Why are thousands of low-carb dieters dumping slabs of butter and coconut oil in their coffee?
Well it turns out this trend, started by Dave Asprey and Bulletproof Coffee, is about more than just a tasty morning treat.
Blend your coffee with just the right fats and you have something special: A beverage that’s satiating and energizing. A creamy latte that’s actually healthy. And something that is d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s (we’ll admit to having 3 or more in a single day).
It’s no wonder then that keto coffee (a more general name for fat-enhanced coffee) has become a go-to tool for people on the keto diet looking to jumpstart ketosis, enhance their physiques and energize their lives.
In this article we’ll cover what keto coffee is, where it came from, and why’d you’d be crazy not to start your day with a frothy cup of it. Enjoy!
Looking for a keto coffee recipe? Check out ours for the perfect cup.
Where did Keto (Bulletproof) Coffee come from anyway?
“I’m not feeling so hot,” Dave Asprey muttered as he scaled a remote mountainside in Tibet. What began as a pilgrimage to discover the meditative practices of Tibetan monks, had become an exhausting slog.
Temperatures were now 10 degrees below zero. His breath was short, and his brain was fogged. He was battling altitude – and the mountains were winning.
Seeking refuge, Asprey landed in a one-bedroom mud hut. “Try this,” a local Tibetan women said to him.
What followed was Asprey’s first sip of what would later become Bulletproof Coffee.. He drank it the way Tibetans had for thousand of years – pu-erh tea blended with yak butter.
“I felt a mental clarity come on,” recalls Asprey. Within 5 minutes he could feel warmth and energy return to his body. He was renewed. And this curious beverage was to thank.
He returned to the States inspired and tested 100 versions over a 7-year period before publishing the first official recipe online in 2010.
The moment Jimmy Fallon declared “It’s the most delicious thing ever” on the Tonight Show in October 2015, Bulletproof had come of age. It was mainstream. And the revolution was upon us.
Now 4 years into it, the jury is still out on Asprey’s claims.
Has Asprey created a performance-enhancing, mind-expanding drink that has forever ended Wheaties’ 60-plus year run as the “Breakfast of Champions”?
Or has he promoted a fad for people to feel good about guzzling saturated fats in search of a guilt-free Frappuccino?
Intrigued ourselves, we embarked on a journey to find out.
Our journey involved hundreds of tastings, superhuman mornings, the brink of caffeine overload, and yes… a few hurried trips to the bathroom.
And we discovered Asprey might be onto something...
What is Keto Coffee?
Keto Coffee is simply black coffee mixed with nutritious fats. The fats you’ll usually see are:
- Grass-fed butter
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil (an extract of coconut oil)
These fats supercharge your body’s ketone production and get you into ketosis. Medium-chain-triglycerides (MCTs) – for reasons we’ll cover later – promote ketosis better than any other known fat.
Isn’t Black Coffee Keto?
Black coffee, strictly speaking, is keto. Er rather it won’t kick you out of ketosis.
A cup of black coffee has 2 calories and zero carbs. You can drink as many cups as your nerves can handle.
But it won’t get you into ketosis like keto coffee can.
Benefits of Keto Coffee
Here are just a few science-backed reasons to drink Keto Coffee every morning:
- Fat loss. MCTs are less likely to be stored as fat as long-chain triglycerides. This means higher energy expenditure and decreased fat tissue.
- Improved energy levels. Fats slow the absorption of caffeine and give you a smooth energy profile. This is because caffeine binded to water releases instantly (your energy rush). Caffeine binded to fat releases slowly through the day (your reserve).
- Cognitive enhancement. Ketones produced from MCT’s rapidly cross the blood-brain barrier and fuel your brain. Caffeine is also a brain-booster, and been shown to increase alertness and performance.
What's in Keto Coffee?
You’ve heard “you are what you eat.” Well we can take it further and say, “you are what what you eat, eats.”
It’s a proven fact that butter from grass-fed cows is more nutritious than butter from grain-fed cows.
High in antioxidants and heart-healthy vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E, and K.
High in Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s like EPA and DHA are essential for brain and heart function. They are also lacking in the Standard American Diet (SAD).
- Great source of Butyrate. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid with anti inflammatory and metabolic-boosting properties. Butter is a great natural source – after all, butyrate gets its name from the Greek word βούτῡρον, which means butter.
