Smarter: How Much Coffee Is Too Much?
Hi there. I’m taking over for Pang-Chieh Ho this issue while she’s on vacation. This week I’ll answer the pressing question many of us may ask ourselves throughout the day: At what point is my coffee drinking habit bad for me? Plus, replacing coffee with mushroom drinks: what to know before you try them. Also, why a pair of headphones that didn’t score well in Consumer Reports’ ratings may actually be worth buying, and how to quit burning your butt when you can’t find a shady parking spot.
THE BIG STORY:How Much Coffee Is Too Much?
I started drinking coffee as a teenager to make it through early morning extracurriculars and extra high school courses for college credit. After a stop at 7-Eleven for hazelnut coffee and a roll of Spree candy (don’t judge), I was ready for the day ahead. As a young adult, I made it through tedious tasks like data entry by drinking nearly a pot’s worth of free coffee at work every day.
Now I wake up in the morning hoping that one cup will do the trick to keep me alert until lunchtime, because two quickly becomes three, and there may be no stopping. I’ll drink it any which way if I feel like I need to, but coffee-induced jitters eventually come on. But here’s the thing: Whether you drink your coffee hot even in 100° F weather, you cold brew at home, you opt for instant coffee (it’s come a long way since Nescafé), or prefer yours from McDonald’s, coffee can be good for you.
Would You Drink Mushroom Coffee?
If you’re cutting caffeine, coffees and coffee-like drinks are all the rage—at least based on health food store shelves with numerous options to choose from and ads that pop up all over Instagram and other social media platforms. Before you try any of these alternatives, know that they may not all taste exactly the same as coffee. You can get coffee beans with mushrooms mixed in, there are coffee-like drinks with mushrooms in them and maybe some chicory for a more coffee-like flavor, then there are coffee alternatives with mushrooms that taste nothing like coffee, so be sure to read labels and look for tasting notes you’ll like.
As I learned after trying a few, some of the lower-caffeine and even caffeine-free options are actually passable for coffee, or they’re just tasty, thanks to flavors like ginger and other chai spices, turmeric, and cocoa.
"They often confer a likable robust, often nutty rich flavor that gets better with frequency of use as you become accustomed to it," says mycologist Paul Stamets, who has published multiple books on mushrooms and health.
The worst part of my own experience was their prices. For example, a 15-serving box of Mud Wtr Mud sachets, containing a blend of masala chai, cacao, and several types of mushrooms, costs $30 vs. the $12 or less I’d spend on a pound of regular coffee.
“Mushrooms inherently taste fairly earthy,” says Gordon Walker, PhD, who runs the Fascinated By Fungi social media channels. He says mushrooms can be roasted or toasted to help them caramelize and brown, enhancing that flavor. “I do think that some brands are being disingenuous when marketing the benefits of mushrooms,” Walker says, noting it’s usually best to eat the mushroom itself. But that doesn’t mean he’s against coffee alternatives that contain mushrooms. “It gives consumers more choices when it comes to their morning beverages and could potentially provide some health benefits,” he says.
Lion’s mane mushrooms in particular are a popular ingredient in coffee alternatives, and on their own. Early research suggests they may have positive effects on your gut and your mood. Other research suggests that corydceps, which you can also find in coffee alternatives, may help increase endurance, Walker says. You may also find chaga, turkey tail, and other mushrooms in these drinks.
Have you tried coffee alternatives? What do you think? Email us to let us know: email@example.com
IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE
When flowers are in bloom, birds are chirping, the sun is shining through your car’s windshield, and your seats are feeling as hot as a smoothtop range, it’s a reminder that heat can take a toll on your vehicle, even when it’s not that hot out.
When you’re parked in a sunny spot and you don’t have the luxury of ventilated or cooled seats, here’s a simple tip to save your rear: Leave a small towel on your seat so that you won’t get so burnt, especially if bare skin will touch the seat, says Jeff Bartlett, who edits much of CR’s car coverage from our 327-acre test track in Colchester, Conn.
THE GOOD STUFF
We don’t actually use cantaloupes to test bike helmets, but it sounds like a fun idea.
Sometimes products that score poorly in tests for some qualities can actually be great for other reasons. For instance, the Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones, which earned a not-so-great Fair rating in Consumer Reports’ test for sound quality, do actually have their open admirers: runners.
“Dimming my awareness with noise-obstructing headphones is a dangerous move—especially if I’m hoping to achieve that la la land known as runner’s high,” says Laura Murphy, a CR writer who swears by her Shokz OpenRun headphones.
Unlike the majority of headphones on the market that send sound through the ear canal, these headphones work by bone conduction, where sound travels through the cheekbone to reach the inner ear, instead of traveling through the ear canal. This allows the headphones to not actually go into the ear but rest in front of it. As a result, ambient noise like car horns honking, bike bells ringing, and pedestrians gabbing can actually be heard, making for a safer run.
When CR tests headphones, we keep discerning music listeners in mind, with an ear for things like accuracy, clarity, and detail. This Shokz model may not be the greatest for that use, but based on a survey of CR members, those who own Shokz wireless portable headphones generally say they’re reliable and are very likely to recommend them to others.
Even if you don’t run, perfection isn’t necessary when all you’re listening to is podcasts.
THE SHORT ANSWER
"Now to get to my second cup."