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Bitter Coffee Taste:
is It Good or Bad?

We want to tell you about what bitterness in coffee is, what influences it, and whether its presence is bad or good.

What is bitterness and what causes a bitter taste in coffee?

There are 5 basic tastes: sour, sweet, salty, bitter and umami.

Most often, bitterness is perceived as a negative characteristic of coffee. But together with acidity and sweetness, it forms the balance of the drink. Without bitterness, coffee would be overly sour or sweet.
During the extraction process, acidity develops first, then sweetness, and only then bitterness. Although bitterness takes longer to develop, it can overwhelm other flavor characteristics.

The intensity of bitterness in the taste of coffee is affected by the concentration of phenolic compounds in it. One of the most common phenols are chlorogenic acids. They make up to 8% of the dry mass of green Arabica beans.

Caffeine also plays an important role in the formation of bitter coffee taste, but to a less extent.

What affects the bitterness of coffee?

The quality and variety of green coffee, the roasting process and brewing process can affect the bitterness of the coffee in the cup.

Coffee variety

Coffee produces chlorogenic acid as it grows. In 2006, Adriana Farah and Carmen Marino Donangelo published a study on phenolic compounds in coffee in The Brazilian Journal of Plant Physiology. They concluded that the age of the trees, environmental conditions and agricultural practices affect the content of chlorogenic acid in green grain.

Compared to Arabica, Robusta contains almost 2 times more caffeine and 2% more chlorogenic acid, so Robusta is more bitter.

During roasting, many chemical reactions occur, the content of organic acids in green grains changes. The darker the coffee is roasted, the more bitter it will be. It is because chlorogenic acid is destroyed during the heat treatment and forms more bitter acid. And during the Maillard reaction, bitter melanoidins are formed, giving the coffee a brown color.

Brewing method

Many factors affect coffee extraction: brewing method, grind size, water temperature, and brewing time. There are general recommendations on how not to make too bitter coffee.

The smaller the grind size, the longer the coffee will be extracted and the more flavor will be extracted. A beverage may over-extract, resulting in a bitter taste.

The higher the water temperature, the more efficiently the flavor compounds will be extracted. If the coffee turned out bitter, you can reduce the temperature of the water by a few degrees.

However, remember that if you change one of the settings, it may affect others. Therefore, for each variety and method of preparation, you need to select your own recipe in order to get a balanced coffee taste.

Bitter coffee taste: is it bad?

If it is mixed with other flavors, the bitterness in coffee can be pleasant. Without bitter taste the coffee may seem too sour or sweet. Therefore, a small amount of it in the taste will complement other tastes and balance them.

The main thing is that the bitterness should be positive and not overwhelm other flavors in the coffee. With excessive or negative bitterness, you need to figure out what influenced it: production features, roasting or cooking method.

Mr. Viet produces real Vietnamese coffee. Mr. Viet coffee beans are expertly roasted in Dalat region, Vietnam. We carefully select and control coffee roasting in order to get tasty and balanced coffee. We produce it in accordance with all the traditions of Vietnam. Follow us to learn more about coffee and Vietnamese coffee culture!

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