By now Bulletproof coffee (butter in coffee with MCT oil) isn’t exclusive or a secret. Between Ed Sheeran , Shailene Woodley , and the 135,000 people searching “bulletproof coffee” every month, this brain enhancing cocktail is becoming as mainstream as it gets.
As most nootropics or brain health enthusiasts know, just because it is mainstream doesn’t make it worthwhile. We will break down butter coffee so that you evaluate whether it fits into your lifestyle and desires. You’ll learn:
- Does bulletproof coffee work?
- How does butter coffee improve brain function?
- Products to get started (hint: it isn’t the hyped, expensive products you think)
- Butter coffee recipe (and a few supplements to add)
Let’s get started, shall we?
What is Bulletproof Coffee?
Making coffee with butter is not new. In Tibet and other regions of the Himalayas, yak butter mixed with tea to provide warmth (and calories) to counteract living 10,000 feet above sea level where calories burn much quicker than normal .
The basic premise is to combine a caffeine source (tea or coffee) with fat sources (butter or oil). Although simple and age-old, it was famed Silicon Valley entrepreneur and biohacker, Dave Asprey, who has brought the Bullet coffee to a wider audience .
The premise is simple, but Dave Asprey made things a bit more complicated. He claims you can’t use most coffee brands because of “mycotoxins”, you can’t use butter that isn’t grass-fed, and you need a specific type of oil for the greatest cognitive effect.
Of course, the conflict of interest is palpable, but Dave Asprey does have an entire Bulletproof coffee starter kit available for sale. We will discuss whether it is worthwhile or not later on (hint: you might want to save your money).
How Does Bulletproof Coffee Work?
Most people learn that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and this often includes sugary breakfast cereal, bagels, and other carb-filled foods.
The objective of butter coffee is to help you get morning nourishment that improves your energy levels and brain function instead of food that will make you sluggish and crash.
To do this, you must combine caffeine (which is a commonly used compound for concentration and focus) with calories from fats. There are two main reasons this is better for you:
- Fat makes caffeine absorb better – After scouring the internet, I couldn’t find any scientific journals to validate the claim. The principle is that fats combine with caffeine to help cross the blood-brain barrier more effectively and acts more powerfully. Whether this is true is up for debate, but it is a similar principle that is used for weed brownies, mushroom chocolates etc.
- Fats (like MCT oil) are converted to energy quicker – This reasoning does have some merit. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition released a 1982 study showing that MCT oil converts from calories into energy in 3 steps versus the 25 steps it takes sugar .
The basic principles aren’t hard to understand, but because the Bulletproof coffee fad is so popularized, we’ll focus on debunking a few of the claims and / or ingredients as well.
Grass Fed Butter in Coffee Benefits
Dave Asprey and many other butter coffee enthusiasts make big claims around butter and specifically the more expensive grass-fed type. The claims that grass-fed butter is better for you is true.
Because the cows are fed grass rather than corn, they produce fat that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids rather than omega-6 . Balancing omega-3 and 6 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and prevent a host of long-term, chronic diseases. The “standard American diet” (SAD) is currently an average ratio of 1:15 (omega-3 vs. omega-6) .
Even if you aren’t planning to combine coffee with butter and coconut oil, it is a good idea to look for grass fed butter whenever you eat it. We suggest Kerrygold as most butter coffee enthusiasts do.
Is Bulletproof Coffee Hype? A Word On Mycotoxins
One of Asprey’s largest claims is that coffee beans are largely stored or processed incorrectly, which creates a heap of “mycotoxins” that can cause ill-health effects. This claim is baseless and not rooted in science. Consider this debunked.
Mycotoxins in coffee have been known for a long time and most roasters do things that prevent high levels of mycotoxins. These chemicals are regulated in the United States (and many other countries) and roasters know and abide by the laws .
On his famous podcast, a livid Joe Rogan discusses the mycotoxins claim with Dr. Rhonda Patrick:
This being said, any regular bag of coffee isn’t going to be as worthwhile to buy (either in taste or in health). You can buy single-origin, organic beans from Indonesia online for much cheaper than the “special” beans Asprey sells.
Bulletproof Coffee Weight Loss
While outside the realm of brain health, the topic of Bulletproof coffee weight loss is one of hot debate and is quite simple. Can drinking this in the morning help you lose weight? It depends. The success or failure will depend on you.
Caffeine alone is a great way to burn fat. The compound alone helps increase fatty acid oxidation in the body (i.e: burning fat) . In fact, most of the debunked fat-burning products include caffeine as the main ingredient . Beyond burning fat, caffeine also seems to suppress appetite and food intake as well .
A typical Bulletproof coffee has approximately 450 calories due to the high fat content. If you can consume a single cup and let it fuel you for much of the day, there is a chance you will lose weight. However, if you consume Bulletproof coffee in addition to your normal diet, you are going to gain weight most likely.
