Abstract This paper reports a study on the adsorption of the aroma component 2-phenylethanol from an aqueous solution onto granular activated carbon, derived from coconut husks, using batch and continuous (packed-bed column) systems. In the batch mode, the contact time required to attain the adsorption equilibrium was 90min. The adsorption isotherms were evaluated at 20.0°C, 30.0°C and 40.0°C. In the continuous mode, the effects of flow rate and bed length were studied. Experimental data showed that the breakthrough and exhaustion times decreased with higher flow rates and increased with higher packed beds. The adsorption in the fixed-bed column was more efficient under the following conditions: flow rate of 3.5mLmin−1 and bed length of 11cm. Based on the data acquired, adsorption appears to represent a promising method for the recovery of 2-phenylethanol lost during the instant coffee production process.