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Wake Up and Smell the Nauseating Coffee 66

jacobjyu writes "The NY Times is running a story about a coffee roasting plant being accused of polluting the air. The city inspector claims the smells are making people sick, however the plant owner retorts, 'This is not a smell that makes people sick ... This is one of those sweet smells like cut flowers, like fresh-baked bread, that's part and parcel of life in every city across the world.' Whatever the case, some people are claiming plastic-smelling fumes coming from the stacks: my only question is what the heck are they putting in this coffee??"
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Wake Up and Smell the Nauseating Coffee

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  • Coffee smell almost always nauseates me
    • Me neither. I had the unfortunate experience of buying ~$10 CAD in bulk chocolate covered coffee beans. I think I almost overdosed on caffeine, and to this day I cannot stand the smell of coffee, coffee beans, or really dark, bitter chocolate.
    • You should all try the stench coming from a sauerkraut factory some time... The small towns of Shortsville, Manchester and Clifton Springs, NY all stink like, well like rotting cabbage from the discharge of byproducts into aeration and decomposition ponds and other manufacturing processes. (Silverfloss brand)

      That smell nauseates me. But the end product, hmmmm Silverfloss sauerkraut...
    • coffee is a good anti oxidant which prevents many ill effects of day to day living
  • Decaffeinated (Score:5, Informative)

    by Strange Ranger ( 454494 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:28PM (#4865155)
    If they are using a chemical decaffeination process [] that would likely cause the stink.

    The chemical solvent method is the most commonly used method for removing the caffeine from coffee. Common solvents include methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, and highly pressurized carbon dioxide. After the green beans are moistened they are then immersed in the solvent. After the solvent performs its action, the beans are rinsed with water. After the beans have been rinsed, they are steamed. Residual solvents evaporate in the steam. The rinsing and evaporation systems collect the solvent for recycling and re-use. Any remaining solvent will be burned off in the roasting process. The chemical caffeine method will remove 96 - 98% of caffeine.
    • Re:Decaffeinated (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Stone Rhino ( 532581 )
      RTFA--they're not. It's just roasting of coffee that's going on there. However, anything can be unpleasent if you have enough exposure (note my comment below, posted simultaneously with yours)
      • Re:Decaffeinated (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Strange Ranger ( 454494 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:57PM (#4865443)
        Actually I did RTFA and it only says they are not using plastics. I also visited his company's web site [] where they advertise decaffeinated coffee. And read the addendum [] to the decaffeination link I posted above that Schoenholt wrote himself. He advocates using Methylene Chloride.
        "Methylene Chloride

        Methylene Chloride is a synthetic chemical solvent. It is not naturally found but must be created by chlorinating methane gas. It sounds terrible but it makes very good tasting decaf.

        About The Author:
        Donald N. Schoenholt can be reached at:
        Gillies Coffee Co.
        America's Oldest Coffee Merchant
        Toll Free: 1-800-344-5526
        Fax: 1-718-499-7771"

        Something tells me Methylene Chloride smells like plastic.
        • I used metylene chloride (CH2Cl2) as a solvent in organic chemistry class. It has smells like something you would dilute paint with (duh!).

          Not very unpleasant really, but nothing you would want to smell the first thing in the morning!
    • See this is why decaf is EVIL! and not to be trusted.
    • If they are using this process, they should be severly punished. What did that poor coffee bean do to deserve to have it's precious and life giving caffiene chemically scrubbed away? If God has intended for coffee to be caffiene free, He would have made it that way.

      Once the beans hear of what can happen to them, Ol' Juan is going to have a strike on his hands!
    • Re:Decaffeinated (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zenyu ( 248067 )
      If they are using a chemical decaffeination process [] that would likely cause the stink. You know most of the time I have pretty much a live and let live attitude. But something inside me just feels that de-cafe-inated cafe is wrong! I didn't want to write that exclamation point, but I simply could not help it. No one sells "water free mineral water", it just wouldn't be right. Even tofu burgers are clearly labeled. They are not sold as "debeefed beef patties." I think at the very least that drink made from removing the coffee from coffee should be sold under some other name. I propose "nes-yuck" or "nes-crud" for the products of that evil company that makes "instant coffee" or for the generic name, a simple yet descriptive two worder, "nasty crap." But really, if friggin pot and coke can be illegal cuz they make people feel good, why not such a great affront to nature as nasty crap?
      • Wow, maybe some people actually *like* the taste coffee, but prefer not to ingest psychoactive drugs that probably cause [] vascular disease. Could it be?
      • > No one sells "water free mineral water", it just wouldn't be right.

