Last Updated on September 15, 2020 by Novotaste

  • It lessens perceptions of coffee’s sweetness, bitterness, acidity and temperature
  • Loud background noise masks the taste and flavour of coffee, scientists suggest
  • Cafes could have noise cancelling headphones on tables to enhance enjoyment 

Caffeine lovers are more likely to enjoy their daily cappuccino, latte or Americano when there is less noise around them, new research has found.

In experiments, coffee was perceived as having less aroma by people who were fed loud noise through a pair of headphones while they drank.

Coffee was also more likely to be perceived as expensive and of a higher quality when people were played gentle background noise, as opposed to loud background noise.

Loud noise also had the effect of masking its natural sweetness – meaning it could have the knock-on effect of coffee lovers adding more sugar to their beverage.

Cafes that want to accentuate the quality of their coffee could provide noise-cancellation headphones on tables in a Heston Blumenthal-like twist.

Urban noise can affect food and beverage experiences and possibly consumption, the multinational team of researchers suggest. Coffee tasted particularly less bitter and was perceived as having less aroma under loud noise, they found

The research shows why coffee can often be more pleasurable when drunk in a quiet spot outdoors than in a packed food hall or busy cafe.

‘The results suggest that a loud noise tends to reduce the overall sensitivity of the coffee experience, and this is most clear concerning the bitterness and aroma intensity,’ said the study authors in their paper, published in Food Quality and Preference.

‘When the participants were asked to rate each coffee tasting experience, individually, they tended to rate the same coffee as significantly less bitter, and as having a less intense aroma, when tasted with the louder noise.’

The researchers, from Ecuador, Colombia and Norway, asked 384 volunteers to drink coffee in a room while wearing headphones.

Experiments took place in a room inside the campus of Universidad de las Américas in Quito, Ecuador between July and September 2019.

The coffee sample was a blend of Arabica green beans, medium roasted and harvested from the Ecuadorian highlands, and prepared by a professional barista with a percolator.

The room where the study was carried out. Participants weren't told they were drinking the same coffee when they listened to both quiet and loud background noise

Each participant drank the same coffee twice, either while exposed to a loud or quiet version of the same background noise of a food court.

None of them were informed that they were actually tasting the same coffee twice.

The headphones played chatter either at a very noisy level of around 85 decibels or much quieter at less than 20 decibels.

85 decibels is around the same volume as a vacuum cleaner, while 20 decibels is barely a whisper.

For the quieter sounds, participants were tested with both passive and active noise control headphones.

Active noise cancelling headphones use technology to generate their own sound waves that cancel out exterior waves, while passive rely on the sound-blocking materials with which they are made.

After each tasting, participants were asked to answer questions related to flavor attributes, such as sweetness, bitterness, acidity and flavour intensity, as well as their willingness to pay for the drink, in the form of a questionnaire on a Samsung tablet.

Dummy head holding the headphones with sound level meter (D). This questionnaire was accessed via Wi-Fi network on a Samsung tablet (A)

Dummy head holding the headphones with sound level meter (D). This questionnaire was accessed via Wi-Fi network on a Samsung tablet (A)


Below is a sample of questions for participants after they’d tasted the coffee with both loud and quiet background noise.

Percentages refer to the proportion of participants who selected each option.

(These results are for passive noise cancelling headphones)

– Which coffee was better?

Loud (L) – selected by 19.8 per cent

Quiet (Q) 64.6

Equal (E) 15.6

– ‘Please select which characteristics of the experience were more present during the tasting’

Quality of flavor 21.4, 64.1, 14.6

Sweetness 19.3, 50.0, 30.0

Bitterness 28.6, 56.3, 15.1

Acidity 24.0, 54.7, 21.4

Flavor intensity 22.9, 60.9, 16.1

Aroma intensity 24.5, 59.9, 15.6

Temperature 17.7, 43.8, 38.5

They were then asked to compare both coffee tastings based on the above characteristics.

In the noisier test, where individual voices and conversations were clearer, half the drinkers were less likely to identify the qualities and characteristics of the coffee they were drinking, including taste, strength, aroma and bitterness.

Coffee also tasted particularly less bitter and was perceived as having less aroma under loud noise, leading them to be less inclined to purchase the coffee.

More than twice the amount of the participants thought the coffee to be a better and more expensive alternative when listening to quiet noise than loud noise.

When asked ‘which coffee do you think was better?’, 19.8 per cent picked the one they drank while listening to loud noise, compared with 64.6 per cent while listening to quiet noise with passive noise cancelling headphones.

The remaining 15.6 per cent cottoned on to the fact that both servings were the same coffee by saying they tasted ‘equally good’.

When asked to select the characteristics of the coffee that were more present during the tasting, 50 per cent of participants selected sweetness during the quiet noise, compared to 19.3 per cent during the loud noise.

This was 56.3 per cent versus 28.6 per cent for bitterness, 54.7 per cent versus 24 per cent for acidity and 60.9 per cent compared with 22.9 per cent for flavour intensity.

