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Big Mood: Coffee and the Brain

Researchers have long known that everyone’s favorite caffeine delivery system has a measurable impact on the body chemistry of its devoted drinkers. So, where does your morning latte fit into the equation?


Well, coffee is swimming in hundreds of bioactive compounds that contribute to its powerful effects. Caffeine is their queen, and its influence can be felt in a variety of physical and emotional ways.


A typical cup of brewed coffee contains between 75 and 100 milligrams of caffeine. Studies have found this serving size gives a boost to brain function, acting as a mild nervous system stimulant to improve short-term alertness, memory, and reaction time. 


Bypassing our brain’s sleep-triggering receptors, coffee stimulates release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is partly why your first cup of the day feels sooooo very pleasing.


Research shared by the non-profit Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) has also found that caffeine may increase the brain’s serotonin activity, which is linked to improved mood. Just remember to enjoy that double espresso in moderation, as caffeine overconsumption can increase anxious feelings.

The ISIC, which focuses on studying scientific information about coffee’s impact on health, also shared current research about the effects of moderate caffeine consumption on creative problem solving. (Spoiler alert: The coffee was helpful.)


Wondering what your go-to brew says about you? A 2013 observational study of 1,000 coffee drinkers found that their chosen beverage indicated the likelihood of key personality traits such as extroversion, patience, or sensitivity. 


It might sound like a bit of a stretch, but these and other preferences (such as your wardrobe and music choices) can reveal surprising connections. Clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula concluded that latte drinkers frequently seek comfort and are generous with their time, black coffee drinkers are patient but stubborn, and people who order sweet or frozen drinks tend to be trend seekers.

Either way you stir it, we understand that you have some deep feelings for coffee. And that’s no accident -- it’s science.

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