If Your Pee Smells Like Coffee, Don't Freak Out

Doctor Sameer Islam
·3-min read
Photo credit: Boonyarit - Getty Images
Photo credit: Boonyarit - Getty Images

Let's start with the basics: Why does my urine smell like coffee? Basically, it is because you are urinating coffee. Urine is your body’s way of getting rid of waste products from your blood through the kidneys. This waste is what gives urine its distinctive smell and odor. Eating and drinking certain things, including coffee, can change the scent of your urine.

There is only a finite amount of coffee we can drink and absorb in our bodies. The rest of the coffee, and any other excess liquids, get secreted in your urine. If you drink too much of anything, coffee included, you will pee it out.

Furthermore, certain ingredients in coffee, including antioxidant polyphenols such as hydroxycinnamic acids, give it its signature smell and health benefits. When these compounds are broken down in your body, they become waste products called metabolites released in your urine causing it to smell like coffee.

Coffee also has caffeine, which is a diuretic. This means caffeine can make you pee more, making drinking large amounts of caffeine dehydrating in some people. When you become dehydrated, your urine becomes more concentrated, making the smell of metabolites more noticeable. Also, caffeine can prevent sodium ion resorption, which means more sodium will be in the bloodstream, causing your urine to be more concentrated and smellier.

Does it mean there’s something wrong with my body?

Absolutely not. It is not harmful, and it does not mean something is wrong with your body. It could be a sign, however, of drinking too much coffee. This is especially true if you have other symptoms of too much coffee or caffeine—restlessness, agitation, anxiety, headaches, and nausea. In that case, it may be best to lay off.

Do you have to drink a certain amount of coffee for this to happen?

Everyone is different. For some people, it just may be one cup. For others, it could be more. It also depends on how dehydrated you are. Your body will do its best to maintain hydration, and if you are dehydrated, you will keep more fluids inside and make your urine more concentrated and more smelly.

Why would it only smell sometimes?

It depends on how much coffee you drink, how dehydrated you are, what other foods or drinks are being metabolized. There is a whole list of factors involved in making smelly urine.

Is there a way to keep your pee from smelling like coffee?

The primary advice is to drink less coffee, but that can be hard due to the addictive quality of caffeine. Sometimes switching to green or black tea can help since they contain less caffeine than coffee and do not have the same metabolites secreted in the urine. Drinking more water will help to keep you hydrated, which can help. But keep in mind that it’s not harmful at all to have that smell.

Does this happen with decaf?

Yes, it can. It is the ingredients of coffee that make the smell. However, the benefit of decaf is that it does not have a diuretic effect of caffeine, so you may not pee as much.

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