Black coffee is a widely consumed beverage around the world. Of course, it also serves as the base for many coffee-based drinks.
Although black coffee is low in calories, it contains caffeine and some nutrients. It may even offer a variety of health benefits.
This article reviews black coffee, how to make it, and its potential benefits and downsides.
What is black coffee?
Black coffee is a beverage made from roasted coffee beans. The beans are ground and soaked in water, which releases their flavor, color, caffeine content, and nutrients. Although coffee is often served hot, it can also be served iced.
In many countries, coffee is typically enjoyed with breakfast. It’s favored in the mornings because its caffeine content offers stimulating effects that may help people feel more awake.
Many add creamer, milk, half-and-half, sugar, or sweetener to their coffee to make it creamy, reduce the bitter flavor, or both. Black coffee is also the base of many drinks, including cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos.
There are many varieties of black coffee. For example, the type depends on the origin of the beans and how they’re roasted. You can also purchase decaffeinated coffee, which is made by chemically processing roasted coffee beans to extract their caffeine content.
How to make black coffee
Ground coffee and water are the only two things you need to make black coffee.
You can grind your own beans from whole, roasted coffee beans, or you can purchase pre-ground coffee. Because so many varieties of coffee are available, it may take time and experimentation to find which ones best suit your taste buds.
Once you’ve chosen your preferred type of ground coffee, there are several ways to brew it. Here are some of the most common ways:
- Pour-over or drip. Hot water is poured over ground coffee in a paper filter and brewed coffee drips into the pot below. Most electric countertop coffee pots are pour-over style. You can also purchase hourglass-shaped flasks that use cone-shaped filters.
- French press. Hot water and ground coffee steep in a pitcher for a few minutes. Then, a plunger is slowly pushed into the pitcher, forcing brewed coffee up while keeping the grounds trapped below. Many people claim this method releases the most flavor.
- Percolator. Coffee and water are placed in the stove’s bottom of a specialized two-chamber pot. As the water boils, it’s forced up through the coffee grinds, and brewed coffee collects in the upper chamber. This method is commonly used for espresso.
- Coffee pods. Coffee pods can be used in automatic beverage machines like Keurig or Nespresso. You can also purchase a reusable coffee pod and fill it with your own coffee for a more eco-friendly option.
- Instant coffee. Instant coffee refers to coffee crystals that can be mixed into water. It’s made by drying brewed coffee, eliminating the need to remove coffee grounds. While it’s convenient, most people agree it’s not the tastiest way to enjoy black coffee.
- Iced. Iced coffee can be made from coffee brewed with any method. The coffee is chilled and typically served over ice.
- Cold brew. Cold water and ground coffee are left to brew in the refrigerator, often overnight. You can strain it using a filter, cheesecloth, or French press. Cold brew coffee generally tastes smoother and is higher in caffeine given the extended brew time.
Summary: Black coffee is made by brewing roasted coffee beans in water. It’s consumed worldwide and is a popular morning beverage. There are many ways to brew it.
Nutrition facts of black coffee
One cup (240 mL) of black coffee provides:
- Calories: 2
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Caffeine: 96 mg
- Riboflavin: 14% of the daily value
- Niacin: 3% of the daily value
- Thiamin: 3% of the daily value
- Potassium: 3% of the daily value
Keep in mind, though, that depending on the brew time, cold brew coffee may have significantly more caffeine than 96 mg per cup (240 mL).
Coffee also contains small amounts of other vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols, the latter of which are beneficial plant compounds. One of these is chlorogenic acid, which may offer some health benefits like fighting inflammation and stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Of course, the nutrient and polyphenol contents can vary depending on the brand, type of coffee, and how it was brewed.
Summary: Black coffee is low in calories and contains small amounts of several vitamins and minerals, along with plant compounds like caffeine and chlorogenic acid.
Potential benefits of black coffee
Drinking coffee offers several potential benefits.
Black coffee may help prevent cancer
Some evidence shows that drinking coffee may reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancer.
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One review of 28 studies on coffee and cancer risk found that the more coffee the participants drank, the lower their risk of liver and endometrial cancer.
Another review observed similar findings but reported that coffee might reduce colorectal cancer risk. However, this study noted that coffee did not affect overall cancer risk.
Nevertheless, more studies are needed to understand how drinking coffee may affect cancer risk fully.
Black coffee may protect against neurodegenerative conditions
Coffee is widely used to promote alertness. The caffeine it contains is considered a nootropic, cognition- or brain-enhancing substance.
For this reason, many researchers speculate whether the beverage could protect against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.
One observational study on 360 people found that coffee appeared to protect against the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Additionally, an observational data study examined the coffee intake of over 2,500 people ages 60 and older. It associated caffeinated coffee with increased mental performance. However, no such benefits were found with decaf coffee.
