From the archives:
I was watching 1947's Born to Kill tonight and was amused to find a little bit of business about coffee toward the beginning of this film noir.
The private detective (who is the closest we're going to get to a hero in this flick) hears a delivery man comment about how the coffee in the cafe "sure smells good" and "isn't it a shame it never tastes as good as it smells." Our detective takes this comment and goes on to wax philosophical about how life is like that - better in theory than in fact.
I was somewhat surprised that their coffee didn't taste as good as it smelled.
What kind of sub-par coffee were the customers settling for?
Then I remembered that this movie was made back when people boiled the heck out of their coffee. If you let the percolator just run and run, you continually re-boiled the coffee grounds, and you ended up with a very bitter drink. Hence, the coffee smells better than it tastes.
Of course, they could also be talking about instant coffee, this being only a few years after World War II. But I'm betting it was the percolator.
With all our gourmet brands and specialty drinks, we forget how lucky we are just to have a cup of joe that tastes as good as it smells.