The Definitive Guide to Coffee

Definitive Guide to Coffee FinalCoffee is serious business. We Americans drink about 400 million cups of it per day and spend several billion dollars on it each year. It’s the most popular drug on earth, and certainly the most socially acceptable. In many ways, coffee’s the closest thing we’ve got to a universal, daily ritual, as just about every morning, billions of people across the planet prostrate themselves before the holy, energy-giving legume. It also hails from the same place the earliest members of our species do: East Africa (Ethiopia, to be exact). That the most industrious animal ever to walk the planet and the psychoactive legume that fuels said industry both hail from the same place on earth is pure poetry.

Coffee’s also delicious. I’d say you’d have to pry my coffee from my cold, dead fingers, only the ensuing struggle would slosh it all onto the floor, and that would be such a waste.

Yet it’s also considered to be a vice, one of those substances that “everyone knows” is bad for you.

Is it?

Before I get into the evidence, let’s give the ending away early: it’s (probably) good for (most of) you. And yeah, I’m biased as hell. So what? It’s based on considerable evidence, and you likely share the same pro-coffee bias.

The majority of the evidence in favor of coffee consists of epidemiological studies—making observations of and gathering data from large populations. These cannot establish causation, but the trend is clear: it seems to be good for us.

Breast cancer: Consumption of caffeinated coffee, but not decaf, has a protective effect on postmenopausal breast cancer risk.

Cancer: Coffee consumption is associated with a modest reduction in cancer “at any site.”

Cognitive decline: Coffee consumption is consistently associated with lower rates of age-related cognitive decline.

Colorectal cancer: Most research shows an inverse relationship between coffee drinking and colorectal cancer. Some research suggests a positive link, but the results are muddied by the fact that coffee drinkers were more likely to be smokers.

Diabetes: Increasing your coffee intake results in a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, even if it’s decaf.

Endothelial function: Coffee polyphenols improve endothelial function after glucose loading in men, ameliorate the endothelial dysfunction that normally follows a meal, and prevent the hyperglycemia associated with endothelial dysfunction and oxidative stress.

Gallstones: Among American men, coffee intake protects against symptomatic gallstone disease.

Inflammation: After abstaining from coffee for a month, habitual coffee drinkers were given 4 cups a day for the second month and 8 cups a day for the third. Markers of subclinical inflammation all dropped and HDL cholesterol increased with coffee consumption.

Liver cancer: Coffee has a protective relationship with liver cancer mediated by markers of liver damage and inflammation.

Mortality: Coffee consumption has an inverse relationship to all-cause mortality. Early mortality, that is; it doesn’t make you immortal. Though nurses who drink the most coffee do have longer telomeres.

Oxidative stress: Women with higher caffeine intakes (via coffee and tea) show evidence of lower oxidative stress, less DNA damage, and a greater capacity for DNA repair.

Parkinson’s disease: Higher coffee intakes predict slightly lower rates of Parkinson’s disease.

Prostate cancer: Coffee consumption reduces risk of prostate cancer.

Stroke: Moderate coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of stroke. Even high coffee consumption (8 cups a day) appears slightly protective.

Sun damage: Coffee and its polyphenols are associated with protection against photoaging.

It becomes even more convincing when you realize that coffee isn’t a conventionally “healthy” beverage. There’s very little room to make the “healthy user bias” argument.

Potential disease and death avoidance is an important feature of coffee, to be sure, but what about the shorter-term benefits? Most people don’t drink coffee to “improve their postprandial hyperglycemic response.” They drink it because it makes them feel good and improves their performance.

Coffee improves cognitive function

It boosts executive functioning and working memory (so long as the task isn’t highly dependent on working memory). Coffee also improves your mood and makes you think you’re drawing from a bottomless well of mental energy, an effect that may be even more important than the actual physiological effects on cognition. I call it productive optimism, and I rely on it for quick bursts of creation and idea generation in the morning. Even decaf works, as the chlorogenic acid present in both decaf and caffeinated coffee have been shown to improve mood.

Coffee is great for workouts

Whether it’s endurance, HIIT, sprint, badmintonresistance training, or almost any athletic pursuit you can name, a cup or two of coffee before your workout can improve performance.

And contrary to popular belief, coffee does not dehydrate you. Studies show no difference in hydration status between people drinking coffee, water, or other beverages. One measured fluid, electrolyte, and renal indices of hydration over eleven days of caffeine consumption in human subjects, finding that doses of up to 6 mg caffeine per kilogram of body weight had no effect on body mass, urine osmolality (urine concentration), urine specific gravity (concentration of excreted materials in urine), urine color, urine volume, sodium excretion, potassium secretion, creatinine content, blood urea nitrogen (forms when protein breaks down), and serum levels of sodium and potassium.

Coffee is the biggest dietary source of polyphenols

Maybe if goji berry tea shops were on every corner, every man, woman, and child ate acai bowls for breakfast, coffee wouldn’t be the biggest source of phytonutrients. Gram for gram, coffee ranks behind most berries. But in the real world, where most people drink several large cups of coffee each day, coffee is the the primary way we get our antioxidants. That’s true for Japan, Spain, Poland, and many other countries.

You Primal folks reading this over your Big Ass Salads full of colorful veggies and typing away with your turmeric-dusted fingers get the best of both worlds: the big load of coffee polyphenols plus the antioxidants found in all the other colorful produce the world has to offer.

True, there are some negative studies. Animal studies in particular are more likely to show negative results. But it’s important to realize that animals are not habitual coffee drinkers. Giving a group of lab mice a bunch of caffeinated coffee isn’t the same as giving it to humans who’ve been drinking it for years. Caffeine, like so many other plant compounds we hold in high regard, is a natural plant pesticide that certain plants (like coffee and tea) employ to ward off and even kill small predators. The bulk of the evidence suggests that humans have co-opted this “toxin” and made it healthy, hormetic input that, in the right doses, improves our health and well-being.

That said, not everyone should start a pot-a-day habit. Depending on several variables, coffee consumption has its downsides.

Coffee and sleep

Coffee has an obvious relationship with sleep: it counters it. The most common use of coffee is to stay awake. It can’t replace sleep over the long term, but in the short term it can mitigate the cognitive deficits.  And studies indicate it can have a bad effect on sleep if consumed at the wrong time:

No surprises here: don’t drink caffeinated coffee at night and hope to sleep normally.

Coffee and pregnancy

Caffeine crosses the placenta, and numerous studies indicate it has a deleterious effect on the unborn. Some possible effects:

Moms-to-be, stick to decaf.

Coffee and cortisol

Studies show that coffee induces a modest but noticeable spike in cortisol that levels off as you become habituated to coffee. However, it may inhibit your ability to modulate existing cortisol levels. If you’re already stressed out, turning to the bean may make things worse and keep cortisol elevated.

Folks who drink coffee regularly probably don’t need to worry about cortisol, since their bodies have acclimated to it and no longer register coffee as a “stressor.”

Slow versus fast caffeine metabolizers

Caffeine is metabolized by a liver enzyme encoded by the CYP1A2 gene. If you have the CC variant of CYP1A2, you are a slow caffeine metabolizer. If you have the AC variant, you are a moderate metabolizer. And if you have the AA variant, you are a fast metabolizer of caffeine.

