Structure determination and sensory analysis of bitter-tasting 4-vinylcatechol oligomers and their identification in roasted coffee by means of LC-MS/MS

J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Mar 7;55(5):1945-54. doi: 10.1021/jf0632280. Epub 2007 Feb 2.


Aimed at elucidating intense bitter-tasting molecules in coffee, various bean ingredients were thermally treated in model experiments and evaluated for their potential to produce bitter compounds. As caffeic acid was found to generate intense bitterness reminiscent of the bitter taste of a strongly roasted espresso-type coffee, the reaction products formed were screened for bitter compounds by means of taste dilution analysis, and the most bitter tastants were isolated and purified. LC-MS/MS as well as 1-D/2-D NMR experiments enabled the identification of 10 bitter compounds with rather low recognition threshold concentrations ranging between 23 and 178 micromol/L. These bitter compounds are the previously unreported 1,3-bis(3',4'-dihydroxyphenyl) butane, trans-1,3-bis(3',4'-dihydroxyphenyl)-1-butene, and eight multiply hydroxylated phenylindanes, among which five derivatives are reported for the first time. In addition, the occurrence of each of these bitter compounds in a coffee brew was verified by means of LC-MS/MS (ESI-) operating in the multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) mode. The structures of these bitter compounds show strong evidence that they are generated by oligomerization of 4-vinylcatechol released from caffeic acid moieties upon roasting.

MeSH terms

  • Caffeic Acids / chemistry
  • Catechols / analysis*
  • Catechols / chemistry*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Coffea / chemistry*
  • Coffee / chemistry
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Molecular Structure
  • Seeds / chemistry*
  • Taste*


  • Caffeic Acids
  • Catechols
  • Coffee
  • caffeic acid