How Long Does it Take for a Cup of Coffee to Kick in?

We have all seen the memes about how badly coffee lovers need coffee in the morning. If your schedule has you questioning whether getting out of bed is worth it, it might be time for you to join the coffee nation. And the first step in becoming a consummate consumer is knowing how soon the drink will take its effect.

It takes a cup of coffee, 15 minutes to kick in, and 45 more minutes to deliver the peak state of alertness. Do not go for the second cup immediately, even if you don’t feel fully awake after the first cup. You’ll feel your focus and energy rise up to four hours after finishing your coffee.

In this article, you will discover the three different stages of coffee’s kick. This will allow you to space your coffee consumption to be healthy and practical. Moreover, you’ll find out about the pros and cons of drinking multiple cups of coffee. Summing it up, we will look at how coffee fares against energy drinks like RedBull.

The initial kick – 15 minutes in

Depending on how much sugar there is in your coffee, you’re bound to feel a renewed sense of alertness within 15 minutes of consuming coffee. Since hot coffee takes around 15 minutes to finish, the timing works out. However, the initial kick isn’t as effective as the peak alertness state, which comes much later.

Caffeine High – 1 hour in

You may know people who drink two cups of coffee back to back. Usually, the rationale behind such consumption is to keep having coffee until one’s in a peak state of alertness. Ironically, the chain drinkers would reach this level even if they stopped after having one cup. The time between finishing your first cup of coffee and reaching the one-hour mark features an exponential increase in alertness.

Caffeine crash – 4 hours in

Usually, after four hours of consuming your first cup of caffeine, you experience mental fatigue from prolonged alertness. This is where you might experience a caffeine crash. That said, a caffeine crash isn’t real in the sense that a sugar crash is. 

There’s surely a caffeine deficit if consuming coffee becomes a part of your daily routine and you skip it, but you do not experience a sudden drop in alertness after caffeine is out of your system. What usually happens is that caffeine’s diuretic nature dehydrates you, and the lack of water can make you drowsy. However, this is often referred to as caffeine crash despite not being accurate.

How many cups of coffee can I have in a day?

Now that you know how long caffeine can keep you alert, you might wonder whether you can jump from cup to cup for the entire day. There’s some risk in going for this strategy as it can make you quite dependent on caffeine. Still, it is practical for most coffee lovers to have more than one cup.

You can have 3 cups of coffee as an adult and experience little to no side effects. However, consuming more than 4 cups of coffee will lead to negative effects that can overshadow the benefits of consuming coffee. Try to have 3 cups or less and space your coffee consumption to avoid dehydration.

Pros of having multiple cups of coffee

  • Assisted alertness – Work days rarely last 12 hours, and if you space your coffee cups 4 hours apart from each other, you can go up to half a day with caffeine-assisted alertness. Many corporate employees use multiple cups of coffee to remain focused throughout the day.
  • Reasons to take a break – Coffee is more than a beverage; it is a subculture. Even within a single office, the divide between coffee lovers and those who don’t drink coffee is quite obvious. Having multiple cups will allow you to take breaks throughout your workday.
  • Healthy heart and gut – Coffee does wonders for a healthy heart. Even if you don’t consume coffee for cardiac health, it can help control hunger, maintain decent blood pressure, and improve metabolic activity. However, none of these apply if you do not hydrate properly after having coffee.

Cons of having multiple cups of coffee

  • Calorie overload – Unless you have your coffee black and without sugar, you’re going to add on more calories with each cup. In that context, more cups equals more calories.
  • Caffeine overdose – As mentioned earlier, 3 cups should be the upper limit of your coffee consumption, especially if you like your coffee strong. If you end up having more coffee, you might experience symptoms of caffeine overdose.
  • Dehydration loop – You may have noticed that drinking coffee can make you thirsty. That’s because coffee dehydrates the body, putting a water-consumption burden that many coffee drinkers do not meet. If you fail to offset your coffee consumption with an appropriate level of hydration, you’ll feel drowsy because of dehydration. Having more coffee to feel alert will lead to further dehydration and drowsiness.
  • Anxiety – Depending on how long you have been having coffee, if you increase your intake beyond what your body is accustomed to, you might end up feeling anxious. This can trigger cortisol release, which can further damage your health.

Coffee vs. Energy Drinks: what kicks in faster?

When it comes to wake-me-up drinks, coffee and energy drinks like Redbull go head to head. Both of these contain similar levels of caffeine but trigger alertness differently. If you haven’t fully committed to one or the other, you might want to know which one kicks in faster.

Energy drink kicks in faster at 10 minutes, while coffee takes 5 more minutes for the initial hint of focus and energy. Coffee, however, has a sustainable peak, while an energy drink leads to a more immediate crash. Energy drinks are also carbonated and are not friendly to your stomach.

Final Thoughts

Coffee takes 15 minutes to kick in, while energy drinks take 5 minutes less. Overall, energy drinks should be kept for the rare occasion when you really need a caffeine high alongside a sugar rush. Coffee is comparatively healthier for long-term use, even if it doesn’t make you feel the same instant rush. Remember, if you get hooked on coffee, you’ll be able to make it at home and save money. Once you’re addicted to energy drinks, you do not have the budget option.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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