There were also perceived differences in temperature – 43.8 per cent detected a hotter coffee during quiet noise versus 17.7 per cent for loud noise – despite the fact that all samples were kept at a constant heat.

If they want to accentuate the quality of their coffee, cafes could provide headphones on tables for diners to block out noise

If they want to accentuate the quality of their coffee, cafes could provide headphones on tables for diners to block out noise

And 50 per cent detected sweeter coffee during the quiet sample compared to 19.3 per cent during the loud sample – even though no sugar was added at any point.

Figures were similar with the active noise control headphones as well.

The findings have implications for public health, the researchers argue.

‘These results suggest that loud versus less loud urban noise can moderate behavior during food and drink situations,’ they say in their paper.

‘For instance, a person that is constantly – and perhaps unaware – under the influence of a very noisy urban environment while drinking coffee, may unconsciously be driven towards consuming a potentially unnecessary stronger coffee with excessive added sugar.

‘In fact, excessive sugar consumption is a major health problem.’

Coffee brands could therefore use noise-control solutions if they want to consider the experience of their customers and offer optimum multi-sensory conditions.

One solution may be to wear noise cancelling headphones on cafe tables while drinking coffee to filter out background chatter in particularly loud environments, such as next to roads or shops.

The study findings is evocative of British chef Heston Blumenthal’s techniques for multi-sensory dining.

At Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, diners have listened to the sounds of the sea through an iPod while eating a seafood course to ‘enhance the sense of taste’.

Source: Caffeine lovers are more likely to enjoy coffee in a quiet space, study claims | Daily Mail Online

NOVOsolutions for tea & coffee

Coffee-related articles

Recent multisensory articles

Food scienceMultisensory
February 16, 2021

A new sensation: recording and reproducing taste | National Geographic

The Taste Display controls varying strengths of electrical current transmitted to the five flavor gels (and a buffer tasteless gel), allowing different tastes to be reproduced and experienced on a…
February 11, 2021

Tech which translates fragrances into colour patterns and images | Cosmetic Business

The French firm has developed tech which translates fragrances into colour patterns and images As part of its strategy to expand its capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI), Givaudan has inked…
Food scienceMultisensory
February 11, 2021

What colours are going to steal the show in 2021? | New Food Magazine

As Pantone announces its 2021 Colours of the Year, Emina Goodman explains the key relationship between colour and food, and predicts what to watch out for this year. It’s often…
February 11, 2021

I Finally Found My Weird Tomato-Plant Candle | The Cut

Okay, so … can we collectively agree that most candles smell sort of the same? I’m not trying to start any trouble here, but if I say a candle is…
Beverage trendsMultisensory
February 9, 2021

Beverage can designs: where trends meet innovation | FoodBev Media

While consumer trends can determine the popularity of a specific beverage category, they also drive packaging design choice. After all, packaging comes at the forefront of the battle for consumer…
February 5, 2021

KitKat’s New Flavour Is A Marbled Mix Of White And Dark Chocolate | Delish

KITKAT How would you feel if we told you there was a new KitKat in town? Pretty fantastic, right? Well, you’re in luck, because there is a new KitKat in town, and it’s one of the…
February 4, 2021

Waiting For Durian: An interactive picnic that reconnects people with local durian culture | Timeout Singapore

Photograph: Fabian Loo Artist spotlight: an interactive picnic that reconnects people with local durian culture Learn more about the country’s infamous fruit with this fun, multi-sensory experience by artists Kray…
BakeryFlavour trendsMultisensory
February 1, 2021

General Mills brings back heart-shaped Cheerios in new flavours  | FoodBev Media

©Cheerios, General Mills General Mills has announced that it is bringing back its Cheerios with happy-heart shapes cereal in both existing and new flavours. The Cheerios brand transformed its iconic O-shaped…
Flavour trendsMultisensorySnack
January 28, 2021

Here is How You Can Get Kraft Dinner’s Pink Candy-Flavoured Mac and Cheese for Valentine’s Day | To Do Canada

CNW Group/Kraft Heinz Canada Kraft Canada is launching a limited-edition Candy KD for Valentine’s Day. The exclusive pink Candy KD features hints of sweet candy. Brian Neumann, Senior Brand Manager, Brand…
Food trendsMultisensoryRestaurant
January 28, 2021

Sight, Sound and Smell: The Magic of Multisensory Dining | Truly Experiences

Ultraviolet in Shanghai, the first multi-sensory restaurant in the world, uses sight, sound and smell to create a specific atmosphere that enhances the food being served. As you step into…
January 26, 2021

Elevate dairy offerings with inclusions | Dairy Foods

Photo courtesy of Pecan Deluxe Candy Co. The right inclusions can transform an ordinary dairy product into an extraordinary one.Within the dairy products arena, fruit, nuts and other inclusions are…
Coffee and TeaInterestingMultisensory
January 22, 2021

‘Sensory Secret’ That Makes Coffee Even More Delicious | DMarge

Have you ever stopped to think about how your regular coffee tastes at various times throughout the day? Even if you go to the same cafe and the same barista…
January 6, 2021

Angel Share Artworks Takes New Approach To Whisky Flavor Chart | The Whiskey Wash

