9 Ways You're Doing Coffee All Wrong — and How to Get It Right

Sipping hot coffee through a plastic lid may leach chemicals into your beverage that can be harmful over time. (Image: Willie B. Thomas/DigitalVision/GettyImages)

Many of us rely on this caffeinated beverage to wake us up in the morning and give us the energy we need to cruise through the day. But few of us probably realize that, in addition to supplying a pick-me-up, coffee provides us with a slew of health benefits.

Coffee is rich in riboflavin, otherwise known as Vitamin B2, which is not naturally found in many foods and helps the body break down nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins and fats, Natalie Rizzo, RD, New York City-based registered dietitian, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

The average cup of joe is also rich in polyphenolic antioxidants, which may help protect against several common illnesses, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, inflammation, type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and metabolic syndrome diseases, according to a study published in the journal Neural Regeneration Research in November 2015.

Drinking coffee may also aid in weight loss, according to a June 2019 study published in the journal Nature. Researchers found that drinking the bean brew stimulated body temperature, activating something called "brown fat," which plays a key role in how fast we're able to burn calories.

All this is likely music to coffee-lovers' ears. But the bad news? You may be making a few critical missteps in preparing your cup of java that are preventing you from reaping the full health benefits.

Whether you buy your coffee from your favorite corner shop or make it at home, here are nine mistakes you should try to avoid.

1. Buying Ground Coffee

Coffee beans contain the highest amount of antioxidants when they are whole and fresh. Although it's easier not to have to grind the beans yourself, you may be skimping out on some major health benefits.

Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition and wellness expert and author of Eating in Color, recommends buying the beans whole, storing them in an airtight container and grinding just enough for your morning brew. "This is a much better idea than buying ground coffee, which may have been sitting on the store shelf for weeks, losing its antioxidants," she says.

2. Adding Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

Not only does sugar contribute empty calories to your beverage, but it can also have myriad negative affects on the body, including tooth decay, an increase in inflammation and weight gain, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Though artificial sweeteners can be a better choice for diabetics, they come with their own set of health disadvantages, such as unwanted changes to the microbiome (the healthy bacteria in your gut), says Largeman-Roth.

3. Overloading on Creamer

Most Americans order their coffee with a heaping helping of creamer. While a tiny splash won't negate all of the benefits coffee can provide, any more than that will turn an innocent cup into a calorie bomb offering little nutritional value, explains Christen Cupples Cooper, EdD, RDN, assistant professor and founding director of the Nutrition and Dietetics Program at the College of Health Professions at Pace University.

Her recommendation? Keep coffee accoutrements as simple as possible (think: a splash of low-fat milk or unsweetened almond milk).

4. Treating It Like Dessert

With so many add-ons available at most coffee spots, it's easy to find yourself ordering what sounds eerily similar to an ice cream sundae, complete with syrups, whipped cream and even sprinkles.

"While a plain black coffee has negligible calories, a 'dessert coffee' can easily top 500 calories," warns Roger Adams, PhD, Houston-based dietitian and founder of EatRightFitness.com. "Any health benefits will be ruined by the added fat, sugar and calories."

5. Using Single-Serve Plastic Pods

Research has shown that eating or drinking from any sort of heated plastic, even those that are BPA-free, may be detrimental to your health.

"Even BPA-free plastics can release estrogenic chemicals into liquids that may pose a health risk over time," says Dr. Adams. "These estrogenic chemicals may act as an endocrine (or hormone) disruptor if levels build up or exposure is high enough."

And if you're more likely to buy your coffee? You might want to think twice before topping your steamy beverage with a plastic lid.

6. Forgetting to Clean Your Machine

Any household appliance that contains water requires frequent cleaning or you run the risk of mold and bacteria running rampant. This is especially true for coffee makers because the heat and constant moisture in them create the perfect environment for these organisms to flourish, warns Dr. Adams.

Indeed, the National Science Foundation's International Household Germ Study found that about half of coffee makers had yeast and mold growing in their reservoirs. "Low levels are no problem for our body's natural defense system, but if the coffee maker is left to grow large amounts, then they can indeed cause problems with our health," says Dr. Adams.

7. Drinking It Too Late in the Day

Many of us turn to a cup of joe during that afternoon energy slump, but consuming caffeine late in the day can cause issues with sleep, says Largeman-Roth.

One study, published September 2015 in Science Translational Medicine, linked late caffeine consumption to a delay in human circadian rhythm, which may contribute to the growing number of sleep issues adults are facing. And poor zzzs can have a negative effect on nearly every part of your body.

8. Buying It in Bulk

Although coffee is more shelf-stable than the fresh produce or meat we buy at the grocery store, it shouldn't be stored for several months at a time. To avoid this, buy smaller amounts so that what you're using is fresh and still full of antioxidants.

Also, Largeman-Roth recommends against storing your beans in the freezer, which will cause them to lose their moisture and can affect their flavor.

9. Not Opting for Dark Roast

When coffee beans are roasted, something known as the Maillard reaction occurs, producing melanoidins that affect the beans' overall antioxidant capacity and anti-inflammatory effects, says Dr. Adams. So, the longer the beans are roasted (the darker the roast), the higher the amount of antioxidants they contain.

What's more? Sipping on a darker roast may help protect your DNA from damage, according to a November 2018 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition.