How To Determine Your Optimal Daily Caffeine Intake

Are you drinking the right amount of coffee? Too much, and you’re a jittery mess; too little, and you’re shuffling through life like a zombie. It’s hard to find the right balance — or at least it has been. I’m happy to announce that after years of research and experimentation, I’ve perfected a simple calibration process that almost anyone can use to figure out exactly how many cups of coffee they should be drinking each day. So grab a pen and paper and let’s get started!

Step 1. Establish a baseline.

On a blank sheet of paper, write your age, height, weight, and the number of cups of coffee that you currently drink per day. Now look at what you’ve written:

  • If the numbers are more or less legible but kind of trail off at the end, then you probably started to doze off as you were writing them. Increase your coffee consumption by one cup per day. Repeat this step until you consistently produce crisp, clear numbers.
  • If all you see is an illegible tangle of jagged lines, you’re probably drinking too much coffee. Decrease your consumption by one cup per day until you can produce recognizable numbers (or, alternatively, keep drinking the same amount and get a job as a CAPTCHA image creator).
  • If you can read the numbers easily, proceed to step 2.


Step 2. Make adjustments based on your sleep patterns.

Think about what it’s like to wake up on a typical weekday:

  • Increase your daily coffee consumption by one cup for every five minutes that you spend in bed after your alarm goes off. For example, if you set your alarm for 6:00 and drag yourself out of bed at 6:22, you need to drink four additional cups of coffee each day.
  • If you had trouble performing that last calculation, increase your coffee consumption by an additional one cup per day.
  • If you don’t use an alarm clock, but instead wake up naturally each morning feeling fully rested and refreshed, go away. I hate you.

Step 3. Safety first (or, technically, third) — take your driving habits into account.

If you don’t drive, skip this step and proceed to step 4. Otherwise, think about the last time you were in an accident or near-miss for which you were at least partially responsible.

  • If the incident was caused by irritation, impatience, or road rage, decrease your coffee consumption by one cup per day.
  • If the incident was caused by inattention, sleepiness, or lack of focus, increase your coffee consumption by one cup per day.
  • If you don’t believe you’ve ever, in your entire life, made any driving mistakes, then you’re probably not paying attention. Increase your coffee consumption by two cups per day.

Step 4. Reality check — how is coffee affecting your finances?

Now that you’ve completed steps 1-3, you have a good idea of how much coffee you should be drinking. But can you afford it? Most personal finance experts agree that as a general rule, you should spend no more than 20% of your gross income on coffee. If you think you can’t afford your recommended daily amount of coffee, don’t make the mistake of drinking less! Instead, try some of these cost-cutting strategies:

  • Make coffee at home instead of buying it in coffee shops.
  • Buy coffee in bulk and/or buy a cheaper brand.
  • Drink free coffee at work. Bring a thermos or two and take some home.
  • If your office doesn’t provide free coffee, quit and get a job somewhere that does. Or just find a company with free coffee and pretend you work there. Don’t forget to bring your own mug (and, of course, a thermos).
  • Car dealerships provide free coffee to customers awaiting repairs. Walk in through the door that leads to the parts department, then veer off towards the area where they sell accessories. Wander around this section, stopping every so often to pick up a coffee mug or keychain, look at it, and put it down. After a few minutes of this, you’ll look like someone who’s been waiting far too long for their car to be repaired; no one will question you if you help yourself to some coffee. Try not to visit the same dealership more than once every couple weeks.
  • Coffee grounds can be reused (you can substitute 2 tablespoons of used grounds for 1 tablespoon of fresh). Starbucks and other major coffee chains give away used grounds for free for use in compost, but they never actually check that you have a compost heap. Note: digging through other people’s compost heaps in search of coffee grounds is not recommended.

I hope you’ve found this advice helpful. I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom from the National Coffee Association:

Coffee is the calm moment that lets you think. Coffee gives you the time to dream it; then you’re ready to do it. No other drink does that like coffee.

54 thoughts on “How To Determine Your Optimal Daily Caffeine Intake

  1. You made me laugh so hard with the Captcha reference, I spilled my coffee. You owe me a cup!
    Where did you find that awesome commercial?! – I think I remember seeing it on TV and wondering when I would be old enough to like the taste as much as I liked the smell – there was always a pot brewing when I was growing up. My mother, grandmother and aunts all drank pots of coffee all day long. They all still do…. and they are all really healthy – even my 94 year old grandmother… I wonder if there is a connection…. 🙂

    • I remembered that commercial from ancient times — I think I’m part of the generation they were targeting with those ads, and they seemed just as ridiculous then as they do now. Googling “Coffee Achievers” brought up a bunch of variations.

  2. I pretty much skipped all the parts that suggested decreasing my intake. The rest was top notch. Squish is having to type this for me because my hands are too shaky, but I’m in a good place. I swear. I SWEAR! Back off, Missy! Oh. Sorry about that. Now where did I put my coffee cup?

  3. For people who are tea drinkers like I am, and find that they need to increase their coffee consumption yet don’t want to give up their tea, just put the tea bags into the coffee you are drinking.

      • So true! Caffeine induced ADD is no big deal though because … Hey did you see this article on weighing cats?? I laughed so hard last night. Oh right, Caffeine induced ADD is okay because at least you are paying … hey what do you think about the bladder issues coffee causes? Is there a “How-to drink coffee and not have to urinate all day” post somewhere?

      • I thought about adding a section about timing your coffee consumption to avoid having to pee at inconvenient times, but I decided that would be TMI.

        And then the first dozen or so comments on this post were all about poop.

    • That’s Cicily Tyson, who’s a much better actress than this commercial might lead you to believe. I think she’s supposed to be at an awards ceremony reacting to the news that she’s won an Emmy or something (clearly not for her performance in this commercial).

  4. I can never have too much coffee. I will be sure to swing by the car dealerships on my way home later on. Although, sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s coffee I’m drinking or the motor oil.

  5. I loves me a good cup. Someone gave us one of those giant “Friends” type coffee mugs, and once in a while I have my morning cup in it. It’s ironioc to be sitting in a coffee cup while having coffee.

    • Not a problem! Just put “0” down for the number of cups you currently drink in the first step, follow all the rest of the steps, and you’ll be a coffee drinker in no time.

  6. Hello, there. I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award….because The Official How-To Blog is the Official best idea for a blog. Ever. You can find the nomination guidelines here:

    AND you can find my nomination of your blog here:

    Congrats on this completely-unofficial-but-still-totally-flattering award!

    • Coffee will give you the energy to smack a guy in the face, sure. But I think that if you want to get the same reaction she did, you have to slip something into his coffee.

  7. I never stay in bed for even a minute after my alarm went off. My alarm makes sure of that. He is called Number 2 and can screech the paper off the walls.

    I loved step 4 – even though I don’t drink coffee – because I am a thrifty person. Could you possibly compile a similar list on how to save money when you suffer from a chocolate addiction?

    • Chocolate on a budget is more challenging. Do you ever go to technical conferences? There’s always at least one booth there that’s giving out chocolates. Do you work in an office where someone has a candy dish? If not, try to locate a business where someone has a candy dish, and pretend that you work there. Oh, and if you live in California, there’s a chain of candy stores called See’s that gives everyone who walks in a free sample, even if you tell them you’re just there with a friend and aren’t buying anything.

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