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Why Do We Smell Coffee Beans Between Fragrances?

Smelling coffee beans between perfumes is like eating sorbet between courses. Both help distinguish the latest flavor (or scent) from the original one. But how?

The lab of UC Berkeley scientist, Noam Sobel, found when examining the "Influence of Smelling Coffee on Olfactory Habituation":

Smelling coffee aroma between perfume samples, as compared to smelling unscented air, actually works. The perceived odor intensity of the perfume from sample to sample stayed the same after smelling coffee aroma while it decreased when smelling air between samples. The pleasantness of the perfume, however, was similar after smelling coffee or air.

This isn't the only way to clear the nose and increase sensitivity for the next evaluation. Other popular nose-clearing techniques employ smelling a swatch of wool or smelling an unfragranced forearm. Now go forth and impress your pals about the coffee beans at perfume counters nationwide . . . and it helps to toss in "olfactory habituation" a few times while you're at it.


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Advah Advah 8 years
Interesting explanation! I've never seen coffee beans in shops, but my friend's sister used to be an air attendant and I remember her mentioning how they use coffee beans to refresh planes. It apparently cleans the air, esp. when people have been sick during the previous flight. :/
swag1 swag1 8 years
In the 1980s, did you presume that drug smugglers packed their cocaine with coffee in their stowaway luggage because drug-sniffing dogs at the Miami airport had a strange fetish for lattes?
caryatid caryatid 8 years
(and off-topic! haha)
caryatid caryatid 8 years
what's cool is that when a smell is "caught" in your nose, it is LITERALLY caught in your nose - odor molecules! also, smell is the only sense wired directly into the brain. badass.
ModernGraceKelly ModernGraceKelly 8 years
They now recommend just taking a break and smelling the fresh air. You know how the scent of perfume can get "caught" in your nose? Coffee can too. Besides they don't work because whole coffee beans don't have much scent and they never change them out and get fresh ones. They are stale.
Symphonee Symphonee 8 years
I've been using this trick for years and yeah, after a while everything does smel like coffee
terryt18 terryt18 8 years
Hmm... I always figured that was bullshit, but it's nice to know there's been some research done.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
Neat to know now...
aka-Daria aka-Daria 8 years
I was wondering about this yesterday when I was at the fragrance section of Ulta.
ThePerfectScore ThePerfectScore 8 years
Yeah you get used to the smell of coffee and it stops working.
belladande belladande 8 years
After a while this stops working and everything suddenly has notes of coffee or whatever.
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