Kerrygold is our go-to option for affordable grass-fed butter.
Coconut oil is oil extracted from the meat of a coconut. It has a pleasant, sweet flavor and aroma.
There are over 1,600 studies on the health qualities of coconut oil in animals and humans. Here's what they show:
Lower inflammation. Coconut oil has been shown to reduce inflammation and even treat arthritis more effectively than standard medications.
Immune system boost. Coconut oil is a powerful antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal substance.
Improved digestion. The fats in coconut oil enhance digestion of fat-soluble vitamins, calcium, and magnesium. One study even showed omega-3 fatty acid digestion was twice as effective when consumed with coconut oil.
- Improve skin health. It’s anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties make it great for skin and hair health.
Many of these health benefits are because of a unique class of fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s). Coconuts have the highest concentration of naturally occuring MCTs:
Why are MCTs the secret weapon of the keto diet? We’ll discuss that next.
MCTs get their name from the length of their carbon chain. The chemical structure of Caproic acid, an MCT with 10 carbons.
According to scientists, carbon lengths of 6 to 12 are MCTs. That gives us 4 MCTs:
Caproic acid (C6). Caproic acid is the smallest, and makes ketones (energy) the fastest. That’s the good. The bad is caproic acid has an unpleasant taste (according to Dave Asprey it tastes like “goat”...) and creates a tingly, burning sensation in the throat. It can also cause digestive issues. Coconut oil only contains ~1% of C6, hardly enough to notice.
Caprylic acid (C8). Caprylic acid is the next most efficient MCT and comes without any of C6’s side effects. Because of this, it is the most prized of the bunch. It also comes with the price tag to prove it. Bulletproof’s Brain Octane Oil is pure C8, retailing at $23.50 for a 16 oz bottle. Coconut oil contains ~7% C8.
Capric acid (C10). Capric acid is also an efficient energy source along with few side effects. It is not as energizing as it’s C8 cousin, but its cheaper. Bulletproof sells Capric acid as their XCT Oil for $15.50. Coconut oil is ~8% C10.
- Lauric acid (C12). Lauric acid is the least efficient MCT. Folks even question whether is should be called an MCT (more on that next). Coconut oil is over 50% C12.
MCTs are made from natural sources like coconut and palm. Manufacturers use steam distillation to extract the individual compounds. Most MCTs you’ll find are a mixture of C8 and C10.
You’ll easily find MCT supplements available as a liquid or powder.
The MCT magic comes from how they digest in your body. Most fats go through a long process.
MCTs go straight to your liver. There they quickly convert to ketones.
This speed is why you might feel energized and mentally sharp after taking MCTs.
Coconut or MCT?
Many coconut oils are marketed as “a great naturally occuring source of MCTs.” Coconut oil, they claim, contains 60+% of MCTs.
Why then bother with chemically-extracted MCTs when you can have the real thing, right from the Earth?
Well it turns out not all MCTs are created equal...
Over 50% of coconut oil is made up of Lauric acid (C12, you’ll recall). Lauric acid is too large to travel directly to the liver for ketone production like it’s C8 and C10 cousins. It’s stuck going through that 26-step process...
How then can coconut oil marketers get away with this? Ultra-athlete and keto enthusiast Ben Greenfield explains:
Chemists counted the number of carbon chains and arbitrarily decided what was medium. So lauric acid is a chemical MCT but it is not a true biological MCT.
This is why you’ll see Bulletproof claim pure MCTs oil is 4 times as effective as coconut oil.
Is coconut oil useless for keto coffee then? No way! It promotes a healthy immune system and microbiome.
It’s also delicious with a sugar-free sweetness.
Our take – get the best of both worlds. MCT for energy. Coconut oil for flavor.
Salt or no salt?
The official Bulletproof recipe denounces salt in your keto coffee. “Salty coffee is gross coffee,” they say.
We think otherwise.
We’ve found salt pairs well with flavorful fats in Keto Coffee.
The keto diet – especially in the beginning – drains the body of water, salt, and electrolytes. This causes the keto flu. A little salt in your coffee helps maintain your electrolyte balance.
We’ve found salt pairs well with flavorful fats in Keto Coffee. Just be careful – salt is really easy to overdo.
The Coffee. Acidity is everything.
Many factors contribute to the perfect coffee. Coffee roasting is the difference between grapes at the grocery store and the millenia-old wine making craft.
