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Lemon Vs Lime

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This post has 31 Replies | 17 Followers

Top 25 Contributor
Posts 100

Wow, that's great stuff Andrew!

Interesting, though, how most folks who have replied find lemons seemingly more sour than limes.

And you're right, "spicy" is a better way to talk about the adjunct flavors of limes than bitter (unless they are old and should be thrown out).

Top 10 Contributor
Posts 308

Yeah, agree with Erik that there's some great info there.  Don't see where it says that lemons are more sour though?!?

Seems to back-up what I thought with regards lemon just tasting sour and limes having a bit more going on.  I still find a sweetness in lime that you don't necessarily get with lemon. Tongue Tied

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Top 50 Contributor
Posts 38

I totally agree that the method of extraction affects the taste of the juice...

When I used to stop for a drink after a day shift in my last bar I'd often have a margarita. I'd always ask my colleague (a fellow cocktail geek) to cut around the core of the lime (to avoid the pith heavy core) and to squeeze the juice from the resultant wedges by hand into the glass and discard the wedges themselves (I referred to it as juicing just the cheeks of the lime). He thought I was just making him do it to take the piss (to some extent I was,-) and so one time I went to get changed and came down to find two glasses of lime juice, one pressed by hand in my pinikity way and one pressed with a citruspress/Mexican elbow. It was easy to pick one from the other in a blind taste test, the juice that was pressed in a citrus press was considerably more bitter than the hand pressed, de-cored lime juice. OK when serving people who you know care or for yourself but probably a bit OTT for "what's his name Buffets Margaritaville".


Top 25 Contributor
Posts 100

"Don't see where it says that lemons are more sour though?!?"

From my reading of Andrew's post, it sez McGee's data indicates Lemons are lower in citric acid and higher in sugar than limes, so lemons should be perceptively sweeter than limes.

Maybe it's the variety or ripeness level of lemons and/or limes that I use, but I don't necessarily find this to be the case.

Top 75 Contributor
Posts 32

My palate, tongue, mouth receptors, what have you seems to agree with Andrew's data. I find lemons to be sweet compared to limes.

Now that the new-born is no longer "new" and more importantly sleeping, I'm back at it!

Top 150 Contributor
Posts 14

I think a lot of the taste behind lemons and limes is related to time of picking. In Holland for example (where I tend bar) it's really hit and miss as to how sour or sweet citrus will be. Most of it is fllown in from tropical/sub-tropical parts of the world and because everyone seems to be more concerned with the outer appearence of the fruit, rather than the flavor side of things, it's generally picked far too early and chemically treated to bring out the ripe looking pigments of the skin. What this means is that the sugars have not had time to develop. I'm guessing that if your lemons do taste more sour than your limes, it's probably because the lemons have had further to travel than the limes and were therefore picked earlier. Thats been my general observation working with citrus fruit in this part of the world...

Top 10 Contributor
Posts 215

So let me get this straight...?

We choose the premium products, finely tune our recipies. buy and measure with teaspoons and nifty oxo cups and argue about ratios online after 10 hour shifts.

and we

a) Dont know when to use lemons or limes in the recipe.

b) do not know the difference btween lemon and lime (flavour)

c) do not know whether our fruit is ripe or not.

 And sometimes what variatons of the lime we are using.


How do we use such a great variable in most of all our cocktails? (Ooooh this will be such an interesting thread on Gullet)

I write even more of this drivel on

Top 50 Contributor
Posts 49

I find limes to be not only less sour and a bit bitter but also much more aromatic than lemons which i find more sour. I mainly use limes for rum, tequila, cachaca based drinks and lemons in say bourbon drinks. I dont usually use both limes and lemons in the same drink.

I wish i could find key limes here.

Top 10 Contributor
Posts 197


Here in Brazil the mess with the citrus fruits ´names is even bigger.

A Lime is called Limão

A Lemon is called Limão Siciliano.

A key lime is called Lima da Pérsia or just Lima (I guess you call this key lime).

And there are many others like Limão Galero, Limão Capeta (Very very sour!), Limão Cravo and dozens of variations of oranges and tangerines.

I never had a key lime in the states, so I can’t compare the tastes, but i´m guessing they are the same as we call limas. (Correct me if I’m mistaken)

As Robert said, bartender often mistake Lemons and Limes on recipes.

Also, substitution are very common when the recipe calls for lemon juice, because lemons are harder to find (and much more expensive) than limes and “Limas”. Instead of using lemon juice bartenders often use “Lima juice” which are not as bitter and not as citric as lemons. Matter of fact, Limas  are very rich in juices, sometimes they offer you more juice than oranges, and their juice is very sweet. The average lima is about the same size as an orange.

Caipilimas are a very popular cocktail here. These cocktails are prepared in the same manner as Caipirinhas. The average size lima can make up to three or four Caipilimas (lots of juice in them). The nice thing about caipilimas is that lima juice are very effective on “hiding the burn” of the alcohol. The amount of alcohol is the same as in a Caipirinha or caipiroska, but it creates an impression that there is much less alcohol. Its very easy to get drunk on those because you won’t notice the alcohol as much.


Did I get the “lima” being key lime thing right? Check the picture and let me know if I’m not right.


Top 75 Contributor
Posts 35

A couple of reasons why people perceive limes to be sweeter than lemons, even though the acid content is higher.

First, the bitterness of limes can reduce the perception of sour. The tongue prioritizes flavours. Sour indicates a general lack of sugar (unripe fruit) which is no big deal, where as bitterness can indicate toxicity. Hence, the brain will concentrate on the bitter "signal", and the acidity will play second fiddle.

Secondly, lime oils smell sweeter than lemon oils. Aroma plays a huge part in taste and it is often overlooked, but just having the aroma of something sweet can change your perception of its taste.

But really most people don't compare things on an equal footing. You'd have to taste an equal portion of lemon and lime juice, side by side, to really quantify which is more sour. I don't know anybody that's done that, so reality might be different than the perception.

Also, the Seville Orange is the most acidic citrus fruit. Puts a lime to shame.

Darcy S. O'Neil
Art of Drink

Top 50 Contributor
Posts 39

Darcy S. O'Neil:

even though the acid content is higher.

Acid content is not higher, instead sugar content is lower.



Top 200 Contributor
Posts 10

The acidity is higher too.  7 versus 5.

Top 10 Contributor
Posts 199



I don't know if I am wrong but what you call lima or lima da Pérsia looks like grapefruit - toronja to me. In Europe we call limao Tahiti lime and then we only have the lemon or limao siciliano.

Top 50 Contributor
Posts 39

Brenden Brown:

The acidity is higher too.  7 versus 5.

Ah, I missed the reference to McGee on the previous page.

You will find a lot differences among many sources. Much depends on seasonality, ripeness and variety. A number of 7 versus 5 can always be found. I believe it is better to regard limes and lemons as generally containing similar amounts of acid. And also, while pondering about the sweeter taste of a particular lime compared to a particular lemon it is better to make an assessment of those particular limes and lemons instead of using a random source which could have used different limes and lemons.


Top 100 Contributor
Posts 19

The lima de Persia is a smaller lime that contains pips.  They are commonly used all over the middle east (mainly because they are cheaper!) and are much more difficult t o extract juice from.


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