Coffee is probably one of the most widespread drinks in the world, but despite that it does have some properties that some people find repelling.
Coffee has a bitter taste, especially if it’s the dark, heavily roasted kind like most Starbucks coffees. On top of that, some people have a genetic predisposition that amplifies bitter tastes.
That being said, there are a few ways that reduce the bitter taste of coffee:
- Focus on coffee varieties that are light roasted, since they are much less bitter and more flavorful.
- Use creams, milk or almond milk to hide the bitterness. Sugars and syrups add flavor, but don’t cover the bitterness.
- Avoid cheap office coffee and experiment with coffees from small, independent coffee shops.
Another common issue with coffee is that some people get a bad stomach after drinking, or just the fact that they don’t like the typical coffee energy rush and crash.
Below you’ll find one section with coffee varieties that don’t taste as bitter as traditional coffee, and another section with viable alternatives to coffee that still have caffeine for that much needed energy boost.
Coffee variations for people who don’t like traditional coffee
Frappuccino’s is an iced coffee invented and sold by Starbucks. Its base is usually made from actual coffee, however the bitter taste is covered by lots of syrups, whipped cream, milk and spices.
If you want to order an actual coffee from Starbucks, without it tasting like coffee, then a Frappuccino is a good choice.
On top of that, Starbucks usually offers a ton of variations on Frappuccinos.
Calorie contents: 300-450 depending on variation.
Caffeine content: 90-150 milligrams of caffeine.
A staple of most coffee shops, a frappe is kind of like a coffee milkshake. It is made from instant coffee blended and mixed with ice, with added toppings such as cream, milk, sugar, vanilla etc.
The instant coffee and ice mix does a lot to smoothen and eliminate a lot of the bitter taste of coffee, while still classifying the drink as a coffee.
Calorie content: 200-350 calories depending on size.
Caffeine content: 90-150 milligrams depending on size.
Essentially hot chocolate mixed with espresso coffee (a type of concentrated coffee). Most mocha lattes have a sweet, chocolatey taste but with a pleasant bitter aftertaste (think dark chocolate).
Depending on how the mocha latte is made, it can taste like very, very dark chocolate or just regular dark chocolate.
They’re pretty easy to make so each coffee shop has its own unique recipe. Sometimes they add more coffee, sometimes more chocolate, other times more spices, syrups, or unique ingredients etc.
Calorie content: 200-350 calories depending on size.
Caffeine content: ~150 milligrams.
Cold brewed coffees
A cold brewed coffee is a kind of ice coffee, where coffee grounds are drenched in ice cold water for 12-24 hours, and then strained.
The problem with cold brewed coffee however is that, depending on the recipe, it can either be just as bitter as regular coffee or be a very smooth, far less bitter type of coffee compared to traditional brewed coffee.
If you want to order one, ask the coffee shop if their coffee is of the less bitter/concentrated kind. They may even offer to add milk, cream and other spices to flavor it up and mellow down on the coffee concentration.
The nice part about cold brewed coffee is that you can adjust how much water you add, to make your coffee either softer or more concentrated.
Calorie content: 0 calories if just coffee and ice.
Caffeine content: ~200 mg of caffeine per 16 ounces (473 mL)
Lattes and cappuccinos
Lattes and cappuccinos are very similar types of coffee drinks. Both involve one or two shots of espresso (concentrated coffee), over which the barista adds milk and then cream or foam.
The difference between them is that a cappuccino is usually 50% espresso and 50% milk and foam, while a latte is about 33% espresso and 66% milk and foam.
Thus, if you want a softer type of coffee, a latte is a better choice. If you’re ok with a more bitter coffee, go with cappuccinos instead.
Calorie contents in latte coffees: ~200 calories for 16 oz/500 mL.
Calorie contents in cappuccino coffees: ~150 calories for 16 oz/500 mL.
Caffeine content: 150-250 milligrams for 16 oz/500 mL.
Try Light roasted coffee varieties
Coffees are generally categorized depending how well roasted they are: light, medium and dark roasts.
Light roasts are the most flavorful types of coffee, with the highest concentration of caffeine. Most importantly, light roasts are the least bitter varieties of coffee.
However, light roasts are the most acidic types of coffee, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your preferences.
Dark roasted varieties of coffee are the most bitter and have that typical, ashy taste you might associate with coffee.
If you’ve tried to drink coffee in the past but couldn’t get past the taste, it’s possible you might have tried medium or dark roast varieties.
If this is the case, then a trying out light roasted varieties might be what you are looking for.
Light roasted coffee varieties worth a try:
- Benti Nenqa #209: Notes of blueberry, chamomile, and candied ginger. The blueberry notes strike first and foremost.
- Tanzania Peaberry: Smooth and full-bodied, fairly rich in flavor and characterized by notes of lemon, peach and black tea.
Coffee alternatives and substitutes
Sometimes you just need that hit of caffeine, but without the actual taste of coffee.
