To develop a ready-to-drink (RTD) milk coffee that retains the original coffee flavor, the effects of manufacturing processing conditions on retronasal-aroma (RA) odorants were investigated by gas chromatography-olfactometry (CharmAnalysis™) using an RA simulator (RAS). Twenty-nine of 33 odorants detected in the RAS effluent (RAS odorants) were identified. The detected odorants were classified into 19 odor-description groups. The total odor intensity (charm value, CMV) of all coffee RAS odorants decreased approximately 68% following pH adjustment, whereas the total CMV increased 6% to 7% following ultra-high-temperature sterilization. The total CMV ratio (about 83%) of the milk coffee produced using a new blending-after-sterilization (BAS) process without pH adjustment of the coffee was greater than that (approximately 56%) prepared using a conventional blending-before-sterilization (BBS) process with pH adjustment. In BAS-processed milk coffees, the total CMV ratio (91%) with infusion (INF)-sterilized reconstituted milk (r-milk) was greater than that (83%) of plate (PLT)-sterilized r-milk. Principal component analysis of odor-description CMVs indicated that the effect of coffee pH adjustment on odor characteristics was greater than that of sterilization, that BAS and BBS samples differed, and that BAS milk coffee prepared using INF sterilization was more similar to homemade milk coffee (blending unsterilized coffee without pH adjustment with PLT-sterilized milk) than milk coffee prepared using PLT sterilization. In conclusion, the BAS process using INF sterilization is superior for manufacturing RTD milk coffee that retains odor characteristics similar to targeted homemade milk coffee. Practical Application: Ready-to-drink milk coffee beverages produced using conventional blending-before-sterilization methods do not retain their original coffee flavor following adjustment of the pH of the coffee during manufacturing. The use of newly developed blending-after-sterilization methods, by contrast, produces ready-to-drink milk coffee with an aroma more similar to that of homemade milk coffee, as demonstrated using an analytical system for characterizing food product aromas. The blending-after-sterilization process is now being used in Japan to produce ready-to-drink milk coffee beverages.
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