The aroma that fills our nose when we pass by a coffee shop or sit in a cafe is perhaps one of the most tempting aromas in the world that invites coffee fans to drink a shot of espresso or a cup of espresso. We drink coffee to enjoy its unique flavors and rich aroma.
However, it is interesting to know that green coffee beans themselves do not have much smell. So what is the aroma of coffee? How is the aroma of coffee created? Does it affect the taste of coffee? At all, what we perceive when drinking coffee, is the taste of coffee or its aroma? In the following, you may be surprised to hear our answers to these questions; But it will definitely appeal to coffee lovers.
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What is coffee aroma?
Aroma is a term derived from the Latin word aromata or the ancient Greek word ἄρωμα meaning spice or fragrant smell. Aroma is used to define a smell and specifically a pleasant scent. Many times we find that we cannot get away from the aroma of a certain object and we keep coming back to smell it again.
Maybe that’s why we crave the next cup right after we drink the last drop of our espresso. Of course, when we talk about the aroma of coffee, we mean more than just a pleasant aroma. Because we can taste what we smell through the aroma of coffee.
Since aroma is the release of flavor compounds from the coffee through the air, fresh coffee will have a much stronger aroma than old coffee. It is interesting to know that this coffee also has a better taste.
The aroma of coffee is actually responsible for many taste characteristics that are not directly perceived by the tongue. The only tastes we feel in our mouth are sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. When these flavors are combined with the aroma sensed by the nose receptors, they also affect our perception of the taste of coffee. Therefore, it can be said that the aroma of coffee is one of the most important characteristics of first-class coffee.
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Where does the coffee aroma come from?
Green coffee beans do not have much aroma. There are different ways to create aromatic coffee compounds; But all of them are usually produced as a result of the roasting process.
The Millard reaction, which is the reaction between proteins and sugars in coffee beans, plays a very important role in the production of a wide range of products. In addition, the breakdown of other compounds in coffee beans can also create aromatic compounds. In simpler words, these are the chemical reactions that create the aromatic compounds and aroma of coffee.
As you know, there are no chemical changes in the brewing and extraction part of the coffee production process. This comes down to extracting compounds from roasted coffee beans. A significant number of aromatic compounds are extracted during brewing, and this causes them to disperse in the air and feel the aroma of coffee.
In general, the aroma that can be smelled from a cup of coffee will be different due to some factors, including the roasting method, the type and composition of coffee beans, the nationality of the coffee beans, and the brewing and extraction method.
Understanding the aroma of coffee
Coffee aroma is perceived by two different mechanisms. This fragrance can be felt through the nose or mouth cavity (retronasal). Perception through the oral cavity or retronasal occurs when the coffee is in the mouth or being swallowed and its aromatic volatile compounds move upward (into the nasal passage).
Instant coffee also contains compounds that are responsible for combining the taste buds of the tongue; But its difference with fresh coffee is that it does not have aromatic volatile compounds. This significantly reduces the overall flavor of the coffee and is not to the liking of many coffee fans.
The number of aromatic compounds discovered in coffee increases every year. Today, this number has reached more than 800, and more cases may be discovered as a result of more and more detailed analysis. However, understanding the best aroma of coffee also depends on the concentration of the compound and its odor threshold (Odor Threshold).
The ratio of a compound’s concentration to its odor threshold gives the compound an “Odor Activity Value” (OAV), which measures its importance to the overall aroma. However, understanding the aroma of coffee is not as difficult as understanding how the more than 800 components of coffee interact with the olfactory epithelium (the lining of the nose). It is likely that a relatively small group of compounds that have both high concentrations and low odor thresholds make up the aroma we know as coffee aroma.
What are the chemical compounds behind coffee aroma?
When we talk about the best coffee aroma, we are specifically referring to volatile compounds or organic compounds that evaporate easily at room temperature and atmosphere. These compounds must be able to be transmitted in the air so that our nose receptors can receive and recognize them. Therefore, any compound that is large (eg, melanoidins that contribute to coffee color) has low volatility and cannot contribute to the aroma cycle of coffee.
A number of families of compounds play an important role in creating the aroma of coffee. Several compounds containing sulfur are of great importance; including 2-furfuryl thiol with an aroma that by itself is commonly described as “roasted coffee smell”.
There are also some compounds that may have a very unpleasant smell by nature; But along with other compounds, they add details and nuances to the aroma of coffee. Examples of this include methanethiol, which smells like rotten cabbage and is an important factor in flatulence.
Compounds including aldehydes, which generally add a fruity and green aroma, furans, which are responsible for the caramel-like smell, and pyrazines, which have an earthy aroma, are also among the compounds that have an effect on the aroma of coffee. Guaiacol, Phenolics, Pyrroles and Thiophenes are also considered as other compounds of coffee in low concentration.
The best coffee aroma
The best coffee aroma comes from freshly roasted beans. Because the roasting process causes the coffee to lose its flavor quickly, and this leads to its smell. Keep in mind that less smell will equal less coffee taste. If you want the best aroma, you have to get it straight from a coffee roaster; Not from store shelves. According to what has been said, it is better to prepare coffee beans and grind them at home if possible.
It is interesting to know that the aroma of coffee is one of its main characteristics, which along with acidity, sweetness, bitterness and overall taste, is used by the cupper (a professional person who tests the aroma and taste of coffee) to judge the quality of a coffee. Copper determines the quality of coffee according to the aroma cycle.
Many scents fit in this cycle. Based on the aroma cycle, coffee aromas may be described as smoky, nutty, herbal, or fruity. Many good coffees show subtle floral notes in their aroma.
For example, Yemeni mocha coffee is world famous for its fresh floral aroma. The notes are often best felt the moment the husk is broken for a cup of coffee.
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