May 30


Learn About The Bitterness In Robusta coffee beans

By Hanson Cheng

May 30, 2023

Bitterness is a prominent issue in Robusta coffee beans, which are known for their strong taste and high caffeine content. The Robusta coffee plant (Coffea canephora) is primarily cultivated in Africa and Asia, and its beans are commonly used for instant coffee and espresso blends. Although bitterness is a desired trait for some coffee drinkers, it can negatively impact the overall quality of the coffee if the level of bitterness is too high. Understanding the causes of bitterness in Robusta coffee beans is important for coffee growers, roasters, and consumers alike.

Overview Of Bitterness In Robusta Coffee Beans

Bitterness in coffee is a well-known taste attribute in the coffee industry. It is defined as an unpleasant and harsh taste that is perceived by the tongue located in the back of the mouth. The bitterness in coffee is caused by the presence of chemical compounds, such as caffeine, chlorogenic acids, and trigonelline. These compounds are naturally occurring in coffee beans, particularly in Robusta coffee beans.

Robusta coffee beans are known to have a higher concentration of bitter compounds than Arabica coffee beans, which are preferred for their sweeter flavor. The bitterness in Robusta coffee beans can also be exacerbated by incorrect roasting and brewing methods, such as over-roasting or over-extraction. This can result in a burnt or ashy taste in the coffee. The bitterness in coffee plays an essential role in the overall taste profile of coffee and is a sign of coffee’s complexity.

The bitterness is often balanced with the sweetness and acidity of the coffee to create a desirable taste. However, too much bitterness can make the coffee unpleasant to drink. Therefore, it is essential to control the bitterness in coffee to achieve the desired taste. In the coffee industry, bitterness in Robusta coffee beans is significant because of the economic impact to the coffee market. Robusta coffee beans are less expensive than Arabica coffee beans.

They are preferred for their high caffeine content and their resistance to diseases. Therefore, Robusta coffee beans are often used in combination with Arabica coffee beans to create coffee blends that provide the desired taste and aroma. Proper management of bitterness in Robusta coffee beans is necessary to maintain the integrity of the coffee market, ensure profitability for coffee growers and roasters, and provide consumers with the coffee taste they desire.

Its Background

Robusta coffee beans are widely known for their intense and bitter flavor, which is the result of the high levels of caffeine and chlorogenic acid present in the beans. Robusta coffee is a species of coffee that originated in Central and Sub-Saharan Africa, and it is the second most commonly produced coffee species in the world after Arabica. The history of Robusta coffee dates back to the nineteenth century when it was first discovered and cultivated in Africa.

Its commercial production began in the early twentieth century, and since then, it has been widely used in coffee blends due to its high caffeine content, low cost, and resistance to diseases and pests. The bitterness in Robusta coffee beans is significant in the coffee industry for several reasons. First, it is a defining characteristic that distinguishes Robusta coffee from Arabica coffee, which is considered to have a more delicate and complex flavor profile.

Second, bitter tasting coffee has been associated with high-quality coffee by many consumers, especially those who prefer a strong and robust flavor. Third, the bitterness of Robusta coffee plays a crucial role in coffee blends, where it is often used to balance the acidity and sweetness of other coffee varieties. Fourth, the bitterness in Robusta coffee has been linked to its potential health benefits, such as reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Despite its importance, bitterness in Robusta coffee beans can also be a disadvantage.

Excessive bitterness in coffee can lead to a negative sensory experience and discourage consumers from buying and consuming coffee. Furthermore, the bitterness of Robusta coffee can be influenced by several factors, including the roasting temperature and time, the storage conditions, and the brewing method. Understanding the factors that contribute to the bitterness in Robusta coffee beans is essential for coffee growers, roasters, and producers to ensure the consistency and quality of their coffee products.

Impact on Consumer Health

Research has shown that there are potential health benefits and risks associated with bitterness in coffee. On the positive side, the antioxidants present in coffee are considered one of the primary sources of health benefits, and studies suggest that the bitterness in coffee caused by polyphenols can provide unique health advantages. Polyphenols are a group of chemical compounds present in coffee that help in reducing inflammation, protecting the liver, improving brain function, and reducing the risk of cancer and heart diseases.

Additionally, bitterness in coffee has been linked to a decrease in the risk of type 2 diabetes, as it helps regulate insulin sensitivity. However, excessive consumption of coffee, particularly with high bitterness levels, can result in negative health consequences, such as acid reflux, headaches, anxiety, and hypertension.

