You may love coffee, but not the way it makes your breath smell.

Coffee breath and a dry, uncomfortable feeling in your mouth can be a price to pay for enjoying your favorite beverage.

The scent of coffee brewing can be luscious, but coffee breath does not resemble that soothing aroma.

Many people find the smell of coffee breath unpleasant in themselves and others. If you’re one of them, there are ways to eliminate coffee breath.

In this article we’ll explain why coffee breath occurs, and provide strategies for reducing it.

When coffee beans are roasted, sulfur-containing aroma compounds form. Along with the acid content in coffee, these compounds can produce bad breath.

Coffee also causes dry mouth, which can worsen bad breath. Coffee-induced dry mouth is produced in part by caffeine, which is slightly dehydrating. Tannins, a molecule found in coffee, are another culprit.

You may have noticed that coffee makes your mouth feel parched after you drink a cup. Baristas call this sensation astringency. Astringency is caused, in part, by tannins. Tannins are found in:

  • coffee
  • tea
  • other plants

In your mouth, tannins bind to your proteins in saliva, inhibiting its production. You need saliva to wash away:

  • food
  • debris
  • odor-causing bacteria

When bacteria remain in your mouth they proliferate and release volatile sulfur compounds (VSC), or sulfur gas. VSC are a root cause of bad breath (halitosis).

If giving up coffee in exchange for good breath isn’t appealing, these suggestions will help eliminate coffee breath:

  • Brush your teeth immediately after drinking coffee.
  • A small 2014 research review showed that using a tooth paste containing zinc may be beneficial.
  • Toothpastes containing clove oil, which has antibacterial properties, may also help.
  • Pop in a sugar-free breath mint or cough drop.
  • Chew sugarless gum.
  • Gargle with mouthwash.
  • Chew on fresh, raw parsley.
  • Drink a large glass of water.

It may seem counterintuitive, but drinking your coffee black may be better for your breath than drinking it with lots of add-ins.

A 2010 study found that 2 percent of coffee was beneficial for reducing, rather than increasing, volatile sulfuric compounds and the smell they produce.

This may mean that the milk or sugar you’ve been stirring into your cup may be primarily to blame for coffee breath. Bacteria feed on sugar, so adding sweeteners to your coffee may worsen breath.

If you loathe giving up that added sweet taste, try stirring your coffee with a cinnamon stick or vanilla bean rather than adding sugar. Sugar substitutes may also be an option.

Milk naturally contains sugar, which increases bacteria in your mouth. Skim milk contains more sugar than higher fat versions, such as whole milk or half and half. In some instances, these may be a better choice for you.

If you prefer to avoid coffee and coffee breath altogether, there are several alternative beverage choices you can try. Some include the caffeine you may be craving, and others are caffeine-free.

They include:

  • high caffeine black tea or chai tea
  • caffeine-free chicory root coffee
  • yerba mate, a caffeinated herbal tea

Coffee contains sulfuric and acidic compounds, which can cause coffee breath.

Since it inhibits the production of saliva, coffee also has a drying effect in your mouth. Without saliva to wash them away, bacteria can cause malodorous compounds to form, worsening coffee breath.

Good oral hygiene habits can help reduce coffee breath. So can switching to beverages such as black tea.