Why Does My Urine Smell like Coffee?

crazy by Editorial Staff | Updated on April 26th, 2023

The smell and color of your urine can tell you a lot about your health. A slight change in the color and smell of your urine can indicate that you need to see a doctor ASAP.


However, sometimes that change may not be a cause for concern. For example, when on medication and during pregnancy, there is a possibility of urine smelling or looking a bit unusual.

brown wooden mannequin on white ceramic toilet bowl

The smell can be defined in various ways, such as sweet or smelling like fish, coffee, ammonia, or alcohol. So, if you’re wondering why my pee smell like coffee, let’s get into why that happens.

Why does my pee smell like coffee?

Are you wondering why your pee smells like coffee? If your urine smells like coffee, it is often harmless. It’s usually because you’re drinking too much caffeine.

The different smells of urine

Urine was once utilized to detect ailments and provide hints as to whether or not something was amiss with the body. Today, the smell of urine and its color and symptoms can help identify whether a person is in good health or ill. The fragrance can be described in various ways, such as sweet or smelling like fish, coffee, ammonia, or alcohol.

What causes the smell in urine?

Some of the liquids generated by the human body, such as sperm or urine, take on the smell and taste of the meals and beverages we consume. For example, urine is produced by the kidneys, which are the organs that filter everything we drink. When the amount of caffeine we consume from coffee becomes excessively high, urine probably smells like coffee.

Caffeine also has a mild diuretic impact on those who consume it. As a result, excessive drinking may result in dehydration. As a result, the urine becomes more concentrated, and you may notice a more pungent coffee odor.

1. Drinking too much coffee

group of people holding mugs

What you bite and sip can also alter how your urine smell or look—drinking too much coffee can often result in your urine smelling like coffee. That happens because of the chemical compound in coffee. Remember, coffee has over 1,000 chemicals contributing to its flavor, appearance, and smell.  Antioxidants called polyphenols are principally responsible for the smell of coffee.

When you drink coffee, the polyphenols are absorbed by the digestive tract and put to use, then broken down and excreted in the urine. If you drink too much coffee, your urine will have a high concentration of polyphenols and other coffee compounds; hence, it will smell like coffee.

2. Stimulants and caffeine in your cup

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Coffee contains caffeine and stimulant, which increases your rate of urination and can lead to dehydration. When dehydrated, your urine is more concentrated and will smell stronger and darker. That means it contains more waste than usual and less water. If this happens, your urine will often smell like coffee. 

While it is rare to overdose on caffeine, sometimes it is possible. The following symptoms may indicate you have overdosed and need to talk to your doctor immediately:

  • Vomiting
  • An irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Chronic insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Convulsions
  • Chronic headaches
  • Chain pain 

Effects of caffeine on urine output

  • Diuretic effects: Caffeine is a mild diuretic. That means it causes you to visit the washroom more often.
  • Change in water concentration: Caffeine can prevent sodium ion resorption, allowing more sodium to remain in the bloodstream. This causes the increased production of concentrated urine.
  • Changes in color and odor: Concentrated urine is packed with waste products such as urea, ammonia, and other by-products. This can make your urine appear darker and have a pungent smell.

Does this happen with decaf?

Yes, it is possible. The coffee’s ingredients generate the aroma. However, decaf has the advantage of not having the diuretic effect of caffeine, so you do not pee as much.

3. Methyl mercaptan: A Sulfur-Containing compound

The culprit behind urine that smells like coffee is often methyl mercaptan, a sulfur-containing compound. This odor is usually caused by the breakdown of certain substances during digestion.

Asparagus, garlic, and other vegetables are known for containing this sulfur compound, which can be released into the urine when broken down.

Additionally, caffeine, as a diuretic, acts as an agent for increased water removal from the body. This produces urine that is more concentrated, which in turn can lead to a stronger smell of coffee.

4. Dehydration

Urine becomes more concentrated when the body is dehydrated. As a result, it will have a more pungent odor and seem darker than healthy urine, which is light or clear.

