Butter coffee: Does Bulletproof Coffee taste good?

Should You Put Butter in Your Coffee?

Should You Put Butter in Your Coffee?

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 9 2014 9:03 AM

Should You Put Butter in Your Coffee?

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Butter.

Anna Sedneva via Shutterstock

I don’t know precisely when I first heard about putting butter in coffee. It’s a practice that’s fluttered around the edge of my consciousness for several months at least, its connotations vaguely Atkins-y, vaguely hippie-ish, vaguely hedonistic. It didn’t seem unappealing, necessarily—butter is delicious, and coffee is necessary, so why not?—but I was pretty happy with my normal routine of dosing my coffee with a splash of milk.

L.V. Anderson L.V. Anderson

L.V. Anderson is a Slate associate editor. 

Then, a couple of weeks ago, a colleague sent an email to Slate’s staff with the subject line, “people are putting butter in coffee?” (The body of the message, in its entirety: “This appears to be a thing?”) The email unleashed a torrent of half-baked notions about this custom. “It’s for hangovers,” declared a video producer. “I thought it was a tech community thing?” replied an executive assistant. “I thought it was a weight/Paleo thing,” suggested a Supreme Court reporter. Everyone had heard of it, it seemed, but no one knew what it meant.

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This conversation left me intrigued enough to want to try it, so the next morning, I gingerly scooped a teaspoonful of butter into a mug of coffee and stirred until it melted. Floating on the coffee’s surface, the melted butter was iridescent, resembling a miniature puddle of gasoline. I raised the mug to my lips—it smelled strongly of butter—and took a sip. It tasted mostly like black coffee, with a greasy aftertaste. It made the inside of my mouth feel weirdly silky and lubricated. I was, on the whole, repulsed.

Was buttered coffee always this gross, or had I just done it wrong? My lips still oily, I did a little reading up on “Bulletproof Coffee,” the phrase trademarked by professional “biohacker”/megalomaniac Dave Asprey to describe his special recipe: coffee (“the lowest toxin, highest performance coffee there is”), “Brain Octane” oil, and grass-fed butter. Asprey claims that Bulletproof Coffee “has a massive impact on cognitive function” and “will keep you satisfied with level energy for 6 hours if you need it, and because I’m having it for breakfast, I’m programming my body to burn fat for energy all day long!” I assumed that this was, like nearly all fat-burning claims, bogus. But I learned from Asprey’s website that butter coffee connoisseurs mix their coffee and butter in a blender in order to emulsify it, turning it into something like a coffee hollandaise, with a more consistently creamy texture than the oil slick I’d drunk that morning.

The next day, I had to box up all my belongings to move out of the apartment I’d been in for more than five years, which meant I really could have benefited from “level energy for 6 hours.” So I gave butter coffee another try, adding a little coconut oil and vanilla extract to improve the flavor (tips I’d learned from a blog called Wellness Mama), and shaking the concoction vigorously in a lidded travel mug in an attempt to emulsify it. (My blender had already been packed up.) At first, this coffee indeed had a better texture than the previous day’s: It was frothier, with melted butter globules distributed evenly in every sip. But soon the coffee and fat separated out again, and I confronted a disturbingly shiny surface every time I brought the mug to my face. Flavor wise, the coconut oil and vanilla did not accomplish much—it was still difficult to swallow, and there was a split second after each gulp in which I feared my gag reflex would send the buttery coffee back up again. But I eventually got the entire mug down.

Did this coffee give me superhuman energy and focus? It did not. I bumbled around my apartment all day feeling frazzled and incompetent. It’s possible that things would have gone worse without the butter, but I suspect the butter made no difference whatsoever.

I will grant buttered coffee proponents two things: First, butter has been falsely maligned as an unhealthy food, and it can certainly be part of a healthy diet, as recent studies have shown. Second, grass-fed dairy products are superior to conventional dairy products, both in terms of salubriousness (they contain more omega-3s) and taste. If you enjoy mixing your coffee with grass-fed butter, don’t let me stop you! I, however, will continue using grass-fed milk.