The Coffee and Energy Drink Double Standard


Often energy drink fans complain that there is a huge double standard when it comes to energy drinks.

Coffee that is actually more caffeinated is praised.

Energy drinks are demonized.

Why is this and are there any reasons energy drinks should be treated differently than the “original energy drink” coffee?

A Perfect Example of This Phenomenon

Top Sail High School in North Carolina, USA opened a student run campus coffee shop, where students can get coffee before and after school.

This is a great way for students to learn about business, economics, making coffee, customer service, cooking etc. but could you imagine what would have happened if the students wanted to open an energy drink stand before or after school?

Energy drinks have been banned from most school campuses, yet in this case, coffee is viewed as perfectly acceptable for teens.

As our caffeine database shows, ounce per ounce coffee has more caffeine. For instance:

  • A fluid ounce of typical  filter coffee has 18mg of caffeine.
  • A fluid ounce of a typical Rockstar or Monster has 10mg of caffeine.
  • Take a look at Starbucks caffeine and you see a fluid ounce of their brew has 22.5mg of caffeine.

Are There Other Factors Besides Caffeine?

Unfortunately for energy drink fans, there are some legitimate reasons why coffee and energy drinks are not treated equally.

While coffee does have more caffeine than energy drinks, it’s how the caffeine is delivered that seems to be at issue.

  1. Energy drinks have very little long-term safety research behind them, while coffee has been used for centuries and has been extensively researched over the last 100 years.
  2. Energy drinks are more than just caffeine, but a combination of caffeine, amino acids, vitamins, and often herbs.
  3. Energy drinks are often high in sugar, while even sweetened coffee would contain less. A Monster Energy Drink has 54 grams of sugar, which is equal to 13.5 teaspoons!
  4. Coffee is an all natural beverage, while energy drinks are often laden with artificial preservatives, flavors, and dyes.
  5. Coffee is sipped, while energy drinks tend to be consumed quickly thus delivering their dose of caffeine quicker.
  6. Energy drinks are sweet and often fruit flavored, which appeals more to children and teens than does often bitter tasting coffee.
  7. Energy drinks have generated an ever growing list of overdose cases leading to hospitalization and even some deaths. Coffee, historically, has very few of these occurrences.

Therefore, energy drinks can’t really be viewed with the same lens as we would coffee, since essentially, they are two completely different beverages.

The Media Shouldn’t Sensationalize

We always have to remember that the media is driven by viewers/readership and to get this, they usually dramatize and sensationalize just about all news stories.

This is true with energy drinks as well. There are actually very few people that have or have had negative health consequences from drinking energy drinks, although, most media outlets would want us to believe it is a common occurrence.

We believe education is key when it comes to energy drink consumption. There is more benefit to teaching consumers how to drink energy drinks responsibly than there is demonizing them.

Often what we adults forbid and protest actually becomes even more appealing to the very ones we are trying to protect.

What do you think? Have energy drinks been judged unfairly?  

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  • Frank Ly

    Lori, you’re a dummy. You think vitamin overdose is the problem? Please stop commenting. On anything. Ever.

    The problem is the chemicals they use to get flavor. Sure, sugar is a problem too, but the chemicals are more of a problem.

    Coffee is a bean from a plant. Picked while it’s green, roasted, then ground up and steeped in hot water. Comparing that raw form of coffee to an energy drink is like comparing apples to Chevrolets.

    The real problem is: why do kids need so much extra energy? They’re kids … they’re supposed to have ample amounts of energy to get them through the day. Maybe it’s the terribly boring curriculum learning unnecessary things all day and then expecting them to go home and do MORE work? Can’t kids be kids at all? Let’s make their day entertaining and fun instead of boring and arduous.

  • Anon

    Coffee’s just ‘cleaner’ in my eyes.One serving of coffee? 5 calories and not many things in the ingredients list. A regular energy drink? 100+ calories, a bunch of additives, and sometimes so much caffeine they warrant warning labels.

  • As far as the coffee vs energy drink debate, I think this study by Penn State highlights a lot of the different ways different age groups are getting caffeine. Surprise, more minors get caffeine from soda than from any other source, and the minors that DO drink caffeine aren’t getting as much as the news makes it seem. I think caffeine in minors is a problem, but are we focusing on the right solution?

  • sherlock

    I have never in my life heard comebody tell someone else to “slam” an energy drink, i am a 19 y/o college student and havent once heard that before, you hot drink/cold drink argument is interesting to think about though,

  • gabriel

    I agree with the thing about heat. Its no different. I usually get iced coffee and when i do I tend to drink it very fast. But. When I drink an energy drink i drink it slow anyways. I don’t see a difference.

