Research by others over the past few years has identified an estimated 25 to 30 compounds that could contribute to the perceived bitterness of coffee. But the main cause of coffee bitterness has remained largely unexplored until now, the researchers say.
"Everybody thinks that caffeine is the main bitter compound in coffee, but that's definitely not the case," says study leader Thomas Hofmann, Ph.D., a professor of food chemistry and molecular sensory science at the Technical University of Munich in Germany. Only 15 percent of java's perceived bitterness is due to caffeine, he estimates, noting that caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee both have similar bitterness qualities.
"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 says, adding that prolonged roasting triggers a cascade of chemical reactions that lead to the formation of the most intense bitter compounds.
Using advanced chromatography techniques and a human sensory panel trained to detect coffee bitterness, Hofmann and his associates found that coffee bitterness is due to two main classes of compounds: chlorogenic acid lactones and phenylindanes, both of which are antioxidants found in roasted coffee beans. The compounds are not present in green (raw) beans, the researchers note.
"We've known for some time that the chlorogenic acid lactones are present in coffee, but their role as a source of bitterness was not known until now," Hofmann says. Ironically, the lactones as well as the phenylindanes are derived from chlorogenic acid, which is not itself bitter.
Chlorogenic acid lactones, which include about 10 different chemicals in coffee, are the dominant source of bitterness in light to medium roast brews. Phenylindanes, which are the chemical breakdown products of chlorogenic acid lactones, are found at higher levels in dark roasted coffee, including espresso. These chemicals exhibit a more lingering, harsh taste than their precursors, which helps explain why dark-roasted coffees are generally more bitter, Hofmann says.
The type of brewing method used can also influence the perception of bitterness. Espresso-type coffee, which is made using high pressure combined with high temperatures, tends to produce the highest levels of bitter compounds. While home-brewed coffee and standard coffee shop brews are relatively similar in their preparation methods, their perceived bitterness can vary considerably depending on the roasting degree of the beans, the amount of coffee used, and the variety of beans used.
Some instant coffees are actually less bitter than regular coffee, Hofmann says. This is because their method of preparation, namely pressure extraction, degrades some of the bitter compounds. In some cases, as much as 30 to 40 percent fewer chlorogenic acid lactones are produced, leading to a reduced perception of bitterness, he says.
"Now that we've clarified how the bitter compounds are formed, we're trying to find ways to reduce them," Hofmann says. He and his associates are currently exploring ways to specially process the raw beans after harvesting to reduce their potential for producing bitterness. They are also experimenting with different bean varieties in an effort to improve taste. But so far, none of these approaches - details of which are being kept confidential by the researchers - is ready for commercialization, he notes.
But the researchers are optimistic that a better cup of Joe is just around the corner. Perhaps no one could be happier about the news than Hofmann, who admits that he is an avid coffee-drinker with a passion for the dark-roasted varieties.
Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University
Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences