CSF launches new ‘Sweetness in Coffee’ research

Fairtrade report

The Coffee Science Foundation (CSF) has announced the launch of a new research project, ‘Sweetness in Coffee: Sensory Analysis and Identification of Key Compounds,’ in collaboration with the Flavor Research and Education Center (FREC) in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

According to the CSF, specialty coffee consumers and experts agree the natural sweetness in coffee is a part of its high-quality flavour. Recent research has confirmed that, counterintuitively, the sweetness in coffee does not come from sugars in the bean. This has created something of a mystery among coffee experts and sensory scientists —if sugars do not make coffee taste sweet, what could be the reason for the sweet taste of high-quality coffee?

Since natural sweetness makes coffee more valuable to consumers, roasters, and coffee farmers, CSF considers solving the mystery of sweetness to be a key element in making coffee better and more sustainable.

“We learned from cuppers in our industry that sweetness is regarded as one of the most important sensory attributes. However, it is not clear how sweetness in coffee is perceived from the sensory point of view,” says Dr. Mario R. Fernández-Alduenda, Technical Officer at the Specialty Coffee Association.

FREC has pioneered the identification of specific flavour compounds in foods and has begun researching coffee in recent years. CSF says they were the perfect place to turn to for this cutting-edge research project.

“The CSF exists to leverage science and industry knowledge to help make coffee better,” says Peter Giuliano, Executive Director of the Coffee Science Foundation. “And we hope that this sweetness research will help plant breeders, cuppers, roasters, and farmers produce higher quality, and therefore higher value, coffees.”

Sweetness in Coffee began research in September 2022, and the CSF hopes to see results as soon as 2023.

“FREC has developed ‘untargeted’ chemical fingerprinting methods to advance our comprehensive understanding of stimuli that contribute to flavour, termed flavouromics. These methods are well suited to define complex flavour perceptions, such as sweetness, that can originate from multiple sensory systems such as smell and taste or by flavour modulators,” says Devin Peterson, Distinguished Professor of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences within CFAES at Ohio State.

“We are excited to apply these new methods of flavour discovery in collaboration with the CSF to improve our understanding of this key attribute of coffee quality.”

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