Chuckie: It is mud.
Good coffee can be a connoisseur's delight, while bad coffee is Bad to the Last Drop. It might be very cheap, very poorly brewed, or very stale coffee, or it can be ersatz substitutes for coffee that just don't make the grade.
To some extent, even good coffee is an acquired taste; many people load it up with cream and sugar when they first start drinking coffee for this reason. That's not this trope. This is when the stuff's so awful that if the drinker wasn't in the midst of a Must Have Caffeine moment, it would be thrown out.
Sometimes subverted by characters who argue that coffee should be cheap and poorly brewed, and call anyone invoking this trope on such beverages a snob.
The trope name is an allusion to the Maxwell House slogan "Good to the Last Drop".
While this trope most commonly features coffee, any bad non-alcoholic drink can go here. Bad alcoholic drinks should see the Sister Trope, A Tankard of Moose Urine. Klatchian Coffee may overlap with this, or simply be another Sister Trope. Descriptions of such beverages may be some variant of "It Tastes Like Feet."
- A 1979 Yuban coffee commercial has a wife lamenting that her coffee is so bad, her husband "never has a second cup of coffee at home."
- Parodied in Airplane! (with the same actress). "Jim never vomits at home..."
- A spot for Skechers shoes has comic book character Too Much Coffee Man freaking out because he has no filters for his coffee maker. He uses a shoe instead. The results are obvious; the taste of the coffee dubious.
- Fullmetal Alchemist has a running gag of the coffee in military headquarters being awful. And the stuff at the Northern HQ is not free.
- One Piece: In Ace's cover story, the Marines on their ship are complaining about the coffee being really bitter and all-around distasteful. (Adding milk, courtesy of one Marine officer's dairy farmer daughter, seems to improve the coffee ... which as noted above is Truth in Television.)
- In Zoids: Chaotic Century, Fiona's Trademark Favorite Food is salt. She puts it on or in everything she makes, including the coffee. This is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but we're not talking about adding a pinch of salt to the water before boiling like some coffee connoiseurs do. Van normally likes drinking coffee, but can't drink anything she brews up because she uses salt instead of sugar.
- This is Ms Smith's reaction in Daily Life with Monster Girl when she tries drinking a cup of the cheap instant coffee served at a police command center. On the other hand, she thinks that Kimihito's coffee is the best brew ever, which confuses the heck out of him because it's the cheap instant stuff.
- In Phantom Quest Corp., Detective Karino works in the police's U Division, which deals with the "oddball" cases. As such, its budget is absolutely pathetic. Not only is the office is too small..but his chief also complains about the lousy quality of the powdered tea they get.
- Preacher: When a federal cop tells the state cop their coffee tastes like someone came in it, the state cop snarks back that they were so excited to finally get a 'real' cop that they just couldn't contain themselves.
- The very first lines spoken in Planetary, in a crappy diner in the middle of nowhere:
Elijah Snow: Coffee tastes like your dog took a leak in it.Waitress: Dawg's gotta go someplace.
- Another Warren Ellis-penned example, from his run in Excalibur: there were a few lines indicating that Moira MacTaggert's coffee was just awful (issue #88, in special, was a bit of a ragfest).
- Lucky Luke: One Camp Cook's coffee recipe For Men involves grounds, water, and a horseshoe. Put all three ingredients in the pot, and add grounds until the horseshoe stops sinking.
- The bus drivers in Crankshaft endure Lena's notoriously bad coffee (which is still better than her unspeakable brownies).
Irma: Oh, that's our coffee. Our tea tastes like transmission fluid.
- In Irma's diner where Jon complain about the drink he was sold; he couldn't tell whether it was coffee or tea because it tasted like turpentine.
Irma: Interesting question... No one's ever asked for a second cup.
- Another one in Irma's diner has Jon ask if the refills are free before tasting the coffee.
- In The Flight of the Alicorn, Blueblood regularly burns his coffee while he's brewing it. Turns out he's never had a good cuppa in his entire life, so he thinks coffee is supposed to taste that bad. It's a revelation when Rarity brews him some good coffee.
- In A Slice Of Life, Princess Celestia's royal coffee-maker, Soggy Grounds, apparently has the special talent of making bad coffee.
- In Origin Story, Alex Harris is a "definitive coffee snob" who usually enjoys a special Indonesian coffee blend that costs $35 a pound. In Chapter 30, she is drinking a cup of coffee she bought at a New York City deli while staking out a badguy's job. She specifically remarks that she knows the coffee is Colombian because "it tastes like the oily mud the beans were grown in."
