The taste of coffee, where to start? It is such a massive subject.
We all have a particular idea about the taste of coffee, whether we drink 1 cup a week or 5 cups per day, or we drink tea!
Whatever our level of consumption there are a few main tastes that really come to mind when you mention coffee. They are some of the basics tastes, bitter, sweet, and sour (we coffee people call this one acidity, just like wine tasters).
For the non- coffee lovers of the world it is usually ‘bitter’ or the double whammy ‘burnt /bitter’. Yes, terribly negative words, and it’s hard to come up with two more powerfully descriptive words about taste. Bitter has always been associated with something which is bad for we humans. As kids we hate bitter things and for good reason as once it meant the difference between staying alive and healthy or not. We are pretty sensitive to bitterness as this taste can indicate a toxic substance. In the past people who can perceive bitterness at low levels tended to live longer.
Coffee experts understand bitterness slightly differently as it can have a negative and positive reaction in the taste of a coffee. In other words, the bitterness can help the overall enjoyment of the coffee or detract from it. Usually negative bitterness comes from poorly brewed or roasted coffee where the oils have become oxidised. A lot of people relate bitterness with Robusta coffee.
It is true that Robusta coffees are on average less acid, and less fruity in flavour than Arabica coffee, in my opinion unless the Robusta is a poor quality type or badly processed/roasted the bitterness tends to have a, more or less, low level impact in the profile. Robusta can positively add to a blend’s complexity and when used at say 10 to 15% is almost undetectable to most people.