We’ve all heard the stories about coffee and how it affects us. 'Drinking too much coffee can keep you awake at night', 'Coffee cures hangovers', 'The caffeine in coffee is highly addictive' etc....
But are any of these true? Could our cup of Joe in the morning (or the other cups during the day) really keep us up at night? We’ve been doing a bit of research for ourselves to find out what's really going on.
1) Drinking too much coffee will keep you awake at night.
Whilst some research says that drinking a cup of coffee first thing in the morning will have an effect at bedtime other studies have revealed that caffeine passes through your system in 3 or 4 hours. So what should we do? Avoid coffee all day? Well, if you are a fond coffee drinker like me that just isn’t an option.
The top tip for this one is to have a smart plan for your coffee consumption. If you really need a good night sleep then avoid caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime to allow enough time for the caffeine to leave your system. This may vary dependant on the individual as we have been known to develop a certain tolerance to caffeine. Just remember that caffeine is present in many drinks such as cola, tea and, to a smaller degree, decaffeinated drinks.
A small coffee after a heavy meal can also aid digestion so it appears there is no absolute right answer for everyone. Don't forget that fresh coffees have much less caffeine in them than instant. Our tolerances vary so it might be better to ignore the scientists and listen to your body to have a plan that works for you.
2) Coffee dehydrates the body
It is believed that coffee, and any other drink containing caffeine, can leave your body dehydrated. Scientists have vacillated on this for years but the general consensus these days is that coffee does not dehydrate your body to any real extent. Whilst caffeine has a diuretic effect on our bodies the moderate amount in each cup does not cause you to lose more than you ingest.
3) Coffee cures hangovers
Most of us have been there. You wake up on a Sunday morning with the room still spinning with a vague memory of last night's party. So we climb out of bed and head to the kitchen to find something to save us from a sore head and dry mouth. It is, of course, tempting to have a nice strong coffee straight away. While there's no direct evidence either way it does appear that Coffee is of no real help in getting rid of that hangover.
Best drink plenty of water, take an aspirin and eat something light as soon as you feel able. After that you're free to have a coffee although make sure it's fresh coffee as it has around half the caffeine of instant. That should do the trick and get you back on track.
4) Caffeine is highly addictive
How many times have we heard someone say “I need my coffee before I can function in the mornings”? But is this really true? Have we become slaves to this drug with all of the terrible consequences that an addiction can bring?
The answer is, of course, no. Most research suggests that we can develop a form of dependence which forms part of our habitual behaviour. According to studies, if something is to be termed as addictive it must pose a threat to your physical, social, occupational or economic health.
Even so there's nothing wrong, every once in a while, to go without coffee for a few days. This can help you and your body get a better perception on it's effects. It also means that our delicious Causeway Coffee will taste even better when you get back to it.
5) Coffee can cause Heart Disease and Cancer
This topic has been around for years, one scientific study will tell us yes, coffee does cause Cancer and attributes it to heart problems, then a few years later, we’re told 3-4 cups of coffee per day can reduce risk of disease and cancer. So who or what should we believe?
If we look at the most recent studies into coffee, there seems to be no indication that there is an increased risk of cancer, from hundreds if not thousands of reports. In another report on Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes and brain diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Coffee drinkers, the study found, had significantly lower odds of having several cancers, including liver, prostate, and colon cancers.
The risk of diabetes and Parkinson’s was 30% lower among coffee drinkers, and the risk of chronic liver disease was 65% lower. Death from heart disease and from heart attack also dropped for coffee drinkers. For many diseases, the more coffee you drink - up to about 3 to 4 cups per day - the more potential benefits.
So in theory, if we stick to our 3-4 cups per day (I sometimes cheat and have 5) we should have some moderate health benefits.
6) Darker roast coffees have more caffeine
While a dark roast coffee will taste much stronger and bitter than a light roast dark roasts actually have less caffeine. By volume there is actually more caffeine in a light roast. Why is this?
Because dark roast coffee is roasted for longer more oils are released from the beans. As a result more of the caffeine, and a little flavour, are removed. It is important to note that this is only true in terms of volume. This is why many of the speciality brew guides talk so much about weighing your coffee. Ground coffee from lightly roasted beans could way double per volume than a dark roast.
With so many variables it brings me back to the point about finding a coffee and a roast which is right for you. We already know that instant coffee contains up to twice as much caffeine so it really is worth finding a type of coffee with a roast profile and taste you like.
With a huge variety of coffee beans, blends and roasts available it promises to be a fun journey that shouldn't keep you awake at night.