Life isn't slowing down, so we need more energy to keep up.
Energy drinks and coffee are two of the most popular ways to get an increased boost but it's hard to know which is healthier.
Nobody wants to sacrifice their health for a quick caffeine fix, and in this guide we'll give the definitive energy drinks vs coffee breakdown so you can decide which is best for you.
Coffee Vs Energy Drinks (Main Differences Compared)
1. Caffeine Content
Variation between brands and can sizes for energy drinks and bean varieties and coffee preparations makes it difficult to precisely compare how much caffeine there is in energy drinks vs. coffee.
The caffeine in coffee vs. Red Bull—four 1-oz. espresso shots would give the same amount as 3 cans of Red Bull.
The caffeine in coffee vs. Monster energy drink—a couple cups of brewed coffee have more caffeine than a 16-oz. can of Monster. Generally, coffee is more efficient at getting caffeine into your body.
Approximate Caffeine Content Of Common Energizing Beverages
Caffeine (Per 8 Oz.)
Regular Brewed Coffee
Regular Instant Coffee
63 mg Per 1-Oz. Shot1
4.3 mg (In 1 TBSP)1
76 mg – 80 mg Per Original-Size Can
80 mg – 105 mg Per Original-Size Can
22 mg (Note: Most Servings Are Over 8 Ounces)
2. Sugar Content
Original energy drink fans know how much sugar there is in energy drinks. It's easy to go over the daily sugar intake of a healthy adult in just one can and while this can give you an extra energy boost, it's too much sugar to have every day.
However, modern energy drinks now have sugar free options so you can enjoy your favorite energy drink without the sugar crash.
In contrast, coffee beans and coffee itself has no natural sugar, but many people choose to add sugar to make the drink taste sweeter.
You can get sugar free energy drinks, but coffee generally has a lot less sugar.
3. Calorie Content
While coffee generally is not as sugary as an energy drink, many people add fat- and protein-containing components to coffee, which adds calories.
You can find full nutrition facts on Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts websites, but the article How Many Ounces Are in Starbucks Drink Sizes is a great way to make sense of it all.
Per 8 Oz.
Cocoa (In Water)
10 (In 1 TBSP)
Hot Chocolate (In Water)
105 – 110 Per Original-Size Can
115 – 150 Per Original-Size Can
93 (Note: Most Servings Are Over 8 Oz.)
Energy drinks tend to have a range of flavors to choose from, depending on the energy drink brand. Some energy drink companies offer over 10 different flavors, so there's a lot of variety.
Your average cup of coffee may seem a lot more boring, but there's lots of ways to customise the taste:
- Different coffee beans - giving you notes of fruits, nuts, chocolate, or spices
- Different roasts, light, medium, or dark - which give different flavor strengths.
- Decaf blends - which give the same taste variations with reduced caffeine content
- Artisan roasters/craft coffees and cold brewed options - giving a milder taste.
Unlike coffee, popular energy drink options rely on artificial flavors - but you get more flavor options with energy drinks.
Coffee has a much greater variety of textures compared to energy drinks.
There are black coffee options, creamy dessert-like coffees, cold brews, and milky coffees—all of which are available hot or cold. There are also iced and shaved-ice coffees for a cold crunch on hot days.
Energy drinks, even mixing energy drinks, won't change the texture and it will be the same every time.
The ingredients used in coffees vs energy drinks are quite different.
Coffee is made from coffee beans from a coffee plant. It's a completely natural mix of healthy, organic chemicals and compounds - including caffeine.
In contrast, when you're drinking energy drinks you're consuming a mix of synthetic ingredients like B vitamins, taurine, and harvested caffeine.
If you want a natural energy boost then you should drink coffee rather than an energy drink.
7. Recommended Ingredients To Add To Your Coffee
Why It’s Good
Mood-Boosting, Iron, Potassium
Some mood-boosting from cocoa; fat
Brown Sugar (Light Or Dark)
Wholesome and interesting flavor
Wholesome and interesting flavor, Antioxidants
Molasses (Especially Black Strap)
Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, B6, Potassium
Natural Zero-Calorie Sweetener (Especially Stevia)
Avoiding the adverse effects of common artificial sweeteners
Whole, 2%, or 1% Milk
Fat, Protein, Reduces Acidity, Vitamin D, Calcium
Protein, Reduces Acidity, Vitamin D, Calcium
Good for the lactose-intolerant, Protein, Calcium, Vitamin E, Antioxidants
Good for the lactose-intolerant, Protein, Calcium, Omega-3’s, Phytoestrogens
Anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects
Invigorating Flavor, Possible digestive benefits
Dessert-like Flavor, Possible antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects
8. Cost & Convenience
You can get a coffee from your local student run coffee shop, Starbucks, or Dunkin, or even pick up a pre made coffee in some stores.
