Picture this: you're about to start your day with the perfect cup of bean juice, its rich aroma filling the air as you take your first delicious sip. Amid your bliss, have you ever stopped and thought, "Are there carbs in coffee?"
Picture this: you’re about to start your day with the perfect cup of bean juice, its rich aroma filling the air as you take your first delicious sip. Amid your bliss, have you ever stopped and thought, “Are there carbs in coffee?”
How many carbs does coffee have? The answer isn’t as simple as it seems. In fact, it all depends on what type of coffee you’re consuming.
So if you’re worried about your carb intake and whether your morning ritual is guilt-free, it’s time to debunk the coffee carbohydrate conundrum. Let’s delve into the story of coffee carbs and discover the surprising truth that awaits!
Table of Contents
- Does Black Coffee Have Carbs?
- What About Specialty Coffee Drinks?Black Coffee DrinksMilky Coffee DrinksEspresso DrinksFlavored Coffee Beverages
- How to Reduce Carbs in Coffee DrinksOpt for Unsweetened Black CoffeeAvoid Sugar At All CostsNon-Dairy Milk and Coffee CreamerMake Your Own Coffee
- Carbs in Coffee: The Bottom Line
- Carbs in Coffee FAQ
Overview: Are There Carbs in Coffee?
Are there carbs in coffee? Well, it all depends on what you put in your cup!
If you’re drinking your coffee unsweetened and black, chances are it’s low-carb or carb-free. However, adding milk, creamers, sugar or flavorings to your coffee may unwittingly increase your coffee carb content.
But before we go deeper into the story of carbs in coffee, let’s take a step back. So far, we’ve looked at ready-to-drink coffee and determined it has a very low carb content. But where do these carbs come from?
The answer lies in green coffee beans. About 40-50 percent of the chemical components of green beans are carbohydrates. What we call the coffee bean is the seed of the coffee plant contained within a fruit (the coffee cherry). This seed has within it an embryo and two cotyledons.
Cotyledons act as food storage for the coffee plant in the form of carbohydrates. They help supply energy to coffee seedlings and young coffee plants as they grow. This process occurs until the plant has grown enough to photosynthesize its food.
When you roast green beans and subsequently brew them, they end up with a negligible carbohydrate content. The heat degrades the carbohydrate content in the beans to a very low molecular weight. This results in almost zero carbs in roasted beans.
Does Black Coffee Have Carbs?
Black coffee has almost zero carbs. Is this good news? I think so, especially for carb-conscious people or people on low-carb diets like Atkins and keto.
However, as with everything, it’s more complicated. Yes, I know this sounds like a caveat, but let me explain.
The amount of carbs in coffee, specifically black coffee, all depends on the type of “black coffee” you’re drinking. It may also surprise you that your preferred brewing method impacts how many carbs finished coffee drinks have.
A 1-ounce (30-milliliter) unsweetened espresso shot contains approximately 0.5 grams of carbs. In contrast, the same amount of unsweetened instant coffee has fewer carbs; only 0.1 grams. (Not that we encourage drinking instant coffee here).
If you brew filter coffee using a drip coffee maker, you can expect a 12-ounce unsweetened cup of brew to contain less than 1 gram of carbohydrates. The same goes for any drinks you make using this coffee, including an unsweetened iced coffee or unsweetened americano.
In stark contrast, unsweetened cold brew contains double the carb count of hot-brewed black coffee. Why? For starters, cold brew coffee isn’t the same as a cold cup of black coffee.
The cold brewing process uses cold water, unlike hot water used in hot-brewed coffees. To make cold-brew coffee, you’ll need to steep coarse-ground beans in cold water for an average of 12-24 hours.
As the coffee steeps, more carbs, caffeine and oils seep out of the coffee grounds and into the coffee liquid than during hot-brewing. In essence, the hotter the water in your brewing method, the more the flavor in your coffee. But you’ll extract fewer carbs from your coffee beans.
What About Specialty Coffee Drinks?
Specialty coffee shop drinks, while delicious, are likely to trip you up if you’re on a low-carb diet. Added milk and flavored syrups are the two main culprits that add carbs to these specialties.
So, does this mean that you can’t enjoy these drinks? Not at all! Here’s how to hack specialty coffee to your benefit:
Black Coffee Drinks
Hot americanos, iced americanos and unsweetened iced coffee are good low-carb alternatives to plain ol’ black coffee. An unsweetened iced coffee is freshly brewed coffee over ice, while an americano is an espresso with hot water added. There’s no added sugar in these drinks, just coffee and water!
For keto dieters who prefer their coffee black, bulletproof coffee is an absolute must-have. Also known as keto or butter coffee, bulletproof coffee increases satiety and energy levels while improving brain function. To enjoy this coffee, mix brewed black coffee with MCT oils, coconut oil, grass-fed butter or grass-fed ghee.
Milky Coffee Drinks
A cappuccino is a 1:1:1 ratio of espresso to steamed milk to milk foam. Flat whites comprise 1:3:2 parts espresso, steamed milk and milk foam, while lattes are one part espresso to three parts milk. You can also enjoy these delicious drinks by substituting dairy milk for unsweetened non-dairy alternatives.
While an espresso shot may have zero carbs, the coffee you make with it might. Pure espresso or ristretto shots are safe to drink as they contain only espresso. A red eye, a black coffee topped with an espresso shot, is also an option as there are no carbs involved.
In contrast, a cortado is an espresso shot with an equal amount of steamed milk and a macchiato, an espresso shot topped or “stained” with very little milk or milk foam. These drinks contain one of the chief carb culprits – milk.
