This Surprising Thing Can Ruin the Flavor of Your Coffee, Study Finds

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If you’re a coffee purist, you’ll know that adding creamer, milk, or sweeteners to your cup can detract from your coffee’s true aroma. New research shows there are other slightly more unexpected factors that can suddenly make your coffee taste much less potent (and thus less pleasurable). They have nothing to do with your sense of taste—and everything to do with your sense of hearing.

A new study published in the Food Quality and Preference examined the ways that different levels of noise affect your taste experience when it comes to coffee. Participants were exposed to two different volumes of noise resembling the background noise of a busy food court while sipping on coffee. They were then asked to rate the coffee’s taste attributes, such as acidity, bitterness, sweetness, and flavor and aroma intensity. (Related: The One Vitamin Doctors Are Urging Everyone to Take Right Now

Researchers found that people were less sensitive to the coffee’s taste attributes when they were exposed to louder noises. In particular, they suddenly judged the same coffee as less bitter and having a less perceptible aroma when sounds of a buzzing food court were played louder in their headphones. To boot, they were also less likely to order and spend money on coffee when exposed to louder noises compared to quieter noises.

On the other hand, while experiencing a lower level of noise, they reported greater enjoyment of the same coffee—even rating it as tasting more expensive. One possible explanation for this phenomenon could lie in the human attention span, according to the study. For example, louder noises may diminish a person’s ability to attend to the taste-related elements of the coffee experience.

While this sounds like an interesting fun fact about how we experience food, these findings could have greater implications for public health in urban areas. For example, the levels of noise could moderate a person’s sugar intake, the study suggests. The researchers also noted this “may have implications for cafes, roasters, and other stakeholders in the business of coffee experiences, who may want to consider noise as a possible element to control during the customer experience.”

And while we now have a potential explanation for why we enjoy that first morning coffee at home so much, sipping your beloved morning beverage on the daily could have some undesirable side effects. For more, check out these Ugly Side Effects of Drinking Coffee Every Day, According to the Mayo Clinic.

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