Furfuryl Mercaptan: The good smell of roasted coffee

Although in concentrated form, furfuryl mercaptan is a foul smelling compound. In 1926 it was already patented as coffee’s main odor active compound. It is a furan molecule substituted with a sulfanylmethyl group and is a clear colourless liquid when pure, but it becomes yellow coloured upon prolonged standing. Furfuryl mercaptan (otherwise known as coffee mercaptan) is the characterizing component of coffee. Coffee flavor and Furfuryl mercaptan are generated by a roasting process and a chemical reaction called the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is one of the most important reactions in food flavor development. The Maillard reaction is between a carbonyl group (sugar) and an amino compound (protein). Degradation of the condensation products of this reaction give a number of oxygenated compounds; such as furans, pyrazines, pyrroles, oxazoles, thiophenes, thiazoles and other heterocyclic compounds.

Furfuryl mercaptan is found in other roasted foods: beef, pork, chicken and popcorn. What else is your cup of coffee?

Also see:

Furfural Derivatives in Apple Cider and Wine

The expert panel of FEMA (Flavor and Extract Manufacturers' Association) assessed Furfural as GRAS (generally recognised as safe). More ..

  • Furfural and its many Byproducts
  • coffee
  • Flavour


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