        Cow Orker: "Here, Tackhead, hold my pet rock while I get some of that wonderful decaf!"

        Tackhead: "Yep. Decaf rots the mind."

  • by Stone Rhino ( 532581 ) <mparke@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:30PM (#4865175) Homepage Journal
    I read this article in its hard-copy form earlier today. The simple thing is that exposure to anything for long enough will make you sick of it. I'm sure many /. readers have a game they love, but if they played it 24 hours a day and had to play the same level over and over, I think they would be sick of it too. Here, the people are just smelling coffee for hours on end, and while that may a pleasant or at least tolerable smell to you or I, to someone who deals with it for hours on end, it is a very different situation. As the article says, they even get these against Krispy Kreme donuts--and who doesn't love those?
    • Living near and working in Hershey, PA (technically Derry Township, but there was a vote to change... different tangent) for a while means I get to smell chocolate all the time. I've gotten so I don't notice it any more, and I have never heard anyone "ewww, that town smells like chocolate" or "I had to move away, the chocolate smell just got to me after a while." Now, getting near the West plant (where they pasturize milk) and you get this odor of stale milk - not bad evil sour milk - just stale. It's not "I gotsta build a 3-bedroom here because of the lovely odor" but it's not "roll up the windows and drive fast" kind of thing either - it's just something that's there. I don't live that close to that plant to have grown used to it, but I don't see many For Sale signs in that area either.
    • Actually when your sense of smell gets overexposed, you start to not smell the constant fumes. If you work at a coffeeshop or someplace with continuous smells you'll notice that after a while your olfactory nerves will sort of get over saturated and the coffee smell won't really register in your mind anymore. Where I see this most happening is the place that you live, everyone's home has a distinct smell (not necessarily a bad one), but you'll most likely the only one oblivious to it if you invite your friends over.
      • I live on a dairy farm, and the smell of cow s@#t does not bother me, but every time i go near a chicken/pig/horse/veal/insert animal here farm, the stench is nearly unbearable.
        Basically, many people complain about many smells, but those defending the smells are usually desensitized to them, which causes quite a problem.
  • I live in a historic district, and we've got a roaster/coffeehouse [] about 8 blocks from my house. I rejoice every time I can smell them from home, because that means the breeze isn't blowing through the recycling plant a mile west of the house! OK, I'm also a coffee addict. So what?!?
  • I was stationed on Governors Island with the US Coast Guard back in '75, and the single most favorite thing was the smell from the giant roaster over in Brooklyn on the waterfront facing us on the island. It's changed me forever. Now I'm addicted to coffee and I blame Chock full O nuts.
  • Nabisco has similar problems with their bakery in Fairlawn. You can smell the fresh baked cookies from as far away as 2 miles, if the winds are right. While their Chips Ahoy may not be as good as fresh-baked Mrs. Fields type cookies, they certainly smell just as good while being baked.

    Anyways, the town of Fair Lawn is constantly fining them for polluting the air.

    Its incredible how a town can court big business to build factories in their town, and bring jobs to their neighborhood. And as soon as the plant goes up, they start complaining about the (pick you choice of industrial byproducts) noise, heat, smell

    1. Approach Large business to build plant in town.
    2. Wine and dine exectives
    3. Give Building Permits
    4. ...
    5. Fine
    6. Profit
  • Nuisance (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MacAndrew ( 463832 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:50PM (#4865364) Homepage
    The administrative code under which Gillies was cited specifies that "no person shall cause or permit the emission of air contaminant, including odorous air contaminant . . . if the air contaminant . . . may cause detriment to the health, safety, welfare or comfort of any person."

    That's a pretty darn broad regulation once you throw "or comfort" in at the end. The stadard boilerplate formula is "health/safety/welfare" which are considerably less subjective. Badly-worded rule right there.

