Better coffee. One cup at a time.

The Benefits of Drinking Coffee Black (And Tips for Making the Switch)

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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

Nobody can dictate your personal preferences to you. Don’t let some snobby coffee shop or a long-winded blogger dictate how you drink your coffee and take away something you enjoy.

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)

35 Comments

  1. Brian's Coffee Spot

    As usual, an excellent and well-argued article. I spent 20 years making coffee I didn’t like and putting milk in it to turn it into coffee I did like (I kicked the sugar habit over 25 years ago, realising it was seriously bad for my health). It’s only in the last few years, and through writing the Coffee Spot , that I’ve discovered that I can make coffee I like without having to put anything in it.

    So often it’s just that people have never tried really good coffee. I recently converted some friends of mine who used to take milk and sugar by making them a really sweet single-origin coffee that a roaster friend of mine had recommended to me.

    Thanks again,
    Brian.

    • John

      Brian,

      Thanks for offering up your personal experiences for making the switch from cream and sugar.

      I guess one could say that drinking better coffee is better for your health since a great cup of coffee doesn’t really need any milk or sugar added. (Most people wouldn’t think that sweetness is a characteristic black coffee could have).

      I haven’t converted anyone to black coffee yet but my wife has been dabbling.

      Thanks again,
      John

    • Lisa Ball

      Best coffee-black? Where can I order. I have bad habit putting stevia and real cream in mine. e-mail address: [email protected] ANY SUGGESTIONS APPRECIATED.

    • Tracy

      What kind of coffee bean was it? I am type two diabetic, and would really like to cut out the sugared creamer. Any suggestions? Thank you for any input!!

  2. Marilynn

    Thank you for this article it was very informative! I think i will try some different coffees soon now that i realized i haven’t changed my brand in about 3 years! I have been trying to switch to black for a while but did not think i could, but this article swayed my mind!

  3. Sarah

    Thanks for the info.

    I had experience with drinking coffee several ways – instant, cappuccino and also ‘mud’ coffee, or Turkish coffee as it is also known . The last one is the middle eastern parallel to the american black coffee, which unfortunately I hadn’t tried yet.

    While cappuccino can be really nice and comforting, I did find the Turkish version to be the most satisfying in its aroma and I also don’y quit feel the same stomach aches I did after a few consecutive cappuccinos.

  4. Loren Lemons

    Recommended “sweet” coffee that might be a good first “black” coffee for someone trying to go black?

    • John

      Loren,
      I have found that a lot of people who are trying to get away from coffee additives will really enjoy natural processed coffees. Try a natural processed coffee from Ethiopia and look for tasting notes like blueberry or strawberry jam. If you are finding your coffee to be pretty bitter overall, you may need to change your brewing technique a bit as well. Coffee that is overextracted will taste bitter. Send me an email if you need help finding a coffee or some brewing advice.

      Good Luck!
      John

  5. Marcia

    I started drinking my coffee black on January 1 this year. My goal was to cut dairy from my diet. I had always liked a particular restaurant coffee so I started buying it at the store and adjusting it to suit my taste. Turns out I like very weak, black coffee, so I make my coffee with few grounds (for now). Maybe on time I will start adding more grounds into the mix, but for now I am enjoying my favorite coffee, black.

    • Starsha

      Hi Marcia,
      You made a good point that clicked for me. I used to like my coffee very bold BUT then I added tons of stevia and half and half to mask the taste. Now, I’m starting to drink my coffee black (day 2 – eeek) and your comment made me realize that I don’t actually enjoy bitter tasting coffee – if I did I wouldn’t be adding sweeteners. Thanks, I’m going to try a weaker blend. :)

  6. P

    It makes me insanely happy to see how balanced you are about this. I hope you feel the giant squishy hug I’m hugging you.
    I’m going to take your advice and look at the additives. You’re amazing :)

    • Jerry

      I had a throat cancer removed and following radiation, I tried drinking
      black coffee and now pure black coffee tastes like 7UP, very sweet.
      Does anybody know what or how to make it taste bitter again.

      • John

        Hey Jerry,

        I am sorry to hear that you have experienced a drastic change in the way things taste. I am unfortunately, not even informed enough to make a guess about what the best course of action should be. Maybe try grinding your coffee a little finer and purchasing a darker roast if you are looking for bitterness.

        Sorry I wasn’t much help,
        John

        • Jerry

          Hi John,
          I’ll try using the darkest blend I can find and will let you know if it will do the trick.

          Thanks
          Jerry

          • Shannon

            Have you tried Death Wish coffee? It is the strongest *organic* coffee. I have enjoyed it, my boyfriend and some of our mutual friends who are avid coffee drinkers have enjoyed it as well.

      • Justin

        Jerry this may have been a side effect of the radiation. The tingly feeling as if drinking a 7Up may have been caused by the coffee hitting raw inflamed skin in your throat. I have an uncle who experienced this exact same thing. Give your body time to heal and you may find your coffee taste didn’t change much. I know that the hotter the coffee is the more likely you will get the 7UP feeling. Try cooling your coffee down a tad before drinking yo see if this helps.

  7. Kevin

    A few months ago I decided to start drinking coffee black cold turkey. I used to add two tablespoons of nondairy creamer and sometimes even four packets of Splenda. My wife who enjoys coffee with a little creamer (and that’s all) thought my coffee tasted like candy. After realizing my coffee was more like a meal, I decided to just stop altogether and drink it black.

