What is the smell of coffee?


23:35 22/09/2022

CFRR – Coffee is a popular drink all over the world and sometimes drink coffee without the smell of coffee. So, what is the smell of coffee?

The meaning of the sense of smell in enjoying coffee 

Coffee has become one of the most popular and popular beverages on over the world. In addition, coffee contributes to economic development in some countries with large output. In this 3rd wave, the trend of enjoying a cup of coffee is also much different, so specialty coffee is growing fastly. But the main reason for the development of coffee is due to the taste it brings to users, and users have determined to drink coffee to enjoy those flavors, not just to tolerate caffeine.

Smell the aroma in the coffee cup. Photo: stock.adobe

 We perceive flavors clearly through our senses. We attracted to strong, familiar, or distinctive flavors. Moreover, emotions also play an important role in the cognitive process built up in previous experiences by the interaction of the senses. Among five senses, the smell is the most important in that the consumer can enjoy a cup of coffee full of different aromas…

The aroma of a cup of coffee has combined from the chemical bonds contained in the coffee bean likes all the user’s feelings. Fragrance can be affected by genetic factors such as plant variety, plant height, climate, soil, weather, harvest, processing, roasting, grinding, extraction, etc.

The aroma in coffee is how the smell in coffee has perceived by us, the epithelium of the olfactory bulb. The area is in the upper part of the nasal cavity that contains the nerves to allow us to smell. The olfactory cells will receive the odor stimuli, transfer those stimuli to the olfactory bulb, the medial cells will transfer the impulses from the olfactory bulb through the olfactory bulb to the olfactory centers in the cerebral cortex. Here the scents will be analyzed and remembered for a long time. This process is known as aromatic VOCs (volatile substances) having released.

The aroma in coffee

In 1880 one German scientist named Bernheimer discovered several aromatic volatile substances in coffee that set the stage for the development of odor compounds in coffee bean. In 1926 saw the first significant level of progress when Reichstein and Staudinger identified and patented a number of important aroma-producing active compounds in coffee, particularly technical advances in analysis that led to a rapid increase in the number of coffee aromas and volatile compounds. There have been more than 1000 compounds present in green and roasted coffee published worldwide.

The aromatic compounds in coffee are transferred from liquid to gaseous at different temperatures and have divided into four types:

– Dry incense: are chemical compounds that are gaseous at room temperature.

– The aroma of coffee comes from the gases released on the surface of the coffee cup.

– Derived from the nose: is a form of vapor trapped by binding with liquid or solid in coffee, then released when put into the mouth.

– Aftertaste: the taste is developed from coffee and remains in the palate.

What is the smell of coffee?

The smell of coffee that we can smell is the aroma from the substances in that coffee bean through the sense of smell. Some compounds can create the coffee aroma, included 2-furfurylthiol have described as “coffee aroma” roasted coffee, aldehydes give a fruity aroma, furan gives an earthy or pyrazine aroma, guaiacol and phenolic compounds gives a smoky and spicy undertone, which at different degrees of roasting creates aroma. You can learn more about the different flavors and senses of those aromas in the article Taste of Coffee at Common Roasting Levels. The nature of coffee beans is that they are the seeds of a ripe fruit, so that, they will have a certain sweetness, and the difference in aroma is what attracts users around the world about this bean.

Some substances create aroma in coffee. 
Photo: compoundchem.com

With the tradition of drinking black coffee or iced milk roasted at a medium to dark level, the aroma of coffee beans will mainly be caramel, chocolate, roasted beans, spices, or smoke. Besides, typical manual brewing methods such as pour-over coffee beans will often roasted at a light to medium light level. This will help drinkers enjoy aromas such as floral and fruity aromas. The confusion arises when the strong familiar scents in the dark roast impress the users for a long time, up to the present time when lightly roasted coffee beans are getting more attention. The richness of smell and taste in coffee is expanded even more with scents ranging from floral, fruity, herbal, nuts, chocolate, caramel, vegetable to spice, taste, and salty foods.

The smell of coffee at light roast level is very rich with many different notes. Photo: Freepik

The aroma of coffee has a close relationship with the taste and acidity of coffee. Coffee with high acidity will have a sour aroma or a coffee with a rich flavor will show its aroma. The quality of flavor in coffee beans also depends on factors of origin, altitude, processing method, degree of roasting, and preparation method. For example, coffee grown in African countries has a distinctive fruity flavor, high acidity, maybe tomato or grape-like, bright, and a bit sweet. In Ethiopian area, coffee has a fruity aroma, sweet, chewy, milder acidity, sometimes with more flavors of strawberry or blackberry. In Costa Rica or Honduras there is more balanced aroma, can be apple, cherry, more crisp acidity.


The richness of coffee flavor is something that all coffee lovers must recognize. However, bold notes with high intensity often make a stronger impression than bright scents with light intensity. From a sensory perspective, the flavor of coffee is rich, diverse, and subtle without encapsulating strong notes.


Chahan Yeretzian, Sebastian Opitz, Samo Smrke and Marco Wellinger. 2019. CHAPTER 33. Coffee Volatile and Aroma Compounds – From the Green Bean to the Cup: Production, Quality and Chemistry

www.compoundchem.com/2015/02/17/coffee-aroma. SCAA The Coffee Cupper’s Handbook


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