Particle 101: Coffee

We've consumed coffee for centuries, but is it good or bad for us? We unpack the brew-haha about coffee, espressoly for you.
Dr Jae
Dr Jae
Scitech contributor
Particle 101: Coffee
Image credit: NordWood Themes via Unspalsh

Coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks. So it’ll come as no surprise if you’re reading this with a cup of coffee in your hand.

Globally, around 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed every single day.

In 2017, it was estimated that the average Australian consumed 1.91kg of coffee.

With its power to stimulate your brain and nervous system, some say coffee is great for your health. Others say it’s quite harmful. Let’s see where the latest research stands.

Image credit: GIPHY

Rise and grind

Coffee contains caffeine, the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive stimulant.

In contrast to caffeinated foods and drinks like black tea, chocolate and energy drinks, coffee has one of the highest concentrates of caffeine with around 145mg per 50mL of espresso.

Although not large amounts, coffee does contain some essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants too.

If you work out or play sport, caffeine can improve endurance during exercise, according to this study. So in terms of energy production and mental alertness, let’s give coffee a nice green tick.

Healthwise, coffee is not so black and white.

Moderate coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing some cancers, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes, according to a 2017 meta-analysis (a scientific study that overviews a large number of scientific studies on a given topic). However, coffee was also associated with a higher risk of miscarriage.

Current Australian guidelines for pregnant and breastfeeding women recommend limiting their caffeine intake to 200mg per day.

Ain’t no ristretto for the wicked

It’s important to keep in mind that caffeine is a drug that affects people differently. Some people feel jittery or anxious after a small amount, while others can down several cups of coffee a day and feel fine.


Image credit: GIPHY

If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you may want to opt for herbal tea instead of an after-dinner espresso. The downside of caffeine being a stimulant is that it also reduces your sleep time and quality.

Coffee can also stain your teeth and promote heartburn or acid reflux.

Rage against the coffee machine

So if a sensible amount of coffee is generally good for most of us, what about the planet?

If you’d like your bean to be as ‘green’ as possible, here are some sustainability tips to consider:

  • Buy beans in bulk instead of single-use pods that create waste.
  • Use a reusable cup instead of disposable ones.
  • Consider low-energy brewing methods such as French-press or AeroPress.
  • Swap paper filters for reusable metal or biodegradable cloth.
  • Can you drink it without milk?
Image credit: tenor

Don’t worry, be frappe

For whatever reason, if you have decided to ditch coffee, you’ll likely experience some withdrawal symptoms.

These include headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, nausea, muscle pain and irritability. Cutting back rather than stopping abruptly can minimise these symptoms, which can last for a few weeks.

And giving up coffee doesn’t mean you have to stop visiting your favourite café! These days, there are plenty of alternatives on menus and supermarket shelves – decaf, cacao, chai latte and dandelion tea just to name a few.

Dr Jae
About the author
Dr Jae
It may sound like the name of a rapper but alas, instead of rapping rhymes Jae spends her time weaving words and writing articles on STEM! With a doctorate in Health Psychology & Exercise Physiology and background in science communication, this curious cat will leave no stone unturned.
View articles
It may sound like the name of a rapper but alas, instead of rapping rhymes Jae spends her time weaving words and writing articles on STEM! With a doctorate in Health Psychology & Exercise Physiology and background in science communication, this curious cat will leave no stone unturned.
View articles


We've got chemistry, let's take it to the next level!

Get the latest WA science news delivered to your inbox, every fortnight.


Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.


You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.


Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.


All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.


For more information about using our content, email us:

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy