It's not you, it's your coffee
September 25, 2013 8:54 AM   Subscribe

I just found out that starting October first, my partner's going to be working from home two days a week. This is going to be lovely for him, but less lovely for me--in part because he's a big coffee drinker, and I can't stand the smell. Help!

I've always been more of a tea person than a coffee person, but in the last few years, my reaction to coffee has gone from "not my thing" to "I am going to vomit if the coffee doesn't get away from me." It hasn't yet progressed to vomiting, but it definitely makes me queasy and kills my appetite, sometimes for hours.

It doesn't seem to matter what the source of the coffee smell is--brewed coffee, espresso, coffee beans, whatever. When the beans were stored in our beer fridge, I'd have to let my drinks air out on the counter for an hour before I could drink it because the smell on the can/bottle was overwhelming to me.

We have a small (860 sq ft) house, and I work either in our bedroom (where he's likely to be working from, as well, and drinking in there) or in the living room, which is right off of the kitchen. There's no escaping the smell, but it doesn't seem fair to ask him not to drink coffee. I'm not pregnant or anything like that, so there's no real reason for this. How can I desensitize myself, or better cope with a smell that I find totally repulsive?
posted by MeghanC to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, to head off the inevitable question: yes, he drinks coffee on the weekend, but he wakes up by nine or ten and I sleep until at least noon. The smell doesn't bother me while I'm asleep, obviously, and it's gone by the time I wake up. Sleeping until noon on weekdays is, sadly, not an option.
posted by MeghanC at 8:56 AM on September 25, 2013

Does he drink coffee because he actually loves coffee, or because he wants the caffeine and maybe doesn't like tea and so it's the default choice? I think the answers for how to deal/negotiate will be different depending on that.
posted by brainmouse at 8:57 AM on September 25, 2013

Perhaps cold brew iced coffee would have less volatile aromatics?
posted by Jahaza at 8:59 AM on September 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, sorry. He loves coffee--last Christmas I gave him a book about the history of coffee, and he's done roasting-your-own-bean experiments with a friend. Coffee is His Thing.
posted by MeghanC at 9:00 AM on September 25, 2013

Maybe try going into separate rooms and burning a candle, just a regular one will do. I think the carbon it puts off neutralizes odours. I suggested a candle for this question.
posted by waterandrock at 9:02 AM on September 25, 2013

What about a french press? Fast, simple, cheap and some people claim it's the best way to drink a cup. But for you it's little smell compared to a drip coffee maker as all you do is boil water, pour it in, let it sit for 3 minutes, and pour.

*edit - regarding the smell, could he use a travel mug with a lid that he needs to press a button every time to take a drink?
posted by lpcxa0 at 9:03 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

As a coffee drinker, I pretty much hate these things, but is he willing to try coffee pods? Even a single-serving French press might be an improvement over brewing an entire pot.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:04 AM on September 25, 2013

Do you really need to be smelling things on mornings when he's at home? Because if not, you could just try wearing a swimmer's noseclip. No nasal breathing, no olfaction, problem solved. And get him to compromise by promising to clean it all up by lunchtime.
posted by Bardolph at 9:05 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

You just need a temporary fix during the time he brews.

Wear a small face/nose mask.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:06 AM on September 25, 2013

Could you sleep in those 2 days?
Could he go buy coffee out and then come back?
Could he brew a giant pot once and then put it into a thermos?
Could he drink ready-to-drink (ie canned/bottled) coffee drinks?
posted by Ms Vegetable at 9:08 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there a coffee shop or a cafe or, heck, a McDonalds near your house? If your SO isn't too big a coffee snob and you guys don't mind spending a few bucks a week maybe he can just make a routine of going out for coffee in the morning? No brewing, minimal smell.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:09 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I found there were certain kinds of coffee I could better tolerate the smell of.

An open window and staggered wake times might help.
posted by moira at 9:11 AM on September 25, 2013

Another option: a really good thermos will keep coffee boiling or near-boiling hot for 24+ hours. Could he brew the coffee late at night right before bed, then pour it all into a big thermos for drinking the next day, so that by morning there's no fresh-brewed smell at all?

Getting him to do his actual drinking from a travel mug with a tight-fitting lid, vs. a regular ceramic mug, would probably also cut down on the amount of coffee odor being released.
posted by Bardolph at 9:13 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

On those days that he's working from home, work in separate rooms. You take the bedroom, close the door, and put a draft guard along the bottom to prevent airflow from the kitchen coming in. If you're not sensitive to other scents, burn a candle. Ask him to dispose of coffee grounds immediately after making the coffee (perhaps straight into the trash outside so it's not lingering in your kitchen?) and see if he will use a travel mug that seals.

You may not be able to eliminate the smell entirely, but you can minimize your exposure to it.
posted by marshmallow peep at 9:18 AM on September 25, 2013

As a fellow coffee-smell hater, I have found that it is way less offensive if the cup has a lid. It still smells bad, just not as bad.

Also, as others have stated, I find that certain coffee brands smell worse than others. Dunkin Donuts coffee makes me want to retch while Starbucks (strangely a darker roast) is almost OK.
posted by BearClaw6 at 9:25 AM on September 25, 2013

I'm very sensitive to certain smells and tastes. Based on my experience, I am going to offer a totally out of left field solution to this one.

Find something you like that has coffee in it. There are foods that used to make me nauseous just like you describe that I can tolerate now because something, anything I enjoy has it as an ingredient so now my brain can associate that smell with that. (For instance, oranges. Fresh ones smell like garbage to me, but now that I know I like chocolate with small bits of orange peel, I can think 'oh, that smells like rotting garbage...but also kind of like those tasty chocolates!')