- In the Mountain Murders series of WWE alternate universe fics, Trina Conley is known at the Davis Police Department for her bad coffee.
- Hercules: Hades' potion, which would rob baby Herc of his godly status if he drank every last drop. As it happened, Pain and Panic managed to leave one last drop in the vial.
- Monsters, Inc. subverts this trope by showing a scene in which Waternoose turns the spigot on a "coffee" machine, and a thick sludge slowly oozes out of the machine. This is expected of Monsteropolis coffee (much as smelling bad which normally calls for the use of odorants).
- In Godzilla (1998), the lead French investigator finds the New York coffee his assistant gives him to be awful. He still drinks it.
- The Three Stooges sketch "Of Cash and Hash" has the Stooges running a cafe with their usual screwing-up. One of their customers complains that the coffee tastes like paint, so Shemp drinks from the mug to see what's wrong. He grimaces, then says, "It is paint." He grabs another coffee mug. "That's the coffee." When Shemp drinks from it, and makes an even worse face. He goes back to the cup of paint: "This is better."
- Parodied in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, when Austin reaches for the coffee pot and pours himself a cup without looking, not realizing that he actually grabbed Fat Bastard's stool sample which was (for some reason) boiling in a similar pot right next to it.
Austin: Cor! This coffee smells like shit!
Basil: [notices stool sample] It is shit, Austin.
Austin: [assuming he was speaking metaphorically] Oh good, then it's not just me. [drinks] It's a bit nutty.
- We don't know because it's never tasted, but in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid Rigby makes Swede a cup of his "java," which consists of an entire bag of coffee grounds and two raw eggs (including shells). But Rigby & Swede are shot before they drink it.
- A running gag in Men in Black 3 has Agent K lamenting every morning that "This coffee tastes like dirt", to which Agent J (in the present) or Agent O (in the past) would reply, "It should, it was just ground this morning." This joke clues O in on the fact that J actually knew K, after K was killed in the past by Boris the Animal.
- In Elf, Buddy sees a sign on a Greasy Spoon diner declaring they have "the world's best cup of coffee", and he naively believes it. Later, on his first date with Jovi, Buddy tries to surprise her with coffee at this diner.
Buddy: Reach out in front of you and take a sip. Don't look.
[Jovie is blindfolded. She sips the coffee and makes a face.]
Jovie: It tastes like a crappy cup of coffee. [Removes the blindfold] It is a crappy cup of coffee.
Buddy: No, it's the world's best cup of coffee!
- In the Buster Keaton comedy The Navigator, a pampered heir tries to make coffee for the first time in his life; he uses ocean water. He adds a spoonful of sugar, tastes it- then dumps the entire container of sugar in his mug.
- Harper begins by showing the low-rent life of Paul Newman's title detective character as he wakes up. He sees he's out of coffee, so he uses yesterday's grounds in a filter pulled from the trash. He doesn't like the result.
- In The Polar Express the hobo offers the protagonist a "cup of joe", he gags on it, then the hobo takes his socks out of the coffee pot.
- In Love Finds Andy Hardy, older sister Marian, charged with fixing the meals when mother Emily is away tending to her own ill mother, makes atrocious coffee. Andy and the judge, seeking not to hurt her feelings, pronounce it excellent. This almost causes the new cook to quit when she comes to work, tries Marian's coffee, and pronounces it "mud."
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the "tea" that Shansa offers her guests is pallid green and has a noticeably phlegmy consistency. Barbossa declines the drink.
- In The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Mrs. Hudson serves Holmes a cup of tea he can only describe as "disgusting".
- In Gremlins one of Mr. Peltzers inventions (which always work great at first) is a coffee machine that, when used, dispenses brown sludge with the consistency of hot tar.
Mrs. Peltzer: I dont think we can drink this...
- This old "waiter, waiter" joke:
Customer: Waiter, this coffee tastes like mud!
Waiter: Hardly surprising, sir, it was just ground this morning.
- In the Discworld, we have the brew provided by Sham Harga, the one-cook biohazard who runs the renowned eatery, Harga's House of Ribs. Sam Vimes likes the coffee here, which is indescribably foul. (To the extent that when Harga actually cleaned the coffee urn, Vimes found the resulting coffee too weak, or, in his words, "love-in-a-canoe" coffee. It's fucking close to water.)