In slow and medium metabolizers, caffeine lasts longer in the blood and has a stronger effect. They’re the ones who get cracked out after a half cup of coffee, or can’t have caffeine after noon if they want to sleep that night. Fast metabolizers are the opposite. They process caffeine very efficiently, and it affects them less. These are the types who can have a quad espresso before bed and sleep like babies.

Is stronger, longer caffeine a good thing?

Caffeine isn’t an upper in the classical sense. Instead, caffeine acts by mimicking a compound called adenosine and binding to its receptors before the real thing can. Adenosine is a byproduct of neuronal activity. The more active your brain is, the more adenosine it produces. When adenosine levels get high enough, they bind to adenosine receptors and trigger sleepiness. By blocking adenosine, caffeine counters sleepiness and increases cognitive function, but it also inhibits another, more helpful effect of adenosine: vasodilation, or widening of blood vessels.

Consequently, slow caffeine metabolizers who drink a lot of coffee appear to have higher rates of diseases linked to poor vasodilation:

These aren’t good. Research shows that slow metabolizers can get away with about a cup or two of coffee a day, but not 3+.

Women taking hormonal contraceptives also have reduced caffeine metabolism.

Nicotine increases caffeine metabolism, so smokers, snuff-users, and nootropic fans exploring the cognitive effects of isolated nicotine can handle more coffee.

How to do it right.

Try different brewing methods until you find one you love and don’t mind doing

I won’t debate the various brewing techniques. No one way is best, and everyone has their favorite method. But a new method that’s been taking the world by storm is cold brew. Try 12 ounces of coarsely-ground light roast beans (one of the “third wave” single origin fancy types featuring “laced with toasted cacao nibs” and “ribbons of nougat and hints of boysenberry” on the label) to 60 ounces of filtered water with a few splashes of Trace Mineral Drops. Sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours and filter through a French press. The result is an intense coffee concentrate, sort of a “cold espresso.” You can drink it straight up in small amounts with a dash of cream. But personally, if it’s colder out, I’m still a sucker for my dark roast brewed in a French press with a bit of pastured heavy cream and a teaspoon of sugar.

Don’t drink it first thing in the morning

Cortisol follows a circadian pattern. Right before you wake up, cortisol spikes to prepare you for the day. Right after you wake up, it spikes again, pushing you to the highest levels of the day. Drinking coffee when cortisol is high is somewhat redundant. Since you’re getting less of an effect from the coffee, you’re more likely to double up the dosage and therefore spike your tolerance. A better way is to wait about an hour after you wake up to have your first cup.

Drink coffee when you don’t need it

This seems counterintuitive, but bear with me.

Coffee works much better when you’re well-rested and those adenosine receptors are clean as a whistle. That’s when coffee truly shines. Rather than waking you up, it propels you forward to productivity, optimism, and greatness.

Coffee does help counter fatigue and sleep deprivation in a pinch, but it’s more of an equalizer than a booster. And it’s not a good long-term solution for lack of sleep. Nothing is, really, except more sleep.

Don’t worry too much about organic

Studies show that coffee processing destroys the vast majority of coffee pesticides. In one extremely reassuring study, washing the green coffee beans eliminated 15-58% of pesticides and roasting eliminated up to 99.8%. By the time they got around to brewing, none of the 12 studied pesticides were detectable.

Some people under certain contexts, or with certain genetic variants, shouldn’t drink as much coffee as the rest of us. And you probably shouldn’t drink coffee at night, or count on it to replace sleep. But all in all, coffee has some very cool effects.

It’s great for training.

It’s good for productivity and mood.

It contains a whopping dose of antioxidants.

It’s consistently associated with protection against a host of diseases and conditions.

Drink up!

What do you think, folks? Do you drink coffee? Is it nectar from the gods or bile from the underworld? Maybe both, depending on the day?

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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167 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Coffee”

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  1. Can’t think of a better article to read while drinking coffee!

    1. Hey, coffee (genus Coffea) is not a legume–the term “coffee bean” is a misnomer. Its a member of the coffee family, Rubiaceae. Legume refers to the Fabaceae. Just a heads up since this is a definitive guide. Cheers!

      1. Interesting stuff. Dayve is right, coffee is a fruit seed, rather than a legume.

      2. Wow dayve, there is an old Louis C.K. you need to hear…….just sayin.

    2. Isn’t coffee the opposite of primal? It seems quite labor intensive (cultuvating, harvesting, roasting, boiling, etc.) That sounds more like raising wheat than hunting / gathering.

    3. I’m drinking coffee as I read this also. Just give me the coffee and no one will get hurt

  2. Oh goody this one sounds interesting! Haven’t even read it yet. I think I’m getting my bottle of coffee I don’t really need at the moment out of my bag for this one just because.
    I enjoy these “definitive guides”. There’s so many on varying topics that I’m wondering when Mark’s going to put out The Definitive Guide to Life and/or Everything.

    1. Might end up making a string of replies but just remembered I was planning to share a simple tip here many of you were probably aware of already or at least after this article.
      That is that oxidation can happen in the stomach and this can destroy or use up antioxidant vitamins such as A,C, D, and E when they come in contact with the oxidants so when often when I eat something high in those vitamins, especially if I think I need them, I’ll make it a point to get extra antioxidants at the same time via some coffee, cocoa or what have you so hopefully they neutralize any chemicals that might interfere with me getting all those desired vitamins. Metaphorically I think of the stomach as a battle ground, the oxidants as the enemy and then the antioxidants are the shock troops that allow those vitamins to break through the ranks.

      1. I think you are overthinking this. Paralysis (or angst) by over analysis.

        Just enjoy your real foods.

        1. I do enjoy my real foods, and my processed sometimes, but that was just a simple metaphor.. you have a solution including toxins and you add in antitoxins, it should get less toxic. Sorry for being so dramatic : )

      2. I devoured some liver sausages I found in a dumspter the other day and it was not just offal; it tasted like the wurst!

  3. Does the heat of the coffee make any significant changes to milk or cream if you add that? Also thanks for the article, just in time since I just started drinking coffee recently.

    1. I wondered if the heat can ruin the healthy stuff in honey when you add it to coffee. Pasteurization is supposed to make honey unhealthy by destroying organic chemicals and essentially rendering it pure fructose.

      1. Idk about that. The issue is mostly that the raw bio active compounds will be killed by heat. It’s advised to wait a couple minutes before adding the honey. Less heat is less probiotics, so try to balance it.

      2. Yes, heat does make the honey toxic. Don’t add honey in anything that is above 40 degrees C!

        1. Oh, for Pete’s sake! Heat does not make honey “toxic.” It doesn’t and won’t kill you or make you sick. Now, if you have concerns about some of the components being neutered, so to speak, fine. But please don’t throw out the word “toxic” if you don’t know what it means.

    2. Not likely. Coffee isn’t really all that hot. Probably about 160 F by the time you get to drinking it.

  4. I looks like you left out the issue of dependancy. While coffee may be benign from a health standpoint, people who are addicted to caffeine literally don’t function properly without it. My mom gets horrible headaches if she doesn’t get her fix for whatever reason. She has tried countless times to quit drinking coffee and has failed every time. I find that to be a big negative, personally. I’ll stick with antioxidants that don’t torture me for not consuming them. But maybe I’d be less grumpy about it after a shot of espresso. I’ll never know. 🙂

    1. Esme, this was my exact thought, too. I’m in my 50s and I’ve discovered coffee for the first time last year. It really IS a wonder drug. And the only reason I keep it as a once-a-week treat (okay, sometimes twice a week) is because I don’t want to get addicted.

