12 Commonly-Held Myths About Coffee Debunked at Last
The Caffeine in Coffee Is Seriously Addictive
The first myth on this list isn’t entirely false; in certain amounts during regular use, the stimulant effects of caffeine can create a mild dependence. Even so, it’s a massive overstatement to describe coffee as a highly-addictive substance. By comparison to true highly-addictive substances like nicotine, alcohol and heroin, caffeine is a lightweight (and doesn’t come with the severe physical damage, mental anguish and social destruction that drug and alcohol abuse can cause). Caffeine withdrawals from drinking too much coffee on a regular basis are certainly not fun, but the addiction is usually broken in a short time.
A Darker Roast Means a Stronger Coffee Flavor
Many of us—particularly self-described “coffee snobs”—have fallen into the trap of thinking that by choosing a darker roast of coffee beans we’re somehow taking in a stronger coffee, one that only a “true coffee lover” could possibly enjoy. In reality, a long roasting process actually burns off caffeine over time, and a darker roast simply means the coffee will be more acidic. In fact, lighter roasts of beans are often considered to keep the “true” coffee flavor intact. So, if you like your coffee with a higher acid/lower caffeine content, stick to dark roasts—just don’t claim you’re drinking stronger (or better) coffee.
Coffee Is Made With Boiling Hot Water
Using boiling water is a definite no-no when it comes to brewing a proper cup of coffee. Although it’s true that the water needs to be sufficiently heated for the grounds to brew, temperatures exceeding 200 degrees Fahrenheit may scald the grounds or cause them to release bitter-tasting natural oils. Unless you like the taste of burnt coffee, it’s best to keep your water to a reasonable temperature. Now when it comes to the quality of your water, using filtered or purified water of an appropriate temperature will give you a better flavor than standard tap water.
Too Much Coffee—Especially Late in the Day—Creates Insomnia
We’ve all heard it: “it’s too late for coffee. I need to get up early tomorrow!” As it turns out, so long as you’re not drinking a double shot of espresso right before bed, the vast majority of the caffeine in coffee is flushed through the body in an average of 4 to 7 hours. By the time you get into bed, chances are there won’t be enough left in your system to keep you awake any more than usual.
Coffee Can Sober You up When You’re Wasted
This myth is an accident waiting to happen. There are dozens of supposed instant sobering remedies for drunkenness, and this one is a definite falsehood. While the presence of caffeine can bring a temporary sense of alertness to a person, research from the American Psychological Association suggests that it doesn’t actually affect a person’s overall sobriety. In fact, those who drink coffee in an attempt to sober up may find themselves even more impaired, as the interaction of large amounts of stimulants and depressants in the body can lead to serious difficulties performing normal functions. The best way to avoid needing to sober up quickly is to keep bottled water on hand and have some between drinks—this should help keep you from getting too out of hand.
Coffee Stunts Human Growth
One of the oldest myths in the list, the idea that coffee can somehow affect your body’s growth and development is simply untrue. A person’s height and developmental milestones are determined by a combination of genetics and environment that happens irrespective of a person’s coffee intake. Most people reach their adult height around 16 (for females) to 18 (for males), with the highest rate of growth during the infancy, the toddler years and puberty.
Even if there were any scientific basis for the idea that coffee could affect human development (which there isn’t), the vast majority of growth will probably occur before most parents even think about letting their kids have coffee. In any case, there are much better reasons than growth concerns to refuse coffee to your minor children, like the fact that you’ll never have a moment’s peace again.
If You’re Pregnant, You Can’t Drink Coffee
While it’s true that doctors recommend women keep their caffeine intake below certain levels during pregnancy, coffee isn’t completely off the table. Expecting mothers are allowed up to around 200 milligrams of coffee per day (approximately one cup of coffee). Some very mindful mothers raise concerns about caffeine’s ability to pass through the placenta to the baby, but thus far research has shown no ill-effects to the child as a result.
Coffee Will Help You Drop Those Pesky Pounds
It seems like a perfectly reasonable idea, at first: “coffee gives me energy, therefore it will probably help me burn fat, right?” Unfortunately, wrong. As with many of the other coffee myths on this list, this idea comes from a severe overestimation of coffee’s effects. While caffeine is a stimulant and can increase a person’s energy and metabolism in an extremely small way, it’s simply too negligible a change to make any difference to your weight loss goals. Some argue that caffeine functions as an appetite suppressant, but there’s no scientific evidence to support claims that the effect is anything more than temporary.
If you really want a beverage to help you lose weight, stick with water. Hydration is one of the key elements of getting your body into optimal shape for workouts and other activity. If you need something with a little more “pizazz,” consider getting some sparkling mineral water.
Coffee Makes You Dehydrated
Despite the claims of concerned moms everywhere, coffee doesn’t actually contribute to dehydration. In fact, coffee is mostly water, which means that it does contribute to your daily recommended intake. The most plausible explanation for the perpetuation of this myth is probably that some coffee drinkers think they’re fine sipping a few cups all day long and never get around to taking in enough water. In any case, it can’t hurt to make sure you’re properly hydrated all day. After all, the water coolers are where all the good gossip happens.
A Shot of Espresso Has More Caffeine Than a Cup of Coffee
The debunking of this myth primarily comes down to a basic issue of volume. A shot of espresso is usually about one ounce in volume, while a single cup of coffee contains eight ounces of liquid. Thanks to the beauty of math, our eight-times-larger cup of coffee contains around 65-140 milligrams of caffeine, while the one ounce espresso shot contains only 30-50 milligrams.
If we rephrase this statement to read “espresso contains more caffeine than regular black coffee ounce-for-ounce,” then we’re talking truth; compared to our one ounce espresso shot, an ounce of coffee has around 8-15 milligrams of caffeine. Of course, when was the last time you ordered a single ounce of coffee?
It’s Easy to Quit Coffee “Cold Turkey”
Despite the fact that our first myth on this list clarifies that coffee isn’t a highly-addictive substance, it is still possible to develop an addiction with a high enough regular intake. For some people, suddenly quitting coffee completely on day 1 is easy. For others with significant daily caffeine intake (not just from coffee, but from any caffeinated source), it can be a grueling process of withdrawal headaches, nausea and other frustrating symptoms. Remaining hydrated during withdrawals can help a great deal, so keep some water bottles on hand.
Coffee Is Just Bad for You
As with all claims of “x food or beverage is harmful to human health,” it’s important to consider the amount being ingested over a period of time. Although some studies have claimed a link between caffeine and heart disease, these studies generally focus on high caffeine intake and conflict with other research on the topic. In reality, there’s no evidence that individuals who drink coffee in moderation are any more likely to develop health issues than non-coffee-drinkers. According to the American Heart Association, one or two cups of coffee a day shouldn’t be a problem.