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.