In Myth #2, we learned that coffee is actually a seed from a fruit—it is not a bean. This is important to remember when addressing the third myth of coffee—that it is a bitter drink.
This doesn’t mean that brewed coffee is not ever bitter. Two primary flavor characteristics to note when drinking coffee are acidity and bitterness. The coffee bean (ahem, seed) is naturally acidic due to the fruit in which it grows. When the fruit from the coffee trees are harvested, there are two primary ways the fruit is removed. Natural processing allows the fruit to dry in the sun, while washed processing uses water and agitation to extract the seed. Typically, a natural processed coffee will taste more acidic (i.e., have more fruit-like flavors), and a washed coffee will taste less acidic. A high-quality coffee (especially those categorized as “specialty” coffee) should never taste bitter.
However, even a high-quality coffee can be made to taste bitter due to the roasting process. Another general rule of coffee is that lighter roasts will accentuate the natural acidity, while darker roasts will mask it. When a specialty coffee tastes bitter, it is usually because of the roast, not because of the bean. Cheaper coffees, like supermarket brands and many restaurant coffees, will have bitter qualities, and this is largely due to the robusta beans (more on this in Myth #1) used in these blends. Robusta is cheaper for a reason.
There is a fine line between acidity and bitterness, and many coffee drinkers don’t realize there is a difference. For the most part, acidity in coffee is a good thing—it is what the seed should contain. And while some drinkers may claim they don’t like the acidity in certain coffees, what they are really saying is that they prefer the taste of the roast to the taste of the coffee. And this is fine. In fact, this is why Thrasher Coffee has multiple roasts; not every coffee drinker likes the same coffee or the same roast level. But just as “bitter” coffee is an acquired taste, so is “acidic” coffee.
If you are a drinker that prefers bitterness to acidity and is looking for a bit of caffeinated adventure, try experimenting with other roast levels. You may not appreciate them at first, but give it a few chances with the understanding that the acidity (the fruit flavor) is part of the experience. It may take you by surprise initially, but you may also find welcome flavors in your cup. And, after all, isn’t that what gourmet eating and drinking is really all about?