Wondering if there are tannins in coffee? Check out this helpful overview of what tannins are and how they impact the flavor of different drinks!
If coffee, tea, and wine are subjects of interest to you, you probably have heard the term tannins before. Connoisseurs of specialty beverages often talk about tannins when describing the bitterness, mouthfeel, or astringency of a drink. However, most descriptions do not go beyond this. So exactly what are tannins, are they in coffee, and how do they affect its flavor? For that matter, why does it matter?
The truth behind tannins is surprisingly complex and fascinating. Below, we are going to break down whether there are tannins in coffee and how this can change its taste! That way, you will truly understand what tannins are, how tannins work, and what their processes are when consumed and savored by the human palate.
What are tannins?
Tannin compounds are found in many organic materials and are generally astringent. They produce that dry, puckery feeling in the mouth. Tannins can be found in unripened fruit, red wine, tea, and yes, coffee. Otherwise known as “tanoids”, these are astringent molecules that bind to proteins in numerous ways and can change the acidic and alkaloid content of compounds.
The term tannin is derived from “tannum”, or, oak bark in the Anglo-Norman language. This is because, in olden times, oak bark was used to tan hides into leather. Tannin as a descriptive word is widely applied to compounds that change the hydroxyl and carbon complexes of various macromolecules.
Basically, tannins can transform the chemical makeup of different organic materials as they break down other compounds. They are astringent in taste and can enhance or detract from flavors in the culinary world.
How do tannins impact the way something tastes?
The breakdown of tannins plays an important role in various food and beverage flavors. Tannins can often be found in unripened fruit. However, as they break down proteins within fruits during the ripening process, the taste may become sweeter. This is just one example of the molecular process of tannins and their impact on organic compounds. Tannins can impact the taste of foods and drinks in many other ways as well.
From a culinary perspective, tannins are quite fascinating! Dry-tasting wine, tea, and bitter coffee all are impacted by tannins. Since tannins can bind to proteins in your saliva, drinking something with a high tannin concentration literally causes your mouth to become dryer.
Where do tannins come from?
Tannins can be derived from many different places in the natural world. Primarily, they come from plant matter. Perhaps one of the most relevant tannin-containing plants is the tea leaf. Tea has very high concentrations of tannins. These tannins have a dramatic impact on the taste of tea and how smooth it is. Coffee has about half the tannin concentration of tea.
Does Coffee Contain Tannins?
Yes, coffee contains tannins. However, the tannin levels of coffee can vary since the molecular definition of the term is so broad. Still, if you've ever tasted an over-extracted cup of coffee, you know how important of a role tannins can play in the mouthfeel of a drink! Coffee can become over-extracted from beans that are ground too fine or grounds that are left in a French press for too long. In addition to this, coffee that has been sitting on a hot plate for hours can also have this astringent “too much tannin” flavor.
Since tannins have such a broad definition, it can be hard to prove exactly how large of a role they play in coffee’s taste. While we know that coffee contains tannins, it can be very difficult to prove exactly how many tannins there are per cup. Still, when coffee is too “dry-tasting”, you can usually blame tannins and over-extraction.
Coffee also contains a compound known as chlorogenic acid. Chlorogenic acid is often classified as a tannin and can be found in unripe coffee beans.
How to Avoid Dry-Tasting Coffee?
We are so glad you asked! To avoid a dry, bitter, astringent mouthfeel from coffee, there are many things that you can do. For one thing, get high-quality 100% Arabica Bean coffee like these gourmet brews sold online and shipped direct. Arabica coffee has a smoother mouthfeel and an arguably sweeter flavor compared to Robusta coffee.
Additionally, make sure to always brew your coffee properly and at the right temperature. Never over-extract your coffee grounds! Always prepare your coffee fresh. If you REALLY hate astringent coffee, we highly recommend checking out these smooth, fresh-roasted, flavored Arabica blends. They have been designed to help even non-coffee-drinkers fall in love with Java.
Moreover, if you are pulling shots of espresso, make sure that your beans are ground to the correct consistency. Also, check the temperature of the water in your espresso maker. If you are brewing a pot of coffee in a standard drip grind electric coffee maker, opt for coarse coffee grounds and drink your coffee while it is still fresh. Finally, never leave your coffee steeping in a French press for too long. As long as you brew your coffee properly and buy great coffee beans, that bitter, astringent, dry mouth feel from tannins shouldn't be an issue.
If you do happen to like a little bit more astringency and bitterness in your coffee, you can opt for a gourmet coffee blend from a niche small-batch coffee exporter or single-origin coffee farmer. These single-origin brews have plenty of versatility with flavors that range from super smooth to bright and acidic!
Final Thoughts on Tannins in Coffee
Hopefully, this "Tannin Crash Course" has been helpful! Now you know what tannins are, how they impact the flavor of different beverages, and why they matter in the breakdown of organic compounds. The next time you are sipping tea, tasting wine, or enjoying a fresh cup of coffee, you can wow your friends with your new-found tannin knowledge!