If you’re struggling to decide between a comforting warm drink, our hot chocolate vs. coffee guide will help you to determine which beverage is for you.
Coffee and hot chocolate are two of the most popular beverages in the world. Coffee beans come from the Coffea plant. There are dozens of ways to make it, whether you like a quick instant coffee or a carefully brewed pour-over and even different coffee bean varieties.
Meanwhile, chocolate comes from Cacao trees, but the chocolate has been roasted and heavily refined before finding its way into your mug of hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is usually made with instant chocolate powder or melted chocolate.
In this blog post, we will detail the history of each drink, the tasting profile, and the preparation process. We’ll also explore the health benefits of these drinks so you can choose which is right for you.
Origins And History
The History Of Coffee
Coffee is believed to have originated in Ethiopia. Legend has it; a goat herder noticed his goats wouldn’t sleep after eating coffee cherries. He then told an abbot about his findings, who brewed a drink with the cherries, which helped him stay awake.
In the 15th century, coffee beans arrived in the Middle East through the port of Mokha, which is where the name mocha comes from. Throughout the 1500s and 1600s, coffee began to spread through Europe and reached the Americas in the 1700s. Learn more in our explainer on where do coffee beans come from.
The History Of Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate originated in Mexico around 2,500 to 3,000 years ago, with the Mayans and Aztecs drinking a cold concoction of cocoa and spices, and other ingredients, including chili peppers. Then, in the 1500s, Cortez came across the drink and presented it to King Charles V of Spain. The drink evolved into a warm drink and began to spread throughout Europe.
The tasting profile of coffee varies quite a lot depending on the kind of beans, roast level, and brewing method. The environment the coffee beans were grown also makes a difference. This is why single-origin coffee is so popular among coffee connoisseurs as a medium roast Arabica cultivated in Brazil won’t test the same as medium roast Arabica that was grown in Mexico.
Generally, the one thing all coffee has in common is the earthy but bitter taste. However, if the coffee is of good quality, you’ll find the sweetness and the bitterness of the java are balanced. Some kinds of coffee will have notes reminiscent of nuts and chocolate, while others, in particular lighter roasts, will taste more fruity.
Hot chocolate can taste slightly different depending on certain factors. Most chocolate is made from Forastero cocoa beans, which have the signature chocolate taste we’re all familiar with. Higher-end chocolate will be made from Criollo or Triniatiro beans, which have more complex flavors.
Whether you’re using white, milk, or dark chocolate will make a difference too. White chocolate will taste buttery and milky, while milk chocolate has more of that traditional chocolate flavor with notes of vanilla and caramelized sugar. Dark chocolate tends to be strong and bitter.
The type of chocolate used will influence the taste too. As cheaper powdered hot chocolate can sometimes have a grainy mouthfeel, melted chocolate or syrup will be richer and smoother.
How To Brew Coffee
There are also dozens of ways to brew coffee. You can save time in the morning and go for instant coffee or brew your favorite K-cup or Nespresso pod in a coffee machine. If you value the ritual, you can grind your coffee beans right before brewing and whip up a cup of Joe in an AeroPress, Moka pot, Hario, or French Press Or you can prepare a cold brew in the fridge overnight for a chilled drink.
There are different terms used to describe different brewing methods. For example, immersion brewing refers to brewing methods where the grounds are completely submerged in water, such as French press coffee. Infusion brewing entails having water flow through the grounds, and typically through a filter, like a drip coffee.
True espresso is considered to be a brewing method of its own, as the water is forced through the coffee grounds at high pressure.
Hot To Brew Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate is usually made from powdered cocoa and sweeteners. Many of these can be brewed just like instant coffee. You simply add the correct amount of hot chocolate powder and milk and stir well until the powder has dissolved.
Always read the instructions, as some brands will suggest dissolving the powder while the milk is heating on the stove.
Higher-end hot chocolates are made from solid chocolate, which you dissolve in warm milk over a stove. You can also use syrups for a quicker experience.
Health Benefits & Drawbacks
Coffee: Pros and Cons
Many people get an energy boost from drinking coffee. Thanks to its caffeine content, it increases alertness while reducing fatigue. Studies have shown caffeine coffee can increase dopamine levels.
A drink, like an espresso shot, provides a source of energy and acts as a pick-me-up. A certain amount of caffeine also blocks adenosine receptors in the brain. This prevents people from feeling tired.
