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Healthy Coffee Calculator

Created by Álvaro Díez and Julia Kopczyńska, PhD candidate
Reviewed by Steven Wooding
Last updated: May 24, 2024


Welcome to our Healthy Coffee Calculator! Have you ever wondered how your coffee choices impact your health? Let’s discuss the benefits of coffee, what types of coffee exist, and which of them is the most beneficial. Are you intrigued? Then grab your cup of magic and come along! ☕✨

What is coffee?

In a nutshell, coffee is a brewed beverage from roasted beans of the Coffea plant 🌱. Coffee contains caffeine, tannins, carbohydrates, proteins, and oils. It is also rich in B-group vitamins, magnesium, potassium, phenolic compounds, and other antioxidants. In fact, in many countries, coffee constitutes the biggest dietary source of antioxidants. But is it really as healthy as it sounds? Let’s look at the bigger picture in the following sections.

Is coffee good for health?

You probably have heard before that: 'You shouldn't drink coffee, it's bad for you.' The reason behind such claims comes from early studies that linked coffee to heart disease and asthma. However, the alleged harmful health effects of coffee in earlier studies are linked to the smoking habits of many study participants. So it is safe to say: coffee = healthy habit, smoking = unhealthy habit (hopefully you'll be inspired to check out our smoking recovery calculator and our quit smoking calculator 🚬❌).

Many recent studies show that coffee conveys great health benefits. In fact, coffee consumption decreases the risk of:

  • Metabolic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes;
  • Heart disease and stroke;
  • Parkinson's disease;
  • Depression;
  • Alzheimer's;
  • Cancer development;
  • Liver disease;
  • Gut motility issues; and
  • Obesity.

Have you ever noticed how coffee can make you feel more awake, focused, and even lift your mood? But what exactly happens to your body when you drink coffee?

When we look at the neurological effects of coffee, caffeine blocks adenosine receptors, which prevents the release of neurotransmitters responsible for fatigue. Meanwhile, it stimulates hormones responsible for alertness and mood boosts, such as dopamine and serotonin. Not only does this result in greater mental focus, but it also improves physical endurance, which is why athletes commonly use caffeine to achieve better results. 🏋🏻‍♀️🚴‍♀️

Einstein Coffee Meme

Besides caffeine, coffee also contains polyphenols, which, due to their antioxidant activity, counteract inflammation-triggered diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Interestingly, compounds found in coffee might beneficially regulate our gut microbiome, which is our immunologic center and plays a vital role in overall health 🦠!

And if that’s not enough, studies show that coffee can help you live longer! This isn’t too surprising, given the fact that coffee is a rich source of antioxidants and has protective effects against the most common global health issues.

💡 Fun Fact: Coffee can actually enhance the action of several drugs, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-diabetic drugs, and antibiotics.

How to use the Healthy Coffee Calculator

To use our Healthy Coffee Calculator, you only need to enter the following information about your coffee-drinking habits:

  1. Cups of coffee per day — we assume an average caffeine concentration of 95 mg per cup.
  2. Bean and roast type — which can be either Arabica or Robusta, light, medium, or dark roast.
  3. Brewing type — choose between Aeropress, drip, espresso machine, French press, and simple infusion.
  4. Add-ons: Select if you add any type of milk, creamer or sugar/syrup.

Play around and check which changes will help you to make your coffee even healthier! You can also explore other coffee-related tools, such as our coffee calculator and our coffee kick calculator.

How much coffee is healthy?

If coffee is healthy, that means the more, the better, right? Wrong. As for most things in life, balance is key. But what is a healthy (balanced) coffee intake? The recommended amount of cups (8 oz) per day is 1-5, with 2-3 being the sweet spot when it comes to the associated health benefits. Here comes the important part: drinking more than 5 cups per day may even pose a risk to your health. So try to stay within the healthy limit as well as you can.

