Why Does My Coffee Smell Weird? (11 Aromas Explained)

Have you ever thought that your coffee smells a bit like something else? Well you aren’t alone, I did a little bit of research on the subject of what coffee smells like and came up with some interesting comparisons.

Now, I can’t say that I have every experienced coffee smelling like all of the following items… but definitely more than a couple of them. Let’s get right into this list of things that coffee may or may not smell like!

11 things people are saying their coffee smells like

The below 11 things are what actual people are saying their coffee smells like. How do I know this? I simply asked Google Autosuggest. Type in “my coffee smells like” in the Google search bar and you’ll get some similar results as mine.

Anyways, let’s have a look at them.

1. Weed

If you’ve ever thought that your coffee has a bit of a skunky smell that reminds you of marijuana, then you aren’t alone. I can’t think of a time specifically where I thought this, but many people out there seem to be typing this in Google; “why does my coffee smell like weed?”

Now maybe they just smoked too much cannabis that morning and are smelling it on themselves, or maybe there’s actually something to that. I did find this one little snippet of text from a Quora user:

Cannabis and coffee both have sulfur-containing thiol compounds. These contribute to the “skunky” aroma of low-quality cannabis, and of coffee, and of skunk musk. What you’re smelling are these sulfur-containing compounds.

2. Urine or cat pee

Another common one is urine, or an ammonia smell. I personally have yet to encounter any coffee that smells like pee, but apparently it’s fairly common if your coffee is old. Oily dark roasts can can spoil pretty quickly. When those oils go rancid, you could end up with coffee that has an ammonia-like smell similar to urine, or cat urine.

3. Fish or tuna

This one I have smelled in coffee before, not very often but I have, and sometimes in good quality dark roast coffee from Starbucks. There can be a few explanations for this.

First, it’s important to understand that in the process of roasting coffee beans, a chemical reaction occurs. Sometimes afterwards the roasted beans can end up having this fishy smell.

Here are a few reasons why your coffee might have a fishy smell:

  • The result of immature green beans used in the roast
  • Oxidation during storage
  • The hygroscopic nature of coffee beans
  • Improper storage
  • Unclean equipment

Another tidbit I’ve read from various internet people is that when they drink coffee, their urine smells like tuna. So if you’ve experienced this you aren’t alone. Sadly though, I don’t have a good explanation for this and it may be something you want to ask your doctor about.

4. Poop or dog poop

This one isn’t quite as common but some people do make this comparison from time to time. I mentioned that coffee can sometimes have a bit of a skunky smell, but that’s not the same thing. I guess we can chalk this up to different people smelling things differently.

Though I do know that Kopi luwak coffee is made from defecated coffee beans found in the stool of the Asian palm civet, a cat-like animal found in countries like Sumatra. I’m not sure that this makes coffee smell like poop, but if you’re drinking this coffee or other coffees procured in this manner, it used to be in poop.

There’s also a percentage of people that think Cilantro smells and tastes like soap… which is crazy to me because I love cilantro.

5. Skunk

The skunky smell may possibly be caused by the same events as the others on this list. Coffee beans contain small amounts of the chemical furfuryl mercaptan which is similar to one of the chemicals a skunk uses in its spray for self defense. So maybe small amounts of this chemical are released during the roasting or grinding of coffee beans? I’m not quite sure, but a skunky smell in certain situations is not uncommon for certain types of coffee.

6. Cigarettes

Now I’ve been drinking coffee for many, many years. I also smoked cigarettes for way longer than I should have, thankfully I’ve now quit the cigs for several years. In all that time I never got the two aromas confused, so I’m not really sure what the correlation, if any, is here.

One coffee drinker mentioned that it could simply mean the coffee is stale while another said robusta coffees have a cigarette smell.

7. Chocolate

If there’s one thing we’ve learned so far, it’s that coffee doesn’t always smell like traditional coffee. Certain types of coffees may even smell like chocolate, but more often they’ll have a chocolatey taste. Especially if it’s freshly roasted.

8. Burnt popcorn

The burnt popcorn smell in coffee isn’t from brewed coffee, but from fresh roasted beans. It’s also typically pretty normal in many cases and will also dissipate after the beans cool from the roasting process.

9. Rotting meat

This is probably somehow related to the poop and urine smells, but I did come across something interesting for the coffee smells like rotting meat. If you lived through 2020 then you’re probably aware that one of the later discovered symptoms of Covid-19 was that your sense of smell can get all wacky, or even disappear.

Several people even reported that coffee began to smell like rotting meat to them.

10. Vomit

Again, I’d say this circles back to the same reasons that coffee might smell like poop, pee, fish, or rotting meat. Then again it could also be because someone is pregnant, in which case smells and tastes of all kinds can change and not be recognized for what they actually are. From what I can gather this one isn’t as commonly mentioned.

11. Soy sauce

A light roasted coffee can have a higher acidity and have a bit of a salty taste or smell sometimes. Additionally, certain regions like Kenya or Rwanda, produce coffees with stronger umami flavors that can give a soy sauce like flavor.


Coffee, aside from smelling like delicious coffee, can also have some strange smells for certain people. Also certain types of coffees, and at certain stages of production, can smell weird. In the end, just because your coffee has a strange smell, it doesn’t mean your nose is broken. Chances are that someone else has smelled that same smell in their coffee.