America might run on certain coffee fast-food chains, but coffee also runs America.
The caffeine that fuels our productivity has fostered huge industries as well as new-wave, micro-roast projects trying to source beans more ethically and bring quality comfort to your daily cup.
But after the bean makes it through your Chemex, Keurig, or French press, what is actually in that dark liquid? How many calories are in a cup of coffee?
The boost we feel after drinking coffee comes mostly from its caffeine content, not the units of convertible energy — or calories — it has.
Black coffee is a virtually zero-calorie drink. It’s how we take our coffee that makes the drink an influence on our daily nutritional values. Professional chefs often stick to black coffee in the kitchen to balance out all the other fats, carbs, and acids they sample constantly in the dishes they cook.
But many people find plain coffee harsh on their palates or digestion, and different ways of preparing coffee can add wonderful touches for any time of day and season.
So if you want to keep your cappuccinos up but keep your calorie consumption down, there are some great ways to reengineer your cup.
How Many Calories Are There in a Cup of Coffee?
A cup of black coffee only has around 5 calories, since it’s essentially flavored hot water brewed by filtering through ground beans — much like tea.
The crema on a fresh-brewed espresso isn’t actually cream, but a foam that forms when compressed air bumps up against the coffee beans’ oils. It’s everything we add to our morning and afternoon coffees, from milk to sweeteners to flavorings, that increase the calories per cup.
Here are the calorie counts on some favorite add-ins:
- Milk (per quarter cup)
- Skim — 21 calories
- 1% — 26 calories
- 2% — 30 calories
- Whole — 37 calories
- Half-and-Half — 79 calories per quarter cup
- Cream — 205 calories per quarter cup
- Whipped cream (per 2 Tablespoons)
- Canned, compressed — 15 calories
- Natural whipped heavy cream — 102 calories
- Almond milk — 10 calories per quarter cup
- Oat milk — 30 calories per quarter cup
- Sugar — 16 calories per 1 teaspoon
- Raw sugar — 15 calories per 1 teaspoon
- Brown sugar — 17 calories per 1 teaspoon
- Stevia — 0 calories per 1 teaspoon
- Simple syrup — 52 calories per 1 Tablespoon
- Flavor syrups — 45 calories per 1 Tablespoon
Looking for a grand total of some classic coffee beverages? Here’s how many calories each drink will cost you:
- Latte — ½ cup of steamed whole milk in ⅓ cup of espresso adds 74 calories to the espresso.
- Cappuccino — A cappuccino has less milk than a latte, foamed more. ¼ cup of whole milk puts 37 calories in the drink, and ⅓ cup is 49 calories.
- Mocha — A homemade version might have ¼ cup milk (26 calories for 2%), 2 teaspoons sugar (32 calories), and 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (12 calories), for 70 calories total. Using 2 Tablespoons of hot chocolate mix instead makes it around 80 calories or 106 with mix and milk.
- Americano — Without milk, an Americano is largely water and so, zero calories. Depending on your preference for type and amount of milk, as well as sweetener, it could become a higher-calorie coffee.
- Red-eye — Like an Americano, you could take this black, but that might make for an intense coffee-on-coffee experience!
- Cold-brew — Another potentially no-cal option, depending on your preferences.
- Bulletproof (Butter or Keto Coffee) — This high-performance drink is made with ghee (lactose-free clarified butter) and medium-chain triglycerides, or MCT oil, a healthy fat. Most recipes call for 2 tablespoons ghee (240 calories) and 1 Tablespoon MCT (115 calories), and no milk. It totals around 354 calories, which is why many people drink it as a meal replacement.
- Flat white — This creamy drink centers whole milk: it can have as much as 1 and ½ cups, making it 222 calories before sweetener.
- Shake — A coffee shake, using cream or ice cream, can have up to 500 calories. With added whipped cream, it could be between 520 and 610.
- Affogato — Since this confection is simply espresso poured over vanilla ice cream, the calories can be found in the ice cream. 1 scoop, about ½ cup, has around 137 calories.
