What is Coffee “Bitterness”?

Bitterness is a primary flavor sensation, perhaps a twinge or aftertaste, primarily detected/perceived on the soft-palate toward the back of the mouth, and characterized by a solution of quinine and caffeine as well as other alkaloids.

Bitterness – One of the Four Basic Tastes Known to Humans

Bitterness is one of the five basic tastes – sour, sweet, salty, bitter and umami – detected at the back of the mouth.

The Desirability of Bitterness in Premium Gourmet Coffee

A well-balanced bitterness in a coffee may add to the fullness of its flavor, creating a desirable taste sensation.

Though bitterness is desirable up to a certain level, too much bitterness creates an unpleasant taste, especially if it is caused by over-extraction during the brewing process or from using too fine of a grind, or making too small of an amount of coffee.

Bitterness vs. Acidity and the Six Basic Flavor Characteristics of Coffee

A coffee’s quality of bitterness should not be confused with acidity, which is also one of the six basic taste characteristics of coffee along with body, aroma, sweetness, and aftertaste.

Other Resources

To prepare fine gourmet coffee drinks check out our Espresso Drink Recipes as well as Pulling A Perfect Espresso Shot and the How to make Lattes and Cappuccinos.

You can also explore the world’s top Gourmet Coffees and learn about coffee’s past in the World’s Best History of Coffee.

Coffee tasting terms and more coffee and espresso information can also be found in the Espresso Coffee Guide’s Coffee and Espresso Glossary.

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