Maybe you’re a seasoned coffee drinker with some strongly held beliefs about coffee. Or maybe you’re new to coffee or looking to try it. Regardless, we’ve all heard our fair share of statements about coffee’s health implications, how to best prepare coffee, and how to enjoy coffee most effectively. But as with any other topic, many of these widely shared beliefs are just that - beliefs - and are not rooted in fact.
So what is the actual truth? Here, we bust the 12 biggest coffee myths you probably believed covering topics ranging from coffee’s health impacts to brewing coffee to drinking coffee.
What are the biggest health based misunderstandings about coffee?
Although coffee is a superfood, it often gets a bad health reputation. People stay away from coffee afraid of becoming addicted, getting dehydrated, disrupting their sleep, or getting jitters. But most of these fears are rooted in myths, not truths. Here are the most common health misunderstanding around coffee and the real truths:
Coffee makes you dehydrated. According to Mayo Clinic, coffee actually doesn’t cause excessive fluid loss. While coffee may be a diuretic (causing a heightened need to urinate), you don’t actually release more fluids than you consume after drinking coffee. Coffee does not contribute to dehydration risk. In fact, the water in coffee can, in fact, complement your daily water intake.
Coffee is addictive. While regular coffee drinkers may feel some withdrawal effects (such as a headache) from missing their coffee for a day, the withdrawal effects disappear naturally after just a couple days. There is no risk of relapse. Regular coffee drinkers certainly aren’t driven to engage in harmful behavior. Certainly be aware of withdrawal effects if you are a regular coffee drinker, but there is no meaningful risk of addiction.
If you drink more coffee, you’ll need more coffee. You feel coffee’s effects rather immediately, so you quickly know whether you’ve drank too much and can calibrate next time. Moreover, caffeine tolerance, while partly linked to your coffee drinking habits, is actually also partly linked to genetics and your unique physiological make up (all unrelated to coffee consumption).
Afternoon coffee causes insomnia. It’s often said that you should only drink coffee in the morning and that any coffee you drink in the afternoon will cause insomnia. In reality, the coffee you drink is flushed out of your system in 5 hours or less. So drinking coffee 6 hours or more before bed time shouldn’t contribute to sleep disruptions. Of course, don’t down a cup of coffee right before you intend to go to bed, but don’t worry about a quick early or mid afternoon pick me up.
What are the biggest misconceptions about making coffee?
If you make your coffee at home, you’ve probably looked for hacks to level up your process. While many of these strategies are valid, some are not. Here are the most common misconceptions about making coffee and the reality:
Put your beans in the freezer. Many people put their beans in a plastic bag in the freezer in an effort to keep them fresh for longer. However, the moisture from the condensation in the freezer can actually damage coffee beans.
Coffee can’t ever be too hot. What’s wrong with a steaming cup of coffee? Who doesn’t love hot coffee? Sure, it’s great to have a nice warm cup of coffee, but for optimal flavor, you should only heat your water to 155 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that, you don’t dissolve the coffee beans enough and above that, you can actually “burn” coffee and brew coffee with a burnt taste.
Oily beans are fresher. People often think that oily beans, that is, beans with an extra shiny exterior are fresher while less shiny, more dull looking beans are stale. In reality, shine is not a quality associated with freshness. Rather, shine is a sign of the roast level and style of the prepared coffee beans.
What are the biggest myths about drinking coffee?
New coffee drinkers or future coffee converts often hear words like “decaf” or “dark roast” or “espresso” without a solid understanding of their true meanings and implications. Confusions like these lead people to try the wrong drink and consequently write off coffee all together too quickly before they’ve genuinely explored the magic of the drink. Here are the biggest myths about drinking coffee debunked:
Decaf is caffeine free. As the name suggests, decaf isn’t the utter absence of coffee but rather a decreased amount of it. In most versions of decaf, over 90% of the caffeine content is removed. If you’re looking for something entirely caffeine free, decaf isn’t the best option. But if you still enjoy a little caffeine boost and like the taste of coffee, decaf is perfect.
Dark roast coffee is more caffeinated. As we shared in our recent piece - the Ultimate Guide to Coffee Jargon - dark roast coffee, on the margin, has less caffeine content than medium or light roast. In essence, dark roast coffee is roasted for longer at higher temperatures, which takes out more of the caffeine content.
Espressos have more caffeine than a cup of coffee. While the word “espresso shot” has a more intense feel to it, interestingly, a regular 12 ounce cup of coffee actually has slightly more caffeine content. Espressos are certainly more concentrated (having higher caffeine per ounce), so they are a more volume efficient way to ingest caffeine, but they aren’t as caffeine intensive as some people may think.
Espresso is a type of bean. The proliferation of snacks like chocolate covered espresso beans contribute to the misconception that espressos are a type of bean. In fact, “espresso” refers to a way of brewing coffee to make it thicker and more concentrated with a creamy layer. Espressos themselves are made from the same beans as other types of coffee; they are just made through a different, more pressurized process usually involving special machines like a piston machine.
Black coffee is bitter. While straight black coffee can sometimes have a bitter taste, with the right beans, roasting techniques, and brewing practices, you can make sweet, fruity, or even chocolatey coffee. Coffee is a lot more interesting that people give it credit for!
We hope this guide was eye opening for you in gaining a better, more truthful and comprehensive understanding of coffee! And we hope this newfound knowledge helps you rethink how you approach your own coffee habits and explorations.