Is coffee high in carbs?

Coffee is a beloved drink for many people around the world. With its rich, robust flavor and caffeine content, coffee provides a quick pick-me-up to start the day. But is coffee high in carbs? Let’s take a closer look.

The Basics of Carbs

Carbohydrates, often simply called “carbs,” are macronutrients that are a main source of energy for the body. Carbs are found in many different foods, including grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and added sugars.

When you eat carbs, your body breaks them down into glucose. Glucose enters your bloodstream and provides fuel for your muscles and brain. Any excess glucose gets stored in your liver and muscles for later use.

Carbs are often classified as simple or complex:

  • Simple carbs: These are sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. They digest and absorb quickly, leading to spikes in blood sugar.
  • Complex carbs: These include starches and fiber. They take longer to break down and provide a more steady supply of glucose.

For good health, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that 45-65% of your daily calories come from carbs. But not all carbs are created equal – it’s best to focus on eating whole, unprocessed carbs from foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy.

The Carb Content of Coffee

When it comes to coffee, the carb content is very low. Black coffee that is brewed from ground coffee beans contains virtually zero grams of carbs per cup.

An 8 ounce (240 ml) cup of black coffee only contains:

  • 2 calories
  • 0 g fat
  • 0 g protein
  • 0 g carbs

This minimal nutrient profile is because black coffee is made by brewing roasted coffee beans in water. No other ingredients are added.

Caffeine Content

While coffee is very low in carbs, it does contain a potent stimulant – caffeine. Caffeine is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream after drinking coffee.

An average 8 ounce (240 ml) cup of brewed coffee provides around:

  • 80-100 mg caffeine

The actual caffeine content varies based on the type of coffee beans, roasting method, and brewing process. But coffee is typically the biggest dietary source of caffeine for adults in the US.

Other Nutrients

While coffee doesn’t provide carbohydrates, it does contain some micronutrients:

  • Niacin (B3): 2% DV
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): 6% DV
  • Riboflavin (B2): 11% DV
  • Potassium: 3% DV
  • Magnesium: 2% DV
  • Manganese: 3% DV

Amounts are based on an 8 ounce (240 ml) cup of brewed coffee. The %DV refers to the percentage of the Daily Value for each nutrient based on a 2000 calorie diet. While these amounts seem small, they can add up over multiple cups per day.

Carbs in Popular Coffee Drinks

Plain black coffee is very low in carbs. However, popular coffeehouse drinks are often loaded with extra calories, fat, sugar, and carbs. Some examples and their carb contents include:

Caffe Latte

  • 8 oz (240 ml): 10 g carbs
  • 16 oz (473 ml): 20 g carbs

Lattes are typically made with espresso and steamed milk. The carbs come from the added milk.

Caffe Americano

  • 8 oz (240 ml): 0 g carbs
  • 16 oz (473 ml): 0 g carbs

This drink contains espresso and hot water. No milk is added, so there are zero carbs.

Caffe Mocha

  • 8 oz (240 ml): 38 g carbs
  • 16 oz (473 ml): 76 g carbs

Mochas combine espresso, steamed milk, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream. The carb count jumps up from the chocolate syrup and whipped cream.

Caramel Macchiato

  • 8 oz (240 ml): 30 g carbs
  • 16 oz (473 ml): 60 g carbs

These contain espresso, vanilla-flavored steamed milk, caramel sauce, and milk foam. The main sources of carbs are the caramel sauce and milk.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

  • 8 oz (240 ml): 38 g carbs
  • 16 oz (473 ml): 76 g carbs

This seasonal favorite features espresso, pumpkin spice flavoring, steamed milk, whipped cream, and often sugar topping. The carb sources include the milk, whipped cream, and sugar.

As you can see, fancier coffee drinks from cafes and coffeehouses often pack in a lot of extra carbs from ingredients like milk, sweeteners, and flavor syrups. Sticking to black coffee is your best bet if limiting carbs.

Tips for a Low-Carb Coffee

If you want to enjoy coffee but avoid the carbs found in popular coffeehouse drinks, here are some tips:

  • Choose plain black coffee or Americanos when buying coffee out.
  • Brew your own black coffee at home to control what’s added.
  • Add just a splash of milk or cream instead of several ounces.
  • Use low-carb milk options like almond milk or coconut milk.
  • Flavor with cinnamon instead of syrups, whipped cream, etc.
  • Sweeten with small amounts of zero-calorie sweeteners if desired.
  • Request drinks be made with sugar-free syrups if available.
  • Ask for light versions or less pumps of flavor syrups.

