Whether a cup of coffee is your morning pleasure, or your quick caffeine fix and pick-me-up, if you’re anything like us, coffee plays a big role in your daily routine.
However, if you’re trying to cut down on your calorie intake, you might find yourself wondering how many calories there are in that cup of joe.
Well, that depends on how you drink your coffee.
Coffee in itself has long been seen as one of the healthiest sources of energy – it’s other ingredients that add the calorific value to your brew.
We’ve put together this quick guide of how many calories different types of coffee have – including black coffee, coffee with sweetener, sugar, and honey. We’ll explain which are the healthiest – and most calorific – options to go for, as well as some simple changes you can make to avoid adding extra calories to your coffee.
What is a Calorie?
There are two measures of energy called ‘calorie’. One measure is a ‘small c’ calorie and the other is a ‘large C’ Calorie. As you can see one measure is spelled with a lowercase c and the other is spelled with an uppercase C.
A calorie is a unit for measuring energy and is formally defined as the energy required to increase the temperature of one gram of water by 1°C. The calorie is also equal to 4.186 joules (a joule is a unit commonly used in science for measuring energy).
A Calorie, also known as the Dietary Calorie, is a unit often used for measuring energy in food. It is formally defined as the energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by 1°C. It is equal to 4186 joules. As you can see a Calorie is 1000x larger than a calorie.
Why two different spellings? Sorry, I’m not sure. It is probably a result of different people, using different units, in different disciplines throughout history.
In any case, it can be confusing. Just remember this – if we are talking about the energy content of food then we use the ‘big C’ Calorie and not the ‘small c’ calorie.
When we write generally about energy in a sentence then we just use the word calorie. It is only when we talk about the unit of energy measurement that we choose either calorie or Calorie. It is easy enough to spot the unit because a unit needs to have a quantity (a number) attached to it.
For example, I can write that the energy in this coffee is high and I can also write that the energy in this coffee is 15 Calories.
How many calories in coffee?
So the big question: how many calories in coffee?
You’ll be pleased to know that there are hardly any calories in a cup of coffee – we’re talking around 3-5 Calories, depending on whether you add milk or not.
Black coffee has just 2 Calories per 8 ounces, while espresso has around three per shot, and cold brews have around 5 Calories per 8 ounces.
So, coffee isn’t really an issue if you’re on a diet. At least not black coffee.
However, if you find black coffee to be too bitter and you’re more of a sweet tooth you might want to sit up and listen, as added sugar, milk, syrups and cream are the source of those hefty calories, as well as the size you order. For example, large-size specialty coffee can end up exceeding 1,000 Calories!
However, rather than focusing on the calories in the likes of your favorite double-choc chip frappe with whipped cream and syrup, we’re going to focus on how you can sweeten your coffee without adding a load of calories to it.
Coffee With Sugar
Most people who like to sweeten their coffee will reach straight for the sugar bowl.
Those with a sweet tooth may not think twice about adding sugar to their hot drinks if it’s what they’re used to, and, while sugar isn’t bad in moderation if you drink a lot of tea or coffee throughout the day, and you’re adding a teaspoon of sugar (or more!) to your drink each time, this can add up pretty quickly.
A teaspoon (4 g) of white sugar has about 15 Calories. So for every spoonful of sugar, you add to your coffee, that’s an additional 15 Calories.
Contrary to what you might think, brown sugar contains 15 Calories per teaspoon.
So, what’s the difference between the two?
Well, brown sugar contains a small amount of protein (less than 0.1g) and white sugar does not. However, the nutritional value in a spoonful of brown sugar is pretty insignificant, so you shouldn’t use this as justification for piling it into your coffee.
Coffee With Sweeteners
Sweeteners are a popular choice for those who are watching their calorie intake and are usually used as a substitute for sugar in hot drinks.
They come in a variety of forms at the supermarket and are usually available at coffee shops or hotels – usually in those little paper packets.
