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Quiet Coffee Shops: A Fascinating New Study

quiet coffee shops empty

Many of us have sought out a quiet coffee shop to get some reading done or catch up with a friend. But is there a scientific reason behind that preference, and does the noise level affect our enjoyment of the coffee itself?

There’s a fascinating new study out that suggests just that! Keep reading to learn all about this new research — and why you may want to stick with quiet coffee shops for all of your caffeinating needs.

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Quiet Coffee Shops: What Does the Research Say?

empty coffee shop

New research suggests that coffee tastes better in quiet coffee shops — good news for coffee shop owners during the current pandemic!

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s tried to concentrate in a crowded coffee shop, but it’s hard to focus when your brain is distracted by sound. As it turns out, this extends to flavors and aromas, too! When you’re distracted, you don’t experience more complex or subtle flavors as fully.


How did the study work?

black coffee and latte art on coffee shop stool

Participants in the study drank the same coffee multiple times. They tried it while listening to the sound of a food court at about 20 decibels (the noise level of a whisper) and again at about 85 decibels (the sound level of heavy traffic or a noisy restaurant).

The study took place in Quito, Ecuador, and the coffee itself was an Ecuadorian Arabica blend from a roaster called Café Galleti. The scientists behind the study wanted to see if the coffee drinking experience varied based on how loud it was.


What were the results?

coffee closeup

When the noise level was higher, the coffee tasted less bitter but also seemed less complex and aromatic. In other words, the coffee experience was less rich, and the participants enjoyed it less.

When it was quiet, the participants were about twice as likely to say they’d buy the sample coffee. They also thought it was more expensive and more aromatic. By contrast, when the sound was turned up, participants thought the flavor was less interesting and that they were drinking cheaper coffee. Keep in mind that the coffee was identical — so the only variable was sound!


What does this mean for headphones?

coffee shop headphones

Coffee shop goers have been trending toward wearing headphones — especially noise-canceling headphones — lately. As you might imagine, this study has some bearing on that trend! If you love wearing headphones at cafés, you’re probably enjoying your coffee more. So by all means, keep wearing those headphones — but don’t forget to take them off when ordering. Your favorite barista has enough to do!


Looking for more details?

You can read the whole study, straightforwardly titled “The Effects of Noise Control in Coffee Tasting Experiences,” online.

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Quiet Coffee Shops: The Bottom Line

Next time you see an empty coffee shop, why not stop in and see if your cappuccino tastes better? The fascinating results of this coffee study show that you’re more likely to enjoy your coffee — flavor and aroma — in a quiet environment. And if you’re in a loud coffee shop, don’t be afraid to rock your headphones! You’ll be able to focus on what’s important: that delicious cup of coffee.

More great reads:

Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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