Editor’s Note: I have experience with friends who drink Bulletproof coffee in the morning and do not need to eat anything until dinner time. With this type of regimen, you can lose weight with Bulletproof coffee for sure. If you’re eating non-stop and drinking butter coffee, you’re doomed.
How to Make a Basic Bulletproof Coffee
So, you’re still down with butter in your coffee (it does taste delicious), but now you’re just a little confused about which products to buy and how to make it.
As we mentioned above, you can find cheaper coffee beans that are still of high quality without paying for Asprey’s expensive bag. Wild Foods is an Austin, Texas brand that puts a lot of effort and time into proper sourcing, roasting, and distribution of their products and Nootropedia editors have seen their operation from start to finish (which is why we recommend you buy their Indonesian roast instead of the more expensive Bulletproof bag).
Beyond more affordable coffee, you can get the MCT oil as well. They have pharmaceutical grade MCT oil, which costs $35 for 32 ounces compared to $47 if you buy the same weight of Brain Octane. We recommend you go with the more affordable (yet same or higher quality) Wild Foods products instead.
NOTE: We would get more money if we promoted Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof line because they cost more money and he offers a higher percentage commission. We’re not just trying to sell you something.
Okay, now that you’ve got your ingredients, how do you make the butter coffee?
- Brew coffee with preferred method (cold brew, hot, french press etc.)
- Add 1 tbsp grass-fed butter and 1-2 tbsp MCT oil
- Add Optional ingredients (see below)
- Blend until frothy
Seems simple, right? Well, here are a few errors people commonly make with Bulletproof coffee:
- Blending aggressively – there is no need to blend at a high level continuously. Blend or pulse in short bursts to get the maximum effect and consistency
- Using coconut oil over MCT – this isn’t a huge sin, but it does make a difference for flavor reasons. Coconut oil has a different aftertaste, but MCT is flavorless. MCT also has trouble emulsifying so it is better for the consistency
- Don’t use Starbucks coffee – this doesn’t need explanation. Use good quality beans.
For those interested in a video, I’ll let my friend Colin Stuckert take it away:
Enhanced Butter Coffee: Kick it Up a Notch
Now that you have the basics of coffee with butter and coconut oil (or MCT), why don’t we do like Emeril Lagasse and “kick it up a notch!” This set of ingredients and nootropics will help you to make your butter coffee taste better and have more of a cognitive effect.
- Cocoa powder (try to find a non-alkalized cacao product)
- Vanilla powder
- Xylitol to taste (sweetener derived from maple not corn)
Smart Drug / Nootropics:
Now something that the nootropic crew has been waiting for. What smart drugs pair well with Bulletproof coffee?
- L-Theanine – Adding L-theanine will help increase the sense of concentration on tasks. Studies show L-theanine paired with caffeine are more effective than either alone . There seems to be little to no interaction with the fat elements, but this is always a good pairing for caffeine. Recommended dose: 200 mg with 8 ounces of BP coffee
- Bacopa Monnieri – This fat soluble plant is most effective for reducing anxiety and improving mental performance  when there is a fat source available. With butter and MCT oil, the bacopa will be well-absorbed. Recommended dose: 300 mg (assuming 50% bacosides) with 8 ounces of BP coffee
- Aniracetam – This stimulating and memory enhancing racetam is one of the few analogs that are fat soluble . Usually relegated to meals, using Bulletproof coffee can help absorption without eating a full course. Recommended dose: 750 mg with 8 ounces of BP coffee
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – While this does not have a particular brain enhancing benefit per se, it helps to aid in mitochondrial health . I consider it a general health supplement and given it requires fat, why not use butter coffee? Recommended dose: 90 mg with 8 ounces of BP coffee
Editors’ Thoughts on Bulletproof Coffee
No Bulletproof coffee review would be complete without a little speculation and anecdote. I think very highly of butter coffee and the addition of MCT oil and other nootropics like bacopa, aniracetam, etc. and I don’t buy-in to everything Dave Asprey says.
I’m not at all concerned with the mycotoxins issue and I see the benefits of both MCT oil and grass-fed butter. My experience with coffee with butter has been overall very positive. I’ve definitely felt more energized and focused for longer.
I rarely feel hungry before 1-2 pm, but I usually fast anyway so it isn’t the same comparison as someone who is replacing breakfast with this blend.
This has gone to nearly 2,000 words so I’ll sum up by saying Bulletproof coffee does work and because of its simplicity it is probably one of the best ways to improve concentration and general health within brain hacking circles if it is done correctly.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
- References (Click to Expand)
- Ed Sheeran: Chats About Bulletproof Coffee | GRAMMYs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzJ2Sq–ac0