Why Some People Can’t Drink Coffee (and What to Do About It)

It’s a well-known fact that coffee is the lifeblood of many people. But what if you’re one of the unlucky few who can’t drink it? What do you do then?

As the years have progressed, I’ve discovered that I cannot consume coffee in bulk as I used to, but that doesn’t mean I have to forgo my caffeine fix. Instead, I’ve found a few handy alternatives for the times when I need to pull back from coffee for a bit.

But what is it about coffee that makes it so hard for some people to drink? Aside from the obvious crash that can come with overconsumption of caffeine, there are a few other factors at play as to why some people can’t drink coffee.

Key Takeaways

  • Coffee Sensitivity: Some people experience negative reactions to coffee due to its caffeine and chlorogenic acid content, leading to symptoms like nausea and headaches. Coffee’s strong flavor and acidity can also be problematic for those with certain health conditions.
  • Genetic Influence on Caffeine Processing: Individual genetic variations, such as differences in the AHR gene, can affect how one’s body metabolizes and reacts to caffeine, leading to varying levels of sensitivity.
  • Coffee Alternatives: For those who are sensitive to coffee or caffeine, alternatives like chicory root coffee, herbal teas, yerba mate, hot chocolate, and smoothies offer similar benefits without the adverse effects.
  • Modifying Coffee Intake: People who still want to enjoy coffee but have sensitivities can try low-acid or decaf options, cold brewing methods, or adding milk or spices to reduce acidity and caffeine impact. Consulting a healthcare professional for tailored advice is also beneficial.

Why Some People Can't Drink Coffee

What’s in coffee?

Our research found that coffee contains a range of substances, including caffeine and chlorogenic acid, which can cause reactions in certain people that make coffee drinking difficult. People with sensitive systems may experience nausea, headaches, or other symptoms when they drink coffee.

The taste of coffee is also something to consider; some people find the flavor unpleasant, while others can be put off by its acidic nature.

Coffee is a stimulant, and for those with anxiety disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and other medical conditions, it can be a big no-no.

Even worse, some people are allergic to caffeine altogether.


It could be your liver

For some, it starts with a liver enzyme. So here’s the deal—people with caffeine sensitivity produce less of a liver enzyme called CYP1A2. This enzyme plays a vital role in how quickly your liver metabolizes caffeine.

If you have caffeine sensitivity, your body takes longer to process and eliminate caffeine from your system, which means its effects are more intense and last longer than they do for others.

Caffeine has a half-life of about six hours for most people. That means it takes six hours for the body to reduce the amount of caffeine in your system by half. For those with caffeine sensitivity, it takes up to 12 or even 24 hours for their bodies to process and eliminate caffeine.


why some people can't drink coffee

Understanding Your Genes 

If you find that coffee really does a number on you, it could all be due to genetics. Our genes play a massive role in how our bodies process food, drugs, and beverages—including caffeine.

Studies suggest that specific genes make us more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others who don’t contain those genetic variations. So if your morning cup of joe affects you differently than other people around you, it might have something to do with your genes!

AHR has long been linked with caffeine consumption, metabolism, and post-consumption effects and responses. This means that it may contribute to individual variation in caffeine-related effects. For example, some people may be more sensitive to caffeine’s effects than others, which may be due to their AHR status.

In addition, AHR may also influence how quickly the body metabolizes caffeine. This is important because the faster caffeine is metabolized, the less likely it is to cause side effects such as anxiety or nervousness.

Finally, AHR may also influence how our bodies respond to caffeine after consuming it. For instance, some people may feel more alert and energized after drinking coffee, while others may feel jittery and anxious. So if you’re wondering why you react to caffeine differently than your friends or colleagues, it could be due to your AHR status.


Why Some People Can't Drink Coffee

Alternatives To Consider 

If drinking coffee doesn’t work for you due to its intense effects or other sensitivities, there are plenty of other options to consider.

