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What’s the Best Time to Drink Coffee? What Science Says

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I orchestrate my mornings to the tune of coffee.Terri Guillemets

If you asked that question of your coffee-loving friends and family members, what is the best time to drink coffee? You are sure to get a variety of answers. Some would flippantly answer, “Now”! Others would take a few seconds and then give you a sermon on the perfect time, place, and companion that they would enjoy their coffee with. It’s like they are describing a spiritual experience.

When you think of the best time to drink coffee, your thoughts may be associated with specific times that you like to enjoy a cup of fresh coffee. You may be reminded of the peaceful times of sitting on your back patio taking in the sunrise, or the late evenings sitting with friends in deep conversation. You probably find yourself thinking about your coffee experience from the way it makes you feel rather than thinking there may be some scientific rationale for drinking your favorite cup of java.

But is there any evidence to suggest that there’s a best time to drink coffee? We asked the question and came back with some rather surprising answers.

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Morning Effects of Coffee

It appears from the number of coffee drinkers in the United States alone, which is more than 150 million people, that many do not think about the health-related aspects of choosing coffee. It is presumed that most do not even think about the appropriate time to drink coffee. It is one of those beverages that one develops a taste for, and enjoys in a variety of manners at any time the feeling overcomes you.

If you are a morning coffee drinker – 65% of you, actually – you are probably reaching for your coffee in hopes of getting a lift to face the day. Research shows that in the morning, we experience higher levels of cortisol, the hormone that enhances our ability to focus and stay alert. Drinking coffee first thing in the morning does not allow the levels of cortisol in our bodies to diminish and the effects of the caffeine are lessened. Therefore, the lift we hope to get when we drink our coffee first thing in the morning may not be there.

morning coffee quotes

Long-Term Effects

So, you have been reaching for your morning coffee for years. What effect does that have on you now? Do you find yourself needing more and more coffee in the morning to get yourself to wake up? There is a reason for this. You have unknowingly but effectively trained your body to be anticipating the caffeine jolt first thing in the morning and anticipate more of it. What may have started years ago as a single-cup morning is now years later a three or four-cup one.

We should all know the potential side effects of coffee, or, more specifically, the caffeine in coffee: increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, jitters, and insomnia. In recent years, though, there has been some pretty amazing research that indicates that coffee can protect us from the following:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Liver disease, including liver cancer
  • Heart attack and stroke

Some research even suggests that coffee drinkers live longer than non-coffee drinkers!

Late Morning or Afternoon Coffee

If you like your late morning or afternoon coffee, you may be pleasantly surprised to know that according to the experts, this is an optimal time. Cortisol levels have decreased and the effects of the caffeine can be felt the most if of course, that is your goal for drinking coffee.

According to Roberto A. Ferdman of the Washington Post, “It’s during the troughs above – between roughly 10 a.m. and noon, and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. — when people should drink coffee if they want to get the most out of their caffeine. Between those hours, the coffee is most needed, and, perhaps most importantly, will not interfere with our body’s essential mechanism for keeping us alert.”

One thing to keep in mind is that if you have a problem sleeping at night, you may want to watch how late in the day you are taking your last cup of joe. Caffeine is a stimulant, and its effects can be felt for up to 4 or 5 hours after its consumption, depending on the individual.

SEE ALSO: The Surprising Effects of Coffee on Your Body

how to make crystal clear coffee
Image Credit: kazoka, Shutterstock

Psychological Effects

Let’s get one thing straight from the start. When we are talking about the ‘feelings’ we get when we consume coffee, we are talking about what effects caffeine has on us. Caffeine has been known to enhance cognitive levels and help us process information better. We also can see a change in our mood. Caffeine provides a lift physically and makes us feel more awake and energetic, thus, changing our mood or disposition. When we enjoy a cup in the company of friends, we even have a higher degree of mood change.

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Best Time for Coffee: Final Thoughts

Studies show that the benefits of drinking coffee can be further felt when enjoying our cup a bit later in the morning or early afternoon. The caffeine has more of an effect when cortisol levels are lower. With that being said, there has been no real scientific proof of what effect caffeine may have on our cortisol levels. Therefore, it seems safe to say that if you enjoy a cup of coffee first thing in the morning and that has been your routine, keep it up! Pay attention to the effects that you feel, and cut back if necessary or switch to decaf. In other words, rise and grind.



Dan Simms

Dan has been a coffee fanatic since caffeine became a necessity in college, and since then his enthusiasm has only grown. He has come a long way since his days of drinking mass-produced coffee, and he now has a love and appreciation of the entire coffee experience from farm to cup.

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