For those of you who are used to picking up coffee at the local fast-food joint on the way to work, you might not realize quite how much variation there is in the world of coffee. Those of you who know what a French Press is and who know the word Arabica know there's a lot of nuance under the surface. Since we're fans of coffee, both for weight loss and for energy throughout the day, we've decided to dig into the subject today.
There are several different ways you can classify coffee into different types with different health benefits. Let's break it down.
Type of Bean
Did you know that there's no such thing as a "coffee bean"? It's true! Coffee beans are a category of plant, not a single plant. There are several different species or varieties of coffee, and they all have slightly different tastes and health benefits.
Arabica is the most common type of coffee in the world. There's a very good chance that you've never had another kind of coffee, even if you've been drinking coffee for a long time unless you have explicitly sought it out. Arabica is extremely common because it's the easiest of the coffee trees to care for, grows rapidly, and is resistant to damage, blight, and other issues.
Arabica coffee is, in some sense, the "default" coffee due to how popular it is. Luckily, it's also among the most healthy and beneficial types of coffee. Other coffees have more distinct flavors but may lack some of the nutrients, tannins, and other compounds that make coffee a healthy beverage.
That said, there hasn't actually been a lot of study into the health benefits of different breeds of coffee. Arabica, being the most common, is what is generally used in studies about the health benefits of coffee. Other beans don't have as much literature written about them.
The second-most common coffee bean in the world, Robusta is a very hardy and robust plant that is immune to many diseases and resistant to pests. It is growing in popularity, especially in areas where pests are a problem.
Where Arabica requires steady rainfall and a relatively cool environment, Robusta is fine with a hotter climate and less regular rainfall. It thrives in more varied environments, making it a more popular choice for growing coffee outside of the usual areas. It's highly likely that, over the next few decades, Robusta will take over as the most popular coffee bean.
Robusta is, unfortunately, a less flavorful and less interesting kind of coffee. It's also higher in caffeine, which can cause jitters, and has fewer healthy nutrients.
Liberica coffee is native to Liberia and is a much rarer and harder-to-find coffee variety. It is much less commonly produced and thus more expensive. Also, since it's very limited in its availability, very little study has been done into the health benefits of the variety.
Liberica also has the lowest level of caffeine amongst coffee varieties, making it worse for energy levels and for weight loss. Whether or not the nutrient profile makes up for that deficiency is something we don't know, but if you happen to know of any research, feel free to let us know.
Some people consider Excelsa a fourth type of coffee bean. While this is true in terms of taste, the Excelsa is just a cultivar of the Liberica plant and thus shares many similarities. Until such time as more study is performed into the differences, nutritionally, between the two, we're going to consider them the same plant.
So, which of the three is the best coffee to drink? Arabica, of course. Robusta might be better for energy levels if you can keep your energy steady with a large infusion of caffeine, but Arabica is better for a balance between nutrition and energy.
Type of Roast
When coffee beans are prepared for consumption, one part of the process is roasting them. Roasting the coffee cooks the beans and changes the chemical composition of the nutrients inside it. Roasting can be light, medium, or dark, with "café" and "French" styles also making an appearance. Of course, for most casual coffee drinkers, you won't have much concern for anything other than light or dark roasts.
- In terms of caffeine content, there seems to be no difference between lighter or darker roasts. Common wisdom is that dark roasts have more caffeine, but this simply isn't true. It's true of tea – black tea has more caffeine than green or white – but not of coffee.
- In terms of antioxidants, the lighter the roast, the better. Antioxidants present in coffee are destroyed by heat, so when a coffee bean is roasted darker, the antioxidants are broken down into their component chemicals. This would indicate that a lighter roast is better for your health.
There are other considerations as well. Taste is a big concern! Dark roasted coffee tastes bitter and acrid, while light roasts aren't as strong and don't have the same bitterness but do have more acidity. Dark roasts are less likely to spoil, however, and dark roasts can make poor quality beans taste better. Coffee is so widely varied that it can be difficult to say any one dark roast is better than another.
If you don't like dark roast coffee, you're less likely to drink it and more likely to add creamer or sweetener to the cup, which destroys the health benefits of the coffee. It's better to drink a plain cup of light roast than it is to not drink anything or drink a cup of dark roast full of sugars.
Type of Preparation
While it's great to compare the health benefits of coffee in different beans and different roasts, these differences are minor compared to many of the other concerns you might have. Most of you aren't going to be seeking out Robusta or Liberica instead of Arabica, after all, and your choice of roast might be dictated by whatever you can find in your local stores. What really matters is how you prepare it, and there are a lot of different variations here.
