Organic Coffee Aroma

Organic coffee aroma, bird song before sunrise, dew on the grass in the early morning are things that give joy to life. Wake up and smell the coffee is an old expression telling us to pay attention. But, just what gives coffee its unique bouquet? What gives us organic coffee aroma? If you are heavily into science, healthy organic coffee gets its aroma from more than 300 heterocyclic compounds such as oxazoles, thiazoles, thiophenones, thiophens, indoles, quinoxalines, pyrazines, quinlines, pyridines, pyrroles, hydrofurans, and furans. Organic coffee aroma also comes from phenols, acyclic compounds, and over 150 aliphatic compounds. Even for a chemist that is a mouthful! The compounds that contribute most strongly to organic coffee aroma are those that are present in higher concentrations and in sufficient concentrations to cross the “olfactory threshold.” This is a scientific term which basically says that the lining of the nose, high up in the nose where we smell things, requires a given amount of any given compound for us to be able to sense or smell it.

Researchers tell us that the most important chemicals producing our perception of organic coffee aroma are furans. These chemicals have odors resembling caramel and come from the breakdown of sugars. Other research indicates that when sugars in coffee break down in the presence of sulfur containing compounds these secondary reactions also contribute to key aspects of organic coffee aroma. The next group of compounds includes pyrazines which give coffee its walnut-like and roasted flavor. Pyrroles give coffee its caramel-like, mushroom-like, sweet aroma. Thiophens contribute to a somewhat meaty aroma when present. Some of these compounds are present in coffee beans when they are picked. A larger number of these compounds are formed, along with some important organic coffee antioxidants, in the roasting process.

In general, organic coffee aroma unique to each coffee depends upon the type of bean, the soil in which it was grown, and the process of roasting. In addition the degree of roasting not only contributes to different variations of coffee aroma but to different degrees of taste and different levels of antioxidants, such as methylpyridium which is one of the organic coffee antioxidants and is created during the roasting process of organic coffee. This is a breakdown product of trigonelline which is found in the unroasted bean. Methylpyridium not only contributes to organic coffee aroma but also increases substances in the human body known as phase II enzymes. Research indicates that phase II enzymes help protect the body against colon cancer which is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the USA. Who would have thought that quite possibly more organic coffee can lead to less colon cancer?

Organic coffee aroma will vary from coffee brand to coffee brand. The degree of roasting determines the level of many of the substances that are formed. Also individual tastes vary. This has to do with our taste buds, our sense of smell, and, very commonly, with how we perceive smell and taste in combination. So, back to our organic coffee aroma on an early morning with a cup of shade grown organic coffee in our hand, birdsong in the air and dew laden grass under our feet and then just wake up and smell the coffee!

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