What Is Protein Coffee? Do You Really Need to Know?

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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As soon as I think I know every stupid coffee drink recipe or trendy drink, some Instagram or TikTok account comes around the corner with a new idea that tastes like nonsense. So what is protein coffee?

As soon as I think I know every stupid coffee drink recipe or trendy drink, some Instagram or TikTok account comes around the corner with a new idea that tastes like nonsense. So what is protein coffee?

Currently, neither social media users nor supermarket shelves can save themselves from the high protein trend. Protein is supposed to make us all slimmer, fitter, healthier and more beautiful. So why not put protein in coffee and kill two birds with one fitness stone?

When caffeine meets protein, the whole thing is called “proffee” and is currently being hyped on all channels. Take coffee and protein powder, mix it with milk, and you’ll have a muscle drink that’s as good as a sweaty workout. At least.

Yes, I’m exaggerating. And yes, there is definitely something to protein coffee. But not in the way influencers would have us believe. Because it turns out (once again) that we have no idea how our bodies work.

Whey Protein Plus Espresso: What Is Protein Coffee?

So what is protein coffee? Well, at least the food industry classifies it as one of three different things: 

  1. Protein powder with coffee flavor

  2. Instant coffee powder with added protein

  3. Homemade proffee recipes made with coffee and protein shakes.

All three versions combine the same basic idea. The drink should provide more power and more muscle before or after a workout, in the morning or afternoon. What’s more, it should taste either like an iced coffee or like a very creamy cappuccino.

It’s all about the power of proteins, which take on essential physical tasks and are now even advertised on bags of chips. If you believe this trend, we must all be suffering from a chronic protein deficiency. Is that correct?

Proffee: Where Does the Hype Surrounding Protein Come From?

Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein (or amino acids) is one of the three macronutrients that provide energy and maintain body functions.

Sure, carbohydrates provide the quickest energy boost and are therefore responsible for immediate functioning. However, protein is something like the Swiss army knife among nutritional building blocks:

  • Healthy and elastic skin and connective tissue

  • Healthy hair and nails

  • Metabolism catalyst

  • Cell structure and maintenance

  • Wound healing and infection prevention

  • Muscle building and function

  • Energy supplier for focus and endurance

Since amino acids are complex and have to be broken down properly, protein-rich foods have a nice side effect. That’s right, they make you feel full faster and for longer. 

This is exactly the part that diet culture is so into on Instagram and TikTok, and is also super important when it comes to protein coffee.

Statistics and Numbers: What Does Science Say About the Need for Protein?

While we have now settled on (made-up) guidelines for calories, almost no one has any idea how much protein they need or actually consume every day. 

However, given the current protein hysteria, we have the vague feeling that it might be too little. We also all believe in the connection between muscle building and protein intake: more protein equals more muscles.

Don Quixote Spanish Coffee

Anyone who checks out the serious literature will quickly realize that nothing is as black and white as TikTok or Instagram influencers claim. When it comes to daily protein requirements, the recommendation of the German Nutrition Society (DGE) is considered the gold standard: 

Accordingly, adults aged 19 to 65 should consume 0.8 g protein per kilogram of body weight per day. When it comes to the connection between sport and protein, the DGE expresses caution:

There is no special recommendation for adult recreational athletes (30 minutes of physical activity at moderate intensity 4-5 times per week).

Only from a performance level of at least five hours of training per week can “a protein intake that is adapted to the sport and the load can meaningfully support the training process […].”

When it comes to athlete values, the DGE follows (with reservations) the recommendations of the International Society of Sports Nutrition and gives a value of 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram daily. And always depending on the sport, training plan, etc.

Lastly, there’s general consensus that proteins should be distributed throughout the day and consumed as part of meals and not as supplements. Apparently, we shouldn’t indulge in selective protein bombs – exactly what protein coffee wants to be.

Do We Need More Protein?

Of course, the question that is even more important is whether we don’t already cover our protein needs through our normal diet. The answer is neither conclusive nor objective. After all, each of us eats differently and each metabolizes food in our own way.

The fact is that even with a less-than-ideal diet, we reach our required protein levels pretty quickly. However, this has its price: popular foods such as meat, fish and cheese have a lot of extra protein, but often also contain a lot of fat, carbohydrates and calories.

Of course we all need these substances. However, if the nutritional values per meal go through the roof, the body likes to build up reserves. The other side of the coin: Anyone who eats an extremely calorie-conscious diet will actually quickly develop a protein problem.

