How to drink black coffee (and actually enjoy it)

For many of us the first taste of coffee is in our late teens or early twenties. At that age, many people tend to naturally avoid strong and bitter flavors. So we opt for white coffee and it becomes a habit carried into adulthood.

But for coffee lovers, we think it is worthwhile learning how to drink black coffee. Why? Coffee is a complex drink made up of delicate aromas and flavor notes that are best experienced by drinking coffee black.

If you are keen to make the switch, we share some proven strategies for how to drink and enjoy coffee black.

9 Tips to Learn to Drink Coffee Black

How To Drink Black Coffee

I started drinking coffee in my early twenties. A cup of instant coffee first thing in the morning and a flat white from the local coffee shop later in the day was my habit for many years.

My mum drank black coffee for most of her life, but I just didn’t appreciate the taste and preferred drinking coffee with milk. Even now, first thing in the morning, I love a large double espresso latte.

But as my coffee intake increased I found I didn’t enjoy white coffee as much the second or third time in a day. I wanted the caffeine but not the milk!

This is what motivated me to try black coffee.

So I am assuming if you are reading this article, you tend to add milk/cream/sugar to your coffee. Perhaps you have tried to drink black coffee in the past and just didn’t enjoy the taste?

For those of us who are not naturally drawn to drink black coffee, it can be an acquired taste.

But there is hope! Just as there are foods you despised as a kid and now enjoy as an adult, you CAN learn to drink coffee black.

So Why Drink Black Coffee?

There are many logical reasons to drink black coffee (and some not so logical reasons too!)

To get you started on your quest, we thought it best to share 5 great reasons to drink coffee black.

1. Fewer Calories

Counting calories is never much fun, but there is no getting away from the fact that in the white coffee vs black coffee calorie challenge, black coffee wins hands down.

The USDA National Nutrient Database states a standard cup of black coffee has just 2 calories. That’s right, 2!!

With 1 teaspoon of sugar , add 16 calories.  With 1 oz of half and half add another 37 calories. Even 1 oz of fat free milk contains around 10 calories.

Some popular coffee drinks at Starbucks contain the same number of calories as a Big Mac at McDonalds.

You can see where this is going. When you drink black coffee you are taking on less calories with every cup.

If you drink a lot of coffee or calorie intake is of concern, cutting cream and sugar from your coffee is a great place to start.

2. To Taste The Coffee

In times gone by cream and sugar was often added to mask bitter and musty coffee flavors in poor quality coffee. Unless it was Kona coffee!

However over the past decade specialty coffee standards have improved and there is more high quality coffee available to all of us.

So there has never been a better time to try black coffee.

By drinking coffee black you can experience the vast array of flavors in a way you never can when you drink white or sweetened coffee.

3. Coffee Is Good For You

There is a lot of research showing the health benefits of coffee.

Not only is coffee high in antioxidants it is also thought to:

The problem with adding cream and sugar to your coffee is they reduce the flavors and benefits of coffee

Sugar consumption is an ever increasing problem with profound health issues.

By switching to black unsweetened coffee you can be confident you are getting all the health benefits of coffee without the negative impacts of sugar and the calories of milk.

4. Black Coffee is Cheaper

A black coffee is generally the cheapest option on the menu at your local coffeehouse.

Plus drinking coffee black makes it much easier to make good coffee at home. No need for fancy milk frothers or fully automated machines.

Even better, think of all the cash you get back in your pocket when you stop purchasing as much sugar, milk, creamers, syrups, sweeteners…

5. Black Coffee Is Always Available

Have you ever ordered a cup of coffee at a coffeehouse only to realise they don’t have your favorite creamer, milk or syrup?

Have you opened the fridge in the morning and realised , with a gasp of shock and dismay, that you are out of milk?

Black coffee makes life simple. No extras, no need to have milk on hand, quick and easy.

Whether you are at home, travelling for work, camping in the outdoors – it is always possible to enjoy a great cup of black coffee.

9 Tips for How to Drink Coffee Black

Okay, so now we are confident our reasons for trying black coffee are sound. How do we make the switch?