- Robert A. Heinlein's Glory Road. The protagonist Oscar Gordon describes coffee as coming in five descending stages: Coffee, Java, Jamoke, Joe, and Carbon Remover. Carbon Remover is this trope.
- Heralds of Valdemar: There's a tea example in Exile's Valor Alberich got some vile drinks as part of the Sunsguard, but even he considers the herbal teas at City Guard stations undrinkable.
- Honor Harrington: In Cauldron of Ghosts, at one point two minor characters have a conversation about the coffee served on Havenite ships. One of them insists said coffee falls under this trope:
For years, I had a secret belief that the reason we had such a hard time fighting the Manticorans was because of the Navy's coffee. The deterioration that crap must have produced in the brains of our officers and ratings didn't bear thinking about.
- Horatio Hornblower suffers from the problem of very finite coffee supplies at sea. Usually, what he gets to drink is burnt bread and hot water.
- Imperial Radch: In Ancillary Justice, Radchaai have strong opinions about what does and does not qualify as "tea". Most of what's served in "uncivilized" space doesn't.
- In the In Death series set in the 2050-2060s, genuine coffee is an expensive luxury that only the rich can afford, most people making do with an artificially flavored substitute. Considering that the ersatz coffee on tap at Cop Central is notoriously bad even by this lowered standard, the top-quality real coffee that Eve's multi-billionaire husband Roarke supplies for her is treated as more precious than liquid gold.
- In John Dies at the End, David compares the taste of John's coffee to a cup of battery acid that someone had pissed in and then cursed at for several hours.
- In Spirit Hunters Sura manages to make tea with the color and consistency of pine tar.
- In A Boy Made of Blocks, Alex drinks coffee at the Minecraft competition that tastes like it was made with unfiltered Thames water.
- Ordinarily, Captain Jack Aubrey (RN) and Dr. Stephen Maturin are connoisseurs of "the right Mocha." However, months at sea sometimes lead to misfortunes such as rat droppings infesting (and getting ground up with) the beans.
- The Beverly Hillbillies: Possibly the first instance of this trope on a television series, as it pertains to coffee. Elly May was a Lethal Chef and her coffee was highly viscous and nigh indigestible.
- Green Acres: Another early instance of this trope on a television series from producer Paul Henning. Eva Gabor's character, Lisa Douglas, was terrible at all things domestic and her coffee was no different. It would come out of the pot in a thick black sludge in many, many episodes much to her husband's dismay.
- A non-coffee example would be some of Mrs. Davis' concoctions on Our Miss Brooks. Mrs. Davis' coffee was usually fine (the time she made "Bulgarian Coffee" notwithstanding). However, being a Cordon Bleugh Chef, Mrs. Davis sometimes makes horrid liquid (albeit non-alcoholic) drinks that are truly Bad to the Last Drop.
- Barney Miller: The coffee is almost always horrible. Everyone thought it was the way Nick made it, until one time when Nick felt unappreciated and Wojo made some.
Nick: makes sour face All this time I thought it was just me.
- And during a water shortage, Wojo tries a coffee substitute: hot Dr. Pepper.
- Castle: Rick claimed that the coffee in the squad room tasted like a monkey had peed in battery acid. It was so bad he bought the squad room a cappuccino maker.
- One episode of Kojak had an elderly woman come to the station to give a statement. While there she asked for a cup of coffee, and upon tasting it gently tells the detective interviewing her that it's absolutely terrible.
- On Gilmore Girls this is a running joke; almost nobody but Luke can make coffee that's up to the girls' standards, and no one else can handle it at the strength they make it themselves.
- In the sci-fi series Starhunter, Percy comments on how bad the coffee in her cup is. She is seen chewing it.
- Stanley in Rizzoli & Isles makes really bad coffee. Jane accuses him of putting his sweat socks in the coffee maker.
- Blackadder the Third: Blackadder gives one of his circuitous insults to Mrs Miggins, owner of a coffee shoppe.
A cup of your best hot water with brown grit in it - unless, of course, by some miracle, your coffee shop has started selling coffee.
- An extended sequence in Blackadder Goes Forth has Baldrick explain just why his coffee is so awful; turns out the war means they ran out of real ingredients years ago, so in typical Baldrick style he's been using ersatz coffee (mud), ersatz milk (phlegm), and ersatz sugar (dandruff).
- M*A*S*H had several examples. In one episode, it's commented that the coffee is improving, because it's less purple.
B.J.: This coffee is terrible, even by my standards!Hawkeye: And this is coming from a man who drinks lime koolaid with strips of bologna in it!.Klinger: Colonel, how would you like a delicious cup of coffee?Potter: I'd love it!Klinger: Me too, this stuff stinks..Potter: I told 'em strong, not lethal!Winchester: The undrinkable washing down the inedible.
- Narrowly averted in an episode of Night Court. The case of the night concerns the ashes of a man named Herb, whose two wives each want to keep the ashes. They are temporarily in Harry's custody. Meanwhile Harry's coffeemaker is on the fritz and the building manager Art fixes it. Later Harry finds the urn empty.
Art: Oh sorry, your honor, I had to use that herb tea to test the coffeemaker.Harry: Art, that wasn't herb tea, that was Herb.Cut to Dan frozen in place with a cup just about to touch his lips
- On Gimme a Break!, Chief Kiniski was on a stakeout and his partner drank from the thermos of coffee he brought (which was made by one of the daughters). He asked if it was supposed to be coffee. Kiniski looks at it and says "I think so. Turpentine doesn't have grounds in it."
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine season 1 episode "Babel", Sisko orders a coffee from the replicator in Ops, and his immediate reaction to its taste is to call Chief O'Brien over to fix the replicator. Unfortunately, when he does fix it, O'Brien inadvertently causes a Bajoran booby trap (intended for the original Cardassian occupants of the station, but long abandoned and forgotten) to activate, unleashing an aphasia virus upon the station. Once the device is removed and the virus cured, though, the replicator goes back to dispensing bad coffee. (It gets fixed eventually.)
- Neelix liked to experiment with coffee in Star Trek: Voyager. One first-season episode has him invent a glutinous "better-than-coffee substitute" that drives Janeway to redouble her search for energy supplies. During the "Year of Hell," he tries again with a concoction made of ration cubes.
Seven: It is offensive. Fortunately, taste is irrelevant.
- Crusade: In Visitors From Down The Street, Captain Gideon laments the poor quality of what passes for coffee available aboard starships (it was established on Crusade's predecessor Babylon 5 that real coffee is prohibitively expensive to get off-world). He goes on to voice suspicions that they only caffeinate the stuff to mess with him, thus setting the Conspiracy Theorist tone for the episode.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: "Conquistador coffee brings new meaning to the word 'vomit'." (It's a sales pitch.)
- Angel had Angel Investigations' godawful coffee become something of a running gag, since none of them could afford the good stuff.
Angel: I think my oesophagus is melting.
- Ellery's coffee in Ellery Queen. In one episode Ellery's father (who, it should be pointed out is a homicide detective and therefore used to bad coffee) takes one sip and pours his cup down the sink. After a moment's thought, he follows this by pouring the entire pot down the sink.
- General Hospital: Brenda serves Sonny coffee, which he declares to be "the worst coffee I have ever had in my life."
- Midsomer Murders: While drinking a cup of canteen coffee in "Down Among the Dead Men", Barnaby asks:
"Is this coffee or silt?"
- Daredevil (2015): According to Foggy, Karen's coffee-brewing skills leave much to be desired:
Foggy Nelson: If we're gonna be Nancy Drewing together, I think a certainly level of honesty is required.Karen Page: What, you don't like my coffee?Foggy Nelson: No. I hate it. [Karen can't help but stifle a laugh] I appreciate the effort, but the technique or lack thereof-Karen Page: My god, you are such a dick!Foggy Nelson: On occasion, some dickery might leak out. That doesn't mean I'm wrong.Karen Page: Oooh. It means something.
- On White Collar, Peter is disgusted by the coffee coming out of the office machine so he takes the time to disassemble it and give it a thorough cleaning. Neal remarks that the coffee tastes a lot better as a result.
- Kamen Rider Build: The coffee brewed by Soichi Isurugi, protagonist Sento's benefactor, is tragically bad — especially since he owns a coffee shop. In fact, the main characters would rather bring in canned vending machine coffee than drink Soichi's; on the other hand, since Build's secret lab is located under the shop, maybe it's a good thing that they don't get much business. Eventually it's revealed that Soichi is possessed by an evil alien, who naturally doesn't understand (or care) what humans consider tasty. In the final episode, after the Big Bad has been defeated, Sento discovers that the real Soichi's coffee is actually very good.
