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I drink my coffee black.
I don’t have a problem with people adding things to their coffee (my wife enjoys her coffee with cream and minimal disapproving head shakes from me) but I do think black coffee has its merits. It is my opinion that the vast majority of coffee additives are remnants from the first wave coffee notion that coffee is vile, caffeine is good and adding things to coffee makes it tolerable.
Unlike fifty years ago, the abundance and variety of amazing coffee available today is astounding. If you are still adding cream and sugar to your coffee, maybe you just haven’t found a coffee that really resonates with you and need to explore it some more.
It is, of course, entirely possible that you have found your coffee sweet spot and do actually enjoy coffee best exactly how you prepare it. I am fine with that. However, if you are someone who adds things to your coffee out of habit (instead of purpose), this post is for you. I’d like to make a case for exploring drinking coffee black.
The Benefits of Drinking Coffee Black
Coffee is good. I’m not talking about gingerbread lattes, caramel macchiatos or mocha frappuccinos. I’m talking about coffee, that little roasted seed from the fruit of a plant that is grown in an exotic location. When it is artfully grown, roasted and prepared, it’s good (really good).
I drink my coffee black because I want to taste it. I want to experience the sweetness, balance and subtle nuances of a great cup of coffee. There are many different reasons to make the move to drinking coffee black but here are a few of my favorite reasons to make the switch:
You are able to experience a cup of coffee the way it was designed
No matter what coffee you are drinking, there was thought and intention put into the way that coffee tastes.
Even the mega-roasters put enormous effort into how their coffee tastes. They are most interested in making sure their coffee taste the same batch after batch (good or bad, consistency with agricultural products takes constant evaluation).
On the other end of the spectrum, third wave coffee roasters spend hours cupping, roasting and developing roast profiles to get the most out of a green coffee that was often meticulously grown, harvested and processed. It may come as a surprise to you but the taste of coffee can vary considerably farm to farm and region to region. Drinking your coffee black helps you to appreciate and enjoy these differences.
A cup of black coffee has zero (or almost) calories
While the health benefits of coffee are still a debated topic; it is a generally accepted fact that a cup of black coffee is an insignificant calorie contribution. It isn’t a diet buster. Adding cream or sugar (the verdict is already in on how bad sugar is for you by-the-way) to your coffee takes a neutral (possibly healthy) drink and turns it into something with calories and thus something that should be evaluated. Drinking two to three cups of black coffee a day is not usually considered to be a problem. Drinking two to three cups of a milky, sugary coffee drink a day is a habit most would consider unhealthy.
Being out of cream or sugar doesn’t ruin your life
If you drink your coffee black, you have less to keep track of for your morning pick-me-up. I enjoy my coffee whether there is cream in the fridge and sugar in the pantry or not. Someone who enjoys additives in their coffee cannot enjoy a cup of coffee if those elements are missing. Therefore cream and sugar adder are at a disadvantage. In the same vein, whether camping or traveling it is one (or two) less things you have to worry about bringing when making coffee on the go.
Tips For Drinking Your Coffee Black
Whether you want to experience coffee as it was intended, remove empty calories from your diet, or simplify your morning routine, choosing to make the move to black coffee can be difficult. The morning coffee ritual is something so ingrained in most people that any sort of change is hard to deal with.
It doesn’t have to be an overnight thing. Here are a few things to get you moving in the right direction:
- Find some coffee that features elements you enjoy in your coffee additives- What is it that you like about the things you doctor up your coffee with? Look for a coffee the highlights those things. Coffee can be sweet, fruity, creamy or a multitude of other things. Decide what you like about a particular additive and adjust your buying habits accordingly. You may need to do some research here but there are many resources (talk to your local roaster). The subscription service Angel’s Cup will send you small samples of coffee to try on a regular basis. This can help expose you to a lot of different coffees fast.
- Try different brewing methods and recipes- It is possible that part of the reason you feel your coffee needs cream or sugar is the way you are brewing it. You may need to adjust your dosage, grind size or pick a new brewing method altogether. I recommend going to a coffee shop that is known for its slow bar and talking to the barista about what they recommend based on your preferences. Coffee shops can help you find a coffee you like. They should also be able to represent a properly brewed coffee so you can experience the coffee as intended.
- Taste the coffee black every time before adding cream or sugar- Before you add things to your coffee take a moment to taste it black. Don’t just take a sip, TASTE it. Think about what flavors you are getting out of your coffee and what you like and don’t like. If possible, set a little black coffee to the side to taste again once it has cooled to room temperature. You will be surprised how much more pronounced the flavors are once the coffee has cooled a bit.
- Measure what you are putting into your coffee- If you are brewing your coffee manually, I recommend the process of weighing or measuring the water and the coffee for your recipe. Your additives should be no different. Measure the cream and sugar you put into your coffee. This will get you consistent results through the whole process, brewing to drinking. It would be a shame to meticulously weigh and brew your coffee only to haphazardly eyeball the amount of cream or sugar you add. It is better to be consistent. Measuring your additives will also serve the purpose of showing you exactly how much cream and sugar you are consuming.
- Slowly decrease the amount of cream and sugar you add into your coffee- Once you have established your baseline of how much of each additive you put into your coffee, reduce the amount by a quarter or half every couple weeks. If you do not find it enjoyable (which is probable) stick with it for two weeks before going back to the original dosage. You may find when you return to your original dosage that it is too milky or sugar forward for you after all.
- Change your mug color– This is a somewhat obscure suggestion, but a year or so ago a small study concluded that mug color could have an impact on how we taste our coffee. Specifically, using a white mug instead of a clear mug can make you perceive a coffee as more bitter and less sweet. If you regularly drink coffee out of a white mug, try changing it up and using a clear mug instead.
Don’t Change to Make Others Happy
I think that coffee is best enjoyed black. If you disagree with me, that’s fine.
The point of the matter is, if you have always taken your coffee with lots of cream and lots of sugar since you were seventeen, it might be time to explore your coffee tastes again. If it turns out that you still like your coffee how you like it, I will still drink coffee with you (judgement free).
(Originally Published March 1, 2016- Updated September 12, 2020)