When ordering these two espresso variations, ask your barista not to add milk if you want to reduce carb intake. Instead, ask about non-dairy alternatives.
Flavored Coffee Beverages
And now, let’s take a look at flavored coffee beverages. Coffee shop favorites, such as pumpkin spice lattes, caffè mochas, and chocolate cappuccinos contain sugar-laden flavorings. In these instances, always ask your barista for your drink without sugar and insist they use a nut milk like almond, macadamia or cashew.
When flavoring these specialty drinks, ask your barista to use a sugar-free pumpkin spice mixor syrup for pumpkin spice lattes. For a caffè mocha and chocolate cappuccino ask for sugar-free chocolate syrup.
How to Reduce Carbs in Coffee Drinks
Ok, so far, we’ve explored the carb content of various types of coffees and specialty coffees.
If you’re a coffee lover and low-carb lifestyle devotee, you may worry about which coffee beverages you can enjoy. You’ll need to drink coffee that won’t risk throwing off your daily net carbs and, worse, invite weight gain.
So how can you reduce the amount of carbs you consume and still enjoy your daily cup of joe?
Here are some ways you can still enjoy a satisfying drink while ensuring a low-carb intake:
Opt for Unsweetened Black Coffee
A cup of black coffee or a shot of espresso with zero additives is virtually carb-free. This is the perfect choice for coffee lovers who want to stick to a low-carb diet. What’s more, you’ll reap all the health benefits of freshly-brewed coffee in your daily cup. Best of all, you can drink multiple cups daily without fearing weight gain!
If the robust flavor of black coffees without sugar doesn’t appeal to you, why not try adding unsweetened almond milk, whipped cream, or heavy cream to your drink?
These low-carb alternatives add subtle flavors to your cup of black coffee without throwing off the carb count. But remember, adding milk (cow’s milk, that is) to your drink won’t help your cause.
Black coffee tastes better with other low-carb additives, too. Top choices include keto-approved sweeteners and sugar-free flavored syrups.
Avoid Sugar At All Costs
Sugar is your number one enemy if you’re trying to stick to a low-carb lifestyle. Just one teaspoon contains 5 grams of carbohydrates, enough to throw off your daily carb allowance.
If you must sweeten your cup of coffee, there are suitable alternatives. I particularly like monk fruit as it’s 100 percent natural. If you can’t find this sweetener, use stevia or xylitol. They may not tickle your taste buds, but at least they’ll limit your daily carb intake.
Whatever you do, don’t use coconut sugar. This sugar contains high glucose, fructose and sucrose levels, upping its carb content to 4 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
Choose Non-Dairy Milk and Coffee Creamer
Another common source of carbsin coffee is milk and coffee creamer. The carb count for eight ounces of whole milk, low-fat milk and even fat-free cow’s milk is 12 grams.
Excellent alternatives to these carb culprits include the following unsweetened non-dairy milk options:
Almond milk (1.04 grams of carbs)
Macadamia nut milk (0.4 grams of carbs)
Light coconut milk (1.27 grams of carbs)
Flaxseed milk (1.02 grams of carbs)
Soy milk (1.7 grams of carbs)
You may also use half-and-half, heavy cream and unsweetened whipped cream to keep coffee low in carbs. A regular serving contains less than 2 grams of carbohydrates. Keto-approved creamers are also safe to use in your coffee drinks.
Make Your Own Coffee
Being careful about what goes into your drink especially applies to coffee shops. You may ask the barista at your local coffee shop for an unsweetened espresso or black coffee. However, make it a point to sweeten or flavor the drink yourself. In addition, always add less milk to your drink to keep the carbs at a minimum.
If all else fails, make your coffee at home. At least this way, you’ll know what’s going into your cup (and control how much sugar you use).
Keto sweeteners like monk fruit, non-dairy milk, zero-sugar creamers, unsweetened whipped cream and sugar-free syrups are fine to use.
Carbs in Coffee: The Bottom Line
As we’ve seen, coffee’s carb content differs depending on how you brew and drink your coffee.
Now armed with a better understanding of coffee’s carb story, I hope you can savor your café au lait at your local coffee shop or revel in a black brew at home without worrying about the carb content.
So, let’s raise that cup and toast to the flavorful world of low-carb coffee, where carbs take a back seat and flavor takes over!
I hope this information has answered your questions about carbs in coffee. What’s your favorite low-carb coffee hack? Let’s have a discussion in the comments!
Carbs in Coffee FAQ
Regular brewed coffee, espresso, French press coffee and cold brew are practically carb-free. This includes plain, unsweetened coffee drinks made with these coffee bases, such as iced coffee, americanos and iced americanos.
Yes, you can drink coffee on a low-carb diet. Plain black coffee and plain espresso shots or drinks, served hot or cold, are virtually carb-free. Drink them unsweetened, with heavy cream, keto coffee creamers or nut milk, never with cow’s milk. And remember, if you’re on a keto diet, avoid exceeding your daily carb limit to stay in ketosis.
A green coffee bean is a coffee plant seed containing an embryo and two cotyledons. Cotyledons act as carbohydrate food storage. They supply energy to coffee plants until they can photosynthesize. These cotyledons are the source of the small amount of carbohydrates in your roasted beans.
A 1-ounce (30-milliliter) shot of unsweetened espresso contains 0.5 grams of carbs. A 12-ounce (355-milliliter) cup of unsweetened black coffee has less than 1 gram of carbohydrates. In contrast, an 8-ounce (237-milliliter) cup of cold brew has 2-4 grams of carbs.