The word “hack” has become so overused, but it’s the best way to describe quick improvements—and my coffee has been in desperate need of hacking. I have loved coffee since I was four (thanks to my dad, who would let me sneak a sip or two from his mug as a kid), but for many years I was stuck in a rut that didn’t make me productive or satisfied from drinking it. I would order the same expensive drinks over and over, or use the same coffee maker without much satisfaction, and still feel crashes and jitters afterward. I claimed to be a coffee lover, but I could never truly love it.
I have employed some tricks over the years that help me enjoy my coffee, save money, and avoid crashes—and they’re just too good not to share. Try them and feel that glorious caffeinated glow.
1. Cut the crap
I never knew how overloaded coffee could be until I worked at Starbucks. Requests for extra whip, five (or ten? OR FIFTEEN??) Splenda packets, far too many pumps of syrup, and entire cookies blended into Frappuccinos started taking their toll. (By the way, don’t ask for a cookie in your Frappuccino, unless your barista really likes you.) If you need all the extras in your coffee, does it even qualify as coffee anymore? Overloading on sugar and dairy not only costs you extra, but it will probably make you feel worse too.
My hardcore advice: keep your coffee plain. Ask for (or make) straight espresso or drip coffee, without all the fluff. It will shave off some calories and save you money—and if you can’t live without it, you might be better off drinking a milkshake and getting your caffeine fix elsewhere.
2. Coffee naps
In college, I segregated my napping and coffee-drinking rituals—big mistake. Usually I’d nap far too long, wake up groggy, and attempt to drink coffee, only to meet a lingering “weird” feeling in my head and gut. But then I found coffee naps, and my life changed forever.
Here’s how it works: 1) drink your coffee. 2) Lay down for a 20-ish minute nap. 3) Wake up caffeinated. You won’t fall victim to oversleeping or grogginess, and you don’t have to waste time brewing coffee when you should be working on homework or making a killer schedule for the week.
Yes! Butter! I hold back from blogging about it too much, but I’m a big believer in the Bulletproof Diet—and one of the most important aspects of that diet is incorporating butter into your coffee. Why? The really short story is that healthy fats, combined with the caffeine from your coffee, give you a crash-free energy boost.
Most Bulletproof coffee haters don’t like the butter-coffee combo because they use the wrong ingredients or preparation method. If you’re curious, follow the recipe here and enjoy this magic and delicious drink the right way (and find yourself even more productive after drinking coffee). Or, you know, just stick to whipped cream, cookie crumbles, and toffee nut syrup. You decide.
4. Throw out your coffee maker
I have used enough drip coffee makers and Keurig machines to fill a small appliance graveyard. Sure, they helped me make coffee quickly, but something always felt missing. My brew always seemed too watery and not flavorful enough—it finally hit me that I needed something stronger.
Stronger coffee requires different tools. Try a moka or french press, which will concentrate the coffee flavor without a hefty price tag; if you have the means, though, a push-button espresso machine can improve everything about your coffee drinking experience. Use espresso-style beans with these kinds of equipment, and you’ll improve the strength of your brew and eliminate waste from K-cups or paper filters. It’s a new experience if you come from a fluffy coffee background, but you can train yourself to enjoy it!
5. When you’re too lazy to brew: caffeine pills
I resisted caffeine pills for years because… I don’t know. It seemed like cheating or betrayal, I suppose. But I recently broke down and tried them when I was too lazy to wash my moka, and found them quite effective! If you do use this route, though, try splitting the pills the first few times to test your tolerance; it’s much easier to go overboard when they look so tiny.
Combining these methods has allowed me to hack my coffee drinking, feel more focused, and avoid those weird side effects that come with drinking it in a sub-optimal way. Now we can live happily ever after.