Coffee vs Beer: What’s The Difference?

Life has few pleasures as sincere as a cold beer or a hot cup of coffee, but when it comes to coffee vs beer which is healthiest? 

Coffee vs Beer
Coffee vs. Beer

Though a stout can have tasty notes of coffee, otherwise the beverages could be the yin and yang of potables. A cup of Joe heralds the day’s beginning as a pick-me-up, and a pint can signal relaxation with your best friend. 

Coffee and beer are both popular in the United States, but coffee outpaces beer at 88.8 gallons consumed per capita. The beer came in at a flat 20.2 gallons, according to a report by MarketWatch. 

There are so many who love beer and coffee that brewers including Modern Times Beer, a brewer and coffee roaster from day one, brew coffee stouts for that rich flavor in a pint glass.

As a coffee drinker, you may well enjoy an espresso in the a.m. or, if a beer drinker, a hoppy IPA during your off-hours, but knowing the effects of these favorite drinks is important to your health and productivity.

Your Brain on Beer

Beer in a pint mug.
Creativity is boosted after a beer or two

It’s a proven fact that a moderate amount of beer can unleash outside-the-box thinking and creativity. The book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” notes that creativity is boosted after a beer or two, generally when the drinker has a blood alcohol level of 0.07 BAC (blood alcohol content).  

When the equivalent of a couple of beers hits your cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that controls conscious thought and language, you become less focused and less concerned about life’s worries, Mental Floss reports. That frees the brain for making deeper connections, resulting in more creative thinking. 

I Love Coffee blogger Ryoko Iwata illustrates this in an infographic.  

Caffeine To the Rescue

While that sounds like an edge for beer, coffee is the beverage for focus. 

The brain’s adenosine receptors will bind with adenosine, with the result of making you feel drowsy. When coffee’s caffeine comes into play, these receptors bind with it instead in about 15 minutes, which gives the coffee drinker the feeling of energy. 

A man sitting at a table drinking coffee.

Coffee, known for being a beverage of choice for editors and office workers, brings additional focus to detailed tasks. If you are looking for creative ideas, have that pilsner, but if you want to put ideas to work or complete complicated tasks, pour another cup of French roast. 

Counting Calories 

Coffee is calorie-free. Add cream, sugar, or a pump or two of flavored syrup, though, and you could be sabotaging your diet

The Mayo Clinic notes that coffee drinks can pack hidden calories. Sugar comes in at 16 calories per teaspoon, and an ounce of half-and-half has 37 calories. Get a venti-sized latte, though, and you’ve sipped an extra 240 calories. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Americans limit sugary drinks.  

Beer’s the worst offender when it comes to calories, and Brews can vary widely. Bud Light comes in at 110 calories, according to PopSugar Fitness, but some craft beers can pack as many as 300 calories per serving.  

Health Benefits of Coffee 

That cup of coffee might cut more than drowsiness. Healthline reports that multiple studies show that coffee drinkers have a much lower rate of Type 2 Diabetes, a disease that affects how your body processes blood glucose. Other studies show that coffee dramatically decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. 

Drinking coffee might also make you live longer. A new study by Dr. Marilyn Cornelis, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, holds that coffee drinkers tend to live longer.  

Beer isn’t all bad, though. Germany’s Commission E, their equivalent of the FDA, has approved hops to treat sleep disorders, and studies show that beer, containing protein, fiber, B vitamins, and folate, can be healthier than red wine. 

Both beverages can have powerful effects, even changing someone’s genome. A new study shows that caffeine and alcohol can have long-term effects on genomes regarding aging and cancer. While more study is needed, you can enjoy a coffee while you wait. 

Culture Change 

A barista opening his coffee shop.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, where you drink a cup of coffee or a cold beer has shifted. Coffee drinkers used to head to Starbucks or a favorite coffeehouse for a latte or an espresso with friends, just as beer drinkers would head to the local pub. 

In 2020, coffee out is more likely to be a pick-up order due to coronavirus, coffee shop owners in New York report. Coffee and beer at home are likely options, although Trump aluminum tariffs have affected some breweries that can beer. Some coffee drinkers are setting up their favorite beans as an auto-shipment on Amazon, ensuring they never run out. 

Create a Coffee Shop Ambience At Home

If you can’t go to your favorite coffee house, bring that vibe to your own home. Check out Spotify’s or Pandora’s coffee house playlist or coffee shop music, or create your own coffee shop playlist, adding smooth jazz music, instrumental music, hip hop, indie rock by singer-songwriters, or a bossa nova beat. You can become your own musical barista.

A little Miles Davis or soft jazz piano music is a smooth way to wake up or wind down — just like the ambiance of a jazz cafe. Easy listening, a jazz playlist, or listening to any good music for background music, or bgm, will make your morning as smooth and rich as good coffee.

Beer Moderation is Key 

Drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages should only be done in moderation. Impairment while driving and operating machinery is a risk that comes with drinking alcohol, as is addiction. 

While both brews have benefits, coffee comes out ahead in health benefits. Your favorite latte, espresso, or cappuccino can be a healthy part of your diet, but watch the sugar and fat in your favorite add-ins.  

The Final Word on Coffee vs Beer

A beer is best as a once-in-a-while treat, perhaps in the evening after work or at the weekend. 

Studies show that a cup of coffee – or two – a day not only isn’t harmful but could have health benefits.  

Rather than opting for one or the other, try both!


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.