- On Schitt's Creek Johnny finally samples some of The Rosebud Motel's rocket fuel coffee and finds it disgusting. Stevie had warned him that nobody ever drinks it.
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 6 Episode 23 episode "Profit and Lace" features the Ferengi commercial beverage "Slug-O-Cola", advertised as "The Slimiest Cola In The Galaxy". While highly popular with Ferengi, one suspects it has poor market penetration in other venues.
- In the song "I Don't Want No More of Army Life", one of the verses goes:
The coffee in the army, they say it's mighty fine.
It's good for cuts and bruises but tastes like turpentine!
- Kate Bush's "Coffee Homeground": "Well, you won't get me with your Belladonna, in the coffee"
- Happens on Cabin Pressure:
Arthur: Here you are, skipper. Nice, hot cup of coffee.
Martin: [takes a sip] Ugh, it's cold!
Arthur: Nice cup of coffee.
Martin: It's horrible!
Arthur: Cup of coffee.
Martin: I'm not even sure it is coffee.
- The Deadlands setting has a spell called "Coffin Varnish,"note which conjures coffee of this kind that doubles as a Hideous Hangover Cure.
- In the GURPS setting Transhuman Space, "Martian coffee" is slang for "really bad coffee" (because of the poor water quality in the Martian colonies). The colonists tend to spice it very heavily to mitigate the taste.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, the coffee that Lethal Chef Armstrong serves is, in coffee addict Godot's words: "worth a sip just for the experience." Just a single sip...
- In Max Payne, Max makes a stop during his one-man war on the mob at an all-night diner where he drinks several cups of coffee that in his own words "tasted like engine oil."
- One of Jesse McCree's lines in Overwatch at the start of a match in the Route 66 map while the team is in a spawn point that is a diner is "Yeah, I wouldn't drink the coffee. Always tasted like boiled dirt."
- Cups of Coffee in Earthbound heal a piddling 12 HP, making them worthless even in the beginning of the game where Bread Rolls and Hamburgers are readily available. That they're dropped by Scalding Coffee Cups, implying that you're drinking what was once an inexplicably living creature, doesn't help either. The flavor text suggests that there's actually nothing wrong with the coffee itself, but that Ness and his friends don't like it because they are children:
"If you drink this, you recover about 12 HP. I guess it tastes good to adults."
- In the Future Chapter of Live A Live, the first thing Cube learns to do is make a cup of coffee, which he inevitably makes so repulsively strong that nobody wants to drink it. It culminates when Corporal Darth, who went from hating all robots to becoming Fire-Forged Friends with Cube, asks for a cup in the end and actually likes the disgusting bitter taste.
- We Happy Few: Overlaps with Uncoffee—The populace of Wellington Wells make do with "toasted chicory" but you can find actual coffee within the upper echelons of society. It's not bad as such; just very inferior.
- One of the "MessageMates" (small programs which display a short humorous animation and end with a message ... and try to infect your computer with spyware), titled "Bad Coffee", is about the characters complaining that the coffee they're drinking tastes like "monkey piss" and then discovering an actual monkey inside the coffee vending machine.
- The Order of the Stick:
- In the graphic novel Start of Darkness, Xykon is something of a bad coffee fan, as drinking a really horrible cup of coffee reminds him of all the good coffee he can compare it to. He's infuriated when he tries his first coffee after becoming undead, and can't taste it at all, good or bad. Before they met him his minions occasionally used the coffee from his favorite place as an improvised weapon.
- In one strip, Vaarsuvius pranks Belkar by leaving out "Explosive Runes" brand coffee. V filtered the coffee through Roy's sweaty socks, to ensure Belkar would be disgusted enough to grab and read the coffee can.
- In Something*Positive, Aubrey complains that the coffee in a donut shop "tastes just like a diaper smells." Flinging the cup to the ground, she claims that she could "menstruate a better cup of coffee." When the cashier tells her to leave or he'll call the police, she counters with, "When it comes to bad coffee and donuts, whose side do you think a cop will be on?"
- In this page from Blood Stain, Elliot can barely drink Serge's coffee, but since she's a new employee she doesn't want to rock the boat, so she says that it's great.
- In Freefall, after Florence the Bowman's Wolf expresses concern about coffee being possibly toxic to her, Dvorak synthesizes a canine-safe substitute. It smells like a frightened rabbit, which is distinctly appealing to her wolf instincts, but the taste drove her to scald the taste off her tongue with regular coffee.
