The Aroma of Hot Coffee and a Cigarette

Boomers are likely the last generation to remember the aroma of a hot cup of coffee and a freshly lit cigarette. I live in California where smoking has been banned to an off-shore island or Las Vegas some four-hours away. The dated smell of a burning cigarette is so rare that it makes people say, “Who’s smoking?! Louise…do you smell that?”

This phenomenon comes from childhood memories of a frosty morning, freshly brewed Maxwell House coffee, a freshly lit cigarette, and the ol’ man sipping a cup of black coffee. To capture this authentic aroma, the cigarette must be just lit with a match (the sulfur in the match is important to this formula) and the coffee must be brewed in an old-fashioned percolator or on a hot stove. It must also be cold outside along with the ambiance of a freshly fired gas furnace.

The ultimate combination, of course, is the cigarette, coffee, and that first furnace firing of the winter where all the dust accumulated on the combustors over the summer begins to burn off and fill the house with the warm and cozy anticipation of the holidays around the corner.

Isn’t it remarkable what our sense of smell does to memories? Rubbing alcohol triggers memories of those polio boosters and the sting of a quick shot in the butt. The sweet aroma of clover and honeysuckle in spring. Stinky diesel fumes remind us of taking a city bus downtown. Unburned exhaust hydrocarbons from cold carbureted engines takes us back to those frosty mornings.

For me personally, I could do without ever picking up the scent of Wind Song perfume ever again along with my mother’s body chemistry. My mother wore Wind Song and it reminds me of being car sick and her holding the barf pan. Some memories are best forgotten.

How about the dense aroma of a library with hundreds of thousands of books and periodicals? And, who can forget the heavy smell of a bar, pool room, or bowling alley? Bowling alleys always possessed the smell of lane conditioner, cigarettes, and spilled beer. School buildings deliver a smell, even today, that reminds me of what a lousy student I was a half century ago.


Autumn, of course, is a personal favorite with the sweet aroma of woodsmoke and fireplaces burning all over the community. It was a smell that began to arrive around Halloween. As neighbors raked leaves and burned them, it only added to the magic of fall.

As I write this, I am reminded of the need to buy a fresh can of deodorant – I need a shower.

4 thoughts on “The Aroma of Hot Coffee and a Cigarette”

  1. I forgot that I forgot about many of these. Especially the cold cold mornings, firing up the car while it’s still below freezing with snow on the ground. I do miss it so. I’ve been in Florida too long. My dad smoked briefly, I remember, small cigars like his father did, but then he stopped after we moved to Florida. Yes I miss the smell of freshly brewed coffee however who uses the percolator anymore. Now it’s the Maxwell House pod in the Keurig machine.

    Eric Hasert
    1-(772) 216-2342 was
    Sent from the road


  2. My mom used a Corning percolator, made coffee that would float a spoon. That coffee over ice in the afternoon was the original iced coffee. The smell of a cool fall night with my bedroom window cracked, the smell of a cheerleader’s or pep club girl’s freshly drycleaned uniform… of a new leather football or baseball, of a drug store lunch counter… Fantastik while you cleaned your car seats, and the mixture of aromas that created the under the hood smell of anything that burned gasoline… the smell of years of grampa his truck wore like a shirt… The smell of lumberyards and hot box cars and an afternoon of cordite running through .22s like water.


    1. YES!!! I try to relive some of these memories – with a window cracked on a fall night and the sweet aroma of woodsmoke in the air. Early spring when plant life begins to awaken. A fresh rain when it hasn’t rained in ages.

      Know what I love? The sweet smell of a lumberyard…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I grew up in a lumberyard. Nothing like the smell of fresh sawdust while shoveling out the sawdust. Or a boxcar full of sawmill fresh 2x12s


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