Strong coffee and bitter coffee. Are they the same?

We all have been there. As a matter of fact, I get asked the question, “Is this coffee strong?” I’m not quite sure if the question is asking me if the coffee is bitter or does the coffee have a lot of caffeine. But I digress. I, Darrin the Coffee Guy, believe wholeheartedly that coffee doesn’t have to be bitter; at least not to the point where it has to be loaded down with sugar and cream.  HOWEVER, after I give it a quick thought , I understand the question. That person is probably wondering about the level of bitterness of the coffee. If it’s my stuff, the bitter coffee issue shouldn’t be a worry! Let me give an explanation of why coffee tastes bitter. Sometimes.

bitter coffee

Bitter coffee. Explained through science.


Don’t feel embarrassed if you didn’t know this information, I was there once too. The only difference is that you probably have A LOT better things to do than reading scientific papers about coffee!

  • Our senses are confused by the smell of hot coffee, this confusion results in less bitter tasting coffee. However boiling water (Explains the Americano drinker, they usually take this espresso and hot, not boiling, water drink black),
  • Caffeine content generally is responsible for a very low level of bitterness in coffee, around 10%. Most believe the opposite.
  • Even though a coarse grind generally results in reduced bitterness, French Pressed coffee has been known to become bitter. (Here’s info on that right here.)
  • Coffee with higher levels of acidity as well as both medium roasted and decaf (I really didn’t want to give decaf “props”) coffee will have a less bitter flavor.
  • Adding salt to your cup of coffee will reduce levels of bitterness. (Now THAT is pretty cool!)

I could go on, but to do so… Well, just one more. Either hard or soft water will reduce bitterness, while distilled water has been attributed to bitter brew as well. I certainly didn’t see that one coming.

This brief overview will whet your whistle enough to want to take a leap and read the various papers presented at the Association International Scientific Colloquium on Coffee – Chemical Analysis and Composition. You can find all of the papers via the ASIC website. Feel free to reach out to me if you want to talk Coffee Science. All of, well most of the papers were definitely interesting reading material. (And you thought all we did was make fancy designs in milk!) I’m just sayin’.