Coffees from Central America – think Colombia and Guatemala – tend to have a more mild flavor. You get chocolate, caramel notes. Most of the keto-marketed coffees, like Bulletproof’s Upgraded Coffee, are sourced from these regions.
There is another region we think doesn’t get near enough attention when it comes to keto coffee. And that’s Africa.
African coffees – like those from Kenya and Ethiopia – have a bolder, earthier taste. They tend to have a fruity, berry notes. They also pack a tomato-like acidity.
Sommeliers have known for centuries that fat and acidity pair well. Acidic food and drinks have a way of cancelling out that “greasy” mouthfeel from fatty foods. It’s why you eat wine with cheese. It’s why a lime squeeze makes a taco so darn tasty.
We’ve tested coffees from virtually every growing region with the classic keto coffee fats. Brazil, Sumatra, Burundi, you name it. And for our money, no coffee shines through the fats and retains its character like the African coffees. Give it a try!
What about instant coffee?
Bulletproof claims instant coffee can’t be used in keto coffee preparation. We disagree.
Making keto coffee is way easier without the brewing step. Keurig and Starbucks prove the effort American’s will go through to avoid having to brew their own cup of joe.
If we could just find a premium instant coffee – one that didn’t taste like that bitter sludge gulped down on camping trips – then we’d be set. We’d be one step closer to making keto living convenient.
So we ordered every instant coffee we could find online. We ended up with over 23 coffees to try. Yes, lots of over-caffeinated mornings.
And one thing was clear after our tests: Instant coffee has come a long way. A few inspiring entrepreneurs are changing the way the world thinks about instant coffee.
The good ones we’re told, can retain 96% of the coffee’s original flavor and nuance through the process. Don’t believe us? Try these:
Swift Cup Coffee. These guys are our favorite by far. Try their coffee side-by-side with a Blue Bottle pour over. Betcha can’t tell the difference…
Sudden Coffee. Sudden was founded by the former #9 ranked barista in the world. They’ve got the lion share of the buzz and their coffee is pretty good. They offer one variety – a Colombia origin – and sell only via subscription.
- Parlor Coffee. Solid coffee all around. Actually made by Swift Cup.
What about Mycotoxins?!
There is a dirty little secret in the coffee industry that they don’t want you to know…
Over 75% of the coffee you drink is poisoned with microscopic mold – called Mycotoxins. These buggers do more than make your coffee bitter. They put your brain in a daily fog.
All this, according to Dave Asprey.
But is it true?
While a great marketing ploy to sell “upgraded coffee,” evidence is mounting that this is all B.S. Gizmodo exposed the claims:
“For starters, while mycotoxins can grow on coffee beans, the coffee industry has known about this for decades. This is why wet-processing was developed; a technique employed by nearly every roaster in the world, wherein the beans are washed, and nearly all mycotoxins are eliminated.”
Asprey v. Science came to a head on a Joe Rogan podcast back in 2014. Asprey used Rogan’s platform, which included millions of listeners – and the biohacking type – to extol the virtues of mycotoxin-free coffee. Rogan’s site was selling Asprey’s Bulletproof coffee at the time.
Rogan decided to take a closer look. He spent $4,000 testing his promoted Caveman Coffee, Bulletproof’s Upgraded Coffee, and two other mass-market coffees for Mycotoxins.
The result? None tested positive.
A separate test run found Caveman Coffee was mycotoxin-free and Asprey's Bulletproof coffee tested positive for 2 mycotoxins.
Oh the irony.
Our take: forget the mycotoxins, and focus on delicious, high-quality coffee.
And if this all sounds like a lot of work…
We get it. Making Keto Coffee every day can be a big pain. Starbucks doesn’t sell it, and Whole Foods or Bulletproof will charge you $6 a cup or more.
If you're looking for a convenient, delicious Keto Coffee solution, then try our instant all-in-one Keto Coffee. Each single-serve packet delivers 16 g of nutritious fats and an uncompromising coffee experience. Just add hot water.
Once you experience the decadent flavor and hours of clean, lasting energy from a fat-fueled keto coffee – there’s just no going back.
Ben & Brandon
Disclaimer: This website provides general information and discussions about health, nutrition and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Ben & Brandon are not doctors, registered dieticians or registered nutritionists.