    As for the smell, and to be technical no one has the right to force anyone else to smell anything in particular, it's technically a nuisance and could range from baking bread to sticking offal. Usually we keep conflicts down by zoning where things like pig farming can take place.

    Now, I have no trouble regulating it if the coffee really smells like "burning plastic" or even vanilla hazelnut. (Between the two I'd pick the plastic, and that's because I like coffee.) Interesting Q: How do you try this in court? Take air samples and blow them in jurors' faces? I think you'd have to have a field trip.

    Anyway ... uh ... why is this a /. story? Are we supposed to think the critical supply of roasted coffee beans is imperiled here?
    • remove too much of the comfort of one and you've invented hell.
      Seat on an uncomfortable chair, and you will experience over the years:
      -back problems
      -eventually surgery
      Also, usually most people censor bad smell. If the people in this neighbouhood cant, it's probably more a stench than an unconfortable bad smell.
      Feelling nauseous all day is cetainly beyond uncomfort.
  • Bay Bridge (Score:4, Interesting)

    by linuxwrangler ( 582055 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @04:56PM (#4865430)
    I remember a few years back when there was a big roasting facility (Hills Bros. ??) at the San Francisco end of the Bay Bridge. The smell was quite strong (and not as pleasant as the smell of a brewing cup). Other than being annoying to some, I have no idea about the health effects of coffee-roasting byproducts.

    A number of bakeries were required by the Bay Area air folks to add pollution controls. Everyone likes the smell of baking bread but baking drives off the alcohol created by the yeast and the quantity of alcohol being released into the air was really surprising.

    Still, I'd rather go after bad-smelling pollution first - I'm willing to take the risk from bread baking and fireplaces as they bring me sufficient pleasure.
    • Reminds me of the nearest city to my home (Williamsport, PA, USA):
      There is a large Stroehman's bread factory that used to spew the smell of fresh baked bread (they actually filtered it enough to make it smell quite palatable). The EPA came in, and they were forced to install filters, not due to complaints, but due to the CO2 emissions from the yeast.

      Talk about a bummer.
  • Wimps (Score:3, Informative)

    by pmz ( 462998 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @05:03PM (#4865502) Homepage
    Those people in the article should try living in a paper mill town sometime. Yech!
    • NO KIDDING. There was one not too far from where I grew up. When the wind blew wrong, you did NOT want to go outside. I truly pitied the people who lived in the normal downwind direction from the place. Over the years, though, they've gotten better pollution controls, and I don't think I've smelled the place in ten years.

      However, my dad grew up in the same house I did, and he said that when he was a kid it was even worse. The area even had acid rain problems from the plant until the EPA forced them to clean up and add some scrubbers.
      • I grew up in Park Falls, in northern Wisconsin. A "high-grade textbook paper" mill. I had nosebleeds every day until I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where the air was clean. What a world . . .

    • Or near a brickworks or a tannery...
      I have no idea why making bricks smells so awful.
    • ... my own experience. Ahh, the smell of burning cow entrails! It's enough to make one go veg.
  • The first paragraph of the article notes all sorts of nasty smells - from a variety of sources - in the coffee roaster's neighborhood. Reading through the article, i didn't see ANYTHING beyond the accusation of one local resident to show that the "burning plastic" smell actually comes from the coffee place.

    Reading the article again, there may only be ONE person who even claims that the smell exists. Sounds like entertaining local color & gossip with a bare minimum of real facts.
  • I Agree (Score:2, Interesting)

    by yancey ( 136972 )

    There is a Folger's plant near my home town and I used to drive by there on my way to work at 6:30 in the morning. I have to say that the smell often reminded me of puke.

  • Actually, the smell of roasting coffee is quite bitter. For example, if you put vodka in your penne and salmon, the particles that are vaporized is far different than the eventual flavor left in the sauce. The kitchen smells like a russian cabinet meeting, but the sauce is more balanced.

    With coffee, it's far more extreme, since you're actually roasting away the impurities. It's not unlike plastic, but far more organic smelling, if that makes sense.

    Personally it doesn't bother me, but I wouldn't want blowing through my house all day...
  • I used to hang out at the Palo Alto Roasting Company because I had some friends who preferred it over Cafe Verona. They roast their own coffee right there in the store. When the roaster is going, the smell really is overpowering.

