How Many Cups of Coffee a Day is Actually Good or Bad For You?

how many cups of coffee a day is good

Image Credit: McKay Savage

This is something I think many of us coffee lovers wonder about, first of all is coffee good or bad for you? Many of us have been trained in the past to think that coffee, or at least too much coffee isn’t good for us, now everywhere we look we read reports that coffee is actually very good, so is it good for you or bad for you, and how many cups a day would be considered either good or bad?

The answer, as far as I can tell, is “it depends!”. “What does it depend on?” you may ask, and the answer to that,  just in my opinion from what I can gather, is “A heck of lot!”  What we actually mean specifically by “Good” or “Bad”, the time of the day you drink coffee, the brewing process in question, and more.

In terms of what you mean by good or bad: coffee is a really complex drink scientifically speaking, it has caffeine, and shed loads of other stuff which includes antioxidants, and a couple of types of cholesterol, so there seems to be a lot of evidence to suggest that coffee has health benefits, but at the same time there seems to be evidence that there are ingredients / substances in coffee that are bad for your health rather than good, so it’s confusing.

Basically, to describe something as complex as coffee as “good” or “bad” in terms of health, I think is impossible, as there are too may variables. For example, it could be that coffee is GOOD in terms of the effects on the mood, and in terms of antioxidants – but then BAD in terms of caffeine levels and cholesterol. But then, if you drink coffee made with a paper filter such as with V60 or Aeropress, the cholesterols (cafestol and kahweol) it would appear are greatly filtered out (and it would seem that paper filters are usually used with manufacturing instant coffee too, which would make instant coffee better in that regard than cafetiere coffee for instance).

It also depends on the person, for instance even if you do believe there are some negatives from drinking coffee,you might take the stance that if a person is in good physical condition, but is suffering from depression, then the results from making a positive impact on the mood might be seen to outweigh the negative impact that may also come along with it.

There are studies now which seem to show that regular coffee consumption appears to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, stroke and diabetes; so you may therefore develop an opinion that the good health benefits from drinking coffee in terms of helping to reduce the risk of various nasty diseases and conditions, outweighs the possible bad stuff that may also come with drinking coffee. Or you may take the middle ground as I tend to do, and be of the opinion I am, that drinking coffee moderately is perhaps the safe option – but then your idea of moderate might be completely different to mine!

By the way I’m only sharing my own opinions here, please don’t take my word for anything, and don’t sue me – I don’t have any money anyway, so you can sue me if you wish but it would be a futile exercise! 😉

The opinion I have at the moment, is that the potentially bad stuff in coffee is cafestol, kehweol and caffeine – and when I say bad, I don’t mean that it’s bad to consume it at all, but that it may be bad in excess. Again, these are my opinions, not fact.

When it comes to caffeine, it seems to me that with most people it’s fine in moderation and at certain times of the day. I think the issue with caffeine is the hormonal effect it has, in terms of effecting the release of cortisol, which I wrote about in my post Get into Circadian Rhythm to Get The Best Coffee Buzz. Read if You Drink Coffee Early!

Caffeine, I have developed the opinion of only being bad if we don’t observe our natural circadian rythm, in that if we consume caffeine when out cortisol levels are low, it’s a good thing, but if we drink it at the times of day what we’re already at peak cortisol levels or where we wouldn’t want to raise cortisol levels, then perhaps it could be a bad thing over time. Also with caffeine I have formed the opinion that it depends on quantity. If I consume too much caffeine, I do start to feel a bit on edge, and I can feel when that’s happening, I just feel my anxiety levels raising for no particular reason, a bit of a panicky feeling.  It seems to matter what kind of coffee you drink too, as I mentioned in this post in terms of whether you drink instant coffee or fresh brewed coffee, and what brewing process you use, as this all results in differing amounts of caffeine in each cup of coffee.

When it comes to Kehweol and Cafestol, I’m really not sure what I think about these, from what I can see they could be potentially bad, and it seems that coffee made with a paper filter is the best in terms of these substances being filtered out; My number one favourite brewing method currently is Aeropress (with paper filters), and second is V60 (with paper filters), and I do love cafetiere coffee too but I don’t tend to drink that as often, so I don’t think I need to worry too much about how much of these potentially bad cholesterols I’m consuming really.

In terms of how many cups of coffee per day I drink, in the week I would say I drink 3-4 cups per day, and at the weekends that probably rises to 4-5 cups. This is what I personally see as “in moderation” – but keep in mind that you might drink more coffee than me and consume less caffeine (i.e. if you drink decaf (in which case, by the way, you're not completely avoiding caffeine, as decaf does contain caffeine although it's reduced), or instant – and I drink fresh brewed), or drink less than me but consume more cafestol & kehweol (if I drink coffee that has been made using an Aeropress or V60 with a paper filter, and you drink cafetiere coffee for instance) – or you might drink half as many cups but your cups might be twice the size! So it is a bit of a case of “how long is a piece of string?”.

Most of the coffee I drink is brewed using a paper filter (Aeropress and V60), and most of it is drank in the morning and the early afternoon. I have changed my coffee drinking habits slightly to try to observe my natural cortisol highs and lows, and the result of this is I’m feeling the positive impacts of coffee more in terms of improved mood. When it comes to any potential bad stuff, in my personal opinion, taking my own health into account and all things considered, I am more than happy with drinking this quantity of coffee, and even if I were to add one or two more cups per day, as long as I wasn’t starting to feel a bit on edge, I wouldn’t be overly concerned that I was drinking too much of it. Again, I’m only talking about me, and I’m not advising anyone to drink more, or less of the stuff, I’m not a nutrition expert or a doctor.

If I was starting to feel the impact of too much caffeine, I’d just replace some of my normal full caffeine coffees with decaf. Pact coffee do some really nice decaf coffees, that I’ve enjoyed just as much as the standard caffeine coffee, and as far as I’m aware, the reduced caffeine (and it is just reduced, decaf doesn’t mean it has no caffeine at all) doesn’t mean that the good stuff such as antioxidants, are also reduced. I certainly wouldn’t drink all decaf as I do feel the positive benefits of caffeine, but I would happily drink half of my coffee decaf if I felt the need to do so.