One of the biggest concerns with coffee is what you add to the coffee. Now, normally we could just say that "straight black coffee is better than coffee with anything in it," but this isn't exactly true. It all depends on what you're putting in it.
A lot of the things people add to coffee make that coffee a lot worse for you. Sugar, dairy creamers, many non-dairy creamers, and flavoring syrups can all be bad for you. At the very least, they add calories, and if you're trying to lose weight, those calories hurt your progress.
Sugar, specifically, is really bad for your body. It adds to stored fat and insulin resistance, and it wreaks havoc on a bunch of different bodily systems. You probably don't need us to tell you how bad processed sugar is for you, though.
One you might not expect is creamers. Dairy creamers especially can bind with the antioxidants in coffee. Not only does dairy add calories and sugars to your beverage, it actively makes it harder for your body to absorb and use those antioxidants. Adding creamer is one of the worst things you can possibly do to coffee.
On the other hand, there are a ton of different things you can add to your coffee to make it healthier for you. One of the most common is MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil. MCT oil is a common supplement to aid in health and weight management. It's a healthy fat, and while it does add some calories, it's better for your body (and it helps suppress your appetite), so it's beneficial across the board.
You can also add spices like cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, and cayenne to your coffee. This helps give it a new, more robust flavor, while giving you the health benefits of those spices. You'd be surprised at the impact this can have.
Hot Brew vs Cold Brew
Coffee-lovers have an ongoing debate over which is better, between hot-brewed coffee or cold-brewed. They have very different flavor profiles due to the way the heat affects the chemical compounds in the beans and draws them out of the grounds.
That said, some scientific studies looking into hot brew and cold brew coffees have found that there's not really much of a difference between the two, as far as caffeine, antioxidant, or mineral content is concerned. You can read the study we're referencing here.
The main thing is that if brewed too hot for too long, you can start to break down those nutrients. We're talking about boiling your coffee for 10+ minutes, though, which isn't something most people do when they prepare hot coffee. A typical hot brew, no matter the preparation, isn't going to affect the nutritional content of the coffee enough to matter.
Drip, Press, Espresso
There are quite a few different kinds of machines used to prepare coffee. French press, aeropress, drip coffee, espresso; the sky is the limit, and there are culinary geniuses making efforts to come up with new ways to brew coffee every year.
The truth is, while these can affect the flavor profile and the method of preparation, there's very little tangible difference between them in terms of nutrition. There are small differences, but those small differences are so small that they're well within statistical error. Different batches of beans and slightly different roasts have a larger impact.
That said, one thing might be worth considering, and that's the ritual. Some people just want their coffee as easily as possible first thing in the morning. Others like to go through the ritual of preparing and pressing their coffee. If you have a ritual, and that ritual relaxes you, it can be a meditative experience and can help you relax and reduce stress. It's not an effect of the coffee itself, but rather a general effect of relaxation, but it's still beneficial to your health.
Filtered vs Unfiltered
Whether or not you run your coffee through a filter is a surprisingly important part of the health benefits of coffee. Here, we'll let the study speak for itself:
"A 2020 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology analyzed 20 years of data taken from more than 508,700 people ages 20 to 79. Researchers noted who drank filtered coffee, unfiltered coffee, or both. The study found that drinking unfiltered coffee was linked to higher rates of heart disease and death compared with drinking filtered coffee."
That said, the highest risk comes from drinking too much coffee – over nine cups per day – because caffeine can put a ton of stress on your cardiovascular system.
What's the Best Coffee for You?
The best coffee for you is the coffee you like the most, and that aligns with your goals. Our best recommendation is to find a coffee product that does what you want it to do. If that's an infusion of antioxidants, go with a lighter roast of Arabica. If you want to lose weight, Arabica is still your go-to, but you can go with a darker roast.
Our best recommendation is to try out our fat-burning instant coffee. This coffee product is instant coffee, meaning it's already filtered and easy to brew up first thing in the morning. It has a regulated caffeine content, so it's not going to overload you with energy or leave you jittery. It also has additional ingredients, such as green tea, ginseng, and L-carnitine, all of which provide health benefits of their own. This falls into that "healthy additives" category up above and can make your daily cups of coffee that much better for you.
At the end of the day, the best coffee is the coffee you like the most. Just make sure you're skipping the coffee full of milk and sugar; you're looking for coffee, not a milkshake, after all.
What are your thoughts on the health values of each coffee type? Feel free to leave a comment down below with your thoughts and experiences! We'd love to hear each of your stories.