Coffee is one of the few things most people do every day. You may change up what you have for breakfast, or what wine you have with dinner, but the morning cup of coffee is almost universal in America. When you consume that much of a single beverage, you begin to wonder how it impacts your health. While there’s plenty of research on how caffeine can impact your body, many people want to know how many calories are in a cup of coffee.
The short answer is none. Plain coffee has fewer than 5 calories per serving, but most people don’t drink black coffee or straight espresso. So the answer can actually vary quite a bit depending on what you put in you coffee, so make sure to keep track of what you mix your coffee with when you’re trying to make coffee a healthy part of your day.
A 12-ounce cup of black coffee has between 2 and 5 calories. For anyone trying to track their caloric intake, coffee isn’t even worth keeping track of. However, it’s worth understanding how different brew methods and roasts can affect the calorie content of your favorite drink, since it gives insight into the chemical processes involved in crafting the perfect cup of joe.
Why Doesn’t Coffee Have Many Calories?
When you drink a cup of plain coffee, you’re actually only drinking water mixed with a few oils and aromatics from the beans. The water has zero calories, while only a small amount of the beans make it into your cup, keeping the calorie count low. This is generally true no matter how you make your coffee, so if you mostly drink black coffee, you can rest assured that you’re definitely not adding to your daily calorie intake.
Do Different Brew Methods Have More Calories?
Different brew methods yield different flavors, so it’s only natural to think that the calorie count varies from method to method. This is true to a point, but you won’t ever break past 7 or 8 calories for a serving of coffee.
Espresso, for example, has a very strong flavor, and a typical shot weight 1 ounce and has one calorie. Cold brew, on the other hand, is steeped for at least 12 hours, with a single serving having just under 10 calories. This difference comes from the amount of aromatics and oils that work their way into the water.
Espresso is a very strong drink, so it comes out with a high per ounce calorie count, but a very low per serving calorie count. Compared to drip coffee, cold brew is much richer, with more of the coffee particles in the water. Thus, it has more calories than your standard drip coffee.
Does The Roast Affect The Calories In Coffee?
The roast doesn’t seem to impact the calories of coffee, but it does have a minor impact on the nutritional content. Raw coffee seeds are filled with antioxidants, which are good for you. Roasting the beans exposes them to oxygen, destroying the antioxidants, and the longer the roast, the more are destroyed. So you’ll have a mildly healthier drink with a light roast than with a medium or dark roast.
Conversely, with any roasting process, you increase the number of carcinogens. Whether it’s a well done steak or an extra dark roast, you slightly increase the number of cancer causing agents with you toast things. However, this increase is incredibly small, so you have absolutely nothing to worry about when taking a sip of your favorite French roast.
Eating Whole Coffee Beans
When you drink coffee, you’re taking a small amount of the oils and particles from the coffee and transferring it into water. Whole beans, however, have calories just like any other food. If you like adding a few coffee beans to your frappuccino, or love the taste of chocolate covered espresso beans, you’ll be ingesting significantly more calories.
One serving of coffee beans at 40 grams is 216 calories. That’s almost 650 calories for a cup of coffee beans. And once you add chocolate, caramel, or other confections into the mix, you really quickly up the calories. Just a handful of chocolate covered beans can have over 250 calories. It’s a delicious treat, so you have to weigh the consequences and the benefits to a tasty shot of caffeine.
Adding Milk and Sugar
While a cup of coffee has almost no calories, most of mix in plenty of other things to make our drinks even more enjoyable. This is where the majority of the calories in your latte, caramel macchiato, or cappuccino come from. Sugar and milk taste good, but come at a price.
Calories From Milk
Milk is probably the biggest contributor of calories to your morning drink. Some people just cut their coffee with a bit of cream, while others reach for a large latte. Different types of milk have different amounts of calories, so pay attention to which you use, or which one your local baristas use. A latte typically has 8 ounces of cold milk which, when steam, ends up at about 10 ounces.
Whole milk is one of the most popular milks for coffee. It’s full fat, so it has more calories than skim or nonfat milk, but it has a rich, decadent texture. It has roughly 18 calories per ounce, so a standard latte with whole milk will have just under 150 calories.
2% skim milk is another common type of milk used in lattes. It strikes a good balance of caloric content and texture, making it a good choice for anyone counting calories. At 15 calories per ounce, a latte with 2% will clock in at 125 calories.
Nonfat is very rarely the default milk at coffee shops, though nearly every store will have access to it, so don’t be afraid to ask. Nonfat milk has 10 calories per ounce, so a nonfat latte will only have 80 calories.
If you like breve lattes, which are made with half-and-half, you better save it for your cheat day. This thick, rich, fattening drink is too much for most people to handle, but piques the taste of some coffee connoisseurs. Half and half has 40 calories per ounce, making a small breve latte have 320 calories.
Very rarely, but on occasion, a barista will be asked to use heavy cream for a latte. This unwieldy drink is very uncommon, and has a whopping 100 calories per ounce, making a standard latte with heavy cream have over 800 calories. And that’s without the sugar.
Calories From Sugar
In addition to the milk, many of us indulge in mixing sweets with our milk and coffee. In addition to the milk, sugar adds quite a few more calories. Unless you’re one of those rare coffee drinkers that puts sugar in their espresso without any milk. A teaspoon of granular sugar has 16 calories, but that’s rarely what goes into our drinks.
Usually we ask for vanilla syrup or caramel. In addition to being supersaturated with sugar, which can double the calories per teaspoon, there are other calorie contributors. Combine that with the fact that you’re getting up to a quarter cup of syrup in a large caramel macchiato, and you’re looking at an additional 400 calories for a single drink.
Of course, you can use artificial and zero-calorie sweeteners. These alternatives satisfy your sugar craving without running up your calorie count. So theoretically you can cut a 300 calorie vanilla latte down to about 80 calories by using nonfat milk and sugar-free vanilla.
People avoid dairy for a variety of reasons. Some people are lactose intolerant, while others don’t like the taste. But many just want to cut out the calories. Non-dairy beverages typically have far fewer calories than milk if they’re unsweetened.
A cup of unsweetened almond milk, for example, has just 40 calories, and unsweetened soy milk has the same. Some stores offer oat milk and coconut milk, which offer similar calorie counts, assuming it’s coconut beverage and not actual coconut milk.
Though many coffee shops only offer sweetened non-dairy milks. They do this because the added sugar makes them easier to steam, so make sure to double check if your low-calorie alternative is actually lower calorie. Even then, many sweetened non-dairy milks have fewer calories than dairy.
Keeping Your Coffee a Healthy Part of Your Diet
It’s important to remember that calories are not the definitive marker of health. You don’t have to only drink straight espresso shots and unsweetened french press for the rest of your life to incorporate coffee into your diet. By cutting back on sugar and milk, you can reduce your total calorie intake while still enjoying delicious coffee. Most coffee houses have calorie counts on their menu, so always make sure to check that before making your purchase. Coffee is such an important part of the day, so why not make it a healthy part, too?