Should You Smell Coffee Beans While Smelling Fragrances? Posted on March 15th, 2019 by

Written by Charity Aultman, Mitaya Johnson, Lauren Lowe, and Drew Weidner


How many of you have smelled coffee beans while smelling perfumes at a department store or even seen them and wondered why?  Coffee beans can be used to combat something called olfactory fatigue.

Our olfactory system can become overwhelmed or overexposed to a smell when habituation or adaptation occurs, because of this, stores tend to set out coffee beans to “refresh” your sense of smell (Grosofsky, A., Haupert, M. L., & Versteeg, S. W., 2011).  But, does this really work?  For another way of thinking about olfactory fatigue, watch the video below.  It gives a brief explanation and background information on the process of olfactory fatigue.  It shows the behind the scenes of what goes on within your nose, the brain, and your nervous system and how each contributes to olfactory fatigue.






Research has been used on both sides of this controversial subject.  A study done by Grosofsky, A., Haupert, M. L., & Versteeg, S. W. (2011) reviews the use of coffee beans, and compares it with sniffing lemons or clean air, to determine if any of these things showed up as a refreshing component.  However, smelling coffee beans or lemons did NOT increase scent identification!  They found that participants were able to identify the new fragrances more than half of the time no matter what.  So, all-in-all, coffee beans, lemon, or even clean air did not seem to have any special effects in refreshing their smell and more than likely, has the same effect as taking a small break from those strong fragrances and then coming back to them.  Now when you walk into those department stores and see the coffee beans, you will understand their purpose!


Grosofsky, A., Haupert, M. L., & Versteeg, S. W. (2011). An exploratory investigation of coffee and lemon scents and odor identification. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 112(2), 536–538.



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