For white coffee drinkers it is a huge leap to drink coffee black.

Here we outline some strategies for how to drink black coffee and enjoy it too.

1. Go Cold Turkey

This isn’t a strategy we recommend, but hey, some of you are strong willed and this is the only way to make a change!

Cut the cream and sugar all together, endure the pain for a few weeks and gradually your tastebuds will begin to appreciate black coffee.

It is a hard core strategy but for some people this is the only way.

Pro Tip: To help reduce bitterness when you start, dilute the coffee with a little water. As you adjust to the taste reduce the amount of water added.

2. Retrain Your Palate Gradually

This is our recommended strategy for how to drink black coffee.

Just like your tastebuds develop a preference for sweet or savory food, they also prefer coffee a certain way. It can take a while to retrain your palate to enjoy a black coffee drink but it is possible.

This option is a gentler approach to going cold turkey. It gives your mind, body and tastebuds time to adjust to the new normal.

Step 1: Cut the Sugar (if you don’t add sugar, skip to step 2).

It is a sad fact that sugar does nothing to enhance the natural flavor of coffee and has serious calorie implications.

Pro tip: The secret to success is to reduce the sugar gradually.

If you have add one teaspoon of sugar, reduce it by a quarter or half until you don’t notice the difference anymore.

Once you adjust, cut it again and repeat until you have completely removed sugar from your coffee.

This process of gradual elimination may take days or weeks but you will be surprised how your taste buds adapt to the change.

I used to add sugar to both tea and coffee. Now I can’t stand the taste of sugar in either drink!

Step 2 – Reduce the Milk

Once you have cut the sugar, the next step is to remove the milk or cream in the same way.

Pro tip: For many people this is the more difficult step, so take your time.

Milk is naturally sweet and changes both the texture (mouthfeel) and taste of coffee. Take it slow. Reduce the milk in your coffee SLOWLY and only cut more milk once you don’t notice the difference from the previous cut.

Continue reducing the amount of milk as you adjust to the taste until it is completely removed.

It took me months to achieve this step and that is okay. Just stick at it and you will succeed. This step can be difficult when you frequently order coffee out. Explain your mission to the Barista and let them help you.

3. Try a Different Coffee Brewing Method

Another option if you struggle with the robust flavor and bitterness of black coffee is to try a different brewing style. If you don’t own other coffee brewers, they make a great gift idea.

Some coffee brewing methods (like with an espresso machine) take a while to appreciate when drinking black coffee. Some coffee makers, like a coffee urn, are difficult to brew great tasting black coffee in.

Some of the smoothest black coffee drinks to try are:

4. Try Additive Alternatives

If you find you just don’t enjoy black coffee without the sweetened flavour of milk and sugar, try an alternative sweetener for a while.

Cinnamon and cacao are good choices as they have a low calorie impact and are not very sweet. See more good flavor ideas here.

If you are struggling with the bitterness, try adding a pinch of salt.  Add a small amount at a time and see if you like the taste.

Another idea is to add lemon or lime to your espresso like in these coffee drinks.

5. Buy Good Quality Coffee Beans and Grind At Home

There is no doubt that choosing the best quality coffee beans will improve your changes of enjoying black coffee.

Good coffee roasters take a lot of time to extract the natural flavors from coffee beans and as a result they are more likely to be well balanced and smooth. This is just what you need when learning how to drink black coffee.

By fresh I mean roasted and consumed within a month. If there is no roasted date on the pack there is no way to tell how fresh they are. Older coffee beans will have a stale, bland taste that will not help your mission to switch to black coffee.

Where to buy fresh coffee beans

  1. Seek out a local store selling freshly roasted coffee beans.
  1. If you have an Amazon Prime subscription you can have freshly roasted coffee beans delivered in 2 days. Just make sure you are ordering from a supplier that guarantees freshness.  Sign up to a 30 Day Free Trial for Amazon Prime here today.
  1. A coffee subscription is another good option for freshly roasted beans on demand.  Many companies, like Driftaway Coffee, Trade Coffee and Atlas Coffee Club will tailor your subscription box based on your personal preferences.