      Why in the world would anyone want to become addicted to something? My wife told me if she stopped having her single cup of coffee in the morning, she would have a massive headache as a withdrawal symptom. That can’t be a good thing.

      Curious what others have to say about this.

      1. I’ve quit and restarted coffee plenty of times because I don’t like thinking anything can cause dependency in me. No big deal. A headache or two for a couple days after quitting and then it’s smooth sailing from there. The withdrawal symptoms are really child’s play. Come on, buck up and take the headache for a couple days (maybe 3 or 4). After a month off and coming back to drinking coffee…heaven!

        1. If you research caffeine withdrawal you will see that for many it is not child’s play. I quit cold turkey 4 days ago and it’s been awful. Maybe the worst 4 days of my life. I have had coffee everyday for 25 years and all during that time I would have scoffed at the idea that I would be this debilitated if I stopped. I’m not scoffing now. I’ve had a tremendous headache, my sinuses have exploded, I have no interest in the gym, no libido and have been constipated in a most uncomfortable way. Anyone quitting tobacco, alcohol or heroine is expected to feel horrible and I find it shocking that quitting caffeine at least approaches the torment of quitting those clearly unhealthy substances. I just don’t see how it can be a healthy thing to ingest if in many cases the withdrawal can be as bad as what I’ve experienced. I’m a fit, primal individual, but I’ve been laid low. I’m sure I’ll come out of it better than ever, but this experience has been an eye opener for me.

      2. I use coffee as a drug. Due to hormonal fluctuations I get extremely sad and depressed the week before my menstruation. I have the choice between staying in this bad condition -and I experienced it a lot, it’s not funny at all.- or having a coffee and feeling happy again.

        Except in this situation, I don’t need coffee. I love the smell of it but I don’t care about the taste. I just see it as an amazing mood-booster. Do you care about the taste of your antidepressant? You just want it to do its job.

        I’m still looking for a better long-term solution because coffee affects my sleep. I have a serious hormonal imbalance that no diet can improve.

        But for now coffee helps a lot. I stopped breaking up with my boyfriend every month or giving up projects I really care about just because I feel anxious. I can’t praise coffee enough!

      3. I drink six to twelve cups a day.

        On the rare days I don’t have coffee, I don’t feel a thing, nor have cravings.

        And even if people do, so what? It’s their choice.

        1. We must have similar genetics. I don’t get withdrawal symptoms from coffee either. Or if I do (once per year, if that), it’s during a time of poor diet, or high stress.

    2. Maybe it has to do with how quickly or slowly you metabolize coffee? Mark mentioned the three types. I would think the fast metabolizers would be less dependent. Just guessing, but that may have something to do with it.

    3. I had to go off caffeine (after being pretty much a life long caffeine drinker) for a surgery. I started weaning myself off…just cut back a little each day…did NOT go cold turkey! Perhaps this approach would work for your mother. I was just a little bit headachey, nothing I couldn’t handle. Once I got clean, I had no cravings for caffeine at all. I maybe have a coffee once a week now, in a medicinal fashion. Best wishes to you and your mom!

    4. Hmmm, chin in intellectually curled palm, maybe there’s a deeper craving for neurotransmitters there.

    5. This is where genetics probably comes in. I drink coffee daily, about 2 reusable Starbucks travel mugs worth (one Ikea French press), but I can drink far more, and go right to bed, or quit entirely without withdrawal headaches (if I do get a withdrawal headache, one per year at most, it generally coincides with a period where I’m eating poorly). Similarly, when I was a cigarette smoker, going without never caused me withdrawal symptoms (again, the rare times it did, they were mild, and usually during times of high stress). The addiction was more out of boredom, needing something to do with the hands.

    6. Jeez guys! Instead of ‘acting all tough’ and “quitting cold turkey, take it like a man” — do as Michael Eades suggests in his “Six-Day Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle” and TITRATE DOWN! I’m a total addict (and happy to be one!) and (as suggested) before I launched into the “six-days” (actually ended up being a couple months off coffee because of life events), I started with 3/4 ‘leaded’ coffee and 1/4 ‘unleaded’ for a week; then half-and-half, then 1/4 ‘leaded’ and 3/4’s not, and finally all-decafe for a week. Eh-voila! No headache! 9ANd yeah, absolute NIRVANA when I returned to coffee, ah, coffee my beloved drug delivery system!!

      Also a bit of trivia; y’all ever heard of the “post-surgery headache”? Some, but not all, surgical patients suffer the tortures of the damned the day after surgery; docs always waved it off as sensitivity to the anesthetic. Some guy finally decided to TEST it — and it turns out that the only folks with the post-surgery headache are the coffee drinkers!! (Well, duh.) When I had my surgery back in 1995, I described this study to the doc and asked if he had any reason at all for me NOT to have my morning cuppa the morning after surgery. “Uh. No.” So I had my best friend bring me my morning drug and all was well!

  5. I love my morning coffee! Not necessarily for the caffeine boost, but I love the taste (of good coffee). That’s an interesting point you made about waiting an hour or so after waking up to drink coffee. I typically have it 20 mins after waking up because I like to drink it when I get ready for work, but the times were I waited I noticed that I woke up just fine. I’ll have to invest in a travel mug so I can enjoy my coffee on the train!

    1. What’s the draw for you?
      Full disclosure: I drink more like a pot a day, sometimes none . . ., not as much lately as lately before.. on a very rare day when I need to utilize elements and biomechanics that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to deal with smoothly I may drink a few pots or so.

  6. I’m going to ignore the part about waiting an hour after I wake up to have my first cup.

  7. As a responsible, moderate-minded coffee aficionado (hehe) I usually limit myself to a few cups a day.
    My cups are approximately the size of a pot.

    1. Oh @Animanarchy I just got a good chuckle from your “my cups are approximately the size of a pot” comment. I needed a good laugh today.

  8. I used to drink up to 6 (mostly, but not entirely, decaf) cups a day. On the other hand, hot tea was for when (now rarely) I had a cold. After one acupuncture treatment, it switched. Now I sometimes have coffee but have tea every day, hot in cold weather. Coffee just doesn’t taste all that great. I used to have the strongest coffee I could get and sneered at light. Now, I want light if I have it.

    Both tea and coffee are insanely healthy. I don’t think the change improved my health. But I also don’t think it was a coincidence that this happened when I started acupuncture. By the way, the acupuncture immediately cleared up a severe pain issue.

    1. I found out that lighter coffee has more caffeine… Go figure. My dark roast has the least caffeine but the strongest taste. Thought that was really odd and counterintuitive, but apparently roasting the beans longer removes caffeine.

      1. I learned about that, too, and the information has helped me enjoy coffee even more. Sometimes I have trouble with too much stomach acid, and the lighter roasts can cause significant pain. As long as I drink coffee with food and stick to darker roasts, I’m fine. There’s no need to give up something I love, and doing coffee right, actually helps my digestion. Long live coffee!

