Bitterness in Coffee: What Is It & Is It Always Bad?

Bitter has become a dreaded word in the specialty coffee industry. We all “know” that good coffee should be sweet and well-balanced, maybe a little acidic, and definitely not require sugar to make it palatable.

But what is it that causes coffee to be bitter – and is it always such a bad thing? Read on as we find out.

Is Bitterness Bad?

Bitterness is not always a bad thing. In fact, if your coffee had no bitterness in it all, you might find it too acidic or sweet. The key is balance. A small amount of bitterness will help to ensure complexity and complement other flavors – without being overwhelming.


And that, really, is the problem. For most of us, throughout our lives, we’ve been more likely to be served a brew that’s far too bitter rather than one that’s too sour. This trend has led to a backlash against a trait that is actually essential to good coffee.

However, there’s no doubt that excessively bitter brews are a bad thing – so let’s take a look at what bitterness really is and how we can avoid tasting too much of it in our coffee.

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