Anyone who’s ever tried to lose weight or been on a diet of any kind knows how important a part coffee can play. And let’s face it, who hasn’t been on a diet of some kind at some point, or simply counted how many calories they’re taking in?
While the recommended daily calorie intake is in the region of 1,800 to 2,000 calories for a moderately active woman, and around 2,500 calories on average for a moderately active man, the great thing is that coffee has very few calories indeed.
In fact, most brewed coffee has precisely zero calories. None. Zilch. Nada. Although there is a caveat – this only applies to black coffee with nothing added. Once you start adding ingredients, the picture changes rather a lot.
This is why, throughout my entire life, whenever I’ve seen comments about coffee and dieting, they’ve usually included the phrase “can help weight loss only as part of a carefully calorie-controlled diet”.
Coffee Is Almost Zero Calories
If you’re interested in coffee nutrition facts, well, even if you’re drinking a small serving of black coffee, the drink does contain some nutrients. The calories in coffee mainly come from the small amount of fat and protein in the beans themselves. And there are quite a lot of sugars in the beans initially, but during roasting, they mainly decompose in a process known as the Maillard reaction. It’s vital to many cooking processes, not just roasting coffee.
If, however, you drink coffee as a beverage, as most of us do, then you’re looking at somewhere between zero and five calories at most. If you do decide to eat coffee beans, a small serving of around a tablespoon has about 18 calories. Arabica beans usually have around twice as much sugar content as Robusta.
The number of calories in coffee beans can vary between different types. If you do eat coffee beans as a snack, we wouldn’t recommend the green raw ones; they’re quite bitter and woody-tasting. The roasted ones are milder in flavor, and some coffee shops do sell chocolate-coated beans which can be a good way to keep you awake on a long monotonous journey where the scenery doesn’t change much. (Ask us how we know. Ahem.)
It’s The Milk And Sugar
The danger comes when you start adding in all that lovely milk or cream, and sugar, and syrups to your cup of Joe. Add just one teaspoon of sugar and your calorie count increases by 16 calories for every spoonful. An ounce of half-and-half adds about 37 calories; an ounce of heavy whipping cream adds a whopping 101 calories, and even an ounce of fat-free milk adds 10 calories.
You might think plant-based milk would be lower in calories. It doesn’t always follow, however. Unsweetened soy milk is 10 calories per ounce, the same as fat-free cow’s milk. Unsweetened almond milk is around 5 calories per ounce.
An ounce of oat milk has about 16 calories and an ounce of unsweetened rice milk has around 15 calories per ounce, while coconut milk has just under 6 calories. We’re not going to talk about butter coffee in any detail here, but we just thought we’d mention that a 10 ounce serving of butter coffee has over 500 calories.
Then there are the syrups. Now, we’re very partial to a dash of caramel syrup, just as a “for instance”, but we know they add around 90 calories per ounce (or tablespoon). Some low sugar or sugar-free options may seem to be a better choice, at closer to 5 to 20 calories, but that does depend on how well you tolerate saccharine or other artificial sweeteners. We can also hear you wondering if coffee has carbs – fear not; the drink itself contains no carbs.
Black Coffee Has Virtually No Calories
Calories in black coffee are typically somewhere between zero and a negligible five calories per serving. In case you’re wondering, we’re assuming the serving size is about 10 ounces for regular coffee and an ounce for espresso. An unsweetened espresso is also devoid of calories.
So now you know that it’s not the coffee that has the calories but the cream, sugar, syrups and the like, help to lower your calorie count by swapping to plant-based milk or even sweetener. If you’d like the sweetness without the calories, you could give stevia a try – it too has zero calories. Or add a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon or even chili for a little extra flavor.
The Reasons For No Calories in Coffee
Given that coffee beans themselves, however, do have a calorie count, how come coffee, as a drink, has no calories? Well, it’s all in how you make it, as is so often the case with coffee. So where does that handful of coffee calories come from?
The calories in coffee come from the beans themselves. When we drink coffee as a beverage, what we’re ingesting is the liquid that’s been poured over the beans, or percolated through them, or in which the beans have been soaked. We’re not usually ingesting the beans themselves. As a result, the calories in the drink itself are negligible.
Should I Give Up Coffee?
As with so many of life’s questions, the only person who can really answer that is you. But seriously, why would you give up coffee unless you had to? Coffee has been shown to be beneficial for all kinds of health conditions, especially in moderation. In addition, it tastes great, once you get the right blend for you. It’s also pretty easy to obtain, wherever you live, and it’s still an affordable luxury in most places.
If, on the other hand, you’re asking if you should give up the cream, sugar, and syrup you love to add to your coffee, well, that’s another question, and the answer might change depending on your health priorities.
You might want to try swapping that cream you love for a rice-based milk or soy variety once a week to lower the calorie count. You could also think about choosing to add stevia instead of syrup, to help you cut down on the negative impacts of sugar.
Equally, you might want to give coffee beans a try as a snack, although they’re not all that low in calories. One bean typically has around 8 calories, so a one-ounce serving is likely to be around the 151 calories mark. Most of the calories come from the fat and protein content, and this is assuming that the beans are covered in milk chocolate.
Coffee: Minimum Calories, Maximum Taste
There’s not much out there that you can eat or drink that is potentially this flavorsome with so few calories. There are a few fruits that are low in calories, for instance, but not many of them feel like an indulgence in the way that coffee does. So, what would we suggest?
Don’t deprive yourself of such a simple, easy-to-locate pleasure, whether you drink coffee steaming hot, iced, or lukewarm. If you do decide to cut back on the calories but you love cream and sugar, don’t be too mean to yourself and go coffee cold turkey. Start with a couple of cups a week, and cut down from there. Or alternatively, accept that adding all those lovely extras means you might need to drink fewer cups of coffee in a day.
Hi my name is Larry, a coffee aficionado from the US. I have already visited Colombia, Sumatra, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Jamaica in my pursuit of finding the best-tasting coffee beans. I currently write from Bali and enjoy the relaxed life that you can find only in Indonesia. Welcome to my coffee world!