    It's not a nice pleasant thing. And this is a died-in-the-wool coffee addict talking here. I wouldn't be surprised if this stuff is harmful - they should run the smoke through some kind of scrubber or vent it somewhere where nobody will smell it. I doubt that the smoke has any environmental toxins in it, but breathing it is probably not good for your lungs.
  • by wumingzi ( 67100 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @06:15PM (#4866236) Homepage Journal
    There are several roasting plants near my place, One of which [] frequently does waft over my house if the wind is blowing the right way.

    I can't say I mind much, but there is a difference between the smell of roasted coffee and the smell of a roasting plant at work.

    Very strangely, one roaster [] is kitty-corner from a crematorium []. It may or may not surprise you that burned Seattleites smell a lot like roasted coffee.
  • I grew up in a country town, right next to a large coffee factory. Loved the smell, the aroma kinda reminds me of home. And look at me, I grew up fine....

    (Takes money..)

  • by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @06:22PM (#4866313)
    Coffee beans that have been roasted have a wonderful smell and thank the Lord for it, because life wouldn't be worth living without good ole roasted coffee beans.

    However, anyone who has every roasted coffee knows, that roasting coffee produces very strong unpleasant odors.

    Buying green coffee beans is great because they have a shelf life of several years. Once you roast a been, the whole freshness thing comes into play, and the shelf life is only a few weeks before the coffee goes stale.

    Roasting your own coffee is not for the feignt of heart and should be done in a well ventalated area (not your kitchen). Outdoor ovens are perfect.

    • And they put off quite a bit of smoke (i.e. particulates - bad to breathe). Even my little Hearthware Gourmet [] (aka Pop-Corn Popper) smokes enough to make it unusable inside under the range hood (1/2 cup capacity), and it's supposedly one of the lowest smokers (because it's so whimpy).

      I can tolerate the smell but my wife just can't. We both love the smell of the final product, though.
  • My wife used to work for a coffee packaging company. Some of their packaging couldn't be used with coffee that had artificial flavorings added because the flavorings would melt the plastic.
  • where they make coffee with dirt in it ;)

    The guys in the office have been wondering that for weeks . . .

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Volatile organic compounds [], or VOC's, can be a major pollutant. I know you get quite a lot of these when you bake bread, for example. It's no big deal when you bake a few loaves at home, but a serious problem when you're talking about a large commercial bakery. I'd imagine that roasting coffee might also produce lots of different VOC's, so I wouldn't be too quick to blow off the complaints of people living near a large roastery.
  • "The NY Times is running a story about a paper mill being accused of polluting the air. The city inspector claims the smells are making people sick, however the plant owner retorts, 'This is not a smell that makes people sick ... This is one of those sweet smells like receiving a greeting card, opening a present, that's part and parcel of life in every city across the world.' Whatever the case, some people are claiming plastic-smelling fumes coming from the stacks: my only question is what the heck are they putting in this paper??"

  • Apart from personal preferences and whatever else may be going on alongside the roasting, I suspect the degree of nuisance is going to vary pretty strongly with the concentration in the air. There's a small coffee-merchant's plant about a mile across a valley from where I live - they supply many of the local restaurants - and at that distance, on that scale, the smell isn't particularly objectionable. However, I still wouldn't want to live right next door to their works, or anywhere in the neighborhood of one of the industrial-scale manufacturers.
  • Really. There is no stinky coffee plant.

    It's just that the area has finally reached Starbucks Overload.

  • I live next to a coffee-roasting facility. Ah, the sweet smeel of the stuff that they burn off the coffee before they give it to us. We all hate it, but I'm only here when it happens once a month or so, as it's usually during the day and so I avoid the smell. At least they have timed it so most people would be at work when it happens.
  • "'This is not a smell that makes people sick ... This is one of those sweet smells like cut flowers, like fresh-baked bread, that's part and parcel of life in every city across the world.'"

    Oh right, like the smell of a monkey's butt, right? Drink up - drink ass! []
  • . . .this isn't a Soylent Green Factory?!
  • We have a coffee factory here in my city (Utrecht, the Netherlands), and when the wind is right, wherever you go, you will smell burnt toast (that's what it reminds me of, at any rate). It's disgusting, but it's not overpowering.

    I wonder where they get the burnt plastic smell from in the other place?



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