Many of us love coffee. Whether we drink it for a boost in the morning or for the taste, coffee is a staple in our American society. But why do we enjoy this bitter drink?

Our natural evolution typically targets bitter tastes as dangerous and harmful, meaning humans shouldn’t like coffee as much as we do, but according to research, “the more sensitive people are to the bitter taste of caffeine, the more coffee they drink”. This specific sensitivity is caused by a genetic variant (“Why we shouldn’t like coffee”, 2018).

“You’d expect that people who are particularly sensitive to the bitter taste of caffeine would drink less coffee…[but] the opposite results of our study suggest coffee consumers acquire a taste or an ability to detect caffeine due to the learned positive reinforcement (i.e. stimulation) elicited by caffeine,” stated Marilyn Cornelis, assistant professor of prevention medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (“Why we shouldn’t like coffee”, 2018).

The study also explored the bitter tastes of other things, such as alcohol and quinine – the more sensitive one was to quinine, a taste related to cruciferous vegetables, would avoid coffee. Higher sensitivity to the bitterness of “PROP” results in lower alcohol consumption.

“The findings suggest our perception of bitter tastes, informed by our genetics, contributes to the preference for coffee, tea, and alcohol,” stated Cornelis (“Why we shouldn’t like coffee”, 2018).


Northwestern University. (2018, November 15). Why we shouldn’t like coffee, but we do: Weirdly, people with a higher sensitivity to bitter caffeine taste drink more coffee. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 2, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181115104603.htm