An extensive review found that coffee didn’t appear to increase the risk of cognitive decline. Still, neither did it find a strong link between coffee and a decreased risk of cognitive decline.
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Furthermore, another review found an association between coffee intake and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
As such, more high-quality research is needed to understand better how coffee might affect the risk of neurodegenerative conditions.
Black coffee may prevent cirrhosis
Coffee offers some protection against liver cancer and liver cirrhosis, a late-stage chronic liver disease characterized by fibrosis. Fibrosis is the scarring and eventual death of liver tissue.
Several studies have noted how coffee intake may improve liver health. For example, one study on people with liver disease found that those who drank 4 cups (960 mL) of coffee daily were less likely to develop liver cirrhosis than those who didn’t.
In one article, a doctor shares that he prescribes 2–4 cups (480–960 mL) of drip coffee daily to his liver disease patients. He claims that this helps slow the disease’s progression into cirrhosis.
It’s speculated that caffeine could be behind coffee’s promising liver health benefits. Still, more research is needed.
Black coffee improves mood and concentration
Black coffee is widely used for energy. I feel more awake after having my first cup of coffee in the morning.
One study in 59 adults compared the effects of regular coffee, decaf coffee, and a placebo drink on mood and brain function.
Regular coffee decreased reaction time and increased alertness compared with the placebo. It also increased test accuracy and decreased tiredness and headaches more than decaf coffee.
However, decaf coffee drinkers also reported higher alertness levels than those in the placebo group. This suggests that decaf coffee can have a placebo effect or that compounds in coffee other than caffeine may contribute to its cognitive effects.
Black coffee may reduce the risk of diabetes
Coffee consumption may also help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
For example, one review found that drinking 3–4 cups (720–960 mL) of coffee per day could protect against type 2 diabetes, possibly due to the drink’s caffeine and chlorogenic acid content.
Impressively, a large review of 28 studies, including over 1.1 million participants, found a clear dose-dependent response between coffee intake and type 2 diabetes risk.
While people who never or rarely consumed coffee had the highest risk of type 2 diabetes, the risk decreased with each additional cup (240 mL) of coffee consumed daily, up to 6 cups (1.4 liters) per day.
These researchers also found that drinking decaf coffee reduced diabetes risk. This suggests that compounds besides caffeine may play a vital role in this promising benefit.
However, it’s important to note that adding sugar to black coffee or drinking other sugary drinks likely cancel out any diabetes-fighting effects you may derive from coffee.
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Other potential benefits of black coffee
Coffee intake offers several other potential benefits, such as:
- Weight loss. Drinking coffee may slightly boost your metabolic rate or the calories you burn at rest. This could help you lose weight and burn fat. There’s also some evidence that coffee may act as an appetite suppressant.
- Exercise-performance enhancer. Caffeine boosts energy and may improve physical performance. One review associated caffeine intake with better muscle endurance and strength, more power during strength training, and improved cardio endurance.
- Antioxidant-rich. Coffee provides antioxidant levels similar to those of fruits and vegetables, likely explaining many of its health benefits.
Summary: Black coffee may provide an energy boost and improve mental function. It may reduce your risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, liver cirrhosis, and type 2 diabetes.
Potential downsides of black coffee
Black coffee doesn’t appear to have many downsides when consumed in moderation.
However, too much caffeine — from coffee or other beverages like sodas and energy drinks — can cause uncomfortable side effects like insomnia, anxiety, rapid heart rate, stomach upset, headache, and nausea.
Generally, healthy adults should try to stick to 400 mg of caffeine per day or less. If the only caffeinated drink you have is coffee, that’s about 4 cups (960 mL).
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, limit your caffeine intake to about 200 mg per day (2 cups or 480 mL of coffee). You may also need to limit caffeine if you take certain prescription medications like birth control pills, heart medications, and antibiotics.
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You should speak to your healthcare professional if you fall into one of these categories. They can help determine a more specific recommendation regarding how much caffeine is safe for you to consume.
Additionally, health organizations recommend that children and adolescents minimize caffeine intake as much as possible. However, there are no official guidelines at this time.
It’s also worth noting that because black coffee is relatively acidic, some people find that it irritates their stomach.
Finally, coffee may have a diuretic effect, meaning it may cause you to produce more urine. It may also pull fluid into your digestive tract, causing a laxative effect in some people.
Summary: Too much caffeine can cause uncomfortable side effects like an elevated heart rate, stomach upset, and insomnia. Additionally, coffee might affect your urination and bowel habits.
Although coffee has been the subject of criticism over the years, it appears to be a mostly healthy beverage, especially if you avoid sugary coffee drinks.
Black coffee may reduce cancer risk, liver cirrhosis, and type 2 diabetes. It also boasts energizing and focus-enhancing effects.
However, most healthy people should limit their total caffeine intake to about 400 mg daily, equating to about 4 cups (960 mL) of coffee.