Chicory root coffee: For starters, you could try a coffee substitute such as chicory root coffee, which has an earthy flavor and contains far less caffeine than regular coffee. Chicory root has been added to coffee for centuries, and it’s gaining ground as a popular coffee alternative.

Herbal teas: You could also try herbal teas such as chamomile or rooibos. These beverages contain zero caffeine, but they still provide the taste and warmth of a hot beverage in the morning.

Yerba mate: If you’re looking for something with more kick, you could try yerba mate, an herbal tea popular in South America and contains caffeine. Yerba mate has a unique flavor and is said to provide energy without the jitters or the crash associated with coffee.

Hot Chocolate: If you’re looking for a warm, comforting beverage, hot chocolate is a great choice. You can even find versions made with chocolate alternatives that contain zero caffeine.

Smoothies: Start your day with a healthy smoothie packed with fruits and vegetables. You can add protein powder or other supplements to give yourself a boost of energy.

Energy drinks: If you need an energy boost, plenty of options are available that don’t contain coffee. Just read the labels carefully so you know what you’re getting.

Water: Sometimes, all you need is a tall glass of water to wake yourself up in the morning. Of course, you can add some lemon or lime for a refreshing twist.

There are plenty of options available for people who don’t drink coffee. Just because coffee is popular doesn’t mean you have to like it. Find the beverage that works best for you, and enjoy your mornings!


Why are coffee beans oily

What if I still want to drink coffee?

Try some low-acid or decaf varieties if you can’t give up coffee. You can also try brewing methods that reduce the acids and oils in coffee, such as cold brewing.

Adding milk or cream to your coffee reduces the acidic taste and can help calm the effects of caffeine. You can also try adding spices like cinnamon or cardamom to your coffee, which can help reduce its bitterness and make it easier to digest.

Finally, talk to a healthcare professional about other strategies for dealing with caffeine sensitivity and eliminating its adverse effects. A doctor can help you identify any underlying health problems that could be causing your sensitivity and provide you with advice about how to manage it.

In the end, everyone has different tolerances for caffeine. By understanding your individual response to coffee, you can find ways to enjoy this popular beverage in a way that works for you!


What Makes Coffee Taste Bitter

Why is tea easier to drink than coffee?

Tea is often easier to drink than coffee because it doesn’t have the same bitter taste and lower acid levels. Also, Some people might not enjoy the bitter and smoky flavor that coffee beans get from being roasted.

Tea leaves are not roasted, so they tend to have a more subtle flavor. Additionally, tea often has less caffeine than coffee, so it’s less likely to cause side effects such as jitters and anxiety.

You can also drink herbal teas if you don’t like the taste of regular tea or want to remove caffeine from your diet altogether.


Americano vs Drip Coffee

Tips for making the switch to tea or another drink

If you’re looking to swap up your beverage, tea is a great option. Here are a few tips to help you make the switch:

  • Experiment with different types of tea to find one that you like. There are countless varieties of tea, so it’s worth taking the time to find one that you really enjoy.
  • Don’t be afraid to add a little bit of sugar or milk to your tea. This can help make the transition from coffee to tea more palatable.
  • Steep your tea for the recommended time to get the perfect flavor. Over-steeping will result in a bitter cup of tea, so it’s essential to take the time to get it right.
  • Finally, relax and enjoy your cup of tea. Making the switch to tea can be a great way to wind down at the end of the day.

Final thoughts

If you’re looking to cut down on your coffee intake, plenty of options are available. Tea, energy drinks, and supplements can all provide the desired energy without the crash that sometimes comes with coffee. So find what works best for you and enjoy your morning cup.

About the Author Kris Silvey

About the Author Kris Silvey

As a semi-professional at-home barista and full-time software engineer, my love for coffee borders on obsession. By combining my passion for coffee with an engineering mindset, I strive to perfect my brewing process and share that knowledge with each of you.

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Sometimes, we like to get our hands dirty and actually try out the item ourselves. Other times, if necessary, we reach out to professional baristas with extensive experience who can offer their input on a particular product or technique. Ultimately, our goal is to find the best items that will make you a great home barista!

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