Cold brew coffee is a smooth and tasty drink that seems to be growing in popularity in coffee shops and homes every day. Unfortunately, some people experience stomach aches after drinking cold brew. Why is this? And how can you avoid it?
If someone experiences an upset stomach after drinking cold brew coffee, it is likely because they consumed too much. Drinking more caffeine than your body can handle can cause intense contractions of the stomach and intestines, and is easy to do with cold brew as the drink is usually high in caffeine, and cold drinks are easier to drink quickly than hot ones.
If you’ve ever experienced an upset stomach after drinking cold brew or are even feeling bad after drinking cold brew right this moment, this article will tell you why, and how to fix it. Let’s get started!
Why Cold Brew is Upsetting Your Stomach
It's Not the Acidity
When people get an upset stomach from drinking coffee, the thing they often blame is acidity. And while coffee is somewhat acidic, the acidity of cold brew is likely not the cause of your stomach ache.
Although popular thought claims that coffee is a super acidic beverage, regular drip coffee really isn’t that acidic. In fact, coffee is less acidic than orange juice. And cold brew coffee, because of the way it’s made, is actually less acidic than regular coffee, by as much as 66%!
Because of this, if you’re stomach is feeling disturbed after drinking some cold brew, the acidity of the drink probably isn’t the cause.
The Caffeine in Cold Brew can Cause Stomach Aches
If your stomach is feeling bad after a glass of cold brew, it’s most likely due to the caffeine in the drink.
The reason that cold brew commonly (but not always) has more caffeine in it than regular coffee is because of how it’s made.
While regular drip coffee is made in minutes by dripping hot water through ground coffee beans sitting in a filter, cold brew coffee is made leaving the water and ground coffee beans soaking together for 12-24 hours.
This extended extraction of the beans in the cold brewing process leaves the drink not only tasting darker and more concentrated, but also with more caffeine.
But how does caffeine lead to a stomach ache? Well as anyone who drinks coffee in the morning knows, caffeine is a laxative. Meaning that it stimulates bowel movements by forcing your stomach to work faster and causing contraction of your intestines.
Which means that if you drink too much caffeine, your stomach and digestive system are going to be under a lot of stress trying to get rid of it. And you’re not going to feel very good.
Even if the cold brew you drink isn’t any higher in caffeine than regular coffee, it’s easy to drink cold coffee faster than hot coffee. And the faster you drink the stronger the effects of caffeine will be.
Symptoms of a Caffeine Overdose
The Mayo Clinic recommends no more than 400mg per day, but the limit of your personal caffeine consumption will vary greatly depending on your age, height and weight, speed of metabolism, and tolerance.
If you’ve drank more than 400mg of caffeine from cold brew, have a stomach ache, and think it’s due to consuming too much caffeine too quickly, you may be experiencing the effects of a caffeine overdose.
The symptoms of a caffeine overdose are:
Although experiencing these symptoms will be unpleasant and very annoying, as long as your symptoms aren't worse than these, and you don’t have an irregular heart beat, you should just be able to wait it out without needing to seek professional medical care.
No need to panic as the lethal dose of caffeine is around 10,000mg, an amount pretty much impossible to reach without consuming the caffeine in tablet or powdered form.
How to Treat a Caffeine Overdose
If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms above along with your stomach ache and believe they are from drinking too much caffeine, here are a few things you can do to feel better as quickly as possible.
Don't Consume any More Caffeine
The first thing you need to do is make sure you don’t consume any more caffeine. This may seem like the most obvious advice in the world, but caffeine is in more things than you realize.
Stay away from dark chocolates, sodas, and most teas, as consuming anything with even a little bit of caffeine in it could make your symptoms worse, and taking longer to subside.
Drink Water to Rehydrate
Caffeine dehydrates you, making the symptoms worse of drinking too much of it even worse.
Drinking water isn’t going to make the effects of the caffeine go away faster, but rehydrating is going to make you feel better and alleviate some of your symptoms.
Take a Walk
If you’ve drank too much caffeine, you’re probably feeling pretty energetic and anxious right now. To help prevent restlessness, calm the jitters, and speed up metabolism to get the caffeine out of your body ASAP, take a little walk around the block.
Slow, Deep Breaths
Caffeine can shallow and quicken your breaths, making you feel anxious and worked up. Reminding yourself to slow down, take full, deep breaths, can help you relax and reduce anxiety. And make riding out this caffeine overdose just a little bit easier.
Wait it Out
The above tips will help you deal with the symptoms of a caffeine overdose in the best way possible, but in reality there’s not much you can do to get the caffeine out of your system quicker. You’re just gonna have to wait it out.
How Long Will it Take for the Effects of the Caffeine to go Away?
It will depend on your personal rate of caffeine metabolism, but in general the half life of caffeine is 3-5 hours. Which means that 3-5 hours after you drink the cold brew, half of the caffeine will have been metabolised in your body and gone. And in another 3-5 hours, half of that half will be gone.
So you’ll probably feel a lot better 3-5 hours after you had the drinks, and almost back to normal after 6-8. But again the timing will vary a lot from person to person.
How to Drink Cold Brew without Upsetting Your Stomach
So what if you’ve gotten a stomach ache after drinking cold brew before, and want to be able to enjoy it in the future without feeling bad afterwords?
Here’s a few things you can do to be able to drink cold brew without upsetting your stomach
Ask your Barista to Water it Down
Most coffee shops, including Starbucks, make their cold brew really strong, and then dilute it with water before serving it to customers. If the cold brew you’ve been ordering is super strong and upsetting your stomach, it may be because the barista isn’t watering it down.
Just politely ask them to add a little water next time you order and your body will have a better time handling the cold brew and its caffeine.
Don’t Drink Cold Brew on an Empty Stomach
Part of the reason why your stomach is reacting so strongly to the caffeine in cold brew could be because your drinking it on an empty stomach, and caffeine has stronger effects when you haven’t eaten much before consuming it.
To keep your stomach from getting upset the next time you get your morning cold brew, make sure you have a snack or meal first.
Add Non Dairy Milk or Creamer
Adding milk or creamer to your cold brew will do the same thing as diluting it with water: slow down the rate that your consuming the caffeine. The reason I recommend non dairy is because most peoples bodies have a hard time digesting the lactose in milk. And if you’re already having stomach issues form the cold brew, adding dairy to the mix may do more harm than good.
As far as coffee drinks go, cold brew has a decent amount of caffeine in it. And because it’s a cold drink, it can be easy to drink cold brew fast, leading to a caffeine overdose, and stomach issues.
I hope that this article could help you fix your caffeine induced stomach ache if your in the middle of one right now, and give you a few tips to avoid one in the future. At the end of the day, you just need to be aware of how much caffeine your consuming and how quickly, and make sure it isn’t more than your body can handle.
If you’d like to learn more about cold brew and coffee, be sure to check out the rest of my website! Thanks for reading and have a great rest of your day!
This article was written by Josh, the founder, and owner of AngryEspresso.com. You can learn more about Josh on our About The Team page.