Acids in brewed coffees: Chemical composition and sensory threshold

Christina J. Birke Rune, Davide Giacalone, Ida Steen, Lars Duelund, Morten Münchow, Mathias Porsmose Clausen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Coffee brewed on light, and very light-roast coffee beans have emerged as a recent trend among specialty coffee drinkers. The acidity of such light-roast coffee, and coffee in general, is an important sensory characteristic, as there is demonstrated a clear correlation between the roast level and perceived acidity in brewed coffee. The acidity is believed to be strongly linked to the content and composition of organic acids in coffee. Still, there is limited literature on acid content in brewed coffee and on the relevance of specific acid concentrations to sensory perception. In this study, we determined concentrations of acids and sugars in French-press brewed specialty coffee. We used varying roast degrees in the light to very light range using five coffees from different geographical locations (Brazil, Bolivia, and Kenya) and determined the sensory detection threshold and recognition for selected acids. The concentration of all individual acids except one (formic) either significantly decreased (citric, malic, and chlorogenic acid) or increased (acetic, lactic, phosphoric, quinic, and glycolic acid) systematically with an increasing roast degree, while no systematic trends were found between the different coffee samples. The sugar content decreased with an increasing roast degree. The sensory detection threshold for malic, acetic, and lactic acid was determined to be above the actual concentration of said acids in the coffee and just below for phosphoric acid, indicating that these compounds are unlikely to individually be perceived in coffee. Only citric acid can be clearly detected in the threshold test (not identified by experts in coffee) in concentrations above the measured concentrations, as the detection threshold was below (
Original languageEnglish
Article number100485
JournalCurrent Research in Food Science
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 27. Mar 2023


  • Coffee
  • Organic acids
  • Brew
  • Roasting
  • Origin
  • Sugar
  • C. arabica
  • Sensory
  • Detection threshold


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