However, it's generally easier to get hold of an energy drink. You can pick up an energy drink from most stores or even buy them in bulk online from marketplaces like Amazon.
Once you've picked up your energy drinks you can just keep them in the fridge and crack them open whenever too - which means an energy drink is the much more convenient choice.
When you compare the cost of coffee vs energy drinks it's not clear cut.
An energy drink will generally cost $2-3, which is about the same as a regular black coffee from a coffee shop. The energy drink gives you more caffeine too, so it's better value for money.
However, if you make coffee yourself at home it will cost you less than $1 a time. This means coffee is generally the cheaper option.
When it comes to the sustainability of coffee vs energy beverages it's more complicated than it seems.
Energy drinks are made using an industrial process and raw materials that aren't biodegradable. However, the metal cans are usually recyclable so it's not as bad for the environment.
Coffee is made from natural ingredients, but the coffee grinding, brewing, warming, and other processes around it consume a lot of energy. Plus, coffee cups aren't always recyclable.
If you have an instant black coffee at home it's definitely more sustainable than an energy drink, but neither option are particularly sustainable.
10. Health Effects
When it comes to coffee vs energy drinks, most people agree that coffee is healthier in the long run.
Energy drinks have more caffeine, a higher sugar intake, and other ingredients which can have negative health impacts. Even if you use artificial sweeteners with your energy drink there's still a lot of other unhealthy ingredients in there.
Drinking too much coffee can cause increased blood pressure and other issues, but most coffee preparations also have a lower glycemic index than energy drinks. This means that it metabolizes more slowly, keeping you energized longer.
coffee vs energy drinks - The BaristaHQ verdict
So, when comparing coffee vs energy drinks there is a clear winner - coffee is better for long-term health.
Coffee will generally help you be a more energetic and alert person as they contain more caffeine (on average) and more natural ingredients. If you have black coffee it's also 0 calories and 0 sugar which is the healthiest option.
However, energy drinks give a fun and refreshing shot of caffeine, sugar, and metabolism-friendly nutrients that can help you through particularly draining situations.
How Does Coffee Boost Your Energy? (Pros & Cons)
As a natural caffeine source, coffee makes you more alert, awake, and energized, but excess consumption can make you jittery, irritable, and unable to sleep. Therefore, avoid it within about 6 hours of bedtime.
Pregnant women and those with heart conditions or high blood pressure should limit caffeine intake. The FDA indicates that no one should exceed 400 mg of caffeine per day—about 4-5 cups of coffee.
Mostly due to its bitter taste, coffee is favored by mature youth and adults: industrious college students, teachers, professors, as well as both blue- and white-collar workers.
Benefits Of Drinking Coffee For Energy
Downsides Of Drinking Coffee For Energy
How Do Energy Drinks Boost Your Energy? (Pros & Cons)
Energy drinks have added caffeine, so they present the normal positives and negatives of caffeine consumption, as described above for coffee.
If you feel sick, unable to sleep, or notice you have a persistently elevated heart rate or mood disturbances—you should reduce your consumption of energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages.
Energy drinks are generally marketed for young people and athletes. However, mature professionals and weekend warriors might enjoy the refreshing rush of an energy drink.
Benefits Of Using Energy Drinks To Boost Energy
Downsides Of Using Energy Drinks To Boost Energy
Coffee & Energy Drinks Common FAQs
Can I drink coffee after an energy drink?
Yes, but just be mindful of how much caffeine is in the particular coffee and energy drinks you are having. During long bouts of sleep-deprived work, switching between coffee and energy drinks could be a way to control sugar and caffeine consumption for best results.
Is coffee or energy drinks better for studying?
The difference between coffee and energy drinks depends considerably on your choice of coffee preparation, but normally coffee is caffeine-strong and sugar-weak compared to an energy drink.
While sugar consumption should generally be minimized, too much caffeine without sufficient calories could leave you feeling depleted. Monster energy drink caffeine content is lower than most coffees per volume, giving a relatively gradual release of caffeine and sugar.
What happens if you drink energy drinks every day?
Sugar-free options notwithstanding, the biggest difference between coffee and energy drinks is the sugar content. Energy drinks encourage sugar addiction, which ultimately impacts metabolic, cardiovascular, and dental health.
How many cups of coffee is equal to 1 can of energy drink?
The caffeine difference between coffee and energy drinks usually weighs on the side of coffee, so really, you would have to have a large (16-oz.) size of most energy drinks to get the caffeine of a relatively small 8-12 oz. cup of coffee.
When it comes to the energy boost and healthiness of coffee vs energy drinks - coffee comes out a winner.
If you drink coffee you get a healthier energy boost and more caffeine too. However, sugar free energy drinks can be great for people who need a serious boost of energy quickly.
Hopefully this guide has helped to explain the differences, and you now know which is the best option for you.