Why Does Coffee Smell Like Cigarettes? Sense of Smell Facts

Coffee and cigarettes. Many may see them as the perfect fit together, but in actuality, they are so different. As a result, when drinking coffee, some may actually taste or smell cigarettes from their drink and may be repelled by it. Why does coffee smell like cigarettes?

Coffee may smell like cigarettes because both are products of burning and may share similar chemical compounds that produce a similar smell. The brewing process of coffee and the burning of tobacco may also release similar chemicals into the air. Lastly, people may associate cigarettes and coffee together psychologically.

This article explores why coffee smells and tastes like cigarettes to some people and if there is a scientific basis for it. 

Does Coffee Contain Tobacco?

Regular coffee does not contain tobacco, although brewing coffee may release chemical compounds similar to burning tobacco. As a result, some may smell similar things and think coffee may contain tobacco.

As much as it may sound odd, people may think there’s tobacco in coffee. This is because coffee can taste and smell like cigarettes to some, and this also means tobacco. 

However, there is no tobacco in common coffee. Coffee is a drink made from the roasted seeds of the coffee fruit. Tobacco is instead a leafy plant. The leaves are then dried, smoked, chewed, or used to make products such as cigarettes and cigarillos.

Tobacco does not dissolve in coffee, nor is it common to try to combine both together. If there is tobacco in coffee, you would be able to detect nicotine, an active stimulant in your coffee.

Coffee in itself already has caffeine, another stimulant drug. If you add nicotine to it, it may be too much for many coffee drinkers. 

Speaking of caffeine, feel free to check out our review on the best decaf Kona coffee and the best decaf low acid coffee if you prefer to taste delicious coffee without the caffeine.

Why Does Coffee Smell Like Cigarettes?

Coffee may smell and taste like cigarettes due to similar chemical compounds being released while brewing and burning tobacco leaves. Many have also related the two together, usually by either smoking and drinking coffee or watching people do that. 

You are not alone if you have noticed how coffee and cigarettes smell and taste similar. Many people do think the same, and there are several scientific and psychological explanations for why coffee may taste and smell like cigarettes:

Beans and Cigarettes Are Products Of Burning

Raw coffee beans are roasted, which means they are technically heated and burned. Once done, the beans are cooled, which causes chemical changes inside the bean. The smell and taste of coffee come from this process.

The smell of coffee comes from the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released when the beans are roasted. Some volatile organic compounds are similar to the ones found in burning tobacco.

For example, coffee beans usually contain pyrazines, which are also in cigarettes. This, in the end, may make you think that coffee smells like a stick of smoke.

Brewing Coffee & Burning Tobacco Release Similar Chemicals

You may notice the aroma and great smell wafting to your nostrils when you brew coffee. To some of us, the smell may remind us of cigarettes. 

This is because, during the brewing process, the coffee grounds are heated to a high temperature. This causes the VOCs inside the coffee to be released into the air. 

You may assume the same process happens when you burn a cigarette. When tobacco is heated, VOCs are also released into the air. The only difference is that cigarettes are burned, while coffee is exposed to hot water.

Coffee and cigarettes may release similar VOC when exposed to heat, which may register to your nose as a similar smell. As a result, you may think that coffee smells like cigarettes.

You Are Drinking A Dark Roast Coffee

Dark roast coffees are basically beans that have been subjected to high-temperature roasting in the roaster for an extended period of time. 

Some coffee roasters may roast their coffee dark to make the flavor bold and strong. Dark roast coffees also may make good espresso. Some coffee drinkers also enjoy dark roasted coffee, as they like its smoky taste

Since dark roast coffee is roasted for a longer time, that means it may have more VOCs inside them. As a result, when you brew them, more of these VOCs may be released into the air, meaning you will smell a stronger hint of cigarette smells. 

If you prefer less cigarette taste and smell on your coffee, opt for a lighter roast, or try green coffee instead. Lightly roasted or green coffee tends to have fewer VOCs. Compared to darker roast coffee, it may retain a more fruity, floral, and refreshing smell and taste.

People Psychologically Relate Smoking And Coffee Drinking

Drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes are enjoyed by people all over the world. This means at many points in our lives, we may encounter people who do this and may eventually learn it as a practice. 

For some of us, that may be seeing our parents or older relatives puffing away with a cup of joe in their hands while we are young. Some of us may be doing this ourselves, pairing a nice cup of coffee with sticks of smoke. 

Many of us may have developed a psychological association between cigarettes and coffee. As a result, much like how we always equate peanut butter with jelly, we can’t help but immediately think of cigarettes when we smell coffee or vice versa.

This may also explain why people enjoy smoking cigarettes while drinking coffee, as the psychological connection is strong.

Final Thoughts

While the smell of coffee and cigarettes may be similar to some people, there is no definitive scientific explanation for this phenomenon.

It may be due to the shared chemical compounds released during the brewing and burning processes or simply due to a psychological association between the two smells.

Regardless of the reason, it’s fascinating how our sense of smell can sometimes play tricks on us and create unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated things.

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