The Real Reason Your Coffee Could Taste Different In A To-Go Cup

If you drink a cup of coffee at home every day, you know that the to-go cup you make for yourself to take on the road every once in a while simply does not taste the same. Blame it on the morning rush and lack of time that stops you from appreciating your coffee at the leisure pace you would at home if you may, but there's something about a to-go coffee that just is not the same.

You could be following the exact same brewing method for your to-go cup — using the same coffee beans, the same brewing time, the same brewing equipment, and even measuring the temperature of the water. However, the coffee in a to-go cup ends up being a tad underwhelming. If you face a similar problem, you are not alone.

A Reddit user posed a similar question a few weeks back, to which another user said that Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford, has a scientific explanation for this peculiar problem. According to Spence, the main reason why coffee in a to-go cup does not taste the same is because you can't smell it. Given how important the role of smell is in determining how much you enjoy food and drinks, the lid on top of your to-go cup keeps you from smelling the aroma of coffee, which you normally would be able to do if you were drinking coffee out of a mug at home.

Your to-go cup's material plays an important role, too

While not being able to smell the aroma of coffee from a to-go cup definitely plays a huge role in making it taste different, the material that your to-go cup is made of can also affect the coffee's taste. The mugs that you drink coffee out of at home are usually made out of ceramic, which is a neutral material (via Deneen Pottery). This means that ceramic mugs neither absorb the flavor of coffee nor add any flavor for their own, and so, coffee in a ceramic mug tastes exactly the way that the coffee should.

Reusable plastic cups, on the other hand, absorb flavors and odors, which is why your to-go cups smell noticeably stale no matter how much you wash them (via Wired). Paper cups, too, are lined with plastic, which is why a to-go cup from your neighborhood cafe tastes different also. You might think that stainless steel to-go cups would be the next best option. But, according to Deneen Pottery, those are no good either. The website explains that stainless steel normally does not absorb flavors and odors like plastic does. However, some stainless steel to-go mugs are made of cheaper materials that gradually wear off and mix with your coffee making it taste oddly different.