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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  • Chris Sale

    Totally agree: the issue isn’t that Red Bull etc is the same as sweet coffee. It’s all the other ingredients AND that people drink lots of them AND often with alcohol AND at night (i.e when the body really doesn’t appreciate loads of caffeine)

  • Peter Smythe

    How would it be more intense? Would it be absorbed more quickly? More efficiently?

  • I’m In Tech

    This doesn’t seem to take into account that coffee is consumed several times throughout the day (not to mention the assload of creamers and sweeteners even the average person puts into their coffee), while energy drinks discourage you from having more than one can. They’re actually meant to be a pick-me-up, not a constant means of a high like coffee is to most people who drink it. I don’t think I know a single coffee drinker who doesn’t get more than one cup a day, usually in quick succession after their first.

  • Megan

    I’m guilty of drinking both. And far too much of it. I’ve recently quit drinking energy drinks and I’m on day 4 of having a migrain. Before I would drink a half a pot of coffee and drink 2 amps throughout my shift at work. I believe energy drinks are a Hell of a lot worse. Although coffee has more caffeine, it doesn’t have near the amount of sugar and added ingredients that are hard on your body.

  • Renea Jenika Mahon

    As a student barely surviving medical school, i’ve consumed both…when i drink coffee for extended periods of time i feel sick/upset, weak and very disoriented with severely increased heart rate. However, when i drink a monster, there is diff. an increase in my heart rate but without the added symptoms of coffee.

  • Raph

    That may be the point… you get more caffeine with cofee…so more side effects

  • Raph

    THAT IS JUST BULLCRAP. Caffeine is measured in lab, and caffeine… drum roll, is caffeine, artificial or not, they measure the same thing when they measure the dosage. DUH

  • Renea Jenika Mahon

    Exactly my point, but everyone (including my parents and bf) insists that coffee is the better option and that energy drinks will kill me.

  • Joseph Lieberman

    Yes quicker faster uptake into the body. The same thing happens with “lite” cigarettes. They crack out the natural nicotine and tar,, then they put back the nicotine.
    When a person smokes these cracked cigarettes, even though the nicotine level can be half of normal,, they are more than twice as addictive…
    Same thing happens when enjoying beverages with added caffeine. Always more addictive than just natural caffeine (not added to the product)

  • Joseph Lieberman

    They never measure how quickly the caffeine is absorbed even when testing on bulls and their crap

  • Ted

    Coffee is a healthier choice, but an energy drink a day won’t kill you. This is media sensationalism.

  • Renea Jenika Mahon

    I know it wouldn’t. The only way i see coffee being better is based on it’s lack of carbonation

  • Nolita Wineman

    where did you find the # of mg in 16oz of Monster? it’s not listed on the label.

    you mentioned herbs as if none contain caffeine. a single dose of guarana contains more caffeine than a cup of coffee.

    ginseng can cause issues on it’s own. it also amplifies the effect of caffeine.

    taurine and niacin while not herbs, improve focus.

    energy drinks work for some people and that’s great. but if you break it down ~ they’re designed in a way that can make them easier to overdose on them than on coffee.

  • Nolita Wineman

    are you sure that you shouldn’t avoid energy drinks as well?

    sensitivities can get worse over time.

  • Monster Freak

    at the very bottom of the Nutrition Facts…. under Caffeine from all sources… mine has 160mg in the can. i love the stuff but watch how much caffeine from EVERYTHING i drink i get more from the 3 sodas I drink then i do from my daily Monster

  • Brandon Schofield

    you do realize that your body can only absorb so much of any given vitamin, the rest is excreted through urination.

  • Cannash

    Silly people are debating between coffee and energy drinks in this comments section… unsweetened black tea, and possibly yerba mate, are the way to go for caffeination.

  • ItchyTasty

    I used to consume energy juice and coffee heavily when I was a student. I can tell you both are bad if abused. Caffeine abuse is obviously dangerous, no Matter where you are getting it from. Moderation is key with this one, if you consume too much of either drinks you will have negative health effects. I used to drink 3 cans of rockstar per day because I abused it I started noticing bad aide effects, nerve related issues and burning sensation occasional over my legs and elevated heart rate. I stopped all that years again but yes I agree in moderation is okay for both drinks, but if you done what I did when I was younger than you’re going to have negative effects.
    The deaths attributed to energy juice (much like some drugs) are due to the fact of overdosing or abusing it (adding to alcohol or over indulgence). A close family friend just died two weeks ago and he was only 20, he had a fatal heart attack due to drinking energy juice all the time. He was a student and done gaming as a profession (as in payed) so he was always at college or tournaments and was always drinking can upon can every day, somd days he would even take pro plus (caffeine tablets) to give himself the energy amd stimulated egde. He never died because of energy juice and only energy juice, he died because he was abusing it and wasn’t using as part of a healthy lifestyle, much how I was when I was younger.

    Morally of the story, be careful with caffeine no matter where it’s from and try to stay healthy!

  • Demosthenes

    Niacin is used to lower cholesterol {no reactions with caffeine} and taurine helps regulate the water and minerals in the blood{also no reactions with caffiene}. One dose of guarana has about 100mg of caffeine in it. Its the 54g of sugar that entices peoples minds and bodies to buy more energy drinks.

  • Wanderlust

    I buy the zero calorie/sugar, not that artificial sweeteners are any better. I drink either coffee or Monster in the a.m. I can say that I get more of a jolt from coffee most of the time than I do Monster but I tend to drink coffee more in the fall / winter.

    While mentioning that people sip coffee and drink energy drinks quicker, that’s not particularly the case with iced coffee and a straw.

Last Modified: September 11, 2014