There’s another thing to keep in mind: the caffeine content. The maximum recommended amount of caffeine is 400 mg. The average caffeine content per cup of home-brewed coffee is 95 mg, but it can vary between 70 and 140 mg, depending on the bean and roasting type, brewing method, and amount of coffee ground/beans used. While these differences are not that massive, it’s a different story when it comes to chain cafés, where a cup of coffee may even contain 180 mg of caffeine per cup (8 oz), or even more in the case of larger portions. If you like going to cafés on a regular basis, try to be extra cautious about your caffeine intake.

🙋 FYI: You can usually find the caffeine content (amongst other components) of big chains such as Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts online. It's better to double-check before you order your second Venti!

It is not only important how much coffee we drink, but also when 🕓. The average time needed to metabolize caffeine is 5 hours, but here, individual metabolic rates (to learn more, check our BMR calculator) play an important role, as it can last between 1 ½ and even 9 ½ hours! You might have noticed that some people complain of having sleeping issues due to the coffee they had at noon, while others can sleep tight after finishing their last coffee at 9 pm.

If you're on neither of the extreme ends, it might be a wise idea for you to stop caffeine consumption in the early afternoon so as not to interfere with your sleep schedule, and as we all know: a good night's sleep is indispensable for our health and overall well-being!

There's another good reason to limit your coffee consumption: you'll have a lower chance of developing so-called coffee dependency. You might have heard of some strong opinions about the psychedelic and addictive properties of coffee; maybe you've even heard a sensational statement about how coffee is a legal drug for economic benefits. Let's put everything in the proper context; while it is true that caffeine stimulates dopamine signaling, as do addictive drugs, it does, however, not affect the brain's reward circuit, which would be the case with addiction.

Coffee dependency, however, is a result of our brain adapting to higher amounts of caffeine. As mentioned before, caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in our brains, so more of these receptors are produced with long-term exposure to higher amounts of caffeine. That means we now need more caffeine to suppress fatigue, and we don't want to enter that vicious cycle.

What type of coffee is the healthiest?

Bean type

As we’ve already said, the qualities of coffee depend on the bean type, roasting intensity, brewing type, and, of course, any toppings or extras you might lace your coffee with... Let’s start from the beginning.

Have you ever been coffee shopping and wondered whether to choose Arabica or Robusta and which of their roast types — light, medium, or dark roast — will be the best? This does not only depend on whether you prefer a more delicate and fruity light roast or the bold aroma of a dark roast, but you should also keep in mind that Arabica and Robusta have different qualities at particular roasting stages. Though lighter roasts generally have a higher caffeine content, they also preserve more antioxidants than darker roasts.

However, here we can find some differences between Arabica and Robusta, as light-roasted Robusta beans have more antioxidants than blonde roasts of Arabica coffee. Still, when it comes to medium and dark roasts, Arabica coffee has a higher content.

If you have no preference for the coffee type, you can always be on the safe side with a medium roast. Also, regardless of the bean characteristics, make sure to buy organic coffee beans to avoid harmful pesticides.

But what about instant coffee? Though studies show that instant coffee may contain even more polyphenols and minerals than ground coffee, it also contains 100% more acrylamide (coffee substitutes can even have 300% more). Acrylamide forms in coffee during the roasting process and if exposed to in higher amounts, has been linked to nerve damage and cancer. Even though coffee consumption, both instant and ground coffee, is not linked to cancer development (quite the contrary), the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) recommends reducing the amount of acrylamide in our diet. This is why we also recommend classic ground coffee above instant and substitutes.

Method of preparation

Now that we’ve settled our raw material, let’s move on to the preparation. The brewing method not only impacts the prevailing aromas of our coffee but also preserves different beneficial and potentially unbeneficial compounds. For instance, the diterpenes cafestol and kahweol, known for their anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, and polyphenol-preserving properties, are 30 times higher in unfiltered coffee.

Additionally, simple infusion, open-pour, and French press are more hygienic compared to coffee machines, which — if not handled accordingly — are prone to mold growth.

