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Sunday, September 15, 2013

How Many Calories are in Coffee?

Does Coffee Have Calories?

How many calories are in a cup of coffee?
Image Courtesy of Julius Schorzman-CC-SA-20

One reason I started drinking coffee is that it is a low calorie beverage.  A 16oz cup of milk has about 250 calories, and a 16oz soda has about 180 calories.  A big cup of coffee lots of flavor and zero calories- or so I thought...

Many years later, I saw a sign at a cafeteria with nutritional facts about a cup of coffee.  I was surprised to see a number listed for calories.  Does black coffee really contain calories?

How Many Calories are in Black Coffee?

The bad news: Yes, even plain brewed black coffee with nothing added does contain some calories.
The good news: Coffee contains only 1 calorie per 8 oz of coffee.  This is almost zero calories.

How can coffee contain calories?  Hot water absorbs flavors and compounds from coffee grounds to become coffee.  These compounds become suspended in the water.  If you evaporate all of the water in a cup of coffee, you are left with a small amount of solid compounds.  If you burn these solid compounds that are contained in coffee in a calorimeter, you will find that the amount of energy contained in a cup of coffee is 1 calorie per 8 ounces.  Your body can convert this material into a small amount of energy, and therefore coffee does contain a small amount of calories.

Brewed black coffee contains almost zero calories.  If you drink your coffee black, you can basically ignore calories from coffee because it contains so few calories.  But many people don't drink their coffee black.

How Many Calories Does Coffee with Cream and Sugar Contain?

As soon as you start adding things to your coffee, you start to add calories and fat.

Of course you can add artificial sweeteners that have almost zero calories.  Popular artificial sweeteners for coffee include:

  • Sucralose-based Splenda 
  • Aspartame-based NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure
  • Saccharine-based Sweet'N-Low
  • Stevia-based Truvia
Zero calorie sweeteners: Splenda- yellow packet, Equal- blue packet, and Sweet 'N Low- pink packet.  Sugar at 50 calories per tablespoon is in the white packet.
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

All of these artificial sweeteners have much lower calories than sugar.  However, I don't really like the idea of consuming artificial chemicals with my coffee.  One thing I like about coffee is that it is completely natural- just roasted coffee beans and water.

If you add natural sweeteners such as sugar or honey or creamer such as milk, cream, or coffee creamer you start to add a lot of calories and even fat to your coffee.  For example, adding 1 tablespoon of sugar adds 50 calories to a cup of coffee.  If you have a big cup of coffee or drink multiple cups of coffee with sugar throughout the day, you could be adding hundreds of calories per day to your diet.

As far as milk and creamer, a tablespoon of heavy whipping cream adds 50 calories plus 5g of fat.  Half and half adds 20 calories and 1.8g of fat per tablespoon, and skim milk only 5 calories and no fat.  Coffee-mate coffee creamer has 20 calories and 1g of fat per tablespoon.  If you can switch from cream to skim milk, you can make your coffee contain much fewer calories.  Many coffee drinks contain much more than one tablespoon of cream, so coffee drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos are actually high in fat and calories.

Half and Half coffee creamer has 50 calories and 5 grams of fat per tablespoon
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

The table below shows the calorie content for black coffee and for coffee with sugar, coffee with cream and sugar, and coffee with spenda and skim milk:

Black coffee:
16oz: 2 calories

Coffee with spenda and skim milk:
16oz with 2 tablespoons of splenda and 2 tablespoons of skim milk: 12 calories

Coffee with sugar:
16oz with 2 tablespoons of sugar: 102 calories

Coffee with cream and sugar:
16oz with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cream: 202 calories

If you are watching calories, try to switch to black coffee or at least switch from cream to skim milk if you are adding creamer.  I like to add honey as a sweetener rather than sugar.  I think the calories are similar, but for me honey has a complementary flavor to coffee.

Copyright © 2013 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved. Coffee Maker Journal

1 comment:

  1. Be careful diabetes patients must consume little added sugar or they should avoid consuming more cups of coffee.

    Finn Felton

    Kopi Luwak