December 20, 2022— The Coffee Science Foundation (CSF) is excited to announce 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. Specialty coffee consumers and experts alike agree that a key part of coffee quality is the natural sweetness that is a part of high-quality coffee flavor. 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 alike, the specialty coffee community 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,” says Dr. Mario R. Fernandez-Alduenda, Technical Officer at the Specialty Coffee Association. “However, it is not clear how sweetness in coffee is perceived from the sensory point of view.” “the CSF exists to leverage science and industry knowledge to help make coffee better,” says Peter Guiliano, Executive Director of the Coffee Science Foundation. “And we hope that sweetness research will help plant breeders, cuppers, roasters, and farmers produce higher quality, and therefore higher value coffees.”
Ohio State’s Flavor Research and Education Center (FREC) has pioneered the identification of specific flavor compounds in foods and has begun researching coffee in recent years. They were therefore the perfect place to turn to for this cutting-edge research project. “FREC has developed ‘untargeted’ chemical fingerprinting methods to advance our comprehensive understanding of stimuli that contribute to flavor, termed flavoromics. These methods are well suited to define complex flavor perceptions, such as sweetness, that can originate from multiple sensory systems such as smell (olfactory) and taste (gustatory) or by flavor modulators. We are excited to apply these new methods of flavor discovery in collaboration with the CSF to improve our understanding of this key attribute of coffee quality,” says Devin Peterson, Distinguished Professor of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences within CFAES at Ohio State.
“Sweetness in Coffee” began research in fall of 2022, and the CSF hopes to see results as soon as 2023.
The project, "Sweetness in Coffee: Sensory Analysis and Identification of Key Compounds," and other Coffee Science Foundation research projects will be presented at upcoming SCA events, webinars, and publications. Research outputs from this project and others are available in the Project Index section at coffeesciencefoundation.org.
About The Ohio State University
The Ohio State University is a top-ranked flagship public research university with a nationally recognized academic medical center. The university offers more than 200 majors — plus 500 specializations— for undergraduates to explore, along with 230 master’s, doctoral and professional degree programs. Across all campuses, Ohio State enrolls nearly 68,000 students in 15 colleges and supports more than 300 academic and interdisciplinary research centers and institutes. With a dynamic and engaged group of more than 580,000 living alumni and extensive partnerships locally and globally, Ohio State has an unparalleled capacity to bring people together and provide expertise and resources to find solutions to the challenges the world is facing now.
About Coffee Science Foundation
The Coffee Science Foundation (CSF) is the research arm of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), since April 2019. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the understanding of coffee and secure its future through research, knowledge-building, and outreach. The CSF is a unifying force that drives collaborative, pre-competitive, and scientifically rigorous research that benefits the entire coffee community, including the coffee consuming public. The results of CSF-managed projects are then disseminated to the global coffee community at events, through publications, and coffee education programs.
About the Specialty Coffee Association
The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) is a trade association built on foundations of openness, inclusivity, and the power of shared knowledge. The SCA’s purpose is to foster global coffee communities to support activities to make coffee a more sustainable, equitable and thriving activity for the whole value chain. From coffee farmers to baristas and roasters, our membership spans the globe, encompassing every element of the coffee value chain. The SCA acts as a unifying force within the specialty coffee industry and works to make coffee better by raising standards worldwide through a collaborative and progressive approach. Dedicated to building an industry that is fair, sustainable, and nurturing for all, the SCA draws on years of insights and inspiration from the specialty coffee community. Learn more at sca.coffee.