is cold brew. It's noticeably sweeter and smoother. I've recommended it to lots of people who want the health and energy benefits of coffee, without having the intense taste. It's the first coffee that I would recommend that you try if you find normal coffee too acidic and bitter. Don't just take my word for it though, make sure that you try it.

Laura Honey
eCommerce Editor

Laura is our eCommerce editor. As a fully qualified barista, she's our expert in all things coffee and has tested over thirty of the best coffee makers on the market. She has also interviewed Q-Graders and world-leading experts in the coffee industry, so has an intimate knowledge of all things coffee. Before joining Homes & Gardens, she studied English at Oxford University. Whilst studying, she trained as a master perfumer and worked in the luxury fragrance industry for five years. Her collection of home fragrance is extensive and she's met and interviewed five of the world's finest perfumers (also known as 'noses'). As a result of this expansive fragrance knowledge, she always puts quality and style over quantity and fads. Laura looks for products which have been designed simply and with thoughtful finishes.