The caffeine in coffee may help people lose weight. Studies have shown that caffeine can increase the number of calories that people burn by around 10%, in addition to helping burn fat.
On the other hand, there are also a few drawbacks to regular coffee consumption. These include:
- Studies have shown that too much caffeine can raise blood pressure.
- Some people become reliant on caffeine.
- Caffeine can cause insomnia and anxiety.
- After the caffeine wears off, you experience a “coffee crash.”
- Coffee may reduce iron absorption from food.
- Coffee can stain your teeth.
Of course, many of these side effects can be avoided by drinking decaf and avoiding drinking coffee at mealtimes. You might be interested in our round-up of the best decaf coffee beans.
Hot Chocolate: Pros & Cons
Hot chocolate is a beverage closely tied to the winter season. There are several health benefits of drinking hot chocolate as well. These include:
- Hot chocolate, particularly dark hot chocolate, is high in antioxidants such as polyphenols. These antioxidants can improve cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and reduce inflammation throughout the body.
- A hot chocolate mix can also reduce someone’s blood pressure by increasing levels of nitric oxide. This comes from flavanols that are found in cocoa beans.
However, most of these benefits are obtained from dark chocolate and hot cocoa. Hot chocolate tends to have more sugar and flavorings, which can counteract the health benefits. Here are some more disadvantages:
- Hot chocolate usually contains more calories than coffee drinks.
- A chocolate drink can stain your teeth.
- It has less caffeine.
- Normally not suitable for lactose intolerance or milk allergies.
Popularity And Consumption
Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Research found that three in four Americans drink coffee every day. Of the participants, almost 50% drank three to five cups daily.
Although coffee chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ are incredibly popular, most people make their coffee at home every day. Unsurprisingly, most participants, 68% at that, don’t drink decaf. So, it’s safe to say the caffeine boost is coffee’s biggest selling point.
As for hot chocolate, it’s not as popular as coffee or tea. A 2017 study found that only 14% of participants in the US drank cocoa or hot chocolate daily. Hot chocolate is also the top holiday drink for Americans, according to another survey.
How To Enjoy Coffee
Coffee is an incredibly versatile drink. Firstly, you can choose from Arabica, Robusta, or a blend of both, depending on the caffeine levels and flavors you want. Then you can select a roast from light to dark roast.
Each brewing method results in a different tasting profile. Plus, with creamers and flavored syrups, the options truly are endless.
How To Enjoy Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate is versatile, but not as much as coffee. You can choose from white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or a combination of all three. These days, ruby chocolate is growing in popularity too.
When your drink is ready, you can garnish it with whipped cream or marshmallows for a more decadent treat. Some people will also add additional flavors like peppermint syrup for a more complex drink.
When To Drink Coffee
You can drink coffee every day, but there are some things to keep in mind. Firstly, the caffeine content can make it hard to sleep, which is why many people will stop having caffeine after 3 PM to ensure it doesn’t disrupt their sleep schedule.
Although black coffee has no calories or sugar, most people don’t drink their coffee like this. While a splash of milk won’t make much of a difference to your diet, drinking three cups a day with several spoons of sugar will. Plus, while the likes of a cappuccino or latte are still somewhat light in calories and sugars, a mocha or frappe is closer to being a dessert.
When To Drink Hot Chocolate
Although hot chocolate tastes great, it’s not recommended to drink multiple cups a day. An average cup of hot chocolate contains 150 calories. Although it doesn’t seem like much, if you drink multiple cups a day, it would add up.
Plus, the higher sugar count would likely make you feel queasy. To reduce the sugar content, you could drink hot cocoa on a more regular basis, but it’s an acquired taste. Hot chocolate is best as a sweet treat on occasion.
The Final Word On Hot Chocolate Vs. Coffee
Although there are some advantages of drinking coffee and hot chocolate, such as the caffeine boost and potential health benefits, it’s easy to overdo it. However, these drinks are so versatile, especially coffee, that you’ll never get sick of it. Plus, no matter where your home barista skills are, there are simple and more complex methods for brewing these drinks so everyone can enjoy them.
Both coffee and hot chocolate taste great, but coffee is best for day-to-day to perk you up, while hot chocolate is a delicious sweet treat on occasion. Plus, there are more coffee choices, as you can find decaf and low-caf drinks, but decaf hot chocolate isn’t really an option.
With all that said, which of these drinks would you choose? If you liked this post, you might be interested in learning if you can use a milk frother to make hot chocolate.