Coffee is an aromatic drink. From the moment you open the bag to when you're pouring that deliciously dark brown liquid into your cup, coffee has a way of filling up spaces with its rich aromas.
And if something smells good enough to eat, then chances are it tastes even better! So what makes coffee so special? Why do we care so much about these "coffee aromas" anyway?
Let's take a look at why this hot beverage is such a connoisseur's delight and exactly how they affect our taste buds (and noses) throughout this process.
First let's explain how coffee aromas develop!
Development of coffee aromas
Coffee is one of the world's most popular beverages, accounting for up to two-thirds of all caffeine consumed worldwide. Over 400 chemical components contribute to its flavor and aroma.
During roasting, these develop into a range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that determine the aroma of the roasted coffee, giving it what many consider to be its most appealing feature. This is why variations in roasting are perhaps the easiest way for baristas and home-coffee roasters to change a blend's flavor profile.
The roasting process is responsible for giving your new favorite drink its rich flavor and intoxicating scent. When you roast coffee beans at very high temperatures (usually above 390°F), the heat basically turns certain chemical compounds in the green coffee beans into new ones, making it easier to produce new flavors.
During this process, there are several different chemicals are released as these compounds break down. Think of them as building blocks for aromatic molecules!
Now here's where things get cool: During the roasting process, these newly produced aromatic molecules rise up into our noses thanks to physics!
When you take a whiff of freshly ground coffee beans or the air surrounding your mug of joe, you're actually taking in all these complex aromas.
When you sip on your coffee, these aromas are released again as the liquid hits your tongue and warms it up. This makes them easier for our brains to process by triggering our olfactory refreshment.
The best part is that this whole thing happens within seconds, making every cup of coffee a brand new experience! Many roasters insist that a coffee bean has around a million cells. When roasting more than 1,000 different compounds arise in these cells. These are the so-called aromas, of which only about 850 are known!
As scientists continue to discover more aromatic chemicals in coffee beans, they're also trying to develop better ways to help us break down all of these flavors and smells even further using technology.
For example, a group of scientists at UC-Davis developed something called a "Flavor Tripping Berry." The berry itself contains a chemical called miraculin which "tricks" your taste buds into perceiving sour foods as sweet. Using this same technology, scientists are trying to create an "aroma-tripping" stone that would cause your brain to perceive aromas as tastes!
Why coffee aromas matter
So then what makes coffee so different from other aromatic drinks? Why do we care about its complex flavors and smells so much?
For one thing, coffee drinkers the world over take the time to savor their morning cup of joe. And because it warms up our sense of smell before anything else, coffee has a way of waking us up in more ways than one.
Coffee's unique flavor profile is also what gives it such strong associations with certain people, places and events. We all have that one friend who only wants to go out for fancy cocktails and we all have that one friend who only wants to go out for coffee and good conversation.
For some people, it's the smell of fresh ground beans in the morning that gets them started on their day or fills them with a sense of comfort and home. And for others, drinking coffee is more than just a habit; it's part of many traditions and even rituals.
People love coffee for its unique taste, warmth and satisfying "kick," but they also love it for its rich aromas. Some love their blonde roasts, some love their dark roasts.
And when you think about it, what could be better than enjoying all these things at once? Whether you're drinking your favorite cup alone or sharing it with friends (or both!), that first sip is like experiencing a whole new world of smells and tastes.
And what a beautiful world it is.
The future of coffee aromas and flavors
Coffee aroma and flavor is the result of a complex chemical network, in which several thousand different volatile compounds play a role. Several hundred of these have been identified to date. Also, many unknown compounds remain present in coffee.
This complexity represents both a challenge and an opportunity for researchers and professionals dealing with coffee roasting or beverage preparation: choosing amongst the large number of possibilities offered by nature demands extensive knowledge, but also affords the possibility to design products through creative use of new components according to specific target profiles.
The number of publications on coffee aroma and flavor is increasing rapidly, as it should be expected in a dynamic sector such as that of coffee. This explosion is due to scientific advances which have made the investigation of coffee possible, but also because it offers an excellent business opportunity: flavored coffees and aromatic experiences with coffee are growing exponentially worldwide.
So if you are a coffee lover make sure to keep an eye on all the trends and innovations that are coming!
After reading this blog post, you may want to try something new in the morning. We hope that we were able to give you some interesting information on why coffee aromas matter and how they can affect our moods and purchasing decisions.
If so, please read our article about how roasting affects the taste of coffee for a delicious start to your day or afternoon!