Even those who hate the taste of coffee will admit that the smell of a freshly brewed cup can be amazing. But how can something that smells so good have such a bitter and unpleasant taste? MSN explains in “Why coffee smells better than it tastes” that the mystery lies in human biology.

hot coffee and coffee beansCentral to understanding how coffee can taste so different than it smells, is the fact that the five senses that everyone is familiar with are more complicated than they seem. In particular, although we tend to define our “sense of smell” as scents we inhale, it is also affected by our sense of taste and the scent we exhale. Taste and smell are actually closely entwined; people who have lost their sense of smell will notice that foods taste much blander. Likewise, when something like coffee smells so good it can offset the bitter taste, but only to a certain extent.

Because of that complexity, the pure aroma of freshly brewed coffee is perceived quite differently when actually tasted. The taste is never quite as satisfying as the pure aroma, partly due to the fact that much of coffee’s flavor is affected and changed by chemical interactions with saliva.

Sadly, although this explanation makes sense, it does mean that the experience of drinking coffee will never quite match up to that divine smell. At least coffee aficionados and non-coffee drinkers alike are still able to enjoy the scent, even if not everyone is a fan of the flavor.