  • norsequeen

    I drink both, although I actually *like* coffee & the flavor of very strong coffee, so the only times I drink the coffee energy drinks is when I’m on a trip & can’t get decent coffee. Very seldom I drink them at home to wake up, just because I like the flavor. And the sugar, of course!!! I’ve noticed lately that some of the companies who make the coffee energy drinks have discontinued all but the flavored ones, like mocha & vanilla, etc. One of my favorites stopped making their Latte one & switched to Caramel. I suppose I might drink 12 of these in a year, & I do miss the actual coffee-flavored ones. But most people don’t like the taste of coffee anymore. When ask them what they get at Starphuck’s. they generally tell me about all the milk & syrups they get in it. S they drink 1 oz. of coffee in a 16 oz drink. Bah!!!

  • JC1983

    “A regular energy drink? 100+ calories, a bunch of additives, and sometimes so much caffeine they warrant warning labels.”

    Energy drinks have LESS CAFFEINE than coffee! Did you even just read the article? sigh…smh

  • Traven Crosby

    Lol franky ur the dumb one. Yes it is the vitamins. Spacificaly vitiamin B3(niacin). The maximum tolarated B3 someone is reconended a day is 35mg. A 16oz Monster has 40mg of B3, so drinking one 16oz Monster already puts u over the limit for the day. Symptoms of to much vitamin B3 is blured vision,flushing, itching, nervousness and headaches to intestinal cramps, nausea, and gout, abnormal heart rhythms and worsening of stomach ulcers have also been reported with very high doses of supplemental vitamin B3.

  • Swag

    Specifically* learn to spell “dummy”

  • Hipart

    I had a venti filter coffee at the Starbucks. I almost died back that day. I don’t know how much caffeine were there, but it was shock to me. But personally I stick to my home brew coffee. I prefer coffee, because it is simple and natural, it grows in the fields. Energy drinks? It is a drink made in the lab. More chemicals in it. Definitely. I like both, but prefer coffee. I prefer my coffee strong and black, without sugar, that’s why I get twisted while drinking Energy drinks that are heavy on sugar.

  • Joseph Lieberman

    keep in mind the caffeen in energy drinks is “Cracked” caffeine, this is chemicaly pure caffeine added to the drink,,, if you removed the caffeine from coffee and then added the same amount back to it,,, it would Not be the same it would be more intense,,,,

  • Sarah Speed

    An essential amino acid is actually defined as an amino acid that you MUST obtain from your diet as the body does not naturally produce it. The way you say “not an essential one, but the body does produce it” makes it seem as though you misuderstand this concept and think and “essential” amino acid is a necessary one. All amino acids are necessary.

  • Michael Byte

    The reason you mention are alright. But everytime someone sees me with a red bull, they mention “Do you know how much caffeine this has?”. Yeah, a bit less or more than a regular coffee, depending how you brew it. And I remind them that I would be more concerned about the sugar. But this has stuck in people’s mind, because someone heard something from someone else and they are just perpetuating the myth, like that red bull has 10x the caffeine which is absolute bollocks.

    It really goes like this: If something is not common, like nobody here drinks red bull except me, it’s gonna alert people and then they have to say why it’s bad from what they hear, perpetuating the same myths. Even the sugar in one can is a bit less than coca cola sugar but people drink coca cola and it’s considered common anymore. Maybe unhealthy, but seems less unhealthy than red bull, because red bull is new and seems more unnatural and it “must not be good”. Or the other joke, you get a fruity juice and you are like “come on! Fruits! Juice! Natural! Healthy!” but then the sugar in it can be just as red bull.

    I know, I am very curious and critical about how society perpetuate myths, people have idea about normal/natural or unnatural/abnormal, and how these are not based on reality but on what we feels is the obvious/common as we got used to it.

    I know I am doing bad with red bull and it’s the added sugar (which I should also be careful in other foods no matter how “natural” they look) rather than caffeine. I tried to replace some of my red bull with regular coffee, at least to avoid sugar which might be a vice for me. It’s more like I want to drink something in the morning to start up.

    But I like to separate facts from myths. Afterall, the amounts of sugar, caffeine and other stuff are written in the back of the can. Did nobody check it when they spread the 10x myth?

  • Michael Byte

    That’s awesome!

  • Ted

    The myth started a while ago when Red Bull and other companies didn’t disclose their caffeine content on the can but hid the amount in their proprietary blend. They should have been straight forward from the beginning, but I totally agree that most of the news reports about energy drinks are full of factual errors on caffeine amount, which still perpetuates the myth.

  • no

    i drink mtn dew like 100 timez a dae and i nevir dye!!

  • Jucko

    Niacin overdose is hard to accomplish, if you drink 5 Monsters per day you’ll get other issues before you get struck by a Niacin overdose. Matter of fact, Niacin is prescribed in 100 mg capsules for high cholesterol. So yes, you are the dumb one. No, it isn’t the vitamins.

  • Jucko

    Just wait until you have finals, you’ll slam them left and right

  • Jucko

    It’s not a double standard. Coffee has more caffeine, and is natural. Energy drinks are usually 6 oz’s larger, have less caffeine, have lots of sugar, and are not natural.

  • Chris

    are you a physician, physiologist, or biochemist?

Last Modified: September 11, 2014