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Coffee Basics: Aroma & Aftertaste

Posted by Meera Nair on

What do you think is the second most cherished thing about coffee after its taste? Is it the caffeine or the aroma? 

We like to believe it’s the aroma of the coffee, strong, decadent, and long-lasting. 

Brew a cup of coffee in the morning, and you can bet that your whole house will smell like a café for at least the next few hours.

You’ve read almost all there is to be read about coffee basics from our blog posts. This is one of the last of this series, and we’ll explore the science behind coffee aroma and aftertaste.


The coffee fragrance is the scent that wafts from a brewed cup of coffee and is discernible through your sense of smell.

On the other hand, the coffee aroma goes one step further to include the coffee fragrance as well as the taste of coffee. Coffee aroma is not just experienced externally through smell but also retro nasally as the coffee fragrance moves up your nasal passage while you are swallowing the coffee.

It is an important factor that roasters consider in cupping coffee because aroma has such a strong influence on the flavour profile of a coffee.

Our sense of smell is a powerful channel; it can contain entire emotions and memories. Think about it, the moment someone says bakery, you can recall the sweet-buttery aroma of a vanilla cupcake, or when you’re about to head to a bookstore, you know you are going to be enveloped by that woody-biscuit scent of old book pages.

The science behind coffee aroma is that it is formed by flavour compounds contained within the coffee bean. 

As the process of roasting begins, these compounds are tapped into and released through the pores of the coffee bean.

basics of coffee aroma and aftertaste

When the ground coffee is brewed, even the hot water plays a role in eliciting coffee aroma.

Fresh coffee will always be more reflective of its aroma because the roasting and grinding have been done recently and have activated the aroma compounds.

Common words used to describe the aroma of coffee are nutty, fruity, sweet, earthy, smoky, flowery, and herby.

Our Indonesian single origin, Blue Batak depicts a spiced vanilla aroma whereas, for something a bit sweeter aroma, you should consider our Colombian single origin, Pitalito.

Aroma is not independent of other aspects of the flavour profile. It is connected to taste, body, and acidity.

A coffee that is creamy will have a rich, buttery aroma, a coffee that has a lively acidity can give off a subtle citrusy aroma, and so on.


The aftertaste is a complete sensory experience that can be felt in relation to the coffee’s aroma, flavour, mouthfeel, and body.

It is the lingering feeling you get once you’ve swallowed a mouthful of coffee. Sometimes, it could be the bitterness of a dark roast or the cloying sweetness of a coffee with dominant caramel-tasting notes.

what is coffee aftertaste

The soluble and insoluble compounds in ground coffee are extracted through the brewing process. They further mix with your saliva to produce an aftertaste.

There are always a couple of factors that contribute more to the aftertaste than others even if you can sense all of them through your taste buds and retronasal olfaction.

The aftertaste is also something that recedes gradually. If you were caught off-guard by a bright acidity, it will fade to a vague tingling sensation within a few minutes.

A lot of the aftertaste is impacted by how well-roasted and extracted the brew is. If you’ve ever been put off by the aftertaste of a coffee, it is likely because the coffee has been over-extracted or poorly roasted, making that specific combination of aroma, flavour and notes not balanced and overpowering in an unpleasant manner.

On some days, a coffee with a sweet aroma is all you need to feel better. It can be such a mood enhancer. No wonder there are even candles and perfumes with coffee-like scents.

Which aroma and aftertaste do you prefer in your coffee? Let us know in the comments.

Try out Beancraft’s single origins and blends for a wholesome experience of coffee aroma and aftertaste.

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