There are plenty of options where the coffee flavor is not the predominant one. Tiramisu? Pumpkin Spice Latte? Coffee flavored ice cream?
posted by capricorn at 9:25 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Put some Vicks on your nostrils. Works for my wife during pregnancies when odd smells in the house will set her a-vomiting.
posted by resurrexit at 9:28 AM on September 25, 2013 [10 favorites]

Vicks, or lavender essential oil, under the nostrils.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:30 AM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Get him an aeropress... It makes excellent coffee (fellow coffee snob here) and the smell doesn't permeate/waft like with a machine.
posted by Jacob G at 9:47 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

You could just have use a French Press Mug like this one or this one. He makes the coffee in the mug and it is contained from production to consumption. Pair that with a great hot water kettle that gets you hot water FAST and your smell exposure is much reduced. My husband loathes the smell of coffee and of course, I like it. I like the kettle because it handles tea temps well.
posted by jadepearl at 9:50 AM on September 25, 2013

Agreeing with the covered mug for your partner. He might also try brewing with a brewer that drips directly into a thermal carafe - the openings are smaller than on a regular drip coffee pot and the coffee doesn't sit on the burner cooking away - which is the coffee smell that makes me retch the longer it cooks.
posted by sarajane at 9:50 AM on September 25, 2013

I agree with you that you should be attempting to desensitise yourself. This isn't a physiological thing, it's more like a phobia. Like a phobia, it's probably very treatable - almost certainly even more so. People get over the smell of shit and dead bodies, a dislike of which is as primal as it comes, when they're exposed to them enough. And to be honest, I'm not sure you'll find an approach which improves on simple exposure. You need to stop reinforcing the aversion by avoiding coffee, and starting to actively seek it out. At first you will feel sick. Then you will stop feeling sick. If you expose yourself enough, you will stop smelling it altogether. Conversely, if you keep reinforcing the aversion, it will probably get worse.
posted by Acheman at 10:05 AM on September 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't think this is a phobia. Coffee beans contain a lot of aromatic oils, and if you are sensitive to them, you are sensitive to them.

Someone I work with (we all work from home) has to make coffee outside on the deck because his wife cannot stand the smell. He drinks it in his office (where she can't smell it).

Seems like a small price to pay to keep the lady happy!
posted by KokuRyu at 10:38 AM on September 25, 2013

Do you have a garage or a covered porch or patio? I love the delicious things that my crock pot can produce, but the smells it makes when foods are cooking (especially beans) seriously makes me want to vomit. I have no idea why; the exact same ingredients cooked on the range or in the oven don't produce this sensation. My solution has been to confine crock pot cooking to the garage or the patio. Perhaps your partner could do the same.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:40 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Usually one is desensitized to a smell after being exposed to it for a period of time. Does that work for you? If not, could this be an actual medical thing, and if so, can't he give up coffee for you for two days a week? That is not unreasonable. He could always pop out for a cuppa if he had to have it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:40 AM on September 25, 2013

Now that I think about it, this weird crock pot thing only started after I bought a new crock pot a few years ago. My old one (which I gave away to a friend) never gave me that nauseous feeling. The new one gives off this strange metallic smell, which, when combined with the smell of cooking food, is gag-worthy. Could it be your coffee maker itself? Or do you have the same nauseous feeling around all coffee odors?
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:48 AM on September 25, 2013

If he likes coffee and coffee making now might be a good time for him to experiment with different ways of making coffee. Maybe take you out to find some beans you mind the smell of less. Could he resort to pods or even (shock & horror) instant coffee on the 2 days a week he's working from home. There are some not so bad instant coffees out there, and if it is only occasionally it would be a small price to pay, if he then puts it in an covered travel mug there would be almost no smell that couldn't be hidden by a nice scented candle or air freshener.
posted by wwax at 11:08 AM on September 25, 2013

Could you change your association with the smell of coffee? Have him say or do something especially sweet with coffee on his breath or in his clothes. A nice hug or a cuddle, or some morning sexytimes. Just a thought.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:26 AM on September 25, 2013

Best answer: My partner cannot stand the smell of pretty much everything I cook, so we have a system to try and minimize food odors, which might be helpful for you.

When I'm cooking, a HEPA filter sits right outside the doorway to the kitchen. It seriously helps cut down on the food smells, but if that's not enough, we open the kitchen window and turn on a fan to have the air flow through the apartment and out the kitchen window.

Yeah, it's kind of crazy, but we already had a fan and a HEPA filter. I think if he did something like that, and then used a covered mug, and disposed of the grounds immediately, it would seriously cut down on the smell.

Also, nthing cold brew. He could even get one of those tiny dorm fridges to keep his coffee separate.
posted by inertia at 11:59 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can you blow a fan in his direction and sit upwind with some incense or a candle burning?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:08 PM on September 25, 2013

Response by poster: I think Ressurexit has it--Vicks or something similar to block the smell as much as possible.

Cold brew is awesome when he wants iced coffee, but otherwise, the smell (of cold brew + hot water) still bothers me just as much. It's doubly frustrating because I don't actually dislike coffee--more of a tea person, sure, but until a couple years ago when it started making me ill, I wouldn't have turned down a [coffee-based drink] if it was offered, and I still love things like tiramisu and coffee-flavored ice cream, as long as I don't have to be around to smell the actual coffee when they're being made.

posted by MeghanC at 8:59 PM on September 25, 2013

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