    2. I take no responsibility but if you use acupuncture maybe it’d be best to do it to yourself.
      I’m a bit afraid of sticking things in me but I have pulled out saline IVs numerous times and got one pulled out quick by saying I’d take it out if they didn’t. So what they found me clumsy and I couldn’t remember and I was apparently dehydrated.. gimme H2O

      1. I woke up one morning kinda recently and was sitting there bored as a board so I cracked a pint can of fermented grain liquid and when I had almost finished, except for a few drops, the doctor came in and cleared me and acted on the urge to rush out into the hallway and tell the other medical staff that “he’s drinking a beer”. lol It was a nice stay

        1. I didn’t need to stay there. I took advantage because I got jumped. My bruises and cuts made me dollars and such.
          And a bit of the affection of a wonderful nurse.
          Excuse me while I prawn
          I mean pray

  9. There’s a drop-in center around here that lets you get unlimited free coffee from 8am to 3pm when they’re open on weekdays so I tend to abuse that option and drink excess coffee though some days I don’t even have any.
    Often hotel lobbies have free coffee machines and I’ve been known to walk into some of them and get some free coffee after asking or just blatantly fill up metal bottles and big wine bottles when there aren’t any snobby staff that might try to stop me – that’s at the two regular lobbies I sometimes go to. It seems the vast majority of hotel staff don’t care.
    I drink instant coffee for economic reasons because it’s fairly cheap and for convenience, for example I can carry it around in my backpack and control the concentration to exaction.

  10. I must be a slow metabolizer. I stopped drinking coffee about 10 years ago because it was causing GI tract problems and poor quality sleep. I switched to a low-caffeine green tea, which doesn’t seem to have any adverse effects.

  11. Love my coffee, but I must be a “slow metabolizer” of caffeine-1cup gives me a pretty large spike in blood pressure, and any coffee or tea (even green) after 1:00pm can keep me awake all night, literally.
    I learned a long time ago that I function best with maybe 1 cup of regular, and then maybe 1 or two at most of decaf a day.
    Great post, always like to learn more about the beverage I have come to enjoy so much.

  12. In a previous post, I believe it was a “Dear Mark,” you mentioned that coffee could temporarily increase insulin resistance, which makes that fact that many on a SAD diet pair coffee with a pasty especially bad.. Is it coffee specifically, or caffeine that triggers insulin resistance?

  13. Nice article, going right now to the new expresso machine installed at work. Be right back

    1. Make sure you use the espresso machine. The expresso is just a faster cup of regular.

      1. No no this machine is especial, out of this world.

        There are rumors that it costs $10000. but it is leased. It makes expresso, regular , latte, mocha and some other more, adds milk, also makes chocolate to boot!

        And when you make the expresso in the touchscreen (!) you can choose two or three beans in the display for an extra boost.

        Now I have to go again to the machine for a double expresso!

  14. Mark, I have a few questions because I’ve been waiting for a definitive guide to coffee. First, about the cortisol, I was wondering if supplementing l-theanine would reduce the negative stress inducing effects the caffeine has similar to how a cup of green tea acts? Second, I’ve read from many different sites that pre-ground coffee has a substantial reduced amount of antioxidants compared to freshly ground beans. Also, thanks for the info on inorganic coffee. I had a friend tell me only buy organic because of the pesticide residue content.

    1. I’m going to say yes on the l-theanine. My morning ritual is to bust open an l-theanine for my anxious dog on his food, then I take one because it really does give a calm feeling. Lol! Then I brew my coffee by the pour over method with a blend of decaf and regular. I add butter, mct oil and a splash of 1/2 and 1/2, so good!! Then, I walk my dogs and we are all happy beings. I don’t get jitters or blood sugar issues like I used to. L-theanine is totally safe for dogs, it’s in veterinarian supplements for anxiety.

  15. Not mentioned was the whole debate over the mold on coffee beans/berries. Some say it’s harmful, inflammatory, others not a worry. I’m on the no worries side, as we don’t see a lot reasonably healthy and fit people suffering from inflammtory problems due their coffee consumption.

    Personally I prefer organic, simply for the good earth practices and those growers are usually not linked to big producers…but smaller, and local farmers.

    I must be a quick metabolizer…I have to drink a lot of it in a row, to truly feel the buzz…jitters. And I buy one of the highest caffeine rated beans from an online distributor.

    1. @tom LI I agree with the good earth practice. I just shared this and the organic study with my brother. While it’s possible we don’t need to buy organic for the health benefits, I do prefer to buy locally roasted beans who buy from small, more earth friendly farms.

  16. Oppressed trade coffee beans that are force fed to caged civets… K cup only…

    1. From reading your posts for several years, would it be a stretch to think you might be live streaming Mises university at this moment?

      1. The idea is not a stretch. There are a few speakers I’d like to hear. Cannot stream at work, so an archive or future audio only mp3 is how I will do it.

  17. As a Mormon, coffee is discouraged. I take a caffeine pill daily (200 mg) and brew cacao in a French press (like Crio Bru or King Koko) instead. Am I missing out on any polyphenols or other benefits?

    1. It is the caffeine in the coffee which makes it undesirable, due to its ability to addict.
      So you might as well drink coffee if you’re taking caffeine in a pill.

    2. Living only the “letter of the law” isn’t going to win you any brownie points at the pearly gates…

  18. This is a great summary, thanks! Mark, I would love to know your thoughts on mold in coffee. It sure if that is something worth worrying about.

  19. Just when I was contemplating cutting back 🙂

    I actually do feel more rested and alert after reducing coffee intake for a spell (and, on occasion, cutting it entirely). But there’s nothing quite like my daily bulletproof breakfast. It’s an addiction I’ve decided to hold onto for now.

    I do avoid coffee upon waking (because of the doubled up cortisol effect). And I drink less rather than more if I’ve slept poorly the night before or am feeling extra-tired (coffee just tends to make things worse in such cases, taxing my HPA axis further, I find).

    With clients, I encourage them not to use coffee in an effort to compensate for lack of sleep, over-work, etc. I also explain that, from a Chinese Medicine perspective, relying on an “artificial high” from caffeine means drawing on deep, precious reserves for a temporary fix.

  20. Great post, and one that I’m sure I’ll refer to again! I gave up coffee for three years, but have to say I feel better now that I am drinking it again. My personal preference (as my blog readers know all too well!) is to brew in the French press, and then throw in my Vitamix with coconut oil, collagen peptides, and maybe a little extra boost like raw cacao or turmeric. Also some grass fed ghee if I have it. I drink this in the am while I’m doing my morning routine and absolutely love everything about it…the taste, the satiety from the coconut oil, and the whole ritual. Knowing that all those good ingredients are in there makes me happy. I’ll often have an iced coffee (cold brew is my preference there) with a splash of coconut milk early in the afternoon. As long as I do it this way, I feel great and my sleep is not affected. Totally feel that first cup in the am helps my whole creative process.

  21. I get addicted having one cup. If I don’t have it the next day, I get a sometimes debilitating headache and feel nauseous. There’s nothing I can do but go to sleep. I wake up the next day just fine. I have IBS and sometimes my colon is irritated by coffee. But I’m a teacher! Coffee lifts me up so that I can “perform” everyday in front of my students and maintain a certain level of expressive energy to keep them engaged. It’s so hard without it! Love/hate for me.

  22. I weaned myself off caffeine in my early 20s with no side effects, then went on a cross country road trip where all of my hosts greeted me with caffeinated beverages. I was re-addicted by the end of the trip.