Click here to compare the subscription options available with Atlas Coffee Club.

Grind beans at home

As well as buying fresh coffee beans (or roasting coffee at home), it is essential to freshly grind your beans at home. Ground beans start to lose their flavor within minutes of grinding. Yes, minutes.

So to ensure the flavors are in your cup and not evaporating on the shelf, buy whole beans and grind at home. If you are just starting out, a manual coffee grinder is a great, cheap option.

Alternatively, a coffee maker with grinder will ensure you use freshly ground coffee beans every time.

6. Try Different Coffee Bean Blends

There is a huge range of coffee bean blends out there to explore. Drinking black coffee opens up a new world of flavors and it is an exciting time to explore and find new favorites.

Pro tip: If black coffee upsets your stomach, try low acid coffee beans. See our top low acid coffee beans here.

Coffee blends that taste great with milk often don’t taste so great for a black coffee drink. Dark roast beans are a perfect example of this.

With milk, the flavour of dark roast beans cuts through. But without the milk to soften the bitterness and robust flavour notes, some coffee beans can be hard to enjoy as a black coffee drink.

A more delicate light or medium roast will be less bitter and robust. We suggest you experiment with light and medium roasts in order to enjoy black coffee more.

We have listed some of the best coffee brands for black coffee below or click here to see reviews for one of our favorites, Koffee Kult Eye Cracker.

7. Experiment At Home

When learning how to drink coffee black, we suggest you make coffee at home. Black coffee is a whole new world and you need to find a style of coffee you enjoy.

Making coffee at home gives you more control over the process, the quality of the beans and allows you to experiment with different brewing methods.

We think you are more likely to have success with the switch if you experiment with coffee styles at home. Some things to try include:

8. Make Your Coffee Right

When we add cream and sugar to our coffee, the nuances of the flavors in the coffee are muted.

This means you don’t notice when the ratio of water to coffee isn’t right. Or the coffee isn’t fresh.

When learning how to drink coffee black, we suggest you pay more attention to HOW you make the coffee.

Is the water ratio right? Are the beans freshly ground? Is the water temperature right? All of these things will impact the quality and your enjoyment of black coffee.

A coffee scale will help achieve consistent coffee water ratios. See our full review of the best coffee scales here.

9. Take a Small Taste

Before you add your milk and sugar, try the coffee black. It seems like a weird thing to suggest, but making a coffee is such a ritual we never even think to do something different.

So next time you make your coffee, stop and taste it before adding the toppings.

Best Coffee To Drink Black

In terms of the best tasting coffee to drink black, there are many different styles of coffee and it comes down to personal taste.

The best coffee to drink black is any coffee brand that uses high quality, freshly roasted arabica beans.

Each coffee growing region around the world has distinct flavour profiles.  For example:

  • Kenya and Tanzania are African coffees renowned for light bodied, fruity flavour notes.
  • Indonesia is well known for heavy bodied, low acid, earthy flavoured coffee beans.
  • South American coffee beans tend to be medium bodied, medium acid with strong caramel flavors.
  • Central America is renowned for medium body and well balanced sweetness in their coffee beans.

Coffee Beans for Different Brewing Methods

If you enjoy making espresso coffee, you will find a new favorite coffee from in our list of the best coffee beans for espresso.

Want to experiment with a French Press, here are some great coffee beans to try.

For drip and pour over coffee makers, this Kicking Horse Three Sisters is a great choice.

If you want to try making cold brew coffee, we share our favorite cold brew coffee beans here.

Are You Ready To Make The Switch?

Remember there is no right way to drink coffee. It might take a few tries to make the switch. You may decide black coffee is not for you.

Either way it is worth experimenting, challenging habits and trying a new coffee drink.

You may even find a new favorite brewing method. Give it a try and let me know how you go.

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How to drink black coffee
About Rachel Rodda

Founder of Creators of Coffee, Rachel is a passionate coffee lover, SCA member and former barista, who also loves to research and share practical tips on everything to do with coffee. Favorite way to make coffee: With an Espresso Machine