What Is Hard Coffee? Answered

What is hard coffee, and how can it affect your body? Read here to learn more about how hard coffee is different from other kinds of coffee.

In 2017, Japan and the United States were the leaders in the iced, ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee market. Japan took 18% of the global of iced RTD while the US’ production was 13%. A good percentage of these RTD coffee launches involve hard coffee, which is malt mixed with cold brew or coffee extract.

Hard coffee is a flavored malt beverage with a dash of coffee. It’s an alcoholic beverage, like hard seltzer and hard soda, but with caffeine. The most caffeine you’ll find in a ready-to-drink can of hard coffee is below 50mg.

Often, you’ll find hard coffee in RTD or ready-to-drink cans. What a hard cold brew taste differs per person. It generally tastes milky and sweet, but most importantly, boozy. There’s less space for the coffee to shine through among these flavours. Its taste will also differ depending on the brand you consume.

Read our guide to the best whiskey for Irish coffee, if you want to learn more about coffee and booze.

Challenges of Hard Coffee

What Is Hard Coffee?
Drinking too many cups or cans of hard coffee may boost your energy and leave you feeling buzzed mildly throughout the day

Unlike your regular cup of joe, hard coffee can be risky because it contains both alcohol and caffeine. Drinking too many cups or cans of hard coffee may boost your energy and leave you feeling buzzed mildly throughout the day. However, you can only have so much alcohol and caffeine in a day.

You might also be interested in our guide on what is Carajillo.

Four Loko’s Alcoholic Energy Drinks

On top of that, the FDA claimed that caffeine added to alcoholic beverages was an “unsafe” food additive. This judgment happened in 2010 with Four Loko, a “blackout-in-a-can” product that contained caffeine, malt liquor, guarana, and taurine. It had 12% alcohol and 156 milligrams of caffeine – the equivalent of four beers and two Red Bulls in one can.

The drink gave off a “wide-awake drunk” feeling, which made it a sought-after drink for high school and college students to battle against endless homework and exams. However, Four Loko consumption led to kids getting months-long hospital admissions. These cases and other reports of the beverage’s side effects later drove the Four Loko manufacturer to remove caffeine, guarana, and taurine from the formula.

The Outcome of the Four Loko Case

The Four Loko debacle is one popular example of how an alcoholic and caffeinated drink can impact your health. The good news is that hard coffee doesn’t have the same formula. RTD hard coffee also has less alcohol (5% only) and caffeine.

Manufacturers have ensured that hard coffee won’t cause extreme side effects. However, consumers also have a responsibility to drink these beverages moderately. When you drink hard coffee, ensure you’re not imbibing alone and drinking at a sensible rate.

The Best Time to Drink Hard Coffee

People usually drink coffee in the morning and throughout the rest of the day. The consumption of beer and other malt-based alcohols usually begins much later in the day, usually as a closer. Since it blends alcohol and coffee, where does the consumption time of hard coffee fall into the 24 hours?

Here’s the catch: you can look at hard coffee as a caffeine source or a mildly alcoholic beverage. So, there isn’t really a “best time” to drink it. Instead, the best time to drink hard coffee is whenever you want. As long as you do so in moderation.

Whether you need a mild pick-me-up after a drinking session or a relaxant, you decide when you want to drink hard coffee. You could have it for all-day occasions, like a wedding or vacation. You can also have it on mornings after a long celebratory night, specifically like Christmas morning, or on a night-in watching your favorite show on Netflix.

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FAQs About What is Hard Coffee

How does hard coffee differ from coffee liqueur?

When you compare their most basic concepts, coffee liqueur and hard coffee are very similar. However, hard coffee uses a malt base, while coffee liqueur is more flexible with the types of alcohol used.

What’s the difference between hard coffee and hard seltzers?

Hard seltzers are a mix of alcohol, sparkling water, and fruit flavoring. Hard coffee is a mix of alcohol, coffee or coffee flavors, and sugar.

Can I mix my own hard coffee?

While you’ll find many hard coffee brands in cans, you can also make your own hard coffee. After all, it’s essentially coffee plus malt liquor. To mix hard coffee, it’s best if you use dark spirits like whiskey, rum, and brandy with your iced coffee blend.


  • Maria Caballero

    Writer and coffee lover, Maria Caballero, is fond of visiting new cafes and trying current trends involving caffeine. She shares amusing experiences to fellow coffee enthusiasts who wants to explore the world of coffee.