Why Is Coffee Bitter? Is It Bad?

Why Is Coffee Bitter? Is It Bad?

Bitterness has always been an unpleasant term in specialty coffee. Good coffee should be sweet and delicious, with a well-balanced taste, and maybe a little sour, and no sugar is needed to make the coffee delicious. But what makes coffee taste bitter? Are these bitter tastes really that bad? Let's see.

Is The Bitterness Bad?

In fact, the bitterness is not so bad. In fact, if the coffee is not balanced by bitterness, it may taste too sour or too sweet. The key is balance. A bit of bitterness can bring out a richer and diversified flavor level, provided that the bitterness is not too heavy.

However, it is interesting that we can accept very bitter coffee more than very sour coffee for most people.

However, coffee that is too bitter is really bad, so let's see what bitterness is and how to avoid bitterness when brewing.

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What Is Bitterness?

Everyone has the experience of eating bitter taste, but there are often situations where you eat bitter taste, but others can't eat bitter taste. This is the sensory cognition of taste, which means that sensory feelings vary from person to person.

It is also important to note that taste is not just about creating bitterness. The word flavor represents the assembly of many things, including smell, mood, music, and even altitude. However, this is not the content of this article. Let us now focus on the taste and look at the bitterness of coffee from a scientific point of view.

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The Science Of Bitterness

People used to think that the tongue has different distributions of taste perception, such as sweet, salty, sour, and bitter tastes with different receiving areas. But now we all know that these flavors can be felt in any part of the tongue.

Because the sensory cells of our tongue have a lot of proteins, according to the American Institute of Medical Quality and Efficiency, about 35 kinds of proteins will react with the compounds in the food to produce a bitter taste.

This means that the bitterness perception comes from substances called phenolic compounds in coffee, the most common of which is also called chlorogenic acid, which we will discuss later. In the green coffee beans of Arabica, this substance accounts for about 8%, and this substance has a great influence on the taste perception of coffee.

There are many types of chlorogenic acid. We only need to understand the most special two, chlorogenic acid: the most common compound in green beans, di-CGA reflects the main substance of the bitter taste of coffee.

Although most of the bitterness of coffee comes from quinic acid, studies have pointed out that caffeine can also affect bitterness. However, the degree of caffeine's impact on bitterness is, at best, only a minor one.

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Bitterness From Green Beans

When we talk about the bitterness of coffee, we often think of roasting, but in fact, some coffees contain more bitterness than others.

First of all, the bitterness of Robusta coffee is stronger than that of Arabica because Robusta has a higher content of chlorogenic acid and caffeine. Robusta's chlorogenic acid is as high as 10% in the raw bean state, while Arabica is only 2%. In addition, Robusta's caffeine content is nearly twice that of Arabica.

However, it is not only the type of coffee that affects the bitterness, but the variety, type of genes, maturity, external environmental factors, and planting environment are all important factors that affect the content of quinic acid in the raw beans, which in turn affects the final cup of coffee.

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The research also mentioned the influence of treatment methods, especially monsoon treatment methods. This traditional treatment in India exposes the green beans to a monsoon environment with high humidity. This treatment can reduce the chlorogenic acid and bitterness of green beans.

As for the maturity of coffee berries, research has pointed out that, for example, immature beans contain more quinic acid, which is why a cup of coffee has a lot of immature beans, which is very bitter.

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Does Roasting Increase The Bitterness Of Coffee?

During roasting, chlorogenic acid changes and decomposes. Although the main bitterness in coffee comes from chlorogenic acid, in fact, chlorogenic acid itself does not have a bitter taste! During roasting, chlorogenic acid is decomposed into "chlorogenic acid lactone" and "phenyllindane" during roasting. Phenyllindane will produce some bitter taste. In addition, phenyllindane will also affect the flavor of coffee roasting.

Light-roasted to medium-roasted coffee will have more chlorogenic acid lactone. This kind of roasted coffee has a pleasant, high-quality coffee bitterness. The darker roasted coffee has more phenyllindane, which has a strong bitterness and will remain in the mouth.

Therefore, light to medium roast coffee will have lower bitterness and retain the original aroma and flavor of the coffee. But of course, bitterness is a subjective feeling. If you don't like bitterness, it doesn't mean that others don't like it.

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How To Avoid Bitterness When Brewing

If you buy light-roasted high-quality Arabica, can you avoid the bitterness? Uncertain. Whether it is brewed by yourself or by a professional barista, it will still affect the flavor in the final cup.

Do not over-extract the coffee to avoid bitterness because the bitterness is released in the latter part of brewing. There are variable factors during extraction: brewing method, grinding thickness, water temperature, brewing time, etc., and there are some suggestions below.

First of all, no matter what brewing method is used, ensure that the coffee is ground finely. When the grinding is finer, the surface area of ​​the coffee powder contact is larger. Although a stronger coffee will be extracted, it will also increase the risk of over-extraction.

Next, confirm the brewing water temperature. The higher the water temperature, the more substances will be extracted. If the coffee beans have a stronger bitter taste, it is recommended to brew with a lower water temperature.

As a coffee fan, you must love coffee very much. But do you know what coffee is exactly? Or how did they come from?

It depends on the brewing time. If the coffee is bitter, the brewing time may be too long.

Finally, remember that extraction is to achieve overall balance. If you adjust the brewing variable, such as adjusting the grinding thickness, the brewing time will also be affected.

The bitterness is not always that bad, but it will be problematic if the bitterness covers other flavors. But after you read this article and understand the source of the bitterness of coffee, we can explore how to control these variables in it.

Follow the suggested steps to find the balanced taste and flavor in your coffee.

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