If you are into the keto diet or are currently practicing the diet, you’ve most likely come across an article or blog post about the benefits of adding butter or coconut/MCT oil to your cup of coffee, but the humble home roaster may have no idea about adding butter to your morning brew.
It may sound shocking but adding butter to coffee isn’t just a new diet fad, but in fact, it’s been part of coffee cultures since time immemorial. Let’s delve into the history, health benefits, and a simple recipe to make your own if you're curious (or crazy) to try it!
Like we previously mentioned, adding butter to coffee and tea isn’t a new diet fad or trend, but rather it has existed in some form or another in various cultures around the world. Asian countries such as Tibet have a version called po cha which is yak butter tea, Singapore has nanyang kopi, and Vietnam has giang café which includes butter along with an egg. Specifically, in the Sidamo region, Ethiopians include clarified butter as part of their cup of coffee too!
While it's unknown exactly how long these drinks have existed in these countries, what is known is that these types of coffee and butter drinks have existed long before the keto-adjacent butter coffee drink gained prominence in Europe and the Americas.
The butter coffee drink that became popularized in the West became known as “bulletproof coffee” which included coconut oil or MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides – basically more fat) around 2009 by a self-styled “biohacker” and entrepreneur Dave Asprey. Bulletproof coffee typically calls for MCT oil instead of coconut oil, unsalted, grass-fed butter, and a “special type” of coffee bean that has reduced levels of mycotoxins.
It should be noted that coffee producers are already good at removing mycotoxins and that Asprey has no formal medical training, degree, or nutritional training.
All that being said, Asprey’s bulletproof coffee and its claimed health benefits also began to find their way into the more scientifically quantifiable ketogenic diet, and depending on whom you ask you’ll find the drink called different names -- butter coffee, bulletproof coffee, or keto coffee.
For those who have never heard of keto or the ketogenic diet, the diet is a low-carbohydrate diet that is focused on breaking down the protein and fat in your body. This process is called ketosis, hence the name “keto”. When this diet is properly measured and supervised by your doctor, nutritionist, or similar health professional, the diet can help an individual’s weight loss goals.
Interestingly enough, the ketogenic diet has existed and was originally designed to help suppress epilepsy during the 1920s and 1930s. It was only after the 1997 made-for-TV film First Do No Harm (which interestingly features Meryl Streep) that the ketogenic diet regained interest from the scientific community to continue pursuing studies on the effectiveness of the diet in treating epilepsy.
While originally relegated to a specialized diet for treating epilepsy, the ketogenic diet began to gain prominence in the West in the latter half of the 2000s as a newer weight loss diet that was relatively easy to implement for everyday people. It was around this time that butter coffee began to appear as a keto alternative to other breakfasts, while still getting the proper amount of daily nutrients.
While that have been many health claims lobbed around by various people, outlets, magazines, and other press about butter coffee, the fact that often these claims aren’t cited with medical information is troublesome. Fear not, however, we at CBC took the time to investigate the five major health claims that butter coffee supposedly has.
Butter in Coffee Benefits
While researching butter coffee there appear to be five major health benefits that are often claimed that the drink possesses. Sadly, there often is a lack of proper medical citations for these health claims. We took the time to research the claims and include some proper studies to back up the claims where appropriate.
The first claim is that grass-fed butter and coconut oil (or MCT oil) help increase the production of the body’s HDL (high-density lipoprotein). This is the body’s “good cholesterol” that can help reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease. Grass fed-butter does indeed have an ideal blend of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids (these are good fats) that help regulate the body’s HDL and LDL (low-density lipoprotein and “bad cholesterol”).
We have also seen the claim that drinking butter coffee gives you an increased or more sustained energy level throughout the day. This sustained energy is due to the inclusion of the MCT / coconut oil in the drink. The MCT oil has a shorter length and is broken down at a faster rate and absorbed into your body. This shorter chain within the oils gives you that energy boost throughout the day when compared to your regular cup of coffee.
The third major claim that butter coffee has been said to have been that it can increase one’s metabolic rate. Despite looking into this claim, we couldn’t find any scientific study or article that supported this claim. Perhaps we missed something? Let us know!
Butter coffee has also been claimed to help boost your immune system. After some research, we found that aside from the high-fat content present in the drink, butter coffee has a ton of vitamin A which helps assist in immune function alongside helping one’s vision and skin health.
The fifth and final health benefit we’ve seen bandied about is that butter coffee helps decrease your appetite or rather it helps you feel fuller. This claim is indeed true. This is due to a large amount of fat within the butter and coconut/MCT oil. The fats present within these two ingredients create the sensation of fullness and thus decrease your appetite.
We would also be remiss to not make mention of butter coffee’s potentially negative side effects. Given the drink's large amount of saturated fats and high-calorie level those who are concerned with counting calories should avoid this drink. If you also have cardiovascular disease or are at risk for developing it, we also politely suggest that you avoid making butter coffee a staple of your morning routine.
A Simple Butter Coffee Recipe
If you are curious to make this drink yourself, it’s incredibly easy to make. Just follow the directions below and you’ll have yourself a delicious cup of butter coffee in no time flat.
- Brew up 8–12 ounces of black coffee using your favorite coffee bean.
- Add 1–2 tablespoons of coconut oil or MCT oil
- Add 1–2 tablespoons of grass-fed, unsalted butter
- Combine the above three ingredients into a blender and pulse till combined well
- Serve hot
Some Tips to Be Mindful Of
Depending on how much you enjoy your butter coffee, you may want to “elevate” your simple butter coffee to something a bit more decadent. If this is something that interests you, we have the following tips for you.
- While you can use unsalted butter, to get the best bang for your buck, we suggest using the highest quality butter you can find – Kerrygold being the gold standard (pun intended). You could also use ghee or even coconut milk as a butter substitute if you’re lactose intolerant or simply avoid dairy out of other dietary concerns.
- It’s better to be conservative when adding coconut or MCT oil. You can always add more after blending, but you can’t remove it.
- Honestly, blending butter coffee achieves the proper consistency whereas shaking the ingredients doesn’t achieve the frothy consistency that butter coffee should have.
- Given the butter and coconut flavors that dominate the cup, we suggest brewing the drink with either the Ethiopian Misty Valley Yirgacheffe or the Longberry Blue Harrar. Both beans have chocolate, fruity, and spicy clove notes that help differentiate the coffee from being overpowered by the richness of the coconut oil and butter and help complement these flavors to make a well-rounded drink.
Hopefully, we’ve dispelled the notion that butter coffee is just a coffee trend or diet fad, but rather an integral part of coffee cultures across the world for time immemorial. It also has some additional benefits for those who are looking for a boost in the mornings alongside some added health benefits. Even if you had heard of butter coffee through keto, but never had it, we suggest you try it out just once. Happy brewing!