    Later, while training for a 15K, I tweaked my back mid-run. Someone suggested caffeine, as a mild-anti-inflammatory. It worked.

    I still eventually tried to decaffeinate myself again. Day 2 was the caffeine headache, which was expected and tolerable. Day 3 was the rest of my body ache, particularly lower back. I stopped feeling guilty about my coffee problem.

    If a daily cuppa is what keeps me from taking daily pain killers with more dubious body loads, I’m for it.

  23. Yes, I definitely would like to hear more about the MOLD issue. And any links to the effect of coffee on inflammatory markers? Thanks.

  24. I love my 2 cups of coffee each morning with cream, stevia and recently molasses (yum). I wish I could drink more but it makes me jittery. I get cranky and a headache in about an hour in the morning if I don’t drink. I had blood drawn about 9 am on Monday and felt horrible waiting to get my first sip. Very interesting about the organic info. I have been paying the extra $ to drink organic. Maybe that is an extra expense I can forgo. I want to research that some more bc somewhere along the line I read enough that convinced me to pay the extra $.

  25. Coffee also has an asthma medicine in it called Theophylline. I have mild unmedicated asthma and when I couldn’t get to sleep due to coughing, I brewed some coffee and soon I was sleeping like a baby. Weird, but it worked for me.

  26. Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day– not per year!!!!

    Obviously we are coffee nuts! (or beans)

  27. I wonder what Mark has to say about Adrenal Fatigue and the thought of how people can over do it with stimulants (caffeine) which can hurt adrenals?

    Forget coffee! I enjoy using Pine Pollen, Macha root powder, Raw Cacoa, or herbs like thyme for tea instead. Also a product from Nutriwest called DSF gives me a helping hand with energy all while providing compounds to HEAL the adrenal gland.

    Morning affirmations can also give you a boost!
    Chug down 30 oz of clean water with 1/2 tsp Pink Himalayan Sea Salt SOLE mix first thing in the morning!
    Do some air squats and push ups in the morning!
    Yell and jump and scream to wake yourself up!

    I just never enjoyed the taste or smell of coffee….

    1. AIP – can’t tolerate coffee anymore – for celiacs it can be cross-reactive with gluten (Dr Sarah Ballantyne has a good article on her website). Brewing my own kombucha, which is a great alternative to coffee.

  28. I grind organic beans and then mix the coffee 1/2 and 1/2 with fresh ground chicory. No headaches if I miss a day. I also add raw cream and or real butter, blend a bit and yummy!

  29. Mark,

    I just looked at my 23andme and there are 40 CYP1A2 genes.. Four of them have “A or C” variants. Which Marker (SNP) do I look at for coffee metabolism? The four SNPs are:



    1. From Chris Kresser’s Dec. 16, 2015 blog post: If you’ve done 23andme, log in, go to “My account,” select “Browse raw data,” and type “CYP1A2” into the “Jump to a gene” search box. Once on the search results page, find the rs762551 SNP. In the far right column, it will give your variant of that SNP. If you are AA, you’re a fast metabolizer. If you are AC or CC, you’re a slow metabolizer (with CC being slower than AC).

    2. I ran my raw data from 23andMe through Promethease (fantastic site – costs $5 and they give you a lot of detail – although, if you freak out easily it might not be a good idea, but it’s great for information nerds…lol), and it uses the rs762551 marker/SNP to determine caffeine metabolizer status. Hope that helps!

      1. I’ve used the same sites as you and I’ve learned (and experienced) that 1 cup a day for me is all I can handle, or a cup of decaf in early afternoon, but that 1 cup in the morning is soooo delicious.

  30. I’m bummed that Mark says “don’t worry about organic” when it comes to coffee. Let’s remember that actual people grow this coffee. Pesticides harm these people, and the planet. Pesticides harm the roasters that roast the coffee that comes to you. When we choose organic, small farmer grown coffee, it’s not only better for the farmers, economically and physically, but you can find good coffee for under $9/pound in many places.

    Part of Grokking for me means supporting clean supply chains, nit just the end product that goes in my mouth.

    1. The world is overpopulated and will not be able to sustain our species for much longer. So using simple logic. We can conclude that people dying from pesticides is not necessarily a bad thing; dare I say it’s a good thing. If you dont like this fact, then sacrifice one of your parasites, I meen kids.

  31. Here I thought I was daft for wanting my coffee a couple hours after I’m up. And having the metabolism part explains why one cup a day works just fine. Never after 3 00 pm and sleep is fine.
    Really good synopsis. …..thanks

  32. I’ve noticed a much faster punch of caffeine from cold brew than from traditionally-brewed coffee. I also prefer it because of the lack of bitterness. What’s really great is that it’s so easy to make at home – great because most of the stuff I see in stores is $3-4 for a smallish bottle.

    1. The Aerospress (which I vastly prefer to a French press — no sediment!!) makes non-bitter coffee! Yes, it’s not as easy as just pushing a button on an electric coffee maker — but I think of it as a morning meditation/’tea’ ceremony and include the process as part of the my “ritual.”

  33. Just this morning I roasted yet another batch of my own coffee beans. That way, I can get delicious coffee without having to pay for the really expensive beans! (Fresh Roast 500, from the The machine paid for itself the first year.

    I am addicted to caffeine. At some point will probably wean myself back off it again. It’s just that I enjoy roasting my own beans so much, true alchemy.

    As for cold brew–I tend to make that out of decaf (yes, beans that I roasted as well). It’s so lovely to be able to have iced coffee just waiting for me in the fridge on hot afternoons.

  34. As soon as I wake up, I have my apple cider vinegar (ACV), cinnamon, cayenne and Himalayan salt and lemon water to convert my body from an acidic base to a alkaline base as cancer cannot exist in an alkaline state. This is 30 minutes before eating. Then I have coffee 1- 2 times a week. I use to drink it daily.

  35. At 65, lost the ability to discern the delicious taste variations of different coffee varieties. Still enjoy the stimulating caffeine effect, and other foods taste as good as ever, but the coffee-sensitive taste buds went suddenly silent. Similar experiences? Theories? Advice?

  36. I agree with River Cook. Buy organic when you can. So many stores carry it. Let go of your old standard coffee and try a new organic type and save lives of people in disadvantaged areas.

  37. Coffee arabica is not a legume at all, but a member of the Madder family (Rubiaceae), like the lovely Gardenia. Nevertheless, I am happily addicted. First, bone broth in the morning, then coffee with cream.

  38. I, personally, don’t think coffee is good for health. I do, however, sometimes drink coffee.Just my opinion. I suppose it could depend on the person, a bit.

    1. That’s kinda silly, the article references scientific and medical data, not personal opinions.

      1. I suppose the statement was a bit sweeping. How one item affects, is related to so many other factors, but hence why I was vague and not claiming divinity. Being silly is not synonymous worth being wrong. The world was once flat.

    2. I’m super interested in why you believe coffee may not be good for health!!

      1. Coffee is a stimulant that causes flight or fight. This disrupts sleep as well. Unless coffee consumption is balanced with mitigating healthful activities, it will cause long term metabolic damage. This will to some degree be person specific. I doubt the original creators of coffee: drank it so regularly, consumed a high calorie or high refined carbohydrate diet, were under so much unnatural psychological stress, artificial lighting, pollution, cultural adversity to rest, unnatural social anxiety/contact/stimulation. The cultural addiction to coffee has probably created the science to back it, a la wine. It is a handy tool and I do use it, but it is a performance enhancing drug and should be treated with caution.

