What does the bitterness in coffee depend on?


Have you ever wondered why coffee is bitter? Do you know what bitterness depends on? In your opinion is it a value or a defect of coffee?

We all know the taste of our beloved drink well, and we almost always link it to a feeling of bitterness, but which we promptly sweeten with a little sugar.

What if there was another solution?

But let's start with the factors that influence bitterness:

  • concentration of caffeine in the bean
  • toasting level
  • type of extraction and grinding required of the coffee
  • extraction temperature and times
  • cleaning of used equipment

The first fundamental fact is the concentration of caffeine, and no you don't have to be a chemist to know it.

Suffice it to say that Robusta quality coffees generally have about double the caffeine of Arabica coffees. From here it can be understood in a very simple way that a blend with a higher percentage of Robusta will be more bitter than a blend with a higher percentage of Arabica.

The second fact, however, to which we must be very careful is the level of roasting.

There are 3 macro categories of roasting:

  • light
  • medium, used for all Ernani coffees
  • dark

Exactly as it happens for any food: the more the coffee is roasted, the more bitter it will become.

From this we understand that a light roast will have less bitterness, in favor of acidity; a medium roast will have a good balance between acidity, sweetness and bitterness; while a dark roast will have a very pungent bitterness, which will cover the other tastes.

In Italy, most of the roasters use a dark roast, so much so that when it is very dark, tending to black, it is also called "Italian roast". This is why most of the coffees we taste at home or at the bar are excessively bitter and require a little help from the sugar. 

On the contrary, the medium roasting maximizes all the characteristics and natural aromas of the raw beans, making the drink less bitter and with a wide range of aromas.

Even the light roasting enhances the aromas to the maximum. However, it is rarely used in Italy because it does not produce cream and body in the cup, which we love so much in espresso.

If you want to know more about roasting click the link and read "MEDIUM ROASTED COFFEE, THAT IS GOOD EVEN WITHOUT SUGAR" >>

At this point we arrive at the extraction, which depends on: type, size of the ground, times and temperatures.

Each type of extraction, such as mocha, espresso, filter coffee, Neapolitan, French press, and many others, have different methods, grinding, times and temperatures, which affect the final bitterness in the cup.

For example, if we take the exact same coffee and use it in the different equipment, we will get a drink that is always different.

In fact, the higher the water temperature, the more the ground will burn. The same goes for the extraction times. In fact, if you pass water at 100 ° C through a panel of very fine ground coffee for a prolonged time, the risk of burning will certainly be high. If, on the other hand, you try to filter water at 80 ° C through a panel of very coarse ground coffee for a short time, you will extract fresher and sweeter notes and less bitterness.

From this it can therefore be understood that the extracted coffee will certainly be more bitter with the mocha or the Neapolitan, medium in espresso and minimal in filtered coffees.

Finally, there is a last and fundamental parameter to take into consideration: the cleaning of the equipment. This is also very simple.

Just think of a pan with oil for frying: would you use it for a month without changing the oil and cleaning it every time it is used? No, and the same goes for coffee.

If you do not clean the equipment after each use, over time, encrustations of exhausted coffee will form, which, continuing to cook, will transfer hints of burning even in the cup.

As trivial as this concept is, I still happen to go to bars and see that they don't purge the machine after each espresso and that they don't clean the group.

You know that arm in which the ground coffee is inserted and fits into the machine?

Here is what is called "group" and should be cleaned with a rag after each use and the same applies to the surface of the machine in contact with the ground, from which the water comes out. For example, if a bar that makes an average of 500 coffees a day never purges it after each espresso at the end of the day, a burnt coffee crust will have formed. Imagine how bitter an espresso prepared in that way can be!

So here is what the bitterness of coffee depends on: in part it is natural and varies according to the concentration of caffeine, to then be accentuated or not based on how the ground is cooked and how it is treated.

A delicate and pleasant dose of bitterness is a virtue, but when it becomes excessive, unpleasant and annoying it is definitely a defect. And this is where sugar comes in.

We have become accustomed to the fact that coffee is a very bitter drink, so bitter that without a softener it is almost undrinkable.

But if you try a “different” coffee than usual, never too bitter with medium roast, a week is enough to get used to drinking coffee without sugar and discover a completely new way to drink the cup and appreciate it even more.

Do you want to try drinking sugar-free coffee for the first time? I recommend the two most suitable Ernani coffees:

Martina Mazzoleni 

The best coffees, roasted to perfection and delivered where you want

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