When we think about the word addiction, we immediately link the word to something bad like drug addiction or alcohol addiction or gambling addiction.
If you have a coffee addiction should you wrap it up with all of the bad addictions or is it ok to be a coffee addict?
What is coffee addiction and how do you work out how much coffee is too much?
Coffee addiction is completely different from the other types of addiction that we link to bad things.
Where it has been scientifically proven that smoking is bad for you and no-one disputes that, it has also been scientifically proven that drinking coffee is not bad for you.
In fact, because coffee is the second most consumed drink in the world behind water, there have been detailed studies that show that people that drink coffee on a daily basis actually benefit from doing so compared to people that do not drink coffee.
Here is an article that explains how coffee is good for you.
With common types of addiction, there are two key elements, psychological and physical.
Anyone that smokes or knows anyone that smokes will know that nicotine is the active ingredient in tobacco.
It causes the physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms that make smokers go back for more year after year even though it is scientifically proven beyond any doubt to have serious adverse effects on your health.
Smoking 20 a day is definitely bad for you. Everyone knows that but the physical addiction overrides common sense and you find a way to block out the health risks and just keep doing something you know is bad for you.
But its more than that. The psychological aspect plays a big part even though there may be no physical cravings.
Human beings love routine and habit. I smoked for 20 years and when I had finally had enough, I just went “cold turkey” and stopped. Obviously it’s different for everyone but surprisingly for me, it was the psychological element that was much harder than the physical when it came to giving up smoking.
I had developed a habit and a routine over a 20-year period that revolved around smoking.
Cigarette every morning on the way to the station every morning, one with my coffee when I got to work, one with a coffee at 11.00 am, one after lunch and so on. Every single day for 20 years.
My body stopped craving the nicotine after about 2 days but it took about 6-12 months before I stopped thinking about having a cigarette with a cup of coffee or when I was out for a drink with friends.
There is a very deliberate reason for comparing smoking with cigarettes because if you smoke you smoke every day and if you drink coffee then you probably drink coffee every day and maybe multiple times a day just like cigarettes.
It’s easy to get fooled into thinking that because you drink coffee every day in the same way that people smoke cigarettes every day that is must be a bad thing to be addicted to coffee.
Is coffee addictive?
According to the NHS 1 in 3 of us are addicted to something but that doesn’t mean that all addictions are bad.
The National Health Service website describes addiction as:
“not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you”
It is really important to understand the difference between being addicted to something that can cause you harm and being addicted to something that is not harmful.
Certainly, coffee can be addictive but as long as you don’t drink so much that it becomes harmful to you then you can carry on indefinitely.
How many cups of coffee is ok daily?
If you drink 3-4 cups of coffee every day then you could argue that you are addicted to it but does that mean that it could be bad for you?
Long term studies have proven that people that drink 4-5 cups of coffee a day are less likely to have health issues when compared to people that don’t drink coffee at all.
So using the NHS definition, as long as you are not taking an amount that could be harmful to you then it is absolutely fine to drink a lot of coffee every day.
Is caffeine bad for you?
The main ingredient in coffee that gives us a “pick me up” or an energy boost is of course caffeine.
Caffeine is naturally produced in coffee beans and gives us a natural boost in energy and a higher level of alertness within around 10 minutes or consumption.
But how much is too much?
The average cup of coffee contains between 100-200mg of caffeine depending on a number of different factors such as the type of roast or brewing method used. Generally speaking, there will be less caffeine in coffee made with a filter coffee machine and more in a double espresso made using a pump espresso machine.
Around 50% of the caffeine you consume in a cup of coffee is expelled from your body in the next 4-6 hours which is why you may feel yourself starting to feel fatigued if you had your first coffee at 7.00 am and then 2 pm you don’t quite have the same concentration levels you did at 8.00 am.
An average adult would need to consume around 10 grams of caffeine very quickly in order for it to become life-threatening.
To put that into context, if the coffee you drink contains 200mg of coffee then you would need to drink 50 cups of coffee very quickly all at the same time.
To put that further into context, if the average amount of liquid in each coffee is 200ml then you would need to drink 10 litres of coffee in a short space of time for it to become a significant risk to your health.
