Can Coffee Taste As Good As It Smells?

Does coffee smell better than it tastes to you? This is a common experience for everyone who drinks coffee, whether they love coffee or not.  I always think about walking down the aisle at a grocery store and taking in that rich full sweet coffee aroma…the thing about that is I definitely know those coffees don’t taste great.

But when I see the idea presented that coffee doesn’t taste as good as it smells, my reaction is …

What the heck are you talking about?

My coffee smells amazing and tastes amazing. And it tastes quite a lot like it smells.

On a recent episode of Coffee Lovers Radio, with guest Aaron Barthel of Intrigue Chocolates, we explored the likely culprits of this particular experience.

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One point about this idea is that it’s true no matter how good the coffee is, it will taste different than it smells, even if only a little bit. 

This is quite simply because the sensory experiences of tasting and smelling coffee are different. There’s also the factor that the aroma of coffee while you are tasting it will be perceived differently because of the dynamics of having that coffee in your mouth.

Many articles have been written about this subject – and for the most part even the scientific point of view is vague. The best people seem to come up with is that saliva breaks down a huge number of the aromatic and flavor compounds of coffee (but this is really no surprise).

Here’s my perspective:

Coffee can indeed taste as good as it smells. I know this because I enjoy this feature of well made high quality coffee every single day. This is one of the core experiences to have which pulls you towards coffee connoisseurship.

MOST coffee experiences in the world are dealing with coffee that is…

  • Lower quality
  • Roasted dark
  • Brewed poorly

Dark roast coffee often has a rich, luxurious, alluring aroma (particularly of the dry roasted coffee) – and then when that coffee is brewed it’s bitter, harsh, burnt, acrid, and any number of other terrible taste and aroma experiences which you don’t pick up on in it’s roasted form.

(There are some key aroma and visual cues you can pay attention to in order to judge the quality level of a roast, but that’s for another article)

This is why so often coffee has milk and sugar added to it – these components mask bitterness, smooth out harshness, and actually make the drink warm and inviting instead of assaulting to the senses.

It’s from this experience that coffee indeed does smell far better than it tastes.

However, if you understand the concepts of WHY that is the case…

  • The quality of the green coffee matters
  • The quality of the roast and it’s degree matters
  • The quality of the brew and the method matter

Then you can start to understand how coffee CAN taste as good as it smells.