- In Awful Hospital, the "Blackish Foam" served by Joe (formerly known as Jay) counts as coffee insofar as it's served at a cafe, and turns out to be exceptionally poisonous when applied to an open wound.
"...it smells like burnt tire rubber with just a hint of something like cold bacon fat. The only thing you're certain of is that this will never enter your mouth."
- Satirical Twitter feed Swear Trek commemorated April Fools' Day 2017 with a series of GIFs of different characters from Star Trek (and some other sci-fi series) captioned to describe how awful the coffee was that day by increasingly disgusting comparisons, including Janeway comparing it to "a Gorn's ballsack", Luke Skywalker saying it was "Jawa pee" and The Doctor calling it "Yeti piss".
- Steve 1989 MRE Info: Steve runs a Video Review Show focusing on military rations. Occasionally the powdered drink mixes included are just nasty. Steve expresses a consistent dislike of any drinks that have overpowering flavor and seems able to immediately identify artificial sweeteners in energy drinks.
- Bob's Burgers: In "The Unnatural", Tina becomes hooked on coffee after trying espresso. At the end of the cartoon, she's so desperate to get her fix she drinks the cheap coffee out of the pot from a nearby motel lobby, despite it being a week old and having cigarette butts in it.
- DuckTales (1987): In ''Aqua Ducks", Gyro Gearloose invented a new type of health drink that, in Launchpad's words, tasted like "old tires." It turns out vulcanized rubber was a major ingredient.
- In the Rated "A" for Awesome episode "Sleep Smart", Cashola Company releases a nasty potato-flavored soda (that only Lars seems to like) and has to resort to having subliminal messages played on TV to hypnotize people into buying it.
- The Real Ghostbusters: In "Drool, the Dog-Faced Goblin," the fur-covered hand of an unseen monster gives Egon a cup of coffee.
(Egon takes a swig from the cup and spits it out)
Egon: This coffee tastes like mud.
(He examines it on a slide in his microscope)
Egon: Never mind. It is mud.
- On Ricochet Rabbit and Droop-a-Long Coyote, Deputy Droopalong's coffee is so thick, it has to be cut with scissors when it's poured.
Ricochet: Is that coffee I smell, or is somebody burning a boot?
- In one "Mr. Know-It-All" segment of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Bullwinkle goes to a coffee shop and waiter Boris suggests "Cafe Minuto". Bullwinkle drinks it and cringes, then Boris says it "should be bad to last drop."
- Steven Universe: In "Drop Beat Dad", Sour Cream's biological father (and Greg's old manager) Marty tries to sell Guacola, a guacamole-flavored soda, at Sour Cream's rave. The stuff resembles green slime and everyone in the audience hates it (with the exception of Sour Cream's half-brother Onion, for some reason).
- Ronaldo Fryman later agrees to shill for Guacola on his blog to make some extra cash, even though he can barely hide his disgust for the "drink" and the nicest things he can say about it are that "it is technically edible (even if you do have to chew it sometimes)" and that it can also be used as industrial mortar (or to "clog a drain that runs too smoothly").
Ronaldo: Guacola. Its a soda that pays people to say they like it, so you know its good.
- Ronaldo Fryman later agrees to shill for Guacola on his blog to make some extra cash, even though he can barely hide his disgust for the "drink" and the nicest things he can say about it are that "it is technically edible (even if you do have to chew it sometimes)" and that it can also be used as industrial mortar (or to "clog a drain that runs too smoothly").
- Ironically for the company that popularized specialty coffee and espresso in the U.S., coffee snobs see Starbucks coffee as this, due to the chain's use of dark-roasted beans. Serious coffee fans prefer lighter roasts, typically medium roast ("full city") or lighter. Darker roasts, sold as "French roast" or "Italian roast", obscure the regional characteristics of the bean. You're really only tasting the roast at this point. Roasters typically use poor-quality beans that would otherwise be thrown out for their dark roasts. Many coffee fans also dislike the overly smokey flavor of dark-roasted beans, which is why many of them nickname Starbucks "Charbucks." The third wave coffee movement's emphasis on lighter roasts sprang up in reaction to the specialty coffee movement's preference for dark roasts in the '90s and '00s.
