Aug 212007

Chemists Find What Makes Coffee Bitter says this Yahoo article about a LiveScience article, never mind that I can’t seem to find the original at

“Roasting is the key factor driving bitter taste in coffee beans. So the stronger you roast the coffee, the more harsh it tends to get,” Hofmann said. He added that prolonged roasting leads to the formation of the most intense bitter compounds found in dark roasts.

Oh, yeah?  These people seem to be confusing harsh with bitter.ÂThey are not the same thing, at least not in coffee. I found an actual livescience article from two years ago that gets that part right:

Bitterness comes from skimping on grounds when you brew, brewing for too long, and brewing in a pot or machine with residual grounds left from hours, days or weeks ago.

The person who wrote that knew what he was talking about.  Those are exactly the factors that make coffee bitter.  And bitter is bad.
But harshness is something else entirely. Starbucks coffee tends to be harsh.   Their school of coffee-thought has been labeled the “Burnt is better” school.  Some people like that kind of harshness.   I don’t myself, but I can understand, sort of.

The yahoo article has it partly right.  You get harshness from roasting too much.  But that’s not the same as bitter.

I wonder if that research was done by a non-coffee drinker.  I say never trust a non-coffee drinker to make your coffee.  And maybe you shouldn’t let a non-coffee drinker do coffee-taste research, either.