Pantoea coffeiphila identified with MALDI TOF MS

Pantoea coffeiphila: The Bacterium Behind the “Potato Taste” in Coffee


*Pantoea coffeiphila* is a recently identified bacterial species that has garnered attention for its unique and somewhat unfortunate ability to impart a “potato taste” to Arabica coffee beans. This bacterium belongs to the genus *Pantoea*, a group known for its diverse roles in various environments, ranging from plant pathogens to beneficial symbionts.

Scientific Overview

Identification and Classification

*Pantoea coffeiphila* was identified through multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA) involving genes such as *gyrB*, *rpoB*, *atpD*, and *infB*. This analysis confirmed that the isolates from coffee seeds with a potato-like flavor represent a distinct species within the *Pantoea* genus. The bacterium is Gram-negative, rod-shaped, and was isolated from coffee cherries in regions like Burundi.

Phylogenetic Analysis

Phylogenetic trees constructed using various housekeeping genes have shown that *Pantoea coffeiphila* forms a discrete clade within the *Pantoea* genus. This supports its classification as a novel species, distinct from other *Pantoea* species known to affect plants and humans.

The “Potato Taste” Phenomenon

The most intriguing and, for coffee lovers, distressing aspect of *Pantoea coffeiphila* is its ability to cause a “potato taste” in coffee. This flavor defect is particularly problematic for high-quality Arabica coffee, which is prized for its complex and delicate flavor profile. The exact biochemical pathways through which *Pantoea coffeiphila* imparts this taste are still under investigation, but it is clear that the presence of this bacterium can significantly impact the sensory qualities of coffee.


While *Pantoea coffeiphila* may be a bane for coffee producers and consumers, it also highlights the fascinating complexity of microbial interactions with our food. As researchers continue to study this bacterium, we can hope for solutions to mitigate its impact on coffee quality. Until then, coffee lovers might want to keep an eye out for any unexpected potato notes in their morning brew.

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