Science Buzz

Why sugar makes coffee taste so good

Sugar cube being dropped into black coffee

Cutting sugar out of your diet is difficult for most people, and now scientists reveal why it is even tougher to give up in tea and coffee. University of York researchers found that sugar doesn’t just mask the bitterness in caffeinated drinks but changes the fundamental chemistry to make them more palatable.

The research looked at how caffeine, sugar and water interact at a molecular level to affect taste. The caffeine in coffee and tea is responsible for the bitter taste, but the addition of sugar causes caffeine molecules to clump together so they have less surface area to stimulate the taste buds.

“When molecules aggregate or stick together, the taste buds find it harder to pick up the taste of them,” said Dr Seishi Shimizu of the York Structural Biology Laboratory. “This is why the aggregation of caffeine molecules causes the bitter taste to be less prominent.”