- McDonald's coffee also had this reputation, especially since they used to burn it by serving at 180 degrees F (82°C) instead of 140-160°F (60-71°C) like most restaurants. Before an old lady got third-degree burns and sued. (What, you thought that was a Frivolous Lawsuit? Boy, do we have a story to tell you...) Nowadays it's largely being averted as their new brew is considered to be quite good, to the point that in Canada it's now often considered better than Tim Hortons (in fact, when Tim Hortons switched to a new blend, guess who started using the old one?).
- Coffee made from percolators is said to fit this trope, especially if the coffee is allowed to brew for too long.
- Instant Coffee (brewed and then freeze-dried and packed) has a very strong reputation for this. Then again, if you find yourself needing instant coffee (i.e.: you need the coffee, but lack the time or money for a properly brewed cup), then Beggars Cant Be Choosers. The trend pretty much started in World War II where time and space constraints meant the troops had to settle for instant "Cup o' Joe". In Europe and Asia, instant brands sold tend to be of higher quality than the kind Americans are used to. The freeze-dried brands are a closer approximation to brewed coffee than the cheap spray-dried brands are. On the other hand, instant tends to dominate in markets like the U.K. and Japan, which have historically been tea cultures and simply may not know any better, and which have tea-brewing infrastructure (read: super-fast boiling kettles) that make making instant coffee very easy.
- By the same token, instant tea also has this reputation, only more so. It doesn't have much of a market, since it's not much cheaper than a lot of real tea (especially the crap they put in tea bags), and making normal tea only takes a few more minutes than instant (since you still have to boil the water to make instant, it's just a matter of waiting 3-5 minutes for your brew vs. drinking the instant, erm, instantly). On the other hand, instant green tea is getting more popular in Japan, where tea, like everything else there, is Serious Business. This is due to the desire for greater convenience, Japan's aging population, and the ability to make cold and hot tea from the same powder. It also helps that a lot of the instant green teas include a bit of matcha (a good powdered green tea with exacting standards because it's the standard bearer for tea ceremonies) for better flavor.
- Drip coffee, even if it's pretty all right to begin with, becomes this very quickly if you let the pot sit on the coffeemaker's hot plate. Most of the cheap automatic drip makers also don't get the water hot enough to get a good extraction either. Good coffee should be consumed immediately after brewing and never reheated. Otherwise, coffee should be kept in a thermal carafe or Thermos. This is why coffee buffs prefer manual pour-over drip coffee makers, though there are still ways to screw up coffee with those as well, as mentioned below.
- There are two main strains of the coffee plant: arabica and robusta. Arabica is far more flavorful and slightly lower in caffeine content, whereas robusta is nearly flavorless and relatively high in caffeine. The latter is also, true to its name, more robust and able to be grown more easily and in more environments than arabica, which prefers high elevations and shade. Thus, robusta coffee is much cheaper to grow, and is the main ingredient in very cheap coffee blends and instant coffee, mixed with a small amount of arabica coffee for flavor (on the exact opposite end, robusta is also used by a few European espresso makers to give their coffees stronger crema, the topping on an espresso). 100% arabica coffee— the kind you get at any self-respecting coffee house, and these days even on most grocery store shelves and fast food places— is much tastier than a robusta blend for this reason. And now you know.
- Another factor that contributes to this trope is the freshness of the roast. Green (unroasted) coffee beans can be stored for years with no ill effect, but once they're roasted (giving them that familiar brown color), you've got about two weeks to brew them before they're considered stale. You see that "Roasted On" date clearly marked on that bag of coffee at the grocery store? That's right, you don't, because they don't want you knowing how long it's been sitting on the shelf or else no one would ever buy a bag more than two weeks old. The section in the grocery store with the whole beans sold in bulk bins is a crap shoot for the same reason. If you want truly fresh coffee, you've got to find a reputable local roaster or else do your own roasting at home.
- Even worse is coffee that's pre-ground. You know that wonderful smell that wafts out of a bag of ground coffee? That's the taste of your coffee escaping into the air instead of going into your cup. For truly good coffee that averts this trope, you need to buy whole-bean coffee and grind it immediately before brewing.
- Similar to how many fans of microbrews feel that major brands like Budweiser are A Tankard of Moose Urine, serious coffee afficionados have the same disdain toward major coffee brands like Starbucks, Folgers and Maxwell House.
- Skilled baristas can tell just by looking at the crema that a badly-made espresso shot is this.
- Even though the French press is one of the brewing methods of choice for gourmet coffee, if you let the coffee sit in the press too long, it will become overly bitter. Pour any unused coffee into a thermal carafe or a thermos. Also, the French press lets the sediment through that a paper filter will catch, which some people don't like. The press also calls for a coarse grind, or else the grounds can slip through the mesh filter.