With a few tweaks, you can still enjoy your morning Joe without all the extra carbs!

Health Impact of Coffee

Coffee is unique in that it provides several important health benefits, yet also carries some health risks if consumed in excess. Some of coffee’s health impacts include:


  • Increased energy and mental focus: Thanks to caffeine, coffee can help you feel more alert and focused.
  • Improved physical performance: The caffeine in coffee may enhance athletic endurance and strength.
  • Weight loss aid: Coffee may boost metabolism slightly and curb appetite, aiding weight loss.
  • Lower diabetes risk: Some studies link moderate coffee intake to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduced Alzheimer’s risk: Possible protective effects against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Lower Parkinson’s risk: Linked to lower risk of Parkinson’s disease in several research studies.
  • Liver protection: Coffee intake is associated with reduced liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.
  • Longer lifespan: Habitual coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of premature death.


  • Sleep disruption: Caffeine can make it harder to fall asleep and reduce sleep quality if consumed late in the day.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure: High intake may raise these levels temporarily, although not linked to higher disease risk in most people.
  • Anxiety and restlessness: Those sensitive to caffeine may experience jitteriness, rapid heartbeat, and anxiety with excessive intake.
  • Digestive issues: Some experience acid reflux, heartburn, and stomach upset from coffee.
  • Headaches: Caffeine withdrawal headaches are common if coffee consumption is suddenly stopped.
  • Nutrient depletion: Coffee doesn’t provide a source of vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients (outside of trace amounts).
  • Addiction: Caffeine is habit-forming. It can be difficult for some to cut back coffee intake.

For healthy adults consuming moderate amounts (3-4 cups per day), coffee’s benefits seem to outweigh the risks.

Is Coffee Paleo or Keto?

Due to its low carb content, coffee fits into several popular diet plans:


Coffee is considered paleo-friendly since it comes directly from the coffee plant without any modern processing. Some paleo dieters drink mostly black coffee while avoiding high-carb coffeehouse drinks.

Ketogenic (Keto)

Plain coffee can easily be included as part of a ketogenic diet. Since keto focuses on low carb intake for ketosis, black coffee provides energy without disrupting ketosis.

Intermittent Fasting

Drinking black coffee during fasting windows is commonly allowed on intermittent fasting plans. Coffee provides energy and satisfies hunger pangs during the fasts.

So coffee lovers rejoice! Your morning Joe gives you a carb-free energy boost that works with several diet approaches.

Coffee Alternatives for Those Limiting Caffeine

While coffee is low in carbs, the caffeine content may be problematic for those looking to reduce their caffeine intake. Some great coffee alternative options include:

  • Chicory coffee: This is made from the roasted chicory root, often blended with regular coffee. It provides a rich, coffee-like flavor with around half the caffeine.
  • Dandy Blend: Made from dandelion root, chicory root, sugar beet, rye, and barley, this is caffeine-free but tastes similar to coffee.
  • Teeccino: A brew made from herbs, fruits, spices, and nuts that mimics coffee’s smooth, robust taste without caffeine.
  • Decaf coffee: This goes through a process to remove 97-99% of the original caffeine but maintains the classic flavor.
  • Chamomile tea: With its earthy, slightly bitter taste, chamomile makes a relaxing caffeine-free substitute for coffee.
  • Rooibos tea: Rooibos has a rich color and smooth flavor similar to black coffee but is naturally caffeine-free.
  • Pero: Made from barley, chicory, and rye, Pero is naturally caffeine-free and tastes remarkably like coffee.

These delicious alternatives let you enjoy a nice hot cup of “coffee” without having to consume caffeine.


To recap, here are the key points on coffee’s carb and caffeine content:

  • Plain black coffee contains virtually zero carbs and calories.
  • Added milk, cream, sweeteners, and flavors quickly increase the carb count.
  • Stick to black coffee or americanos if limiting carbs.
  • Coffee provides around 80-100 mg caffeine per 8 ounce cup.
  • Moderate coffee intake (3-4 cups per day) is safe and linked to health benefits for most.
  • Those lowering caffeine intake can use coffee alternatives like chicory coffee, Dandy Blend, rooibos tea, etc.
  • Due to its low carb content, coffee can be included in diets like paleo, keto, and intermittent fasting.

So feel free to keep enjoying your daily coffee without guilt! Just be mindful of added mix-ins if watching your carb intake. As always, moderation is key when it comes to coffee and its caffeine content.

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