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Smell how good your coffee tastes!

April 24, 2019

Achieving the perfect cup of coffee is as much about smell as it is about the mouth taste, the water temperature and the brewing method. 

When something ‘tastes’ great, like that first sip of coffee in the morning, there’s so much more going on than the flavour on your tongue.  The aroma of our coffee is everything.  In fact, as much as 80% of what we ‘taste’ is actually what we’re smelling.  We can smell through both the nose and the mouth.

The true flavours of coffee are in the aromas

The taste buds on our tongues can discern five basic flavour categories:

  • Sour
  • Sweet
  • Salty
  • Bitter
  • Umami (savoury flavour)

But via smell, through our noses and the roof of our mouths, we are able to sense up to 10,000 different types of aroma molecules that are carried through the air from our food and drink.  It’s these aroma variations that form the essential elements of what we think of as flavour, or taste.  With coffee alone there are huge variations of flavour.  The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has produced a flavour wheel that lists nine basic aromas:

  • Roasted
  • Spicy
  • Nutty / cocoa
  • Sweet
  • Floral
  • Fruity
  • Sour
  • Fermented
  • Green / vegetative

Beneath these top level categories are a further 28 sub-categories of aroma - things like “brown sugar” and “nuttiness”.  Beneath these are a further 73 aroma category refinements - for example “nutmeg” or “honey”.  However, the simple truth is, you can’t detect any of these subtle flavours without your sense of smell.

As an experiment, the next time you brew your favourite coffee, take a sip.  Then before swallowing, hold the coffee with your mouth slightly open, and really explore what’s happening with the taste sensations.  You may detect many things: roasted flavour, nuttiness, sweetness, maybe even fruity flavours.  Next, take another sip, but hold your nose, blocking both nostrils and repeat the exercise, this time with your mouth closed.  You’ll find the difference in what you’re tasting is astonishing.

Have you ever wondered why coffee doesn’t taste so good on the move?

You’ve probably noticed that coffee drunk from a disposable cup, or travel mug, rarely tastes as good as coffee from a mug at home?  Even if you’ve bought it from your favourite coffee shop, where they usually serve a fine cup of coffee.  That’s because, when you buy your coffee to go, you’re usually drinking it with a lid on, sipping through a hole in the lid.  Apart from being an annoying and somewhat unsustainable way to drink coffee (if using a single use take-away cup), it’s also stopping the lovely aroma from the coffee reaching your nose and mouth.  

Which is why we strongly recommend the Kinto Travel Tumbler and the rCUP as great ways to take your coffee on the go.  Both cups have been designed with aroma release in mind.  The 360 degree drinking experience achieved with both of these travel mugs ensures that you’re getting all the wonderful aromas as you drink.  So, the Spiller & Tait coffee drunk from these mugs should taste just as good as it does from your favourite mug at home!

Learn more about coffee taste and aroma here.





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