The Great Coffee Debate

Like Dave Munger of Seed Magazine, I have been a coffee addict for the better part of my life. I discovered the dark brew’s magic toward the end of high school, and probably would have slept through the bulk of college were it not for the Starbucks conveniently located on the way to the English department. And let’s just say that during the first few years of my son’s life, the contribution was central to my level of sanity. Or so I thought.

However, Munger raises some interesting points about coffee, which is particularly apropos of what I’ve been trying to do: kick coffee all together. I know, I know. What is a geek without her caffeine? And why would I want a world without it? I’ve kicked caffeine for two reasons: I want to sleep better at night, and I don’t want to crash in the afternoon. I have a four year old, and I work from home part time, and often the lure of the nap is too great. I end up far less productive, and then can’t sleep at night since I need more coffee to stay awake. A vicious circle, indeed.

But kicking caffeine is a lot harder than you might think. I had headaches for almost a week, extreme fatigue, and almost felt like I was coming down with the flu. Then, miraculously, it passed. And instead of waking up feeling like I could do with another six hours of sleep, I’m up at 7am—even before my son is up. That’s some vast improvement!

According to Munger’s article, even 100 milligrams of caffeine a day can cause withdrawal symptoms when stopped. And the amount of caffeine in your beverage varies drastically from cup to cup. Munger says:

…researchers found that depending on where you get your coffee and how it’s prepared, the caffeine content in a serving can vary from 58 mg to 259 mg. Espresso shots in general had less caffeine than brewed coffee, ranging from 58 to 92 mg per shot; the 259 mg of caffeine was in a 16-ounce cup of Starbucks brewed coffee.

In other words, you might be pumping a lot more caffeine into your blood system than you think!

In general, research indicates that taking quick shots of high-potency drinks isn’t the way to go, either (if you’re not looking to switch to decaf and want to get the most out of your caffeine molecules). Small doses over the long haul actually work far better than quick “energy” drinks.

But that’s not to say everyone is the same. I’m the kind of person who can feel a slight buzz from decaf, while my husband can knock back a Red Bull and fall asleep right afterward. I’m likely one of those people who just shouldn’t drink caffeine to begin with, and honestly I’ve felt much better in general since I’ve made the switch (and not to fear, there is some very good decaf out there!)—but there are those among us for whom caffeine is but a drop in a very large bucket.

So, whichever way you drink it, cheers! Coffee and tea both have a variety of other benefits, other than caffeine, including packing plenty of antioxidants! So drink up!

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16 Responses to The Great Coffee Debate

    • If I nap, I can't fall asleep later! Or, I'll sleep for two hours and end up having accomplished absolutely nothing… so much to do!

    • If I nap, I can’t fall asleep later! Or, I’ll sleep for two hours and end up having accomplished absolutely nothing… so much to do!

  1. You don't have to stop drinking coffee; just switch to decaf.

    If you're buying good quality coffee – and especially if you buy beans and grind them yourself – the flavor of decaf is all but indiscernible to the average coffee drinker. Most often, my wife & I drink Starbucks' Decaf Verona and she doesn't even know it!

    • I love Verona.

      It's my favorite year round blend.

      As for seasonal coffee,

      You should try Arabian Mocha Sanani.

      All the qualities of Verona,

      But much stronger.

  2. You don’t have to stop drinking coffee; just switch to decaf.

    If you’re buying good quality coffee – and especially if you buy beans and grind them yourself – the flavor of decaf is all but indiscernible to the average coffee drinker. Most often, my wife & I drink Starbucks’ Decaf Verona and she doesn’t even know it!

    • I love Verona.
      It’s my favorite year round blend.
      As for seasonal coffee,
      You should try Arabian Mocha Sanani.
      All the qualities of Verona,
      But much stronger.

  3. I used to get migraines if I had caffeine, and was overjoyed when I discovered that was no longer the case, as delicious coffee, especially homemade barista drinks, are so, so delicious.

    However, I did find that drinking too much would lead to those cycles you describe. What eventually worked for me was to cut my consumption to one caffeine drink, three to four days a week (or less, depending on my need for it), never after 3 p.m. Any more than that and I start falling into the bad caffeine cycles.

    I think it's important to figure out what your individual response to caffeine is, and make educated decisions about your consumption based on that. Natania, I hope you find a good balance!

  4. I used to get migraines if I had caffeine, and was overjoyed when I discovered that was no longer the case, as delicious coffee, especially homemade barista drinks, are so, so delicious.
    However, I did find that drinking too much would lead to those cycles you describe. What eventually worked for me was to cut my consumption to one caffeine drink, three to four days a week (or less, depending on my need for it), never after 3 p.m. Any more than that and I start falling into the bad caffeine cycles.
    I think it’s important to figure out what your individual response to caffeine is, and make educated decisions about your consumption based on that. Natania, I hope you find a good balance!

  5. I've never had a problem kicking caffeine.

    I usually do it for a few weeks several times a year.

    I've never really had a problem with it.

    Maybe it's because I'm younger and my body can handle the torture better.

    Just last week I had an aver of 6-10 shots of espresso every shift.

    Even 18 shots on Thur.

    (I work at Starbucks)

    Then I had none at all for three days and didn't have a problem.

    Of course,

    I am only 24.

    Maybe that has something to do with it.

  6. I’ve never had a problem kicking caffeine.
    I usually do it for a few weeks several times a year.
    I’ve never really had a problem with it.
    Maybe it’s because I’m younger and my body can handle the torture better.
    Just last week I had an aver of 6-10 shots of espresso every shift.
    Even 18 shots on Thur.
    (I work at Starbucks)
    Then I had none at all for three days and didn’t have a problem.
    Of course,
    I am only 24.
    Maybe that has something to do with it.

  7. I tried to rid myself of the coffee habit, made it through 2 weeks. I just plain missed it; I missed the taste, the smell and the kick. So what if I'm an addict…

  8. I tried to rid myself of the coffee habit, made it through 2 weeks. I just plain missed it; I missed the taste, the smell and the kick. So what if I’m an addict…

  9. I drink mostly moka coffee (I'm Italian) and I sleep well. I sleeped well even when I got to take 16-20 coffees a day! Now I'm about 4-6 cups daily, and I find it extremely useful to regain motivation after 2 hours of studying. Without caffeine I study then I want to distract for a moment, start playing some videogame and goodbye to the entire day, whilst after a coffee I can go on for another 2 hours starigt.