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Butter in Coffee

Keto-curious?

by Ever Meister | August 09, 2022

“Butter in your morning coffee” might sound like a practical joke, but it’s part of a health-slash-diet trend with an enormous and loyal fan base: Keto coffee or simply, butter coffee. Today we’ll look at what keto coffee is, how it became popular, and what you can expect from its taste and texture.

What Is Keto Coffee?

A ketogenic diet, or “keto” for short, is a food philosophy that focuses on the health benefits of consuming high-fat, protein-rich, and low-carbohydrate foods, which, over time, can convince the body to burn fat stores for energy rather than carb stores.

Practicing a keto diet means largely eschewing carb-heavy food products in favor of ones with healthy fat. “Keto coffee,” then, typically refers to coffee drinks where a fat source is added to unsweetened coffee rather than one with more sugar content: Heavy cream, butter, MCT oil, or coconut oil, for example, instead of half and half or milk.

When it comes to learning how to make coffee keto-style, 1 to 2 tablespoons of a fat source is required; it’s not the same as making a latte with melted butter instead of milk.

Folks who are unfamiliar with the practice may turn their noses up at it. Still, the method of adding clarified butter to coffee has existed since 9th-century Ethiopia — the birthplace of coffee. Additionally, in many cultures, adding substances other than milk to coffee is common: Eggs are sometimes added to coffee in Sweden, an eggy custard is often added to coffee drinks in Vietnam, and other drinks like butter tea originated in Tibet. And remember, an espresso con panna, or an espresso shot topped with whipped cream, is mainstream enough among coffee drinkers to be available at any chain coffee shop: And butter isn’t that far off from whipped heavy cream!

How Did It Become Popular?

“Ketosis” is the process the body undergoes when fueled by a ketogenic diet, in which fat rather than carbohydrate is converted into fuel. Because the body is burning fat rather than storing it, weight loss often occurs. Adding protein-rich foods can also help the user feel fuller longer, which contributes to weight loss. Adding butter instead of sugar allows coffee drinkers to get their caffeine fix while sticking to their ketogenic diet.

In the 1970s, fasting and keto diets became fringe-popular diet fads (remember, the ’70s were a prime diet culture time in the US), and books and guides were written encouraging people to ditch the low-fat diets for the total opposite. In the 2000s, however, keto diets saw a huge resurgence thanks mainly to the popularity of the Atkins Diet, a form of ketogenic diet first written by Dr. Robert Atkins in 1972 and revived in 1999 with a book called Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution.

The Atkins Diet gained prominence with celebrities throughout the early 2000s, and the keto trend was continued by American entrepreneur David Asprey, developer of the Bulletproof Diet. In 2009, Asprey published his first recipe for a butter coffee drink, inspired by his experience drinking yak butter tea in Tibet. Thanks to Asprey’s influence and his marketing savvy, we were soon off to the keto coffee races!

While today the ketogenic diet is used for various reasons — including weight loss, as discussed, and boosting athletic performance — it was a common treatment for diabetes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Starting in the 1920s, ketogenic diets have been used to control epilepsy, primarily in children. It replaces carbs, which the body converts into glucose, with fat, which is converted into ketone bodies and has shown reduced seizure activity.

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What Does It Taste Like?

So what does Keto coffee taste like? Depending on what you add to the coffee and what brew method you prefer among many other factors, your final results may vary, though most of the fat sources that butter coffee drinkers commonly use will noticeably change the texture of the liquid to something more viscous and creamy.

Coconut oil with coffee has a more vaguely tropical taste, while butter can contribute a savory-sweet note that is almost nutty. MCT oil, derived from medium-chain triglycerides and typically made from palm or coconut oil, has very little discernible taste.

What do you think of butter in your coffee?