8 Ways to Reduce the Calories in Your Coffee
If those numbers are looking bleak for your go-to coffee drinks, don’t despair! Here are some innovative suggestions to keep your coffee low-cal and breathe new life into your routine.
1. Switch to fat-free milk
Despite our recent collective turning-away from cow’s milk, the classic coffee partner contains protein for sustained energy. It often comes with added vitamin D which allows our bodies to process calcium, strengthening our bones. Enriched skim milk keeps the nutritional value without the fat, and can be similar in flavor and texture to full-fat milk.
2. Unsweeten your creamer
Whatever your non-dairy milk of choice, stick to an unsweetened version. Most brands offer low-fat and vanilla varieties, as well. Check the nutrition facts to see how it’s processed and what might be unnecessarily added, like thickeners and stabilizers.
3. Opt for low-sugar cacao
Making a mocha? Melt in dark chocolate or baker’s cocoa powder, not hot chocolate mix, which often includes milk solids and added sugar — though there are simpler packaged versions.
4. Try a new sweetener
Alternative sweeteners like honey and maple syrup have around the same calories per teaspoon as sugar (honey at 21 and maple syrup at 17), but their unique flavors may leave you adding less to each cup.
5. Spice it up
Mix in ingredients to flavor your coffee grounds from the outset instead of pouring in syrups afterward. You might try spices for a warm pumpkin spice latté, or dried lavender directly in your cold brew as it’s brewing.
6. Try all-natural sweeteners
Zero- and low-calorie sweeteners like aspartame seem like a quaint thing of diners past, and they’re often cut with carbohydrates and chemicals to level their sweetness — which can be hundreds of times higher than sugar. But natural alternatives like stevia and agave still cut calories out of your coffee and add the dimension of their distinctive tastes.
7. Supplement with fruit water
For iced coffee, take a page out of a mixologist’s book! Rosewaters and shrubs from the cocktail bar are often naturally sourced or low-calorie concentrated alternatives to coffee flavorings based in sugar syrup.
8. Coocoo for coconut
Coconut oil packs fewer calories than butter or ghee, can lend a rich complexity to a bulletproof — and make it vegan.
Many of the added calories in our diets come from sugars in beverages, so reducing your sugar intake as a whole may help you keep your coffee approach in mind.
Low-Calorie, High-Flavor Coffee Recipes
There are countless ways to reinvent your coffee and take out some of the calories in the process. Here are just a couple.
Lean Pumpkin Spice
Set your coffee to drip with a pinch each of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves in the cone or basket. Meanwhile, whisk 2 tablespoons of canned, unsweetened, and unflavored pumpkin into ¼ cup almond milk in a small saucepan, or microwave them together until the milk is steamy but not burning. If desired, add 1 teaspoon of maple syrup to the brewed coffee, then stir in the pumpkin mixture.
Coffee Soda with a Twist
Add one or two shots of espresso to half a glass of chilled seltzer. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon for a bright note, or toss in a twist of lemon rind for a subtle citrus oil infusion. Try lemon-flavored no-calorie sparkling water in a pinch. If you like it sweet, a few grains of raw sugar in the bottom of the glass dissolve slowly for a crystalline surprise.
There Are So Many More Choices for Low-Calorie Morning Beverages
With so many choices for dressing up your coffee, it’s easy to forget there are other invigorating beverages to grace your mornings.
Matcha, or concentrated green tea, promises sustained energy with a less-noticeable caffeine crash and comes as a powder to whisk into hot water as well as a chilled sparkling or flat drink with fruit flavors, ready to enjoy. Just avoid versions packed with milk powder.
All kinds of teas, from green to white to black, provide a gentler caffeine surge than coffee, and yerba maté — in its traditional hot-brewed form from Argentina, or refreshingly canned — is as powerful as an energy drink but skips out on the jitters and the artificial compounds.
Decaf coffees and teas are not completely caffeine-free: they contain a small fraction of the caffeine of a regular cup. For those looking to ease out of a caffeinated rise-and-shine, herbal teas can warm you up to the day, and the explosion of flavored sparkling water brands could provide that zing you need to get up and go.
Whatever your morning and afternoon routine is, there’s a drink to recharge.
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