What Are the Effects of Coffee?

Not all the coffee drinkers that start their drip ritual, fire up their Nespresso, plunge their Aeropress or head down to the local coffee shop for a cup are doing so because they’re excited about the taste bud experience they’re about to encounter.

If everyone was being honest, some percentage of coffee drinkers would acknowledge that it’s caffeine they’re looking for more than the coffee itself.

And that makes sense! Caffeine has some serious benefits. It can help with focus (even to a greater degree when paired with l-theanine), energy and mood. Who doesn’t want a boost in those three critical areas every morning?

But what else is coffee bringing to the table?

Coffee’s Beneficial Effects

Caffeine aside, the coffee bean, like many other plants, has some strengths of its own. 

Coffee has been found to have a thermogenic effect, meaning it can slightly increase metabolism and fat burning. That doesn’t mean a cup every day will keep the extra pounds away in the event you’re not exercising and eating right, but it can play a role in a positive diet.

Additionally, coffee contains antioxidants such as chlorogenic acids and polyphenols, which have been linked to various health benefits. Is coffee the top source of these? Not necessarily - matcha is a much richer source of polyphenols, but everyone has their own taste preferences. These compounds help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

Some studies even suggest that coffee may improve insulin sensitivity and help regulate blood sugar levels. Moderate coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

But it’s not all fat burning and free radical death.

Coffee’s Negative Effects 

More than anything else, coffee’s downside is evident with the dreaded afternoon coffee crash. Maybe you’re a one cup a day person or maybe you re-up time after time - eventually, you’ll have hit your last cup of coffee for the day and a few hours later, you’re going to experience the flip side of coffee’s caffeine rush upside.

But why does coffee cause an afternoon crash? It’s multiple layers of your body working against you after having been involuntarily activated throughout the day.

Adenosine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that promotes relaxation and sleepiness. When you consume coffee, caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors temporarily, which helps you feel awake and alert. However, as the effects of caffeine wear off, adenosine starts to accumulate again, leading to an increased feeling of drowsiness or fatigue.

On top of the adenosine flood, coffee can affect blood sugar levels. Due to caffeine’s potentially anxiety creating effects, coffee can stimulate the release of stress hormones like cortisol, which can lead to a temporary increase in blood sugar levels. However, this increase is often followed by a subsequent drop in blood sugar, causing feelings of tiredness and lethargy.

This is why Blossom combines caffeine with l-theanine in each of our daytime oat milk latte mixes. L-theanine helps to minimize the side effects of the caffeine that causes the release of cortisol, preventing the caffeine-related side effects many would get from coffee.

And lastly if you’re a regular coffee drinker, you know - or at least probably have felt - that coffee is a diuretic. That leads to an increase in urine production, more trips to the bathroom and can contribute to mild dehydration if not adequately balanced with water intake.

Dehydration can cause fatigue and a decrease in energy levels, further exacerbating the coffee crash.

Non-Caffeine Related Negative Effects

The acidic nature is more negative than positive. While some enjoy the morning ritual associated with coffee’s acidic nature (more on that in a second), excessive consumption can contribute to acid reflux, heartburn, or gastrointestinal discomfort in some individuals. This can be particularly problematic for people with pre-existing digestive issues or those prone to acid-related conditions.

With an average pH of 4.85 to 5.10, most coffees are considered rather acidic. On average this is roughly 10 to 15 times more acidic than the average oat milk. 

Among popular coffee alternatives, cow’s milk, almond milk, coconut milk and soy milk are among the most neutral or alkaline, while oat milk and cashew milk are less acidic than coffee, but a bit more than the other milk alternatives.

While this doesn’t present a problem for most folks, the acidity can negatively affect certain health conditions in some people, such as acid reflux and IBS. Famously, coffee is known for its ability to … uhh … stimulate bowels.

Its acidity is the reason why! But that’s not all the acidity plays a role in.

Coffee stains and tooth enamel erosion 

The acid in coffee can contribute to tooth enamel erosion, potentially increasing the risk of dental cavities or sensitivity. But this is a greater risk among heavy coffee drinkers. Tooth enamel is one of the hardest substances in the human body. Enamel basically is like a very thin, fine see-through layer of iron or steel over the top of your teeth. 

Enamel is like our own personal airplane black box - it holds up under almost any circumstance … just not to three cups of coffee a day for 50 years.

And even enamel has some gaps. The pores in enamel can allow for compounds called tannins to sneak in and stain teeth over time, leading to discoloration.