Thursday, 10 November 2016

Wake up and smell the coffee. Because science says so.


Whether you’re crushing cups before a big college exam or just trying to get through the day at work, coffee has long been our best friend in its many forms. Specialty or hot and black, we reach for coffee more than any other drink out there. The smell alone can invigorate us before we have our first sip. So what’s that all about? Well, here’s some smell science for you.

Coffee is made up of many different molecules. Depending on what’s done to the bean during roasting, they can all add up to work magic on the olfactory bulb. That’s a fancy way of saying a part of your brain that recognizes odors as being good or bad. You see, all those molecules released into the air by coffee travel through your nose to register as floral or earthy, as bitter or smooth. Caffeine, for instance, smells bitter, and that scent can instantly trigger your brain to make you feel more awake and alert.


Here’s a few others:

Furfurylthiol: A fancy name for a molecule that is believed to be the source of that coffee smell we know and love.

Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF): Offers a caramel-like sweet smell that makes people want to sip (us included).

Acetaldehyde: A flavoring additive that creates buttery notes.

Trigonelline: A cousin to caffeine, it breaks down during roasting to give coffee that roasted aroma.

Citric acid: It works with phenols to cause the bitterness of coffee as well as the dark coloration.


So what does it mean for us as coffee lovers? There’s an entire science wrapped up in that little bean. From the moment it’s harvested, it’s packed with the things it needs to smell (and taste!) amazing when it’s finished being roasted. Roasting coffee is an art form unto itself that enhances certain molecules and compounds to create the beloved undertones you love so much, not just in the aroma of your coffee but in the flavors, too.

Next time you brew your favorite cup, you’ll know why it smells so amazing.

Ready to really dive in and understand the chemistry of coffee? Head on over here, but be assured, coffee doesn’t have to be complicated. Just enjoy it.