If a person becomes dehydrated due to drinking too much coffee or consumes coffee while already dehydrated, their urine will frequently smell like coffee.

5. Other foods and drinks that may cause urine to smell unusual

It is not coffee alone that will make your urine smell unusual. Here are other food and drink that may change that smell:

  • Asparagus
  • Garlic
  • Puffed wheat
  • Salmon
  • Teas
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods that contain capsaicin
  • Leafy greens, especially kale

6. Other conditions

Considering people interpret smells differently, some may mistake the smell of coffee for an odor that shows a problem. For example, uncontrolled bladder infections and type 2 diabetes can give urine a scent that may be mistaken for coffee. That said, here are medical conditions that can cause changes in the smell of urine or alter the sense of smell:

  • Bladder fistulas are linked with urine that smells like feces or gas
  • Untreated or uncontrolled type 2 diabetes is associated with sweet-smelling or pungent urine
  • A mouth inflammation, burnt tongue, or infection of the urinary tract or bladder can cause urine to smell strong or foul.
  • Kidney failure and disease are linked with dark, strongly-smelling urine
  • Nasal congestion
  • Maple syrup urine ailment causes urine to smell very sweet, like burnt caramel.
  • Metabolic and liver disorders are linked with musty-smelling urine

Should you be concerned if your urine smells like coffee?

woman in blue crew neck shirt sitting on brown couch

Well, if you are having too much coffee, there is no need to be worried about the smell. But it is good to note that too much coffee is not good for your health. And because it is a stimulant, caffeine can interfere with your sleeping patterns. So, it is good to avoid drinking it before going to bed. Other symptoms associated with drinking too much coffee include:

  • Excitement
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Dehydration 

We recommend you talk to your doctor if your urine is also accompanied by the following besides smelling like coffee: 

  • Flu-like symptoms that last longer than 2 weeks
  • Pain, burning, or discharge when urinating?
  • An increase in the urge to urinate
  • Pain in the lower back
  • A reduced rate of urination
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Fever or chills
  • Swelling and pain in the lower abdomen

Duration of bad-smelling urine

The cause determines the duration of bad-smelling urine.

If it’s temporary

Whether the cause is food or drink, smelling urine will resolve quickly. However, if an infection causes it, it can last for several days.

If it prolongs

If untreated, conditions such as diabetes or liver failure can cause foul-smelling urine that lasts for weeks or months.

Treatment

To eliminate the smell of coffee in your urine, you first need to know the cause. If you are having too much coffee, reduce your intake. If the reason is other food, limit the consumption of that food. And if it is because of an underlying medication condition, seek immediate medical treatment.    

At-home treatments

Try one of these at-home natural remedies:

  • Drink more water daily
  • Vitamin C tablets
  • Drink green tea
  • Unsweetened cranberry juice or tablets (however, do not use cranberry if you have a kidney stone or take any blood-thinning medications)

When to see a doctor

It is perfectly normal for urine to smell like coffee. Urine that is concentrated or pee smells like coffee usually is not a cause for concern because it is merely a reflection of your kidney doing its job. However, a few occasions where unusually colored or odorous urine may indicate a severe underlying disease that a medical practitioner should address. These are some examples:

  • Urine that is red or pink may suggest the presence of blood.
  • Atypical urine color that is unrelated to medicine, meals, or nutritional supplements
  • Urine that smells very bad
  • Other symptoms include abdominal pain, back pain, increased appetite or thirst, unexpected weight loss, fever, sweats, or chills.
  • A quick pulse, dizziness, or light-headedness accompanies urine volume reduction.
  • Burning sensation while urinating, as well as pale feces and yellowing of the eyes

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Editorial Staff

The editorial staff at Crazy Coffee Crave is a team of coffee enthusiasts & Baristas who enjoy the one thing we all think about as soon as we get up in the morning. Trusted by thousands of readers worldwide.