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Common Coffee Myths, Legends, & the TRUTH

Did your mom ever tell you that coffee would stunt your growth? Well, mom has latched on to one of the many coffee legends swirling in the collective unconscious. But is she right? Was she ever? Let’s set the record straight on some commonly held coffee beliefs.

(Illustrations by Erin Wakeland. Written by Cassie Williams.)

dark roast and light roast coffee beans on a seesaw

Myth #1: Dark roast coffee is more caffeinated than light roast.

MYTH! Though dark roast coffee has a strong, bold flavor suggesting rocket-fuel levels of caffeine, it is not more caffeinated than its light roast counterpart. There’s also a looking-glass version of this rumor that light roast coffee is more caffeinated than dark roast. Wtf, am I right? Both are false! Turns out, caffeine is a super stable compound that remains pretty stable throughout the roasting process.

However, in a plot twist NO ONE saw coming, coffee beans do puff up and become less dense the longer they’re roasted. So, a cup of ground dark roast beans will weigh less and contain less individual coffee beans than a cup of ground light roast beans. So, here’s the thing of it:  if you are using volume to measure your coffee in the morning, then YES!, a cup of light roast coffee will have more caffeine – but only because you are literally using more coffee beans to make your cup of coffee. 

Want to standardize your caffeine intake and your coffee-making in general? You could always invest in a scale and start weighing your beans. Like a true coffee geek.

P.S. If you’re interested in a super science-y explanation of this phenomenon, check out this article.  If you’re not, well, we can just stop right here.

Myth #2: Coffee sobers you up!

MYTH! This is DEFINITELY NOT TRUE. Nothing you can consume will reverse the effects of alcohol. It’s a bean, not magic (and no, not a magic bean.) The only thing that will sober you up is time.

In fact, consuming coffee while you’re under the influence can be dangerous - its stimulating effects might make you *feel* more sober when you’re decidedly not. Skip the diner coffee and get a cab home instead.

a drawing of hot water from a kettle pouring over a chemex brewer

Myth #3: You should make coffee with boiling water

MYTH! You should make coffee with boiling water if and only if you want it to taste terrible. There’s a sweet spot of 195 - 205 degrees (boiling water is 212) with which to brew coffee.

This temperature range is hot enough to ensure that all the yummy flavor compounds get dissolved while not being so hot that the grounds get over extracted and bitter. Don’t. Boil. Your. Coffee. 

drawing of a coffee plant with seeds and cherries

Myth #4: Coffee is actually a bean

MYTH! The coffee plant is a flowering shrub full of cherries, and what we know as the coffee bean is actually the seed within the cherry fruit.

Crazy, right? In fact, there are multiple ways of drying the coffee “beans” utilizing all, some or none of the cherry fruit, which affect the final flavors of the brewed coffee. There’s even tea made from the cherry fruit. It’s called Cascara, and it’s delicious. I hope you’re taking notes, because there WILL be a quiz at the end.

a drawing of a coffee bean falling into a cup of coffee

Myth #5: Decaf coffee is caffeine-free.

MYTH! Decaf coffee, while waaayyyyy lower in caffeine than regular coffee, still contains *some* caffeine, about ⅕ the amount of regular coffee. You won’t get zooted, but if you’re super sensitive to it, maybe try a nice cup of warm milk instead. Mmm. Milk.

a drawing of coffee in a baby bottle

Myth #6: Coffee stunts your growth.

MYTH! Sorry, mom, this one is demonstrably false. No one is quite sure where this rumor started, but plenty of studies have shown it to be untrue. So drink up, babies! (Just kidding. Babies should probably not drink coffee.) 

Just kidding, no quiz. But feel free to shoot us some questions. We can talk about coffee for hours and days.

Sketches by Erin Wakeland