        1. So, you actually did NOT read Mark’s Definitive Guide to Coffee… (or didn’t check out the links in it? Or didn’t understand it?)

          Your sentence “I, personally, don’t think coffee is good for health.” misused a word: you don’t THINK this — you “feel” or “believe” it. You ignore actual science to not merely make a definitive statement, you actually act on it.

  39. Does anyone find that coffee makes them ravenous? Half an hour after a cup of black coffee I need sugar NOW, like a five gallon industrial bucket of frosting or some such. If I want to stay primal, I have to avoid coffee, as much as I love it. Am I alone? I’ve heard people say that coffee makes one less hungry so it’s great for dieting. I can’t even imagine that.

    1. I agree with Kathy. I’m having the same experience. If I want to do intermittent fasting I must NOT drink any coffee that morning. Drinking coffee is, for me, like taking that first bite of food. Once I start eating or drinking coffee then I can’t stop eating the rest of the day.

  40. I think I might be a “slow metabolizer”, super sensitive to caffeine, I only have one cup before 10 am. How would I be able to find this out? Is there a blood test to test for the CC variant of CYP1A2?

  41. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I do have a thing for hot cocoa. Would love to hear how the health benefits of coffee vs. cacao compare! (p.s. my favorite quick & easy hot cocoa drink: mix 1 tsp cacao with a smidge of boiling water, add sweetened almond milk to top of mug, heat up (stove or microwave) then top with cream or butter (or the rare marshmallow). Hooked!! Tastes like Christmas.

  42. Yes, there are always cons and pros. For everything. Even for heroin.
    Let’s check also the dark side of the coffee.

    1. Coffee is the most manipulated crop in the world.

    2. Mentioning one study without citing the source that says inorganic and organic are the same is ignorant. There are hundreds of different dangerous chemicals found in conventionally produced coffee. And there are thousands of so called ‘scientific’ studies backed up by Big Pharma that say some pretty ridiculous things.

    3. Roasting coffee destroys 70-94% of the CGAs (chlorogenic acid). CGA is probably the most important polyphenol (antioxidant) in the coffee. Roasted coffee contains acrylamide, a culprit that is highly carcinogenic. The darker the coffee the more acrylamide in it.

    4. Caffeine itself has so many side effects that another article could be written just on that topic (inhibits collagen production, interferes with ossification, raising blood pressure, higher risk of heart attack etc ).

    5. Coffee is highly acidic. It irritates the small intestine lining and can contribute to IBS.

    6. Coffee is a laxative. You want to use laxatives on a daily basis and mess with natural indigestion?

    7. Coffee shatters the absorption of minerals, iron in the stomach; magnesium, calcium, zinc retention in the kidneys. You want to play with magnesium even though you know 70% of Americans are already magnesium deficient?

    8. By drinking coffee your adrenals are overstimulated. Cortisol and epinephrine are excreted. And people drink it as a stress reliever…

    I have listed just a few side effects. Google for more.

    Some green organic coffee from time to time is OK. Everything else is digging up your own grave.

    Mark, I am truly sorry but this article was a major flaw…

    1. lalalalala I’m not listening!
      Yeah, I do worry a bit about some of those things though and some I was not aware of. I figure if you’re wired on caffeine a lot of the time there might be some side effects, such as sympathetic nervous system overload.

    2. Everything has pluses and minuses to be sure…. But when the all-cause mortality rate drops for those who drink coffee, it’s a pretty spund argument that you are better off drinking than abstaining.

      Plus it tastes great and heels me feel good.

    3. Thank you ^^^

      Trying to tell coffee drinkers that their magic elixir is harming their health is like trying to discuss the benefits of sobriety in a bar full of drunks.

      Those of us who have neurological disorders know that caffeine is toxic

      1. Sorry, but you left part of this sentence off:

        “Those of us who have neurological disorders know that caffeine is toxic”
        ** to US! **

        It’s … less-than-optimal to write (or believe): “whatever applies to me therefore applies to every human.”

        If it works in one direction, then it must work in the other direction, so “what does not adversely affect people without neurological disorders, must also not affect people WITH neurological disorders.”

        That’s not true either!

  43. I always marvel at the studies where people are drinking 4+ cups. And 8+ Wow! Really?
    I like my coffee, but I can’t think of any day ever that I’ve had more than 2 cups. I just don’t want anymore after that.
    Good to know I can continue to enjoy it though. It’s super hot out lately & I love an iced coffee an hour or two after lunch!

  44. Coffee damages the system which the underlying basis for every aspect of health in the human body. Those of you into acupuncture should know what that is! Those of you with impaired taste receptors should intuit what that is! It is not healthy over the long term. Maybe in time restricted, obtuse view of health. It is not a physiological beneficial “food”. No matter how fast you are capable of metabolizing caffeine, it eventually weakens something in our body of which we have 7 billion separate parts. These become dependent upon caffeine for stimulation until they are killed off one by one. Can you name it???? And yeah I drink coffee, never have I been so attached to anything as ingestible in my life.

    1. So how do you explain the reduce all-cause mortality rate associated with drinking coffee?

      1. Drink it black. Drink it often! Drink it forever (or a longer time span than those who don’t!)

  45. Damn, these 15 minute library computers that are all you can use here without ID are annoying. (I lost my only sources of ID and my account here was deactivated after prolonged disuse). I have to wait for it to restart and log in over and over and rush through all my reading and comment writing, creating an imperfect slew of sloppily thought out comments bombarding this site.
    It is a cause of much minor frustration.
    If you want an example of a coffee side effect (albeit in a spider) check this out: a web wove by a spider on caffeine. It’s a mess! There’s other pictures of webs made by spiders on other drugs and the caffeine web is one of the worst. I’d like to know the doses the spiders got though. Maybe the caffeinated spider got way too much caffeine and some of the others have comparatively little of their respective drug in the system, skewing the results, plus a spider’s physiology is obviously a bit different from ours.

    1. I read one theory that caffeine is not just a pesticide but it revs up activity in pollinators’ brains and that makes the location of the caffeine-containing plant they pollinated ingrained more solidly in their memories so they’re more likely to go back to it.

  46. Love this post! Very informational. I actually tried NY coffee bulletproof this morning as I’m new to BP and realized i was feeling sick due to the drop in carbs but not enough fat. Not only was it delicious, but I wasn’t hungry for HOURS and i had insane energy!!

  47. The info about the pesticides is golden as coffee beans are one of the most highly sprayed crops.

    I have my coffee first thing in the morning as the mild laxative is a very good thing. It’s much easier to do my workout when I have that light feeling.

  48. I add cardamon to my coffee beans and grind them together. Splash of cream, tastes and smells so good 😛

  49. Haha Mark, this is probably the most diplomatic sentence I’ve read from you in a while: “it’s (probably) good for (most of) you.” Nice job! Actually I do drink coffee to improve my postprandial hyperglycemic response. That’s what I answer when my friends asks why I’m drinking it. Also, based on your description I’m probably a fast metabolizers, so at least I’ll have an answer when they ask why I don’t drink coffee to stay awake. I’ll just tell them I have the AA variant of the CYP1A2 gene. 😀 (On another note coffee is probably a huge waste down my throat because I once drank civet coffee/Kopi Luwak and didn’t feel any difference compared to regular coffee found at a cheap supermarket. A real shame, I know.) Steve

  50. Be Posh. Drink Kenyan. Except, of course, if you are in Kenya like me, then you can drink Kenyan without having to be posh.