However, unfiltered coffee might not be the best option for everyone, as coffee oils were also shown to raise cholesterol levels. Filtered coffee not only contains less coffee oils but also contains less caffeine compared to steeped coffee brewing methods.

If you’re looking for a coffee drink with the smallest caffeine content, get yourself a good old espresso. You might be surprised, but an espresso contains only around 63 milligrams of caffeine! Keep in mind that this is true for an espresso drink (1 oz) and not a whole cup (8 oz) filled with espressos 😅.

There’s also an interesting study comparing the nutritional value and antioxidant activity of coffee obtained from Aeropress, drip, French press, espresso machine, and simple infusion, which shows that Aeropress is the leading method in both mineral content and antioxidant levels, closely followed by simple infusion and drip coffee.

Whichever method you use, you don’t have to worry about the temperature. Still, you should avoid ‘overcooking’ your coffee (leaving it for too long at a high temperature) because it can break down some of the beneficial compounds.

Until now, we have only focused on pure black coffee, but what about cappuccino, lattes, frappés, etc? This aspect plays the biggest role in the ‘healthiness’ of our coffee. If we add tons of milk, cream, and sugar or syrup, it becomes more of a dessert than a healthy beverage. Sugars will do more harm to your blood sugar levels than coffee can do good. In addition, milk has been shown to impede the absorption of polyphenols, one of the main antioxidants found in coffee.

But before you panic, let’s be clear: you can treat yourself to a fancy flat white or mochaccino once in a while. We’re trying to create healthy habits here, and healthy habits require an adequate balance, so — don’t order it often, but — next time you order your favorite guilty-pleasure coffee, don’t beat yourself up and enjoy the cup of love you deserve! ☕♥️

To sum up: Coffee is great for your health, but in the right amounts and at the right time. To answer the question ‘What is the healthiest kind of coffee?’, there is no clear answer. But you can make your cup of joe a lot healthier by forgoing milk and sweeteners and adding natural spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, etc. And avoid very dark roasts with comparably less antioxidant content and very light roasts with high caffeine content. A simple medium-roast black coffee is always a safe choice.

If you need to look out for your cholesterol levels and reduce caffeine, it will be better for you to drink filtered coffee, preferably Aeropress, to take the maximum of antioxidants and mineral content. If you don’t need to look out for particular health issues, you can play around with your coffee brewing to get the best of all worlds!

The dark(er) side of coffee

Coffee can also cause some unpleasant side effects, especially for non-habitual drinkers. These include:

  • Diuretic effects;
  • Difficulties falling asleep;
  • Nausea, dizziness and tremors;
  • Heart palpitations;
  • Temporarily raise blood pressure; and
  • Cause or exacerbate underlying anxiety.

It is important to note that these are common symptoms caused by higher caffeine intake, which is why we hope this article helps you to become a more conscious coffee drinker. It is also better to stick to conventional coffee instead of other caffeinated drinks, such as energy drinks or caffeine shots, which often exceed the recommended caffeine amount, are high in sugar, and contain artificial additives ⚠️.

There are also some groups of people who should be cautious when it comes to caffeine consumption. Children under the age of 13 should not consume any caffeine whatsoever — this also concerns soda. Caffeine consumption should also be reduced during pregnancies for the sake of the child’s development. Older adults are also more susceptible to the effects of coffee due to a slower metabolism.

How do I get the most health benefits of my coffee?

Here are some insider tips we prepared for you to get the most health benefits from your coffee:

  1. Choose home-brewed coffee over coffee chains — you can enjoy more moderate amounts of caffeine and avoid overstepping the healthy threshold.

  2. Use medium roast coffee from organic plantations.

  3. Pick ground coffee/coffee beans above capsules — coffee capsules make caffeine stay longer in your system and might interfere more with your sleeping schedule.

  4. Try not to get too much caffeine at once to avoid unpleasant side effects; leave a few hours between your next cup, and cut down on caffeine in the afternoon.

