Bulletproof coffee has taken the paleo world by storm. Not me, though.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for people dropping grass-fed butter and coconut/MCT oil into their high-quality coffee, blending it all up into a high-octane mug of frothiness, but I just can’t get into it. If we’re talking coffee additives, I prefer my butter in the form of cream. That’s me. I definitely see the appeal of it, though, and I’m sold on the merits of the drink and its components. It’s just not for me.
However, the idea of adding non-traditional fatty food items to coffee intrigued me, so I decided to explore other options. Eventually, I landed on eggs.
Egg yolks are excellent emulsifiers. There’s the egg yolk lecithin, a famous emulsifier, plus several different egg yolk proteins with emulsification properties. Good yolks are prized by top chefs around the world primarily for their emulsifying ability. Egg yolks smooth out sauces, salad dressings, and relations between bitter enemies like oil and water. That’s right: egg yolks are the great unifiers of the food world. Throw some olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper into a bowl, whisk it all together, and you’ll have a lovely stratified bowl of fluids of different shades. Oh, they might appear to blend together into a dressing for a second or two, but once you look away, the old immutable divisions will rear their heads and the dressing will disappear. Add an egg yolk or two, though? You’ll get a silky smooth salad dressing that remains so for time immemorial.
If you don’t have a blender but still want a smooth, creamy coffee drink, hand-frothing an egg yolk with a fork or whisk will get you there. Hand-frothing butter and coconut oil requires vigorous labor and may not even achieve full emulsification.
Eggs are incredible sources of micronutrients. While I love grass-fed butter, cream, and coconut oil, they aren’t exactly micronutrient-dense. The best butter contains beneficial nutrients like vitamin A, omega-3s, vitamin K2, and butyric acid, while coconut oil is a unique source of medium chain triglycerides, but for the most part we eat those foods because they are sources of stable, healthful saturated fats. They provide energy. Egg yolks, on the other hand, are baby bird building blocks. They contain everything you need to build an entire working animal from scratch – all the vitamins, minerals, protein, and fatty acids that make life work. And, if you get a pastured egg – which you should if you know what’s good for (and your omelets) – your yolk will be supercharged, with extra choline, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin K2, omega-3 fats, vitamin D, and beta-carotene from all the bugs and greens the chickens ate.
I love eggs, particularly the yolks, and enjoy adding them to everything. They’re a solid, dependable, go-to breakfast item, they’re good for you, and they taste great. What more can you want? That’s why they ended up on my list of foods I couldn’t live without, and that’s why they ended up in my coffee. In the end, I just love eggs, and since I already add them to just about everything, I figured “why not coffee?”
Are there any potential problems with adding eggs to coffee?
Oxidation springs to mind. Not only are you subjecting egg yolks to heat, you’re also whipping oxygen into them. It seems like the perfect storm of lipid oxidation, no?
I’m actually not too worried. First of all, the coffee really isn’t very hot. It’s well under boiling.
Second, coffee is a rich source of antioxidants – you know, those things whose primary job is to prevent oxidation. Whereas bathing fragile fats in a boiling bath of water might promote oxidation, coffee is essentially an antioxidant-rich broth. Marinating meats in herbs, wine, and citrus juice seems to prevent oxidation, and I’d bet that coffee can have similarly protective effects. Drinking coffee sure protects LDL particles from oxidation via incorporation of coffee polyphenols into said LDL particles; why wouldn’t coffee polyphenols frothed up with egg yolk offer similar protections to egg phospholipids?
Third, the actual blending/frothing only takes place for a few seconds. It’s relatively short-lived, probably not long enough to be a problem.
Fourth, the vitamin E in egg yolks is there to prevent oxidation. It’s quite good at it. Coincidentally, this is why you should get pastured eggs if possible. The yolks of pastured eggs contain upwards of four times the vitamin E found in standard battery egg yolks.
What about raw egg white’s tendency to bind biotin? Raw egg whites have the well-publicized ability to bind biotin (found in the yolk) and prevent its absorption. Luckily, the binding ability of avidin begins to break down at 158 ºF (70 ºC) and is almost completely degraded at 185 ºF (85 ºC). Since coffee is ideally brewed with water running between 190 and 200 ºF, the finished product should be able to keep avidin from binding your biotin.
