How to Drink Black Coffee


Photo by Brian Moats

As a barista, I firmly believe that people should drink coffee the way they most enjoy it, but a lot of people who want to drink black coffee don’t think they can. Part of the problem is that popular opinion associates black coffee with John Wayne-like tough guys who wear steel-toed boots and have handlebar mustaches. But since most of us don’t commute to work on Harleys or horseback, it’s easy to see why a lot of people are afraid to drink their coffee straight. Here at the Coffee Compass we simultaneously believe that good coffee shouldn’t “put hair on your chest” and that anyone can enjoy a proper cup of black coffee.

black coffee and server

Photo by Ben Willis

Simply put, black coffee is coffee in its purist form. It’s healthier, classier, and simpler than its cream-and-sugared counterpart, and who doesn’t want a healthier and simpler life? That’s why we’ve compiled a surefire four step process for skipping the trip to the condiment bar.

Four steps towards enjoying black coffee:

  1. Switch to a lighter roast. If you’ve tried black coffee and thought it tasted bitter or ashy, it probably did. There’s a popular rumor that true coffee connoisseurs drink dark roast, but don’t believe it! Like burnt toast or an overdone steak, the longer a coffee is roasted the more you’re missing out on. Conversely, the best Q grade coffees shine as light roast. You’re going to taste a lot of natural sweetness and other flavor characteristics that are unique to that specific coffee.
  2. Let your coffee cool. It’s hard to enjoy your coffee if it’s scalding your tongue. Good coffee will taste better after it has had the chance to sit. The best coffees still taste great at room temperature even! I personally like filter coffee best around 130-140F.
  3. Downsize. You may be able to chug a large mocha shake, but chances are you won’t finish 750ml of black coffee if you’re accustomed to drinking sugary drinks. There’s no shame in ordering a smaller size, and you’ll probably save some money.
  4. Find a variety you like. Consumers often think of different coffee producing countries as like different flavors, but the coffee industry is increasingly recognizing the role that the coffee’s cultivar, or variety, plays. (Just think: Granny Smith vs. Golden Delicious). Like wine, coffee from the same regions can taste dramatically different depending on the variety. Chances are you have a personal preference for certain coffee varieties, you just don’t know it yet. Whether it’s the elusive Geisha, Kenya’s famed SL28, or a more common caturra or typica, start paying attention to what coffee you’re drinking!

Like anything worth doing, learning how to drink black coffee may take time. The first time you sip on a cup you may not taste all the nuanced flavors- it might just taste “like coffee”. But over time your tastebuds will adjust and your palette will develop. So why not give black coffee a try? A world of new tastes and experiences awaits.

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About Michael

Michael Butterworth is Director of Education at Quills Coffee in Louisville, KY. When he's not debating the merits of different pour-over techniques you can probably find him on his bike or pretending to be a photographer with his trusty Fujifilm x100t . In 2014, he became the first barista to represent Kentucky at the United States Barista Championship. Michael and his wife Julie live with their son Archer in the shadow of the megatron at Churchill Downs.


  1. Michael! You changed my life, man. Thanks for writing this out in a way that totally makes sense. I can’t wait to share it with my friends who think I am insane!

  2. “Uh oh. Here comes John Wayne. ‘I ain’t gonna cry about my paw. I’m gonna build an airport and put my name on it.’ Why Michael? So you can fly away from your feelings?” – Dr. Tobias Funke

    That said, great post. :)

  3. Nice! Just bought some coffee from Quills and tried it black… and really liked it! I think Kyle and I are on the path to drinking coffee in this way, and more often. Thanks for the awesome tips!

    As a side note, I think a hurdle for some people in making the switch seems to be their mentality in what they expect to taste when they drink coffee. As silly as it sounds, a key realization for me was this: when I drink coffee, I should expect it to taste like coffee. Yep. Not taste like some overly sweet concoction like a milkshake or hot chocolate. Coffee is in its own flavor realm. It’s that paradigm shift that caused me to start putting less and less cream and sugar in my coffee. I’m just now reaching the point of dipping my toe in the black coffee pool.

    Although, I admit, I may always be guilty of loving lattes. 😉

  4. Thank you very much your advise. It’s such a great way for me to better taste of hot black coffee, which is irresistible experience especially in cold morning. Also the idea about Dark & Light roasted coffee that I’ve never known that the light one could bring such a strong aromatic scene of the authentic coffee as, your guy have drunk for a century!

    The Potter’s Project (BKK, THAI)

  5. Nick Cobbledick says:

    Well put Michael

  6. Thanks for the good info, I will give black coffee a try gradually.

  7. I regularly drink espressos, but am used to sugaring them. After reading your no sugar post I realise that I could be missing out! I will now try without sugar…

  8. kevin rogers says:

    This could not be more true. As the owner of a coffee I have had the gamut in terms of style and so forth. We serve Onyx coffee in our shop that produce some really beautiful Ethiopian and Kenyan coffee’s. I have found my goto is a simple pour over to truly enjoy the cup.

  9. Thanks for letting me know there’s no shame in letting my coffee cool down first!


  1. […] chain reaction that eventually led to me preferring straight espresso, traditional cappuccinos, and black filter coffee.  Little did I know that I would later spend most of my vacation time, and a solid chunk of my […]

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