Humans have been drinking coffee all over the world for hundreds of years. And up until recent history with the invention of the internet, most people didn't have quick access to (mostly) useful information regarding life’s greatest questions. In prehistoric societies, our ancestors were more concerned with establishing reliable food sources and understanding where the sun went at night to expend too much energy trying to figure out why a magic bean gave them energy.
Then overtime, coffee became ingrained and ritualized in our homes and communities. But it was always just there. Most coffee drinkers weren’t interested in the “where” and “how” of their beans, but would quickly throw a tantrum when the cost of their cup increased from a nickel to a dime. So along with the commodification of coffee came generalized information and mythology, a surmised knowledge base of folklore to explain the ins and outs of this daily beverage that, at the time, most consumers didn’t know a whole lot about.
And now, there is more information about coffee readily available than the average coffee drinker would even know what to do with. So with that being said, let’s talk about some common coffee myths and explain why they are untrue.
1. Espresso is stronger than regular coffee - there is a lot of misinformation about espresso. First of all, espresso is a beverage and refers to the way a coffee is brewed. Espresso is brewed with an espresso machine, quickly and under pressure, yielding a small, dense coffee. Secondly, espresso does not have more caffeine than a cup of coffee. For instance, a double shot of espresso uses about 18 grams of ground coffee, the same amount of coffee you would use to make a 10 ounce cup. So think of it like you’re getting about the same amount of dissolved solids from each beverage, one is just dissolved in 1.5 ounces of water and the other is dissolved in 10 ounces of water. So as a general rule of thumb, a double shot of espresso, what you would find in most specialty cappuccinos or lattes, has a similar caffeine content to a cup of standard coffee.
2. The term Arabica implies a coffee is high quality - this is no more true than saying Granny Smith implies an apple is high quality. Arabica refers to an entire subspecies of coffee. So not only are there many different varietals within the Arabica family, each coffee is still susceptible to growing conditions, terroir, and agricultural practices. It is safe to assume as a whole Arabica coffees are sweeter, more aromatic, and more flavorful than Robusta coffee. But that doesn’t mean any Arabica bean is good. There are good Arabica coffees, there are bad Arabica coffees. And I'd say in general, any company that is trying to flex by saying their beans are 100% Arabica, probably doesn’t sell very good coffee. Where does it come from? What variety of Arabica is it? What elevation was it grown at? How was it processed? If you can’t tell me that, I am generally uninterested.
3. Coffee dehydrates you - this myth was likely invented by some sour old diner employee that wanted to stop giving out free coffee refills, saying something like “you keep drinking coffee like that and you’re going to be so dehydrated you’re going to have to be hospitalized”. It is actually pretty easy to debunk this myth. Coffee is like 99% water. And while caffeine has a mild diuretic effect, the volume of water consumed alongside that caffeine will ensure that coffee consumption will not make you dehydrated.
4. Coffee stunts your growth - it is kind of fascinating when you think about just how uninformed people were not that long ago. Before the internet, no one had time to go to the library and crack open an encyclopedia to find out information, so they just accepted what they heard from others as fact. Even in my childhood, alongside other untrue myths about Marilyn Manson and how long chewing gum stays in your body if swallowed, I was told that coffee stunts your growth. And that is just completely untrue. There is zero scientific evidence saying otherwise. This myth was probably invented by the parents of children who realized the last thing their overstimulated kids needed was caffeine, and needed some scary medical misinformation to drive the point home.
5. Fresh is best - if you get most of your coffee at the gas station, you know how excited national brands are about telling their customers about the freshness of their coffee. But when it comes to time off the roast, fresh is in fact, not best. Coffee beans sometimes taste the best almost a month after they’ve been roasted. Increased time off the roast allows unsavory gasses to escape from the coffee beans that can impart a bitter, roasty flavor on the cup. Adequate time to rest allows the coffee to brew more evenly and consistently, which contributes to a better extraction and a better cup. Although, coffee ground fresh, just before brewing is ideal. Super fresh ground coffee - good. Super fresh roasted coffee - not good.
So there you have it, 5 coffee myths debunked. You are now a more enlightened coffee consumer. Go share your knowledge with the world and make it a better place for coffee drinkers everywhere.