But why eggs and coffee?
I stumbled upon something I had never heard of until recently – Vietnamese Egg Coffee – and decided to experiment in the kitchen.
Now, let’s get right to the recipes themselves. As you’ll see, they’re not all that complex. You’re basically just adding eggs or egg yolks to coffee. Still, though, read on to see exactly how I did it.
Primal Egg Yolk Coffee
I did a little playing around with this and tried several different recipes. In the end, I think I came up with a solid recipe. Ingredients:
- 1 1/2 cup (350 ml) coffee
- 3 pastured egg yolks
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp of salt
First, I brewed the coffee (35 grams of coffee beans – I used a light roast, single-origin bean) in a French press. Dumped the grinds in, added about 350 ml of water, gave it a quick stir, covered it, and let it sit for three minutes. Meanwhile, I separated the yolks from the whites. Once the coffee was ready, I dumped it in a blender, set it to “low,” and dropped in the yolks. After a few seconds, I added a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt (around a quarter teaspoon) and let it blend a bit more. Then, I poured it, admired the head of foam, and got to drinking.
I tried fewer yolks and found the brew too thin. I tried more yolks and found it to be unnecessary. Three yolks was perfect. If you want to switch things up, you can add something a little sweet like I did. I added my usual teaspoon of sugar, plus a quarter teaspoon of Himalayan sea salt. Honey, maple syrup, or stevia should all work well, too. The salt may sound odd, but trust me: it just works as long as you use a little sweetness to counterbalance it.
Primal Whole Egg Coffee
Think of this as a whole foods-based protein shake. Ingredients:
- 1 cup (240 ml) coffee
- 2 pastured eggs
- 1 tsp sugar
- Pinch of salt
I started by beating the eggs together, whole, as if you were making scrambled eggs. You could also blend them. For a 1 cup dose of coffee, I did two whole eggs. Once the eggs are beaten or blended, slowly drizzle in the coffee. You don’t want to cook the eggs. You want them to stay creamy. If you’re really concerned about the avidin in the raw white, dump the coffee in to ensure maximal heat exposure. Otherwise, just drizzle.
I think a higher egg:coffee ratio (using a large shot of espresso, for example) for a stronger coffee flavor would work really well. Also, two eggs in this recipe created a nice and creamy concoction. I suspect three eggs might even be better.
Again, I added a little sweetener plus some salt. It made the coffee taste a bit like a liquified custard. Really, really tasty.
Adding Other Ingredients
I also tried out a few other additions to the brews, to see how they meshed with the eggs. Consider adding these:
- Cinnamon – Goes great with coffee, provides insulin sensitizing benefits.
- Turmeric – Anti-inflammatory spice, works well with cinnamon.
- Vanilla – Tastes good, smells better. May have anti-inflammatory effects. Also works well with cinnamon (but not so much with turmeric).
- Butter and coconut oil – If you dig Bulletproof coffee, adding egg yolks makes it even better.
In the course of research for this post, I ingested five eggs plus five extra yolks along with several cups of moderately strong coffee. I don’t know if it was just an excessive amount of coffee or if the caffeine was potentiated by the phospholipids in the yolks, but I felt like I was under the influence of… something. Although it was a good feeling, a productive feeling, to be sure, I could see it getting out of hand if taken too far. This is potent stuff. A cup or two is probably ideal, at least for me.
“Sugar – really?”
Don’t worry about a little sugar, even the white stuff. The amount I added, a teaspoon, is just four grams of sucrose. And, if you use an actual food like honey or maple syrup, which have different (improved) metabolic effects compared to plain white sugar, the potential downsides of ingesting sugar are lessened even more. Besides, you can always use a non-caloric sweetener like stevia, which has its own set of benefits.
Since writing this article a few weeks back, I’ve begun rotating egg yolk coffee into my morning routine. I don’t have it every day, but do have it several times a week, particularly if I have a busy day ahead of me where optimal productivity is required. Whole egg coffee seems to work well pre-workout, boosting energy, motivation, and providing a nice source of branched-chain amino acids for the training ahead.
What about you, folks? Want to give this a shot? Ever tried this yourself? Got any tips to improve my recipes? If you do try it, let me know in the comment section how it works out!