I ate black pepper with chips from the shop and it tasted very strong(a good thing for me). I bought some black pepper from the shop however it didn’t taste the same and the label also read ‘mild’. If it’s black pepper then it should all be the same.

What is different about mild and strong black peppers in how they are processed that makes one stronger or milder than the other? How can I ensure I get a strong one?

Does it have anything to do with the number of black to white bits, it seems to me the more black bits the stronger the taste though I could be wrong.

  • This article may be slightly relevant. Also pepper can lose its properties on exposure to air.
    – hrkrshnn
    Apr 15, 2019 at 16:49
  • Usually how recently it's been milled makes a big difference. I buy peppercorns, $3.50 for 10 or 12 oz in the Arabic or Vietnamese stores, and grind them on my corn mill's finest setting. Best, most flavorful pepper ever. Let it sit around powdered for a year, and you've got garbage like the cheaper brands at the grocery stores. Apr 17, 2019 at 0:49
  • Beside treatment and freshness, every plants will vary in composition, depending on origin, season, and so on. Not all bananas are the same, even when of the same type.
    – Alchimista
    Apr 17, 2019 at 9:43

2 Answers 2


There are really only two main varieties of black pepper, Tellicherry and Malabar. They are processed the same, and in general (though you might tell a difference in a side by side comparison) have the same flavor profile. What could easily change the flavor and/or "spiciness" is freshness of the spice, and the grind (both how coarse/fine, and how recently the pepper was ground). Further, heating the pepper in a pan before grinding, also brings out more flavor. It also turns out that terroir is a factor in the flavor and aroma of pepper. So, where your pepper comes from certainly impacts your experience. The coloration is simply a composition of the inside and outside of the seed itself when it is ground and mixed.


Peppercorns are a small fruit. When processed, the green skin turns black and the flesh of the fruit remains white. Both the skin and the flesh contain piperine, which is the chemical that causes the heat of pepper. Wikipedia that black pepper is about 5–10% piperine and white pepper slightly more. It doesn't say how much more, so I assume the difference between black and white pepper is smaller than the variation within black pepper.

It's possible that specialist sellers will have hotter and less-hot peppers. Other points are:

  1. Don't use pre-ground pepper. The exposed surface of the ground pepper starts to lose flavour compounds, by evaporation and chemical decay, especially if it's finely ground. As with any spice, freshly grinding it yourself will give the most flavour.

  2. Grind size is important. Finely ground pepper will release more flavour because it has much more surface to transfer that flavour through. On the other hand, coarsely ground pepper will give you those little hits when you bite into a chunk. It might even be best to use both: fine-ground for background and coarse for the zings.

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