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Science, Maths & Technology

What coffee does to your body

Updated Monday, 26th September 2005

What is it that makes coffee so delicious and lovely and... well, even addictive?

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On your tastebuds

Fancy a cuppa? Carbohydrates and acids give coffee its quality and flavour.

Pyruvic acid has that burnt caramel flavour and 2-Methylvaleric acid gives a cocoa-like taste.

Coffee [Image: dongga BS under CC-BY-NC-ND licence] Creative commons image Icon DonggaBS via Flickr under Creative-Commons license

The bitterness is trigonelline, which contains nitrogen, partially converted to niacin during roasting.

The coffee kick

But probably the most well known component of coffee is caffeine (C8H10O2N4).

Your cup of coffee has between 50 and 125 mg of caffeine per cup. Caffeine is addictive, if you habitually drink 2 cups a day, and then stop, you may experience withdrawal symptoms - headaches, fatigue and irritability.

Caffeine is an alkaloid, a stimulant that increases blood pressure. It’s also a diuretic, causing the body to lose essential vitamins and elements, such as calcium, sodium and potassium.


There are over 800 known compounds that make up the aroma of coffee.

Furans are the most predominant group of compounds, which react with sulphur compounds to create the caramel smell.

The roasted walnut/cereal smell comes from the second most abundant group, the pyrazines. The pyrroles produce the sweet, caramel-like and mushroom-like aromas.

Thiophens, which also have a presence in the aroma of coffee, have a meaty aroma, and thiazoles play a small part in the overall coffee smell.





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