  51. Great article Mark. What is your opinion on maximising the impact of coffee for triathlon racing? I usually come off coffee for 7 days before a big race and have a very strong coffee 75 minutes before the race. I have found it reduces RPE (rate of perceived exertion). I swim faster and it feels easier. I’m not sure how much of this is a sugar pill effect.

  52. Awesome guide, as always! The coffee during pregnancy bit is not quite true, though: only large amounts of caffeine are now considered deleterious. Which means that moms-to-be can still drink 1-2 cups of coffee with a total amount of caffeine not exceeding 200 mg per day without doing any harm to their unborn child. This, at least, is the official guideline (here in Germany pregnant women are even allowed to consume up to 300 mg caffeine per day!). For me, this was a huge relief during pregnancy, as I used to be a big coffee drinker, so I didn’t have to cut it out completely. I stuck to 1 cup per day and had no problems whatsoever. Now, during breastfeeding, I allow myself 2 cups per day, and my son doesn’t show any signs of adverse reactions to my coffee drinking.

  53. I read that coffee goes bad a week after its roasted. The only way to have fresh coffee is to buy green beans (which stay fresh for years) and roast your own beans. Grind the beans and the coffee within a week of roasting. In history people bought green beans and roasted them and ground them and drank the coffee. All roasted coffee beans are deteriorating even if you keep them in the fridge. You dont know how long it was on the shelf at the store or how long it was in some warehouse but it was probably longer than a week. You have to learn how to roast the beans though. It takes practice. Good skill to have though for really fresh coffee.

  54. I have definitely substituted red wine for coffee since having kids (although at different times of the day, obviously). I think I am a slow metaboliser as I can usually only manage 1 to 2 cups per day. I generally have a bulletproof coffee first thing with coconut oil, grass-fed butter and vanilla and maybe a coffee later in the morning. I have tried having a coffee later after waking uo but I relish that quiet time alone with my coffee first thing. I then drink green green tea in the afternoon, I am English after all!

  55. Sorry typos on my tablet, that should read: waking up and green tea.

  56. As for that we shouldn’t care too much if it’s organic or not: your argument might hold true for us on the coffee drinking end. It definitely doesn’t hold true for the workers. Non-organic, non-fair trade coffee is basically made by slaves with a LOT of pesticides that they get exposed too. So even if we drinking the coffee don’t need to worry about the organic label for ourselves, we should do so out of care for those who made it for us. Because for them it matters.

  57. For a radical take on the benefits, check out Ben Greenfield’s conversation with Sanjiv Chopra here:

    Or look into Dr. Chopra’s book, “The Big Five” which details 5 simple things that he claims will dramatically improve health and longevity, with coffee high on the list.
    We have been BP coffee drinkers for years now, using homemade ghee infused with ground vanilla and cinnamon and MCT’s (Brain Octane). Don’t typically feel like eating anything more until about 3:00 when making coffee before 8:00.

  58. One thing I’m very surprised Mark missed, since he’s such a good researcher, is the amount of potassium in coffee. Six six ounce (the standard coffee “cup”) has over 700mg of potassium.

    And I’m going to presume that the coffee that was analyzed was typical, not so strong classic American coffee way back when.

    I drink six to twelve cups a day. Oddly, on the rare days I don’t get to the coffee, I have zero cravings or symptoms.

  59. I’m curious … If coffee is so great, why do so many people (many have commented in this thread) make the arduous effort to quit from time to time?

    Wouldn’t you only quit something if you felt negative effects or thought it was bad for you?

  60. Hello, I’m Jessica and I’m a coffee snob. (Hi, Jessica…)
    I’m so glad to see Mark is on the side of coffee drinking. So many people believed the hype in the 70s and 80s about how coffee was the devil, and we’d all die from horrible diseases, have babies with 3 eyes and turn into vibrating masses of dependency if we didn’t give it up. Bah.
    In my family, you start out drinking milk-coffee (basically a super weak cafe au last) when you’re but a wee sprout, and gradually progress to your own level of consumption and preferred style. Me? I’m a straight up black coffee drinker. I don’t even put sugar in my espresso. Give me a locally roasted, aero-pressed cup of steamy goodness in the morning and it’s gonna be a good day.

  61. My friends appear to be sensitive to coffee in that it makes them poop o.o
    One can’t handle even half a cup, depending on the day, without rushing to the bathroom. This one insists their bowels are regular and even quite healthy, its just coffee affects them differently. What’s up with that?

    (They are followers of CW)

  62. What happens to the fat in the coffee-beans after roasting/grinding – transfatty acid alert here or not?

  63. I really like coffee but I had to give it up after I noticed a direct response to when I drank coffee to an inflammatory response. I am extremely sad to have given it up. And this is decaf. I can’t even stomach caffeinated without becoming so jittery I can barely hold items in my hand.

  64. my doctor has identified my heartbeat as somewhat premature. while this condition may not be morbid, it may be related to brain signaling, electrolytes, magnesium levels.

    the doctor has asked me to stop coffee for this reason. a friend also reports that his irregular heartbeat went away after he stopped coffee.

    does anyone have any documentation on this? thanks

  65. Flat earth metaphor for wholehearted acceptance of conventional wisdom. It looks kinda flat: reasonable assumption to make.

    1. Hmmmm, perhaps; right up until you invent planes and spaceships and fly AROUND the spheroid earth. THEN you immediately cease any “belief” that the earth is flat.Yes?

  66. Interesting reading, thanks.

    One comment though regarding organic coffee or not. Even though pesticides possibly don’t remain when you drink the coffee, it’s for sure a big problem for the farmers and the nature where it’s used.

    So get that organic coffee to help the ones who produce it for you.

  67. Coffee. I’m in Italy, where the culture runs deep. Brewing coffee at home is a ritual that puctuates the day with moments of decadence: the gorgeously designed octagonal Italian perculator, the smell of the coffee when you open the cannister, the way everyone has their own way of filling the ground beans into the filter, and that glorious bubbling whoosh as the pressure reaches its peak, the coffee erupting through the inner spout and flowing like lava, filling the kitchen with that deep, heady scent.

    And then there’s the bars, where at your local they’ll know exactly how you like it, you don’t need to ask. I take my espresso a little longer than usual, others like a ristretto. My man likes his ‘corrected’ with a shot of a grappa. A new friend told me the other day she likes 1/4 espresso with 3/4 froth – not milk! – and the froth must be such that her sprinkle of sugar rests delicately on the top before slowly dissolving through. Sometimes you stand at the bar and swallow it down in one gulp. Sometimes you sit and take your time, sipping slowly and savouring. Sometimes we sit and wax lyrical about the joys of Italian coffee.

    When we travel out of Italy, we put up with what we get, and what we get never meets our expectations. Double shots, watered down, spruced with artificial flavours and creams, three different sizes, like, why is everyone destroying the coffee? So once we’ve re-entered our borders on the freeways, or are through the gates at the airports, we head straight to the nearest bar which will be crowded with lovesick Italians reunited with their favorite brew.