Fortunately, there’s quite a lot of alternative drinks to coffee that still contain caffeine.
Most don’t have the same amount of caffeine as a regular coffee, but since they’re easier to drink you can make up for it in quantity.
However, each drink in this list has its own unique properties that coffee won’t have, so you wouldn’t be “missing out on your caffeine hit”.
Instead, you’re trading the properties of coffee to get the properties of a different drink (more relaxing, gives better mood, doesn’t upset the stomach etc.).
Matcha is a kind of powdered green tea and is usually grown in Japan. It has a very high concentration of caffeine but also antioxidants.
In terms of taste, matcha has a very unique grassy and earthy taste. It’s still on the bitter side of things, but it’s not as strong as coffee and can be covered by adding sweeteners, milk and syrup.
The disadvantage of matcha is that it can be a bit more expensive than coffee, especially if you want to splurge on the ritual matcha.
Second is the fact that matcha isn’t as universally available as coffee is. It’s still a relatively niche product and hasn’t yet reached mainstream.
You will almost never find matcha in a coffee machine for example, and not all coffee shops have it in the menu.
Third is the fact that matcha tea is a bit tricky to prepare. You need some specialized matcha brushes to properly stir the drink, find the right water temperature for the water that is neither too hot nor too cold, etc.
Overall, matcha is absolutely a unique drink and a very good substitute and alternative to coffee, even if it takes a bit of effort to learn how to make and get used to its taste.
Calorie content: 0 unless sweetened.
Caffeine content: 38–88 mg per 2-ounce (60-mL) cup. Variation is caused by preparation method.
Yerba mate tea (usually just known as mate tea) is a is derived from a South American plant and has been used for hundreds of years as a sort of energizing tea.
This is because yerba mate has a fairly high concentration of caffeine. A cup of yerba mate tea (about 150 mL/5 fl. ounces) contains some 80 milligrams of caffeine.
By contrast, an espresso contains about 200 milligrams of caffeine in a single shot.
In terms of taste, it’s on the bitter and grassy spectrum.
That being said, yerba mate shares pretty much the same issues as matcha tea. It’s fairly common in stores, but hard to find anywhere else.
And just like matcha tea, yerba mate is difficult to brew properly without making it overly bitter, or on the contrary, making too light and not getting all the caffeine out of it.
Calorie content: 0 unless sweetened.
Caffeine content: about 80 mg per 5 ounce (150 mL) cup.
CrioBru is a line of products made from roasted and grounded cocoa beans. The taste is somewhere halfway between coffee and hot chocolate, depending on how much sweetener you add to it.
It’s fairly easy to make and has very low calories (unless you sweeten it).
CrioBru has almost no caffeine content however. Depending on what you’re looking for this can be either a good thing or a bad thing.
Calorie contents: 20 calories in 2 table spoons (12.5 g).
Caffeine contents: practically 0.
If what you’re looking for is just the caffeine, but without having to taste coffee to get it, then caffeine pills are a viable alternative.
Caffeine pills have a lot of advantages in terms of convenience. They’re cheap, portable and pretty versatile in what drinks you can mix them with.
In terms of price, a bottle of 120 caffeine pills can go as low as 8-10 dollars.
Regarding health effects, they’ve been found to be little to no side effects when consumed in moderation. However, if you feel you’re in a more vulnerable category of users then it’s wise to ask a licensed doctor for more information.
Calorie contents: 0
Caffeine contents: 100-200 milligrams per pill depending on brand and type.
Zero calorie energy drinks
Many people avoid energy drinks because they have a reputation for being unhealthy, especially because of their very, very high sugar content.
Recently however, energy drink companies have launched zero-calorie versions of their sugary drinks.
However, these drinks only skip on the calories, but not on the caffeine.
For example, Red Bull Total Zero has zero calories, but 80 milligrams of coffee per can, while Monster Zero Ultra also has 0 calories, but 140 milligrams of caffeine per can.
Whether or not zero calorie energy drinks are a good alternative for you depends on experimentation and personal preference.
Starbucks coffee drinks that don’t taste like coffee
Most Starbucks coffees are of the “dark roasted” variety, meaning they have a strong, pronounced bitter and ashy taste that many people don’t like. Fortunately, Starbucks does have light-roasted coffee varieties that are less bitter and more flavorful:
- Starbucks Blonde Roast Coffee
- Starbucks Blonde Caffè Americano
- Starbucks Blonde Cappuccino
- Starbucks Blonde Caffè Latte
- Starbucks Blonde Vanilla Latte
- Starbucks Blonde Hazelnut Latte
- Starbucks Blonde Flat White
- Starbucks Blonde Americano Misto
- Iced Starbucks Blonde Hazelnut Latte
- Iced Starbucks Blonde Vanilla Latte
- Iced Starbucks Blonde Caffè Americano