For example, a Big Mac has 12 grams of protein per 100 grams, an iceberg lettuce just 0.7 grams. Meanwhile, spelt bread has around 10 grams of protein, a carrot one solitary gram.

A great example of the “perfect” combination of nutrients comes in the form of tofu. With a manageable calorie content, it offers 14 grams of protein, around 2 grams of carbohydrates and 7 grams of fat per 100 grams.

However, these examples alone suggest that we can definitely get to our protein level with a relaxed menu that pays a little attention to the composition of the meals. 

What Can Whey Powder Do?

Eiskaffee Latte Macchiato Schichten

Before whey powder became the star of fitness-conscious nutrition, it had a boring existence in the food industry as plain whey protein powder. Taken on its own, whey protein resolves the impasse between the protein content and energy density of many foods. 

The powders contain around 80 percent protein, but only around five percent carbohydrates and just as much fat. For each protein shake, you mix around 30 grams of powder with water, milk or other liquids to taste. 

A drink offers around 24 grams of protein in one go without significantly increasing your calorie intake.

To prevent the powder from tasting like dust with a hint of milk protein, flavors and sweeteners such as sucralose are added to most mixtures. According to current scientific opinion, sucralose is not metabolized.

In its neutral form, you can theoretically even mix the powder into your pasta sauce, otherwise there are mostly fruity flavors such as chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.

Even when using water, the milk protein ensures that the powder becomes really foamy and creamy when you bring it to full speed in a blender. 

This in turn made the whey protein coffee hype possible in the first place. Because a drink like this almost screams for an espresso.

Incidentally, since more and more people are avoiding milk protein or animal products, there are now also vegan protein powders made from soy, peas and rice.

Caffeine and Protein: The Ultimate Combo for Building Muscle and Losing Weight?

The question of whether coffee is healthy has been hotly debated for a long time. The opinions on this always swing in one direction or the other. The dominant current view is that coffee has a positive effect on various bodily functions – and can be effective as a weight loss aid. What’s true about that? Maybe a lot, maybe nothing.

The only thing that is certain is that coffee and exercise actually go well together.In particular, high-performance and endurance athletes such as professional cyclists see coffee as an important part of their training routine. 

Turns out the alkaloid caffeine can not only relieve fatigue, it can boost metabolism and improve performance.

That’s why it was only a matter of time before someone drew the parallel between coffee and protein powder as the ultimate workout drink. The popularity of Starbucks and its milky iced coffee derivatives probably also plays a role.

So what is protein coffee going to do for you? According to its fans, you can not only build more muscles with one sip; you can also train longer and harder and lose a few inches from your waist.

However, if we look at the benefits and findings recorded so far, this only seems to apply to people who are training at the limit anyway. Not for us no-nonsense pumpers or Pilates disciples.

Does anyone at the gym care? Of course not. Protein coffee is kind of like avocado toast or a kale smoothie: tasty with the right ingredients, certainly not bad, but basically just a form of food bragging.

Proffee Recipe: Make Your Own Protein Coffee

Krups Intuition Preference Edelstahl Milchschaum Oben

You can tell it’s a TikTok trend drink by the fact that there is no universal proffee recipe. Each influencer finds their own mix that is intended to attract new followers and perhaps sell one or two supplements. The basic idea is always the same:

  1. Prepare protein shake from powder

  2. Add coffee

  3. Include toppings if desired

All options are open to you when it comes to making coffee. A shot from a fully automatic coffee machine or home espresso machine is most often recommended. Still, pour-over, cold brew coffee or stovetop coffee from moka pot – they’ll all work just fine.

Milk is always recommended for the protein mix – whether from the cow or as a non-dairy milk alternative. After all, a water-based mixture would be a bit thin or you would need more powder to achieve the desired creaminess. And creaminess is what we’re after with protein coffee.

Protein Shake With Coffee: Hot or Cold?

Jura Giga 10 Cold Brew Bezug

There are two schools of proffee: some serve hot coffee with protein, others drink proffee cold. As it happens, the cold faction is currently in the majority. 

Cold preparation is quicker overall – take the ingredients from the fridge, put them in the blender and off you go. In general it works like this:

  • Prepare coffee as desired

  • Mix protein powder with (non-dairy) milk to make a shake

  • Put ice cubes in a glass

  • Pour in the shake, follow with coffee

  • If desired, enhance with cinnamon, syrup, etc.