    Well, thank God for all those health benefits listed above. I think we always already knew, deep in our bones, that those little beans were heaven sent.

  68. “Coffee and pregnancy

    Caffeine crosses the placenta, and numerous studies indicate it has a deleterious effect on the unborn. Some possible effects:

    Low birth weight.
    Reduced fetal leptin.
    Increased childhood obesity.
    Moms-to-be, stick to decaf.”

    I love coffee but whenever I was pregnant (three times) I just could not drink it. My body must have been telling me something.

  69. I take issue with the notion that we shouldn’t drink coffee first thing in the morning – (the reason being that our cortisol is already spiked and the caffeine is redundant).

    If the rationale is that our circadian rhythm causes us to have that cortisol spike in the morning, then maybe we SHOULDN’T take steps to induce it at other times of the day. It makes as much if not more sense to take supplements that correspond with our circadian rhythm (i.e. valerian tea at nighttime).

  70. Bit o’ coffee trivia:

    Back in the mid-90s I was facing double surgery (laparoscopic gall bladder-ectomy followed by regular-incision hysterectomy). (TMI? It was a way to only be anesthetized once.) Because I’m a fanatic researcher (who generally mistrusts “Big Medicine”) I did some research, and went to both docs and said:

    “You know the ‘standard’ post-anesthesia headache (that only some patients get)? The reaction they’re not quite sure what causes it but it seems to be related to anesthesia? Someone finally did the research, and it turns out the patients who GET a post-anesthesia headache are the coffee drinkers (addicts)! Unless y’all have a really strong reason why I should NOT have my morning cuppa after the surgery, I’m going to have my best friend bring me coffee after surgery. Any objections?”

    (They both looked bemused and had no objections, so I had no post-anesthesia headache!)

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  73. Frequent visitor, infrequent commenter, but I felt compelled. I’ve had varied experiences with demon coffee over the last 67 years and nine months (I left the womb crying out for a cigarette, a cup of java, and a martini, in that order).

    What I personally know about the coffee:

    Organic IS better. It is grown in pesticide-free soil. Wash and process all you like, you won’t get the toxins out of the inside of the bean. I (and other organic coffee drinkers) notice the difference immediately…that Folger’s kick first thing in the morning happens within a minute or two of the first few swallows, and appears to be the body’s reaction to most chemical poisons, it wakes up and goes on full alert, hence one feels “awake!”. The caffeine buzz from organic is far more mellow, and takes perhaps ten minutes to begin to be truly felt.

    Quitting cold turkey can be a nightmare for the heavy indulger, but less so with organic. My (occasional) abstention method is to gradually combine home-ground organic decaf in increasing amounts with my favorite high-test, over a period of days. The main trick here is to find a decaf (full bean) that even begins to approach the taste of real coffee. At my local health-food co-op I went through half a dozen brightly colored packages of sawdust flavor before finding a particular Peruvian organic, the taste of which actually resembles that of true coffee.

    All my coffee is sourced from reputedly economically and ecologically responsible farmers, etc.

    I’ve found that using a decent decaf to blend with assorted dark roasts allows me to completely control my daily caffeine dosage, permitting me to drink lots of the stuff when I’m in the mood, even to drink it in the afternoon and still nap, and to get to sleep at a reasonable hour at night. It may also be possible to reduce coffee consumption to zero without noticeable side effects, and to resume use without jitters, heart palpitations, or suddenly embarking on uncontrollable talking jags (speed rapping).

    As for its antioxidant properties, I’ll take Mark’s (and countless others’) word for it. Who among us doesn’t like hearing about the redeeming virtues of our vices?

  74. I am glad you have said coffe is fine. I’m not a massive coffee drinker, maybe 3 per week and it varies from a gold blend and semi skimmed milk to an instant latte from our work machine. I usually drink it an hour or three after I’ve woken and have never encountered any ill effects from coffee. I’m looking forward to trying a cold mocha with coconut syrup and cream. It is my nectar from the gods 🙂

  75. But what about TEA?!?!?! Do the same benefits apply? Thanks!

  76. Worth noting that we should be avoiding the Keurig/Flavia machines. Not only do they produce a lot of unrecyclable waste, you’re blasting hot water through plastic before you consume it.

  77. I like coffee, but I don’t drink it often because I don’t think it likes me. When I drink it I’m much more likely to get PMS symptom of sore breast tissue, which doesn’t happen when I drink tea, possibly because of the lower caffeine content. Coffee – decaf or caf – also makes my underarms smell different (and worse). Nobody else has noticed, however I can tell. (Or, an alternate, less appealing thought, maybe it is an olfactory wake up and I smell like that all the time?) Anybody else experience this?

  78. I have one other question – what about caffeine & the link to A Fib? Does drinking decaf still have the same “health” benefits?

  79. What about magnesium and calcium loss because of coffee consumption ?
    What about b vitamines loss and homocysteine elevation ?

  80. I started drinking coffee heavily after college. Eventually, I started getting migraines for the first time in my life on the weekends. The doctor told me that it was related to caffeine withdrawal. Even though I was drinking more caffeine than ever before, I was going through caffeine withdrawals on the weekends because I slept in and didn’t get my coffee at the exact same time. I stopped drinking caffeine all together, and the migraines went away. Did you find anything like this in your research?

  81. Nice article Mark! Coffee is too addictive to be bad for us 🙂 But seriously, I guess it comes down to moderation. I think it’s best to focus on quality over quantity when it comes to coffee

  82. Well yeah, we all knew coffee is not 100% awesome for our health. But, as well said in this post it also has pretty good effects on us… So let’s just keep on drinking and trying to “follow the rules” as much as possible.

    As for me, my favourite way of brewing coffee is with Chemex Coffee Maker. I simply love it. First, because it makes the best coffee I’ve ever tried, second because when used in combination with the Chemex filters it avoids sediments in your cup and third, it looks beauuutiful! 🙂

    Kind regards from another Chemex lover 😉

  83. Ok, coffee is ok to drink, but what about what you put in it, Raw Sugar, Creamer or Whole milk

  84. Awesome article. AND: I know many individuals, myself included, that feel extremelly (really) sick wen consuming coffee that is not natural, or organic. Also the roasting date feels completely different in OUR bodies, especially if it is a little darker roast. Anyone relates to this? I would say, coffee works for us great when it is from sustainable quality and recently roasted. Anyone relates to this? Thanks!

  85. Mark, great post! I love coffee and my personal favorite is cold brew—especially in the summer. I follow a “one-day-on-one-day-off” policy with my coffee. I find that if I drink coffee every other day, I still get the benefits of it but don’t feel too burned out.

  86. Good or bad? If I get BO after drinking coffee, is it: A: my body is not processing it and therefore it’s bad for me….OR B: is it detoxifying something that needs to go and therefore a good thing? I know you can’t say for sure as everyone is different, but any thoughts?

  87. I love coffee and drink it many times a day. At work I rely on keurig pods and wonder if forcing super hot water over plastic mini containers causes lots of plastic micro particles to show up in my coffee cup. Any research in this? Thanks.
    Btw- great blog!

  88. Is it true about cycling coffee intake to keep sensitivity to its effects?