After-dinner Coffee

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20th of March 2018

Most of us drink coffee in the morning to wake ourselves up. Right? Right. So why do some of us drink coffee after our evening meal, shortly before we go to bed? The Coffee Universe investigates.

First things first, let’s establish why we feel sleepy after our evening meal.

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It’s all down to blood sugar levels. See, humans often eat processed food that’s high in sugar. Our bodies have a surge in energy quickly followed by a dip. This can be combatted by eating more vegetables and whole grains during your meal – but instead of changing habits, many chose to fight the energy slump with coffee. Sip an espresso after a sugar-loaded meal and suddenly moods improve and tantalising after-dinner conversations can continue for hours beyond the final spoonful of dessert.

But what is the best kind of coffee to drink in the evening? Europeans tend to order short, sharp espresso after dinner. Why? Milky drinks like cappuccino are regarded as morning drinks, far too heavy and milky to be consumed with a full stomach. But espresso is a different story. It’s almost calorie-free and of course, it’s a tiny volume of liquid. And the benefits don’t stop there.

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Many believe it helps with digestion. Others claim it’s an appetite suppressant, therefore reducing the chance of snacking after a meal. Others say the bitterness of espresso contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the dessert, so perfectly rounds off a meal. That’s all true, but will it keep us awake?


Supporters of after-dinner coffee insist it makes little difference, reiterating the fact that a single espresso has less caffeine than some longer coffee drinks. And certainly, I’ve never heard of an insomnia epidemic in countries where the tradition (and coffee) is strongest – like Italy and France.

But not everyone agrees. Critics of the tradition say the caffeine in late-night coffee will delay sleep and even worse, can disrupt your internal body clock. Moreover, sleeping badly means you’ll wake up tired and drink more coffee to wake up, creating a vicious circle. Is decaffeinated coffee the answer?

Maybe for some, but I think the best solution is to experiment with your own body. Wait until midnight then be Italian – order yourself a short, sharp espresso then sit back and wait for results.

Insomnia or sleep?

Only time will tell.


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo  on Unsplash