High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) was applied to the analysis of caffeine, trigonelline, nicotinic acid and sucrose in Arabica and Robusta coffee. Green and roasted coffee samples were used in this study and the degradation of sucrose and trigonelline, with the formation of nicotinic acid, was followed during roasting. Caffeine did not undergo significant degradation with only 5.4% being lost under severe roasting. Sucrose was degraded rapidly during processing with light roasting producing a 97% loss and dark roasting degrading it completely. Loss of trigonelline was strongly dependent on the degree of roasting, being higher in the Robusta coffee. Trigonelline degradation was associated with nicotinic acid formation both in the Arabica and Robusta coffees as a consequence of the roasting process. Trigonelline and sucrose were determined simultaneously by partition chromatography and detection with the mass detector. Determination of caffeine was carried out using reversed phase chromatography and nicotinic acid by ion-pair reversed phase chromatography. Detection in both cases was achieved using an ultraviolet detector at 272 nm or 254 nm, respectively. HPLC showed adequate precision and accuracy for routine analyses. In addition, the methods used were more rapid and simple than traditional procedures. HPLC appears to be a suitable technique for quality control in the coffee industry, and for fundamental investigation on the mechanisms involved in the roasting process.