Everything about the coffee aroma

There are smells and scents that are rightfully part of the collective experience of society.

It is now well established that olfactory sensations are at the foundation of our memory; even more than sounds and images, scents most easily bring past memories and sensations along with their emotions, passions and impressions to mind.

Our individual history is, therefore, closely linked to the aromas that pass through our days, and smell, long the least considered of the senses, has been much revalued even in scientific research against terrible memory-impacting diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

➡️ One is the smell many of us instantly recognise: coffee’s aroma.

The 1000-year history of coffee

The history of coffee is intriguing and complex. Its origins trace back to the Kaffa province in Ethiopia, where the shrub’s leaves and berries were first discovered for their invigorating properties.

Legend has it that a shepherd noticed his goats grazing energetically even at night after consuming these plant parts, leading him to discover the amazing properties of coffee.

Over the centuries, the aromas of coffee have travelled the world, from the Arab world of medieval times to the enterprising Venice of the 1500s, with stops in Malta and Sicily along the way.

Today, coffee culture is diverse and unique to each region and country, with various aromas, flavours, and experiences. From the earthy brews of traditional coffeehouses in the Middle East to the complex and nuanced flavours of speciality cafes in North America, coffee continues to inspire and captivate people around the globe.

The different aromas of each coffee bean type

Are you curious about the different types of coffee and their unique aromas? Allow me to take you on a sensory journey through the world of coffee.

Let’s start with Arabica, the most common type of coffee. This variety thrives in high-altitude regions and requires ample water for cultivation. Arabica beans have a naturally lower caffeine level than their robusta counterparts, which results in a mild taste with fewer bitter notes. When brewed, the aroma of Arabica coffee is often described as sweet, floral, and fruity.

Now, let’s move on to robusta coffee. This variety is full-bodied, creamy, and rich, with a higher caffeine content than Arabica. Its bold and intense flavour lingers on the palate longer, and while it has less oil than Arabica, a master roaster can bring out the aromas and flavours as much as possible. The aroma of robusta coffee is often described as earthy, nutty, and chocolaty.

But why settle for just one type of coffee when you can experience the best of both worlds with blends?

Combining Arabica and robusta’s unique characteristics creates a world of blends, ready to satisfy every palate and request. With blends, the aroma is often a delightful mix of both floral and earthy notes.

Roasting: an ancient craft

Coffee roasters play a crucial role in the coffee industry, as they bring out the best in coffee beans and create the perfect brews that we enjoy at cafes or at home.

Roasting is the process of slowly heating oil seeds, such as coffee beans, to dehydrate them. Over time, roasting has become an art form, with ancient traditions and knowledge passed down from master roasters to apprentices.

A skilled roaster can create a unique and special aroma for each cup of coffee by carefully dosing times and temperatures, selecting the best origins and varieties of beans, and balancing a myriad of variables to produce a work of rare taste and olfactory complexity.

Roasting is a craft that requires a great deal of knowledge and intuition, and the possibilities for creating new combinations and blends are endless.

Coffee aroma: evocations and sensations

On the taste of coffee, the world is divided. Still, on its aroma, the consensus is almost unanimous: warm, enveloping, and rich, there are very few who do not appreciate it.

Like an impressionist painting, the aroma of coffee is composed of an infinity of notes and colours, overlaps and interactions. Savouring its complexity is an art and a pleasure that can be honed with time and study, and like all arts, it depends very much on personal preference.

Coffee is an intensely aromatic beverage that can develop as many as 800 volatile substances through roasting.

The aromas that can be found by bringing the nose close to a cup of coffee are complex; to single out some of the most common, we can talk about the following:

Floral aroma: it is not for nothing that we discuss bouquets regarding perfumes. This subtle, fresh, spring-like aroma is typical of Brazilian coffees.

Citrusy: all the sprint of lemon, mandarin or orange, with the notes of the essential oils contained in citrus peels. One immediately perceives this citrus note on the nose, which lingers long on the palate. It is most easily found in washed Arabica coffee from Peru and Costa Rica.

Fruity: sweet and mild is one of the most sought-after aromas: it comes from the hot climates of the African continent, from countries such as Congo and Uganda, but also Madagascar, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Togo and Cameroon.

Passito: takes the sweetish note of the fruitiness and takes it to the extreme. An enveloping, warm and fascinating sensation, it brings back the ripe figs and dates flavour.

In coffee, the passito aroma takes the sweet fruitiness to the extreme, resulting in an enveloping, warm, and fascinating sensation that brings back the flavour of ripe figs and dates.


Vanilla: among nature’s most powerful scents, the aroma of vanilla is also rediscovered in the coffee tone. A welcoming scent that smacks of tradition.

Nuts: the scent of roasted hazelnuts, walnuts and pine nuts, with their powerful essential oils unleashed in the aftertaste, invites one sip after another.

Cocoa: among the aromas, one of the most recognisable, the hint of cocoa immediately brings to mind hot chocolates and comforting sensations. Among the most popular pairings, cocoa and coffee form an idyllic union.

Caramel: the bitterness enhances the sweetness, the unexpected flavour that overwhelms the senses. The aroma of caramel may not be for everyone, but it is certainly among the most complex.

Toasted bread: reminiscent of the smell of international breakfasts such as village bakeries, the aroma of toasted bread conjures up a hint of burning that lingers in the mouth for a long time.

Spicy: enveloping and surprising at times is the aroma of coffee, and we find nutmeg, cardamom, ginger or saffron. There is a long tradition in the East of spicing coffee, from Bedouin tents to Arabian souks.

Precious wood: the aroma of cedar and oak, an ancient scent.

Tobacco: an aroma that brings you back to the earth and its products. Warning: it can be addictive!

Sandalwood: full-bodied and persistent, this aroma is almost meditative, and its relaxing power aids concentration.

Incense: recalls the atmospheres of the Indies, the aroma of incense and, with one sip, takes us to distant and fascinating lands.

Biscuit: the aroma of butter and sugar, a scent that coats the mouth and takes us back to childhood.

Honey: a good coffee can also have an aroma of honey, a scent between floral and sugar, sweet and fresh at the same time.

Malt: Malt has a sour flavour and is almost reminiscent of the aroma of craft beers; in its complexity, it is suitable for stronger palates.