For some people, the bitterness in coffee can exacerbate symptoms of existing conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), making it essential to moderate the consumption and bitterness levels of coffee. Therefore, while bitterness in coffee may provide some health benefits, it is essential to balance the advantages with the potential risks and moderate coffee consumption to suit individual biological needs.


Summary of key points

The bitterness in Robusta coffee beans has been a well-established fact for many years. As highlighted in this article, several factors contribute to this bitterness, including the high caffeine content, lower acidity, and higher levels of chlorogenic acids. The roasting process also plays a vital role in the development of bitterness in Robusta coffee beans, where longer roasting times result in more bitterness.

Despite the bitterness, Robusta beans remain an essential ingredient in many coffee blends, contributing to a fuller, more robust flavor profile. However, the high bitterness levels in Robusta beans can be a significant drawback for some coffee lovers who prefer a milder taste. While several strategies exist to minimize bitterness in Robusta beans, such as using a lighter roast or blending with Arabica beans, more research is needed to identify the most effective solutions.

These efforts could benefit the coffee industry by enabling coffee roasters to create more diverse and palatable coffee blends that appeal to an increasingly global coffee market. Future research on the bitterness of Robusta beans should explore the factors that influence consumer preferences for bitter coffee, which could shed light on ways to improve marketability and expand the customer base for Robusta coffee products.

Implications of the study

The bitterness in Robusta coffee beans has significant implications for the coffee industry and future research. Understanding the factors that contribute to the bitterness of Robusta coffee beans can help roasters and baristas create better-tasting coffee. If bitterness can be reduced, Robusta coffee could become more appealing to consumers who currently prefer Arabica coffee for its milder flavor. Additionally, a better understanding of the chemical components that contribute to bitterness could inform future research into coffee breeding and genetic engineering.

One significant implication of this research is the potential for reducing bitterness through changes to the roasting process. Roasting is a critical step in the flavor development of coffee, and it can significantly impact the bitterness of the final product. By adjusting the temperature and duration of the roasting process, it may be possible to reduce bitterness while still preserving other desirable flavor characteristics.

Another implication of this research is the opportunity to breed or genetically engineer coffee plants with lower levels of bitterness. While Robusta coffee is generally considered to be a hardier crop than Arabica, its bitter taste is a significant disadvantage when trying to market it to consumers. By identifying the genes and chemical compounds responsible for bitterness, researchers may be able to develop Robusta coffee varieties with a milder flavor profile.

The implications of this research extend beyond the coffee industry as well. Many bitter compounds are associated with health benefits, such as antioxidant properties. By understanding the chemical components that contribute to bitterness in Robusta coffee, researchers may be able to develop new functional foods and beverages with potential health benefits. Overall, the implications of this research on bitterness in Robusta coffee beans are far-reaching and significant.

By understanding the factors that contribute to bitterness, it may be possible to reduce it through changes to the roasting process or the development of new coffee varieties. The potential benefits of this research extend beyond the coffee industry, with the possibility of developing new functional foods and beverages with health benefits. Further research in this area will be critical to unlocking the full potential of Robusta coffee and broadening its appeal to a wider consumer base.

Bitterness in Robusta coffee beans – FAQs

1. What causes bitterness in Robusta coffee beans?

The high caffeine content in Robusta coffee beans is responsible for its bitter taste as compared to Arabica beans, which have lower caffeine levels.

2. Can the bitterness in Robusta coffee beans be reduced?

Yes, the bitterness in Robusta coffee beans can be reduced by blending them with Arabica beans or by adjusting the roasting temperature and time.

3. Does the bitterness in Robusta coffee indicate low quality?

No, the bitterness in Robusta coffee does not necessarily indicate low quality. It is a characteristic of the beans and can be balanced with other flavors to make good coffee.

4. Is bitterness the only flavor profile in Robusta coffee?

No, Robusta coffee exhibits a wide range of flavors which include nutty, chocolatey, and earthy notes. The intensity and balance of these flavors vary depending on the roasting process.

5. Can the brewing method affect the bitterness in Robusta coffee?

Yes, the brewing method can have a significant impact on the bitterness. A French press tends to produce a more bitter taste compared to espresso or drip brewing.

6. Does the origin of Robusta coffee beans affect the bitterness?

Yes, the origin of Robusta coffee beans affects the bitterness level. Beans from certain regions, such as Vietnam, tend to have a more bitter taste due to the soil and climate conditions.

Hanson Cheng

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