- French soldiers during the Franco-Prussian War, when the mobile cantina wasn't here, made their coffee by boiling the crushed beans in a bucket or a tub, then filtering it through their socks. The taste was so awful that a bad tasting coffee is still called jus de chaussettenote in France over a century later.
- The Finnish Army brand tea is so horrible it is sometimes labeled as 3V Tea: Vangeille, varusmiehille ja veturinlämmitykseen ("For convicts, conscripts and compound engines").
- Coffee is normally acidic in nature, but if it tastes very bitter or astringent, something in the coffee is off balance.note Usually, it means it's gotten too strong or lost its aroma. That's why creamers, sugars, and lemon juices are common at coffee bars; all of them help to mask bitter coffee, though they can only go so far, especially if the coffee's thickened, cooled, and otherwise gone well past its prime.
- The pour-over is another go-to for coffee aficionados, but there are several things that can cause a bad cup of coffee. Water that's too hot will over-extract the coffee, making it bitter, as will using a grind that's too fine. A grind that's too coarse will give you a cup of vaguely coffee-flavored hot water.
- The coffee in workplace breakrooms, or in the cafeterias of institutions such as colleges and hospitals, is said to be appalling.
- This is especially true for coffee that's been provided for an all-day or multi-day event, like a hackathon. The coffee might taste okay in the morning soon after its been brewed, but as time goes on, you might as well dump the rest in the sink and do everyone else a favor.
- And none of these hold a candle to the awful that is truck stop or gas station coffee. Name a mistake made in the brewing process; cheap robusta beans of dubious quality that have spent who knows how long in a storage closet, too hot of water, unconditioned hard water sources, too fine or coarse a grind, machines that are never cleaned well, the pot standing too long on the hot plate, etc. Chances are several of these are in play. At least it's cheap, and if you have to drink it, you're definitely in need of it. On a related note, truck drivers tend to have really bad taste in coffee, due mostly to this being their primary source of same.
- In Scotland, there are numerous small ferry terminals in coastal areas that take people out to islands. These essentially consist of a ticket booth, a waiting room and (if you're lucky) a vending machine that offers coffee, tea and soup, all of which are thin, boiling and flavourless.
- Quote ascribed to Abraham Lincoln:
If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.
- Serious coffee fans prefer burr grinders over blade grinders because the latter often leaves inconsistent particle sizes, leading to the problems with over-and-under-extraction described above. The whirling blade can even burn the ground beans. Burr grinders grind the beans evenly, which is essential for getting a good extraction. They're the only kind of grinder found in commercial environments, either in coffee shops or supermarket bulk bean sections.
- Steeping green tea in water that's too hot will make it taste harsh and astringent.
- Somehow a tradition arose in the US Navy that neither coffee makers nor drinking mugs should ever be cleaned. This supposedly made the coffee more palatable (or rather, less unpalatable) then it would otherwise be. Possibly this was from a time when poor water quality and lowest-bidder coffee meant that the coffee would be bad no matter what you did. In any event, the result was a bad but consistent flavor that sailors grew used to.
- Some people swear by building up a patina of baked-on coffee oil on coffee brewers, in much the same way that one seasons a cast-iron frying pan.
- Fans of more delicate teas can see the dark, tannic "English breakfast" tea blends this way.
- At least somewhat averted in the Canadian Armed Forces with their IMPs (No, not that one, "Individual Meal Packs", their equivalent to MREs). Some still come with the nasty little packet of instant coffee, but some come with the rather tasty Nestle 3-in-1. Here's both for comparison◊. Anyone who's tried both knows the instant coffee is terrible even when actually made with hot water (which you rarely have in the field; even heater packs tend to get your coffee to lukewarm at best) while the 3-in-1 is tasty even when made with cold water.
- Serious coffee enthusiasts tend to see pod and capsule machines like Nespresso or Keurig this way, due to the issues mentioned above, like pre-ground coffee and the wrong water temperature. And environmentalists complain about the plastic waste, as most pods can't be recycled. That goes double for tea pods in machines, as the water temperature for making coffee is either too hot or too cold for making tea, depending on the type of tea.
- Even with high-quality freshly-ground coffee, the mineral content in the local tap water can alter the flavor of the brewed coffee for the worse, which is why many serious coffee enthusiasts insist on using filtered water.