A bittering agent is a flavoring agent added to a food or beverage to impart a bitter taste, possibly in addition to other effects. While many substances are bitter to a greater or lesser degree, a few substances are used specifically for their bitterness, especially to balance other flavors, such as sweetness. Notable beverage examples include caffeine, found naturally in tea and coffee and added to many soft drinks, hops in beer, and quinine in tonic water.
Bittering agents are also used as additives in detergents and other household cleaning products to prevent accidental poisoning. However, the efficacy of using bittering agents for this purpose is not conclusive.
Prior to the introduction of hops, many other bitter herbs and flowers were used as bittering agents in beer, in a mixture called gruit, which could include dandelion, burdock root, marigold, horehound (the German name for horehound means "mountain hops"), ground ivy, and heather. Also bog myrtle.
Various other substances are used, including:
Other prominent uses of bittering agents include:
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- For example, Goya Dry by Helios brewery of Okinawa