Has drinking coffee changed the way I smell?
April 23, 2009 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Has drinking coffee changed the way I smell?

I started drinking coffee regularly about two months ago. I don't drink that much, maybe 1 or 2 cups per day of coffee that I brew at home. Since then, I have noticed a change in the way I smell. And it's not a good change. Can I reasonably attribute this to the coffee? Has anyone else experienced this? Is there anything I can do about it?
posted by mai to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have never noticed this, personally, but I also drink a lot of water. Is it possible you're not getting enough fluids?
posted by katillathehun at 10:18 AM on April 23, 2009

If it's the only thing that has changed in your life over the course of the past two months, sure. Coffee, along with spicy foods and alcohol, can certainly contribute to an offensive smell as they cause excessive sweating which in turn leads to stinky bacteria growing on your body.

A simple search for "body odor and coffee" reveals what you are experiencing is pretty common.

If you have noticed that you smell bad, then you can be certain that others have, too.
posted by halogen at 10:26 AM on April 23, 2009

Alice has some excellent advice for keeping your odor in check.
posted by halogen at 10:28 AM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Coffee makes my pee smell like chicken and my armpits smell like gangrene. So there you go.
posted by ladypants at 10:32 AM on April 23, 2009

posted by zippy at 10:48 AM on April 23, 2009

You are what eat. It can absolutely affect your body odor (or, ummm flavor), as can anything else you consume. You can experiment a little to see if its specific foods/coffee types that affect you adversely. Perhaps not the most pleasant duty you could ask of a close friend, but an independant nose would be helpful here.
posted by elendil71 at 11:05 AM on April 23, 2009

If you have noticed that you smell bad, then you can be certain that others have, too.

This is definitely a frightening possibility, but I don't think it's necessarily certain - based on times other people have asked me if they smell as bad as they think, as well as times I have asked other people if I smell as bad as I think. On one hand, nobody's nose is as close to your body as your own (most of the time). Then again, nobody's nose is as accustomed or forgiving either. So it's complicated.

And yes, coffee can definitely change the way you smell, in my experience. Hopefully somebody here has a fix, but if not, experiment - maybe there's something you can change so you can smell OK and still get your coffee.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:36 AM on April 23, 2009

I'm not sure what smells you are particularly experiencing but I associate certain smells with coffee drinkers and, as one myself, this is what I notice.

- morning coffee drinkers who may not eat breakfast have that sort of hungry breath combined with a sort of stale coffee+milk tongue coating that is not optimal
- peed-out caffeine has a very specific odor to it
- some mornings, though not all mornings, when I drink a lot of coffee I notice that my sweat which normally doesn't smell nearly at all, has a very acrid tinge to it which is terrible. more apocrine, less eccrine, if that makes sense.

So, no idea if any of these are what you are experiencing, but they correspond to my personal experiences.
posted by jessamyn at 11:36 AM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The smell isn't as bad as gangrene (!), and no one else has commented on it. I have a pretty sensitive nose to smells, my boyfriend not so much.

It is most evident when I am stressed (lots of job interviews lately), so the apocrine theory may be correct. It tends to come on later in the day, not right away. I eat breakfast and I think I am getting enough fluids.

Quitting drinking coffee isn't something I would like to do - it is a substitute for soda which I quit, and I am still wrestling the sugar addiction.

I think acrid might be a good way to describe it, mostly it just seems like a "heavier" smell. Thanks for all the info so far.
posted by mai at 12:05 PM on April 23, 2009

Response by poster: I should also add that this smell is pretty different than the way I used to smell when I was stressed out, so it's not only that I am sweating more, but that it is qualitatively different.
posted by mai at 12:06 PM on April 23, 2009

Hi mai,

I was kidding about the gangrene, but yes, acrid describes the scent perfectly. It's almost vegetal, like cut leeks or something. I wish I could describe it better, but it's not exactly the apocrine smell of stress sweat, and it's not the same musky chicken smell as the urine (which I was not kidding about). So, if the volatile oils in garlic can make their way to armpits, why not the ones in coffee?

For what's it's worth my husband doesn't notice it either, and I only notice it if I actually sniff my armpit on a particularly coffee drenched/sweaty day. So you're probably not offending anyone with your pits.
posted by ladypants at 12:25 PM on April 23, 2009

I'm not a coffee drinker and I think most coffee drinkers don't smell very good (sorry mom!).
posted by 6550 at 12:40 PM on April 23, 2009

Wow, I had planned for this to be my next AskMe question! I noticed a definite change in my own smell about two years ago, coinciding with my new 1-3 cup/day coffee habit. I didn't make the connection at the time, until, in a casual conversation last week, I mentioned my new stink to a good friend who said she'd noticed the same thing on herself, and thought it was coffee related. Intrigued, I switched to tea and caffeinated gum two days ago, and having not showered yet today, I can attest that while I smell unshowered, it's a more natural, less gross-coffee smell than I could smell on myself last week. ie, more like sweat, less like cat pee.
posted by twistofrhyme at 2:03 PM on April 23, 2009

I drink tons of coffee and I think it does have an effect, although for me not a huge one (although when I pee it makes my bathroom smell like a Starbucks). It is there though sometimes, and I wouldn't describe it as "bad". I have never worried that someone else would notice but your body chemistry might be different than mine.
posted by bradbane at 2:33 PM on April 23, 2009

I have noticed that many middle-aged or older people have an almost fecal odor to their breath after drinking coffee (sorry, but that's what it smells like to me). I have no idea what age has to do with it, but I've never noticed it on a younger person.
posted by HotToddy at 6:21 PM on April 23, 2009

Oh dear. N-thing ''yes, it's coffee''. Coffee makes me smell, uh, acrid too. I find that drinking bucketloads of water, well, waters it down. By ''bucketloads'', I mean 3L and more over the course of the day. Also cranberry juice seems to have some body odour neutralising power. I really notice I smell nicer when I drink LOTS of it. For me, that's a 1.5L bottle in a day.
posted by t0astie at 3:35 AM on April 24, 2009

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