Caffeine overdoses are very rare/non-existent because first of all it would be incredibly difficult to consume 10 litres of anything quickly, let alone coffee and secondly, your body would warn you way before that point anyway in the form of nausea and vomiting before you got to the danger level anyway.
You can be pretty sure that up to 6 cups of coffee spread throughout the day is not going to cause you any problems. I have been drinking coffee at that level for the last 10 years and I’m still going strong.
If you do feel yourself a little jittery or with a heightened level of stimulation that you are not comfortable with after drinking several cups of coffee then you can simply cut back or even consider decaffeinated coffee which has about 97% of the caffeine removed from the bean.
How long does it take to stop being addicted to coffee?
If you decide that you want to stop drinking coffee then it is going to be more in the mind than the body where the challenge will lie.
Once something becomes a habit then it becomes really difficult to break the habit. Once a habit becomes completely unconscious then it becomes extremely difficult indeed to the stop doing it.
Two examples spring to mind.
Before you go to bed in the evening you go into the bathroom and brush your teeth. Everyone does that but no-one ever thinks about it. You don’t decide that you are going to brush your teeth before you go to bed, you just do it because you have been doing it for years.
When you put on some shoes with laces you don’t think, right, now I am going to tie my shoelaces. When you were seven you had to try really hard but since then you just do it while you are thinking about something else.
Because coffee is entwined into your daily routine in exactly the same way as brushing your teeth or tying your shoelaces it will be very hard to give it up.
The first thing I do in the morning when I come downstairs is go into the kitchen and make a cup of coffee. It’s part of my daily routine and I actually really enjoy making a cappuccino or an americano (depends how much of a caffeine hit I’m looking for).
If all of a sudden I wasn’t allowed to make a coffee, I wouldn’t get any physical withdrawal symptoms but I’d feel lost without my coffee in the morning and during the other 3-5 times in the day when I brew myself a cup of coffee.
It is suggested that you could suffer from headaches for a few days or fatigue or have some difficulty concentrating if you decide to cut out coffee altogether after drinking it every day for a long period of time ( months or years) but this would just be a period of adjustment as your body has noticed that it is not getting something it is used to.
Two of those symptoms are fatigue and difficulty concentrating which are precisely two of the things that a lot of people actually drink coffee to help with, so it’s no wonder that you may get a temporary dip in concentration levels or feel a little more tired than normal in the afternoon if you haven’t had a post-lunch cup of coffee.
How to get the best out of coffee
Once you understand that coffee addiction is an addiction that is not going to cause you any harm, you might as well work out the best way to get maximum enjoyment from something you are going to consume every day.
Instant coffee is still the most popular method used to brew coffee in the UK. The problem with instant coffee is that it has already been brewed before and then freeze-dried and broken down into the powdery granules inside the jar you find on supermarket shelves.
Coffee is best fresh and instant coffee is not only not fresh but it is very old and often low-quality coffee beans are used as well.
Find out more about how instant coffee is made and why you should try another way.
If only you could make a cup of coffee just like they do in a coffee shop at home. But you would need a huge espresso machine that costs thousands do that, right?
Not if you choose wisely. If you want to make your own latte’s or cappuccino’s at home but you don’t know where to start you may be surprised to hear that you can pick up a decent cheap espresso machine for under £100.
If you don’t want to spend that much then you can opt for a filter coffee machine where you tip in some ground coffee, press a button and let the machine do the rest of the work. You can pick up something have decent for something in the region of just £20.
If you don’t even want the hassle of getting involved with touching the coffee then you can consider a POD coffee machine. They are ultra-convenient and super quick.
The PODS will cost you a little more than instant coffee but the taste is miles better.
Coffee tastes its absolute best if you grind the beans just before you make your coffee. If that sounds like too much hard work then you can consider a bean to cup coffee machine.
With one touch, the machine will grind the beans, tamp the coffee and pump water through at high pressure to create a coffee shop quality cup of coffee without the hassle.
If you are not sure which option would be best suited to your needs then we have a detailed article that runs through the pros and cons of each one so you can be sure that you get maximum value for your budget but most importantly helps you to find the right coffee brewing method that will enhance your overall coffee drinking experience.