Study finds coffee's bitterness can enhance desserts and other sweets

It turns out that coffee goes well with dessert for a good reason: it amplifies the sweet flavor. That's according to a new study from Aarhus University, which evaluated more than 150 coffee drinkers to determine the beverage's potential impact on how things taste and smell. In addition to increasing one's perception of sweetness, the study also found that drinking coffee decreases one's ability to taste bitterness.

The study tasked a total of 156 people with drinking coffee of both caffeinated and decaffeinated varieties. The participants had their senses of taste and smell tested both before and then again after they drank coffee, and while it wasn't found to have an impact on smell, the coffee was found to change taste perception.

The researchers note that regardless of whether it was caffeinated, coffee increased the participants' ability to taste the sweetness in sweetened foods, which means that it makes sweet foods taste sweeter. This could explain why coffee has been popularly associated with chocolate, sweet bread, pastries, and other similar foods.

Oddly enough, the researchers say that it is likely the bitterness of coffee that increases the perception of sweetness and decreases the perception of bitterness. When you eat something similarly bitter, like dark chocolate, that aspect of the flavor profile is muted by the coffee, ultimately enhancing the sweet flavor aspect of it.

Aarhus University Associate Professor Alexander Wieck Fjældstad said:

More research in this area could have significance for how we regulate the way in which we use sugar and sweeteners as food additives. Improved knowledge can potentially be utilized to reduce sugar and calories in our food, which would be beneficial for a number of groups, including those who are overweight and diabetes patients.