Generally, a packet of sweetener will contain around 2 to 4 Calories, though there are some non-calorie varieties available, too.
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes, but they may be derived from naturally occurring substances, such as amino acids, herbs, or sugar itself.
You may have heard various health concerns regarding artificial sweeteners, and these link back to studies carried out in the 1970s that linked the artificial sweetener Saccharin to bladder cancer in laboratory rats. As a result, Saccharin once carried a label warning that it could be harmful to your health.
However, the label has since been dropped, and, according to the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies, there’s no sound scientific evidence that any of the artificial sweeteners approved for use in the U.S. cause cancer or are hazardous to health. Artificial sweeteners are generally considered safe when consumed in limited quantities, even for pregnant women.
Coffee With Honey
Natural sweeteners such as honey are always going to be better nutrition.
Honey is a much healthier alternative to sugar and is just as effective at sweetening your drinks. Honey is also much easier for our stomachs to break down than traditional sugar which makes it more effective for weight loss. Also see our post on the 5 surprising benefits of adding honey to coffee.
A tablespoon of liquid honey (6 g) contains around 19 Calories. This slightly higher than a tablespoon of sugar, but honey also contains antioxidants and vitamins which are good for your body.
Coffee with Milk
You can have all sorts of plant milk including almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and oat milk. I haven’t included the calorie content for these milk alternatives but it is easy to check online.
Of course, the total calories in your milk coffee will depend on how much milk you add and whether you use skim or full-fat milk in your coffee.
For example, there are about 96 Calories in a 300 ml cup of Cappuccino with skim milk and 165 Calories with full-fat milk (with no added sugar). There are about 98 Calories in 300 ml of Flat White coffee (an Australian favorite) made with skim milk and about 168 Calories with full-fat milk.
How to reduce calories in coffee
As we said, the best option when it comes to drinking coffee is to drink it black, with no milk and no sugar, but we understand that this isn’t to everyone’s taste. Just also remember that most of the health benefits of coffee are based on studies using black coffee.
If do need to take the edge off the bitterness, then there are several ways to do this while keeping your calorie count low.
Many of us add milk to coffee, but if you use full-fat dairy, try switching to semi-skimmed or skimmed, or use a low-fat creamer. Plant-based milk is also a great healthy alternative, and options such as almond or coconut could help you reduce your fat intake further.
When it comes to sweetening your coffee, there are plenty of options out there.
Look out for natural sweeteners that you can buy in health stores, or as we say, honey is a perfect natural sweetener and is actually sweeter in taste than sugar. You could also add nectar, molasses, or maple syrup – as these are all a natural source of sweetener.
It goes without saying that you should avoid calorific mocha or caramel flavored beverages – especially those with whipped cream. These are great as the odd indulgence, but not as a daily caffeine fix.
If you usually go for a frappe or mocha, try switching to something less calorific like a cappuccino, or a white americano. Many coffee shops will do plant-based alternatives and low-fat versions of their best-selling drinks.
Ideally, make your coffee at home as much as possible, as this way you can have full control over what goes into it, and there’ll be less temptation to order that additional cake or pastry.
If you use K-Cups, there are loads of low-fat options available, and these are super-convenient for busy mornings, too.
We hope this article has been helpful. As we say, coffee isn’t the issue here, it’s what you add to the coffee that piles on the calories and could slow down your weight loss journey.
However, if you’re a coffee-lover, there’s no reason why you can’t still enjoy your favorite coffee while dieting, you may just have to make a few small changes.
If you can’t stomach black coffee, which is the healthiest option, don’t panic – try adding a skimmed or plant-based alternative for milk, and if you like your coffee sweetened, switch your usual spoonful of sugar for a healthier natural alternative such as honey.
There are also a host of products available at your local health store which are designed to replace sweeteners and syrups but are made from natural ingredients, so feel free to experiment with these.
It might take you some time to adjust to your new coffee routine, but this is a simple change you can make to your diet which is sure to make a big difference.