Whether you use a blender or rely on muscle power depends on your kitchen equipment. The blender not only works particularly quickly, it also makes your proffee particularly creamy. So I would generally recommend using it.

The coffee is usually added hot and cooled down over the ice cubes. It gets easier for those with a Jura Z10 or even a GIGA 10 in the kitchen. These fully automatic coffee machines offer cold espresso as a special function.

By the way, the interesting thing about proffee is that it doesn’t contain any added sugar. Anyone who puts flavored syrup or something similar in there is contradicting the trendy drinks’ health promise. Still, social media can live brilliantly with such contradictions.

Hot or warm proffee presents a hurdle – what’s the easiest way to get the protein shake up to temperature? Here I recommend either an automatic milk frother or a fully automatic coffee machine with a steam wand. Something like the DeLonghi Magnifica S will do nicely.

Vegan Proffee: Workout Coffee Without Milk Protein

As I already noted, it’s no problem at all to prepare proffee without animal milk protein or any other animal additives. For example, on Amazon you can get vegan protein powder at a comparatively reasonable price. Oh, and almond milk is usually recommended for mixing.

If you want to make the whole thing particularly foamy or creamy, soy milk or oat milk are your best friends. Incidentally, the recipe remains the same – both for warm and cold preparation.

Advantages and Disadvantages: What Can Protein Coffee Do?

Iced Blended Coffee

Viewed completely soberly and without hype, proffee is pretty much a contemporary variant of iced coffee, frappé and the like. The fact that we absorb a few extra proteins in the process can’t hurt.

I’m also happy to admit that it actually tastes good – as long as you can handle the slightly strange note of protein powder.

In my experience, the versions from the drugstore have a slightly dusty basic taste, which can be balanced out by using a lower concentration of powder.

In my opinion, apart from being a trendy drink and taste, proffee has no special function. Except perhaps for athletes who go to training as often as others go to the toilet. Protein is important for building muscle, and coffee promotes heightened concentration and increased energy. So the combination is at least not wrong.

But anyone who believes that proffee can compensate for a poor or inadequate diet and help with weight loss is falling for the influencer phenomenon. So let’s summarize:

PROS

  • Trendy iced-coffee drink
  • Creamy and thick, yet cream-free
  • Nutritious without too much added syrup and sugar
  • Can be tailored to your taste

CONS

  • High price of ingredients (especially for the protein powder)
  • From a health perspective, completely unnecessary for most people

Or even more briefly summarized: If you can definitely drink, you definitely don’t have to. 

If more protein is important to you, you could just as easily eat yogurt, beans and legumes or, when it comes to meat, choose a lean cut instead of mortadella.

Chocolate or Fruit: Which Coffee Beans for Proffee?

Coffeeness Bohnen Loeffel

One maxim applies to all recipes without exception: the quality of the ingredients determines the quality of the results. Even if proteins are the focus of proffee, you should select the coffee beans no less carefully.

Aside from my usual demands for transparency, sustainability and fairness, it is important that you choose beans with a bold flavor profile. The protein mix is very dominant. Especially when it’s flavored with chocolate or vanilla.

I recommend coffee beans with a similar flavor, lots of sweetness and with a slightly darker roast profile. A few bitter substances may also play a role, which form a nice counterbalance to the milkiness and sweeteners.

High Protein With Coffee: Not for the Body, but for the Followers

When bulletproof coffee appeared on the scene as a mix of butter and coffee, I was furious. Because here we were led to believe (with completely absurd arguments) that a made-up drink could help us lose weight.

I’m not quite as angry with protein coffee or proffee. Yes, this trend is also stupid. Yes, here too we are led to believe that we can lose weight with this coffee recipe.

However, at its core protein coffee is not complete nonsense, precisely because protein is so important for the body. And protein powder actually delivers the nutritional values or nutrients it promises.

However, we usually don’t need this additional push – at least not when it comes to concentration. Then again, proffee isn’t hurting anyone and tastes pretty good too. But buy overpriced powder just for that reason? You can definitely save yourself that expense!

What do you think of the proffee trend? What TikTok nonsense should I investigate next? Feel free to leave me a comment!

Protein Coffee FAQ

You can. But you don’t have to. Aside from all the health promises, drinking protein coffee is, above all, a nutrient-rich alternative to iced coffee or sugary and creamy frappe.

“High in Protein” is primarily a label used by the food industry to sell products at a higher price. In general, most people do not need high protein supplements. Exceptions include athletes at a competitive level.

Your coffee expert
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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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