Coffee Aroma and Aftertaste: Everything You Need to Know

Nov 15 , 2021

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Jason Hebert

Coffee Aroma and Aftertaste: Everything You Need to Know

If you love yourself some coffee, you may have noticed a strange phenomenon when enjoying a particularly tasty cup: the aroma of that first heady wiff is totally different from the aftertaste of your first sip. What gives? The same chemicals are responsible for creating both, so why do they vary so much?

In this blog, we’ll take a deeper look at the relationship between aroma and aftertaste, and why the two don’t always go together.

Let’s dive in.

What is Aftertaste and What Causes it?

Depending on the food or beverage, aftertaste can be either a great thing or a terrible one. Generally speaking, aftertaste refers to the flavors and aromas left behind in the mouth after you swallow something. With coffee, though, the effect of an aftertaste is especially strong. Compared to other drinks, the aftertaste of coffee can really linger. In fact, the aftertaste of a shot of espresso can linger for up to 15 minutes

No matter how delicious the cup of coffee is, you’ll notice that aftertaste is never quite that good. Depending on the brew, the aftertaste may be metallic or ashy. This is because, when you experience an aftertaste, you’re not experiencing all the flavors that go into the cup of coffee itself. Instead, you’re experiencing only certain components that stick behind in the form of flavor. 

When you take a sip of coffee, these long-lasting molecules hang out in the mouth and then pass into your nasal cavity through the back of your throat. That’s why you may continue experiencing the aroma of the coffee, even after you’ve swallowed the sip. This reaction, known as retronasal olfaction, is responsible for both aftertaste and after-odors. 

The Chemicals Responsible for Aftertaste

We just mentioned that there are some molecules that like to hang out in the mouth and nose after you’ve had a sip of coffee, but what are they? Shockingly, researchers don’t actually know which molecules create the unique aftertaste of different coffee brews. 


In studies regarding the aftertaste of wine, however, researchers have found that the molecules responsible for aftertaste may be the larger and less-soluble ones in any given cup. 


What we do know about aftertaste, though, is that different flavors linger for different periods. Compounds responsible for light fruity or floral flavors dissipate first, while other molecules interact with flavor compounds in the coffee differently, causing them to linger in the mouth for longer. One specific area of interest in coffee is polyphenols, which may bind strongly to proteins on the inner surface of the mouth, and help to create a strong, bold aftertaste. 


While the science behind coffee aftertaste is still developing: one thing is certain–there’s nothing as satisfying as that first sip of a perfectly-brewed cup. To develop your palate and make each morning a little more delicious, check out our easy, convenient single-serve coffee subscriptions. What are you waiting for? Get delicious coffee delivered right to your door! Shop now.


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