    It probably took a month (possibly longer) for me to even be able to tolerate black coffee. I would make a face every single sip I took, but after time, I acquired a taste for it, and now I enjoy it. I look forward to my morning brew as I once did with all the additives. Not saying once in a blue moon I won’t add a little something, but that is usually if I brew a cup in the early evening just for the comfort, but that is few and far in between anymore.

    Honestly, try it black, and give it time. My wife went from not liking my coffee because of how sweet to not liking it now because of how bitter. I can’t convince her otherwise, though. Oh well. Here’s to black coffee!

    • Tedd

      Kevin, your post has persuaded me to try and shake my four Splenda and creamer habit!

  8. Ashleigh Davies

    Thank you so much for the article. I started reading it as I was brewing a coffee and went with your suggestion. Tasting a sip before adding the milk. To my utter surprise I loved it.
    10 years ago I stopped using sugar, I found it took a long time to get used to the taste of my coffee without sugar and I was expecting it to be the same trying to switch to black coffee. I know it’s only my first cup of black coffee but I actually like it more than I do with milk. So much so that I was motivated to leave this post. More simple, much better.
    I like my single origins and use the drip filter method.
    I am looking forward to my next cup.
    Many Thanks
    Ashleigh

  9. Dawn

    So it’s Jan 2 2018 and I’m finally ready to try to get to liking black coffee! I haven’t used sugar in 20 years but every time I taste a sip of black coffee I run for the creamer (either 1/2 and 1/2 or HWC if I’m doing keto, on that note I’ll even add butter) BUT I for some reason have made this my 2018 challenge (2016 was blue cheese – success! , 2017 – avacado – mainly success except eating in wedges ) now it’s black coffee!!!! Wish me luck I’m going to need it 😊

    • Dawn

      We drink perk coffee if there are ways to brew less bitter to like it black let me know!

  10. Ruby Fernandes

    Hey Brian,
    Your post was really helpful for me. I gradually stopped sugar and now I am trying to reduce the amount of cream I put in. I have noticed some differences in my health, weight and energy level. They certainly have changed for the better. Thank you!

  11. Kirk Leadbetter

    So I’m doing Keto and intermittent fasting so I’m trying to make the switch. I’ve gone to a Guatamalian lightly freshly roasted coffee; burr ground by hand just before I pour the water over the grounds and wait 45 sec to let it bloom; then pouring the rest of the water through it. I’m still finding it too bitter. I used 6 tablespoons for ~ 3, 8 oz cups. Should I try and adjust my grind, or the amount of coffee I add to the water to try and tamp down the strong bitter taste?
    Thanks

  12. Linda Warner

    I was brought up with parents who loaded their coffee with cream & Sugar and for 50 years that is how I drank mine. Now at 71 My husband and I both switched to black coffee with a Tbls. of Hersheys pure coco ( said to have a memory booster). We love the mocha flavor. And know it is good for us too.

    • Tina Washington

      Oooh Im definitely going to give that a try!

  13. cup

    this is a nice post!

  14. James Glatfelter

    i drink many premium coffees ,i like what cream and small amount of sugar bring to the mix. other than extra calories studies have shown that it doesnt affect bioavailability of antioxidants, polyphenols, or caffeine

  15. Foodogi

    very helpful. thank you.

  16. furkan

    super helpful! Thank you so much.

  17. Valorie Kilbourne

    Very informative, what is your recommendation for a flavored coffee? I am trying to eliminate creamer.

  18. Tara

    Thank you for the article! I am not a sugar girl, but I usually add at least a tbsp of almond creamer(has some sugar in it)… I have always liked creamy coffee.. I used to drink dairy cream with added sugar too and I got myself used to cutting that down.. Today was my first try at black coffee, because I was starting a 3 day cleanse & cant have the additives.. To my surprise I have taken it very well! I thought I would make faces or turn my nose up! But it’s not bad! I will be on the lookout for a coffee with notes I might enjoy! thanks again!!

  19. Patti Cs

    This article has inspired me. I’m having a devil of a time leaving the half and half out of my coffee. After reading this, it would seem that all things are possible..even changes with my half and half. So, tomorrow I’m going to try 1 tablespoon half and half, and 1 tablespoon 2% milk. Plan to do this for 3 weeks, and then re-evaluate. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  20. Happy Smart Coffee

    Nice blog . Also know smart coffee by visit us.

  21. Josh RCH

    Dear God….GULP! Just tried my first cup of black coffee with espresso…cold turkey! I previously would drink my coffee with a mountain of sugar and a ton of cream…pretty much as close to a caramel frap as I could get. But I am doing intermittent fasting and that habit just ain’t gonna do…so black coffee or nothing.

    I am shocked to say I actually finished the whole thing! I found I enjoyed it more when it wasn’t so hot and could taste the flavors. The first few swallows were followed by a wince and a quiet exclamation of “ugh” but by the end of the cup I didn’t dislike it so much! I found this blog by trying to find some inspiration or reason why human beings enjoy black coffee! It helped a lot! Thanks

    Going to try for a week or so and see if I can start loving it!

  22. Russell Volz

    John,

    You’ve exceedingly well summed up my feelings about coffee. Like you, today, I drink my coffee black. But that wasn’t always the case. I had to do a lot of experimenting to learn how to like black coffee. Black coffee no sugar no cream is the only way to go.

    Drinking coffee is very much like drinking wine. Would you add cream and sugar or anything else to your wine? Hell no! You’d just go find a wine that’s better suited to your likes. Coffee’s the same way.

    I love super smooth (zero bitter & zero burnt) coffee. The problem is finding the smooth coffee. I finally found that if you search the internet for “Smoothest Coffee”, you’ll find several good options.

    Thanks John

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