  5. Drink coffee (and other caffeinated drinks, e.g., black and green tea) between meals so as not to interfere with iron absorption.

  6. Aspire to healthier habits — reduce sugar and other milk additives to avoid empty calories. Some may also interfere with some of the health benefits of black coffee.

Now, if you think we've narrowed down your options, we actually want to show you a whole new world of healthy coffee 🌎☕:

  1. Add natural spices (not artificial aromas) to your coffee that are additional sources of antioxidants and minerals and have their own health benefits:

    • Vanilla — improves digestive health and reduces anxiety;

    • Cocoa — blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering and a natural mood booster;

    • Cinnamon — sweetens your drink without any sugar and is a metabolic booster;

    • Cardamom — is anti-inflammatory and regulates blood sugar levels; and

    • Ginger — a natural pain killer, improves digestive health and lowers cholesterol.

  2. If you can't go straight to black coffee, there are still more healthy alternatives than conventional coffee variants — here are some inspirations:

    • Golden Milk Turmeric Latte — Turmeric is known for its beneficial effects on metabolism and the immune system;

    • Dirty Chai Latte — Chai tea is black tea with several healthy spices like black pepper, ginger, cloves, anise, cinnamon and cardamom;

    • Green Tea Dirty Chai — The same as above, only with green tea (known for its relaxing effects as well as metabolic and immunological benefits) instead of black tea;

    • Gingerbread Latte — Gingerbread spice is healthy and rich in minerals as it includes ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove;

    • Homemade Vanilla Latte — Have you ever tried freshly ground vanilla? Trust us; you won't be craving that extra sugar, and vanilla syrup won't ever make it back to your coffee.

You can adapt these drinks to your own liking; there are endless healthy coffee variations for you to try out! You can also make milk-based coffee drinks healthier by replacing cow milk with natural, unsweetened vegan milk such as oat and almond milk, which contain many micronutrients and fibers.

Cat coffee meme

FAQ

Is coffee good for your health?

Yes, coffee is good for your health if consumed in the right amounts. Regular moderate coffee consumption shows a variety of positive health effects due to its beneficial compounds, such as caffeine, coffee oils, and antioxidants. 2-3 cups (8 oz) of coffee is linked to the greatest health benefits regarding heart disease. The recommended amount is 1-5 cups of coffee per day and a maximum caffeine amount of 400 mg per day. Exceeding the upper limit is associated with adverse health manifestations, so be aware of how much coffee you consume.

Which coffee is the healthiest?

When considering the healthiest type of coffee, there isn't a definitive answer. However, you can enhance the health benefits of your brew by skipping milk and sweeteners and instead incorporating natural spices like cinnamon or cardamom. A universal advice would be to opt for medium-roast black coffee, which strikes a balance, avoiding the lower antioxidant levels of very dark roasts and the elevated caffeine content of very light roasts.

For those concerned about cholesterol and seeking to reduce caffeine intake, consuming filtered coffee, particularly through methods like Aeropress, maximizes antioxidant and mineral content. If health concerns aren't a priority, exploring various coffee styles allows you to enjoy a range of benefits.

What is the most unhealthy coffee?

The most unhealthy type of coffee is a coffee beverage with lots of added sugar and cream, such as frappés. Though pure coffee has many health benefits, saturated fats found in cream and simple sugar and sugar combinations such as syrups will outweigh the good in your coffee beverage and increase your risk for type 2 diabetes, health disease, and obesity. This concerns habitual consumption of unhealthy coffee beverages, so there is no need to worry if you’re treating yourself once in a while.

Can coffee make you live longer?

Yes, coffee can make you live longer. This is due to the fact that coffee is a rich source of antioxidants, which counteract processes linked to aging and the development of prevalent health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. This concerns a moderate consumption of 1-5 cups per day with a maximum caffeine content of 400 mg.

Álvaro Díez and Julia Kopczyńska, PhD candidate
This tools allows you to calculate how healthy your daily coffee habits are ☕🤎
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