Why Does My Coffee Look Oily?

If you take a close look at your morning cup of coffee, you might notice that the surface looks a little…oily. Naturally, you’d ask yourself this question, “why does my coffee look oily?” You might even see some oily residue on the inside of your coffee mug. So what gives? Is this normal? Or is there something wrong with the coffee beans? Let’s take a closer look at why coffee can sometimes appear oily and what, if anything, you can do about it.

The Science Behind The Oils

The Science Behind The Oils

Coffee beans are seeds that come from coffee cherries. These seeds are surrounded by a thin layer of flesh and an outer layer of skin. During the roasting process, the coffee beans’ outer layers are removed, leaving behind the seed—aka the coffee bean—that we know and love.

Now, coffee seeds contain 2 different types of oils: triglycerides and chlorogenic acids. Triglycerides are made up of fatty acids, and they’re responsible for giving coffee its rich flavor and aroma. Chlorogenic acids, on the other hand, are organic compounds that give coffee its bitter taste.

Both of these oils are present in every single coffee bean. However, the roasting process affects the ratio of triglycerides to chlorogenic acids—the longer the beans are roasted, the more chlorogenic acids will be present.

Why Do The Oils Matter?

Coffee’s various oils play an important role in how our favorite beverage tastes. The oils also affect how long brewed coffee stays fresh; coffees with more oil will go bad faster than those with less oil. That’s why pre-ground coffees generally don’t taste as good as freshly ground beans. The grinding process breaks open the beans and release their oils, which causes them to go bad more quickly.

Why Do The Oils Matter?

When it comes to appearance, oils can also influence how your coffee looks. When you brew a cup of joe, the triglycerides will separate from the water and float to the surface, where they’ll form a thin film known as “coffee bloom.” This bloom is perfectly normal—in fact, many baristas see it as a sign of freshly brewed coffee. However, if your coffee looks excessively oily or murky, that could be a sign that it was made with low-quality beans or that it wasn’t brewed properly.

Why Does My Coffee Look Oily? 6 Factors Behind Oily Coffee…

Factors Behind Oily Coffee…

Several factors make your coffee look oily. These include:

  • Brewing methods can affect how much coffee oil you see. Drip brewing is less likely to produce oily coffee since it uses a paper filter. French press or Turkish coffee methods are more likely to produce filmy, oily coffee for the exact opposite reason (these don’t use filters)
  • The water temperature can also change the level of oil in your coffee. Warmer water causes the molecules in the coffee to bond more strongly with the water. So, the coffee’s insoluble fatty acids rise to the top and make the coffee look more oily
  • Hard water has higher mineral content than soft water. So, minerals like calcium bond with the fatty acids from the coffee beans. Resulting in letting the oil rise to the top. Needless to say, it’s better to use soft water
  • Both the Medium and dark-roasted beans contain more oils than the light-roasted beans. So, it’s best to use lightly roasted beans to avoid oiliness
  • High-quality coffee beans are slowly roasted. So they exude a lower amount of oil once brewed. Thus, you should pick high-quality beans for your daily consumption
  • Avoid using filter-free brewing methods. The charcoal activated filters are the most effective type of filter to save you from oily coffee. You can also use paper filters to absorb coffee oils as they traditionally perform very well in this regard

Avoid Making Oily Coffee…

These coffee oils are mainly made from insoluble unsaturated fats. That’s why they don’t dissolve during the brewing process. If you are brewing your coffee at home, then you should avoid making oily coffee for 3 reasons.

  1. These oils accumulate and can start to clog up your coffee machine. Clearly, it will deteriorate the ability of your coffee machine to brew properly
  2. Oily beans can also negatively impact the grinding mechanism of your coffee machine
  3. It will also damage the water filters of your machine


So, is oily coffee a bad thing? Not necessarily. Some people even argue that it is a good thing. Since the oils from the ground beans contain a lot of authentic flavors of the coffee. 

However, there are ways to avoid it. Brewing at lower temperatures, using a better filter (preferably paper filters), and using fresh beans can help you with this.

So there you have it! Now you know why your cup of coffee might look a little oily from time to time—and what that might mean for its flavor and freshness. Happy sipping!

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