Angel Share Artworks recently revamped, in their own way, the whiskey flavor chart. The company uses graphics to explore the stories and themes that have shaped this brown spirit type.…
Beverage trendsFood scienceMultisensory
December 10, 2020

Mumm trials new sensory tasting experience | The Drinks Business

César Giron, CEO of Pernod Ricard, attends Taste Encounters with Laurent Fresnet Champagne Mumm has devised a new sensory tasting experience, designing two new glasses that play with sight and…
December 1, 2020

Oreo Sells A Cookie-Scented Candle | Delish

OREO Oreo cookies are a staple item in pantries everywhere and with so many ways to enjoy them —Oreo Thins, Double Stuf, the upcoming gluten-free variety—there is something for everyone.…
Coffee and TeaFood scienceMultisensory
November 30, 2020

SCA and Savor Brands Team Up for Packaging Perceptions | Roast Magazine

Photo courtesy of the Specialty Coffee Association. The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) and Coffee Science Foundation (CSF) have announced a two-year partnership with Hawaii-based coffee packaging, design and printing company Savor Brands to study packaging’s effects…
November 30, 2020

Why are we obsessed with food scented candles during the holidays? | Foodsided

Are you burning food scented candles right now? That sweet aroma from the kitchen might not be the oven, but some food scented candles. While there is a running joke…
November 24, 2020

You can buy a scented candle that smells of Aero chocolate | Metro News

Brand new Aero scented candle (Picture: Getty/Lily-Flame) In good news for chocolate lovers everywhere, you can now buy a scented candle that apparently smells exactly like Aero chocolate The brand…
November 24, 2020

Dunkin’-Scented Candles Return for the Holidays | QSR magazine

DUNKIN' The returning candle fragrances were lovingly developed by Homesick’s team of researchers, chandlers, and perfume chemists, who worked closely with the Dunkin’ culinary team to ensure each candle captures…
November 18, 2020

Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s tempt all 5 senses with immersive campaign | Marketing Dive

Courtesy of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's Dive Brief: Carl's Jr. and Hardee's debuted a "Bacon and Beef Hypnosis" campaign to promote their Monster Angus Thickburger via all five senses, according…
November 10, 2020

You can buy a scented candle that smells of Aero chocolate |

Brand new Aero scented candle (Picture: Getty/Lily-Flame) In good news for chocolate lovers everywhere, you can now buy a scented candle that apparently smells exactly like Aero chocolate The brand…
November 3, 2020

Pumpkin Shaped Bagels with Licorice Stem | Delish

Goldbelly The best thing since sliced bread has hit our lives folks and I can almost guarantee you didn't expect it. Goldbelly has just added new pumpkin-shaped bagels (yes, you read that right!) to…
November 3, 2020

McDonald’s Gives Quarter Pounder Fans a Perfecter New Way to Display Their Burger Love | McDonald’s Corporation to drop exclusive new line of merch designed for the QPC-obsessed Chicago, IL; February 18, 2020 – Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but those that love the Quarter…
November 3, 2020

What in the World Is a $590 Scratch-and-Sniff T-shirt Doing in 2020?  The New York Times

This T-shirt smells.Credit...Emiliano Granado for The New York Times By Caity Weaver The universe tends toward ever-increasing disorder; earlier this year, the luxury fashion house Lanvin released several varieties of scratch-and-sniff…
October 30, 2020

You Can Buy Soda-Scented Candles In Old Cans On Etsy | Delish

ETSY Lighting candles around your space gives it a certain type of ambiance, but the scents you choose can really set the tone and show your personality. Long gone are…
October 29, 2020

Buffalo Bills Josh Allen cereal, ‘Josh’s Jaqs,’ available at Wegmans | New York Upstate

Josh Allen's Josh's Jaqs cereal.courtesy of PSB Sports & Entertainment There’s a new cereal hitting store shelves made just for the Billsmafia. Josh’s Jaqs are a red and blue frosted…
ConfectioneryFood scienceMultisensory
October 28, 2020

Explore the subliminal messaging on your Halloween candy’s label | The Counter

iStock / nkbimages Seemingly inconsequential features of packaging, like color, typeface, and label material, can deeply influence what we taste. Next time you step into the grocery store, pay attention to…
October 27, 2020

You Can Buy KFC’s Chicken-Scented FireLogs At Walmart | Delish

KFC Deck the halls while the halls smell like 11 herbs and spices. The weather has gone chilly, which means you're probably wearing a big sweater and your best slippers…
Food scienceMultisensory
October 26, 2020

Did You Know Bright Light May Make Food Appear Tastier? Heres What Study Says | NDTV Food

Lighting can affect the taste intensity with which you perceive food. A recent study found links between the ambient lighting at a restaurant and the overall perception of taste intensity.…
Meat, fish and seafoodMultisensory
October 26, 2020

Jack In The Box giving away chicken-scented masks | KVOA

Jack In The Box via CNN Newsource Face masks have been the necessary fashion accessory of 2020, and the latest trend is adding another dimension to them. That would be…