Is coffee vegan?

Can vegans drink coffee?

It may seem like a silly question to ask if coffee is vegan, but the vegan suitability of coffee can be a little complicated.

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We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.

The short answer is yes. Coffee is vegan because it’s made of coffee beans.

However, whilst standard black coffee is vegan, often coffee is made with milk, which is not vegan. Unless it’s plant milk of course!

You also might want to consider that, even if all the ingredients in your coffee are vegan, how some coffee beans are grown and processed doesn’t sit well with the vegan philosophy of supporting the environment. So, vegans may want to take extra care when choosing their coffee, looking out for ethical coffee brands where they can.

Can vegans drink black coffee?

Ordering your coffee black is the easiest way to make sure that it’s vegan.

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If you regularly drink coffee at friends’ houses where they don’t have any non-dairy milk or at places with limited non-dairy options such as roadside food vans, offices, or conferences, then it might be a good idea to get into black coffee. The other option, of course, would be to carry your own vegan milk or creamer with you.

If you don’t like black coffee, that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to love it.

Why Drink Black Coffee?

1. Fewer Calories

Counting calories is never much fun, but there is no getting away from the fact that in the white coffee vs black coffee calorie challenge, black coffee wins hands down.

2. To Taste The Coffee

By drinking coffee black you can experience the vast array of flavors in a way you never can when you drink white or sweetened coffee.

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3. Coffee Is Good For You

There is a lot of research showing the health benefits of coffee.

Not only is coffee high in antioxidants it is also thought to:

The problem with adding cream and sugar to your coffee is they reduce the flavors and benefits of coffee.

Sugar consumption is an ever-increasing problem with profound health issues.

By switching to black unsweetened coffee you can be confident you are getting all the health benefits of coffee without the negative impacts of sugar and the calories of milk.

4. Black Coffee is Cheaper

Black coffee is generally the cheapest option on the menu at your local coffeehouse.

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Plus drinking coffee black makes it much easier to make good coffee at home. No need for fancy milk frothers or fully automated machines.

What do vegans put in their coffee?

Luckily, black coffee isn’t your only option as a vegan. There are lots of different things that you can put in coffee instead of cows’ milk. Some of the most popular vegan milk to put in coffee are:

Oat milk

This has a creamy, wheaty taste, thick texture and can create a nice foam.

Almond milk

This foamy milk adds an extra layer of nutty flavor.

Soy milk

The most popular non-dairy milk with not much taste to it.

Coconut milk

The frothiest of all plant milk, it adds an exotic flavor.

Cashew milk

Sweet and creamy, it will make your coffee bubbly rather than foamy.

Rice milk

A little watery, with not much taste and no foam.

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To find the best vegan milk, it’s important to try a few different ones until you find the one that you like best. It might take a few cups before you get used to the taste.

Each vegan milk has different nutrients too. Some are higher in protein. Some are lower in calories. Your diet goals might influence which you choose.

Making your own vegan milk can be simpler than you might think. Take a look at this simple oat milk recipe for the instructions.

Can vegans drink coffee creamer?

If you prefer to use powdered coffee creamer rather than fresh milk in your coffee, you should know that most coffee creamers are not vegan. However, several vegan coffee creamer brands are available, which are made with plant milk rather than cows’ milk.

Be careful so as not to get caught out by coffee creamers labeled as non-dairy. This term may be used if the product contains less than 0.5% milk by weight. Some of these contain casein which is made from milk, so that whilst they are suitable for people with lactose intolerance, they are not vegan.

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Are coffee syrups vegan?

When you order fancy coffees from coffee shops like Starbucks, they often add flavored syrups. Some coffee syrups are vegan and some are not.

As a general rule, thin syrups like vanilla, caramel, chai, hazelnut, and toffee nut are vegan. Thick syrups and sauces like pumpkin spice, creme brulee, white mocha, and caramel drizzle are not vegan. To be sure, make sure you check with your server when ordering a coffee with syrup.

Can raw vegans drink coffee?

Raw vegans only eat food that has not been processed in any way or cooked at high temperatures. Coffee is a no-no for strict raw vegans as it needs to be heated to brew. What about cold brew coffee, you may wonder? Whilst your vegan iced coffee frappe hasn’t been heated, the beans have still been roasted in production, so it wouldn’t be suitable for a raw vegan diet.

Another thing to consider is what your coffee is sweetened with. There are countless ways to sweeten iced coffee, some of these are vegan and some are not.

What is ethical coffee?

There are three main things to look out for when choosing cruelty-free, sustainable coffee.

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1. Shade-grown versus sun-grown coffee

Coffee naturally grows under the shade of high trees. However, to speed up the growing process and increase revenue, many coffee plantations grow their coffee beans in full sunlight. This is problematic in several ways.

Firstly, sun-grown coffee requires much more chemical input in the form of fertilizers and fungicides. These not only harm wildlife but also deplete the nutritional content of the soil. As the soil becomes nutrient deficient, the land becomes unsuitable for future coffee plantations, meaning that farmers have to clear new landscapes with deforestation.

2. Organic coffee

Vegans should choose organic coffee where possible. Standard coffee production exposes wildlife to synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, which isn’t very vegan-friendly. Instead, look out for USDA-certified organic coffee, so you know that the farmers harvesting the coffee haven’t used any synthetic toxins in the last three years.

3. Ethical accreditation

Ethical accreditation schemes include:

Fairtrade

Ensures that workers get paid a living wage.

Rainforest Alliance

Ensures that farmers follow the environmental, social, and economic guidelines set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network.

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Bird-Friendly Coffee Seal

Shows that the coffee is 100% organic and shade-grown.

UTZ

This accreditation scheme covers both environmental issues and workers’ rights.

Although you won’t find all of these accreditations of your coffee, vegans should try to look out for brands that have at least one or two of these.

Last updated on October 3, 2021, and last reviewed by an expert on July 29, 2021.
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