Why Does Coffee Smell So Good?

There’s not many people who don’t enjoy the smell of coffee.

When we are out and about at local producer markets and talking all things coffee, every so often we come across people that don’t like coffee. I know, right?!?  (Just to clarify; that’s okay; we are happy to talk to tea drinkers too!) :-). Some of whom who don’t like coffee are in love with the smell, however, just not the taste.


coffee in a cooling bin


Although we can agree that the smell of freshly roasted coffee is truly remarkable; it is strange to love a scent but not a taste, and there are not many things in the world that hold this trait.

This led us to think about coffee aromas and what causes that amazing smell when you roast, grind and brew your coffee.

So, in the word of Madonna: Let’s get physical – or maybe technical is the correct word.

Raw Coffee

Have you ever seen and smelt coffee before it’s roasted? No? It’s green in colour and smells a little bit like fruity vegetables – not precisely what you have in mind for that awesome coffee smell. Green coffee doesn’t smell that inviting, nor does it taste great; it’s when we roast that the magic happens.



A Chemical Reaction

It’s a chemical reaction that causes the beans to smell and taste so great. This reaction is known as a Maillard reaction. Its name comes from the chemist who first described the reaction, Louis-Camille Maillard, in 1912.

The Maillard reaction is the term given for when starch breaks down into simple sugars, which in turn are turning brown and changing their flavour. This colour changing is known as caramelisation. Caramelisation transforms the beans in many ways, including their colour, smell and taste.


Coffee spinning in roaster drum


However, turning brown alone doesn’t mean a Maillard reaction is occurring for some foods. For example, if a peeled apple is left at room temperature for a time, it will start to turn brown. This isn’t a Maillard reaction as, although the colour has changed, the sugars haven’t caramelised. This is instead caused by the exposure to ambient air and water molecules, but that is for another day.

Maillard reactions can occur in foods such as bread, pretzels and steak. Out of all the Malliard reactions, roasted coffee is our favourite!

To roast coffee, heat and therefore, temperature is used. As the temperature increases, the beans start to develop Caffeol. Caffeol is an oil that continues to evolve as the coffee gets hotter (to around 200 degrees to be exact) and is responsible for THAT coffee smell. Wow right!? High five to Caffeol!


roasting coffee



So, you have some pretty awesome smelling coffee beans, but we all know that as soon as you grind them, you get even more of that amazing smell. Why is this?

Well, the coffee in bean form has all of the goodness and smells trapped within it. When you grind that coffee bean, all of the trapped aromatics are released into the air at once giving you a blast of amazing aromas from all of the tiny pieces of coffee you have just created. That’s why freshly ground coffee smells so much more than whole bean.


coffee being ground into a portafilter


It isn’t just the smell that escapes when you grind coffee; oh no. Unfortunately, the freshness starts to leave too.  If you want to keep your coffee fresh for as long as possible, order whole bean and grind as much as you need each time you brew.


cup of coffee on the table


If you can’t grind your coffee, then a little and often approach is the future.

So there we have it; a little insight into why your brew smells soooo good! And, let’s face it, there is nothing quite like a Sunday morning with the smell of amazing, freshly brewed coffee; even for most tea drinkers.

Ran out of coffee and need that smell this weekend? Grab some now with FREE first class delivery.


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