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Why Do People Drink Black Coffee?

Written by Phil

A coffee enthusiast and traveler, Phil primarily spends his days thinking and writing about coffee. He also writes for where he explores ideas of culture, psychology, and travel, and occasionally dabbles in horror.

How do you take your coffee? Most people will say with some form of cream or sugar. It is reported that 35% of people drink coffee black, meaning roughly 1 in 3 enjoys it straight. But why do they do it?

People drink coffee for many reasons, but most may be for health reasons, like cutting sugar or calories, while others enjoy drinking great coffee alone. Very few will choose black coffee when it’s low-quality.

Far be it that black coffee is some form of torture, some people actually prefer it that way! Let’s take a look at why.

Who is Likely to Drink Coffee Black?

Maybe you’re wondering to yourself, “Who even does this, besides my grandpa? Why bother?” and it seems that groups will have their own reasons. Let’s take a look:

3rd Wavers

For those who haven’t, I recommend checking out my post on the different waves of coffee. But for a brief summary:

  • 1st wave: Coffee for everyone! Quality wasn’t considered.
  • 2nd wave: Palatable coffee for everyone! Pile on the sugars and dairy!
  • 3rd wave: Great coffee that doesn’t need anything in it!

Since that’s the breakdown, it’s pretty obvious that people who are more enthusiastic about coffee will be more likely to seek out coffee that is good on its own. As such, they will likely be drinking it black.

Health Nuts

People who are more conscious about their health will definitely choose to skip out on the cream and sugar. Some may argue that animal fats aren’t unhealthy or that the extra protein from milk is good for you, and milk can help soothe some people’s stomachs – but no one argues that refined sugar is healthy. Well, except for the sugar industry.

As such, this may drive more health-conscious people to choose the darkest brew.

Lactose Intolerant Folks

I don’t know about you, but I find that black coffee and sugar tastes off. It has a sort of hollow sweetness that doesn’t meld with the rest of the brew. Some people like coffee with just cream, but it seems less common for people to add only sugar.

This is just my anecdotal experience, as I can’t find info on how people take their coffee, but those who want to avoid lactose may just choose to do away with all the hassle of alternative milks and go straight to black coffee.


There is research that indicates that people with preferences for bitter foods, such as black coffee, beer, radishes, and celery (which were the most bitter foods on offer in the study) were linked with traits such as narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. As well, it seems to support the idea that sadistic people are more likely to prefer bitter tastes, as this study says. Here’s a quote:

“The present research has demonstrated that bitter taste preferences are associated with more pronounced malevolent personality traits, especially robustly with everyday sadism. The sample was a large community sample, thereby representing a wide section of the population.”

The main drawback of this study and some of psychological research more generally is that they’ve recently faced a “replication crisis”, meaning that results from some studies were not able to be replicated. This means they may have been meaningless. As well, the people they get to survey may have an issue. 

The above-mentioned study used people from MTurk, which is an online platform for people to earn money from odd jobs. While it can be fine, it also may be biased toward professional test-takers, who earn money taking tests all day. This wouldn’t necessarily be a good group to represent all of humanity.

Also, even if psychopaths are more likely to like bitter things, that does not mean liking black coffee means you’re more likely to be a psychopath. It’s a one-way street: psychos = like bitter; liking black coffee ≠ psychopath.

If anything, it seems that people just want to “other” people who do things that are considered abnormal.

It’s behind a paywall, but another site used this source to show that 35% of people in the US like to drink their coffee black. That’s a small enough minority to try and put them in a box. Look at those weirdos!

What are the drawbacks?

Some people believe that black coffee will affect acid reflux, GERD (GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease), or have other adverse effects on the body. These don’t seem to be true, and I wrote a post on a similar topic.

How to Start Drinking Coffee Black

I also wrote a post on this exact topic, but here is a whittled down version:

  1. Repeated exposure: Take a sip of black coffee every now and again – over time, your taste buds will adapt.
  2. Wean yourself in that direction: start cutting back on additives, or try different forms, like straight espresso.
  3. Make sure you don’t drink it alongside sweet things.
  4. Try the “cupping” method of tasting and learn what to look for.
  5. Make sure you have good tasting coffee. It’s not all the same!
  6. Baby Steps or Cold Turkey: your choice, but both can work.

What are the benefits of black coffee?

I’m basically whittling down the list they have here, but the gist is as follows:

  • It seems to improve liver function. People who drank over four cups of coffee had 80% lower rates of cirrhosis of the liver.
  • Increases intelligence: basically, it increases brain activity and speed. Like overclocking your brain.
  • It boosts your metabolism up to 11%
  • It is the top source of antioxidants in the North American diet.
  • Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Lower risk of Parkinson’s
  • Improves mood (though it can make some people more anxious)
  • Lowers risk of many types of cancer.
  • Reduces heart disease risk.
  • Helps to flush out your system.
  • The smell of coffee can be calming.
  • Reduces risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s


There are many benefits of drinking coffee black, but depending on who you are, you have your reasons. The most common ones seem to be related to health, but that may be because it is removing bad things (sugar, cream) or by adding good things (antioxidants).

Still, there is a growing movement in the coffee community that pushes for quality coffee that doesn’t need anything to taste good. This is known as the 3rd wave, and it is the one we are currently still exploring. For more info on the different waves of coffee, check out this post!

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