Coffee — Good for Thinking?

We’ve not had a post on coffee for awhile, so today’s the day.

Do you find that coffee gets you into a thinking mode? Does it help you concentrate? (Oh, and by the way, we’re in Adelaide Australia, I’m teaching a course at Tabor Adelaide, and one of our aims here is to get some “flat white” coffee.)

Caffeine is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world.  We drink it in our coffee, we consume it in our cans of Coke and Pepsi. People take in so much of this drug, they rarely think twice about it.

Caffeine is found naturally in so many of our foods and beverages, we take it for granted. On top of that, it’s often referenced for its positive effects on attention and mental alertness.

Not only is caffeine found abundantly available in natural and supplemented foods and beverages, you’ll also find it in products sold over the counter for fatigue, migraines and colds.

But what are caffeine’s effects on our thinking? Is it helping or hindering our thought processes? Let’s find out…

Blood levels of caffeine peak in as few as 15 minutes and on average 45 minutes after ingestion.  Some studies suggest that over 80 percent of U.S. adults and children ingest caffeine on a daily basis (Brunye et al., 2010)….

Moderate doses of caffeine — 200-300 mg — often are used in research, although doses over 500 mgs sometimes are used. The general finding is that more than moderate use does not offer additional benefits, and higher doses sometimes lead to negative effects.

So go ahead and have that cup of coffee or can of Coke. It’s likely to help your thinking… as long as you don’t overdo it.



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  • phil_style

    Unfortunately you’re about 1000km away from the best flat whites Scot… try nipping over the Tasman Sea.

  • JoeyS

    As a person who is medicated for ADD I can affirm that coffee has worked wonders for me in concentration and focus.

  • Cameron

    Ive mentioned it before, Scot. If you’re in Adelaide it’s Farmers Union Iced Coffee, or it’s nothing!

  • I’m another ADDer. Before my diagnosis (when I just thought my hopeless inability to accomplish simple tasks was merely evidence of my total depravity) I used caffeine to try to get going with things. Since diagnosis I’ve found that there are much better drugs for helping to deal with some of my symptoms, though I sometimes still have some as my meds wear off to eek out a bit more focus.

    Without some kind of stimulent I literally can’t sit and contemplate a book! I struggle to translate my shifting thoughts into words and feel isolated and frustrated.

    Yay for diagnosis. : )

  • Mark

    Of course need to hop the ditch to New Zealand for a proper flat white; but I hope you find something satisfactory while you’re there 🙂

  • wolfgang

    I thnk it is. Not sure. 🙂

  • scotmcknight

    What I’ve heard at two coffee shops is this: “A flat white is a latte with hardly any foam.”

  • Joe Canner

    Nate #4: Your comment about ADD and total depravity reminded me of a lecture I attended recently by a Johns Hopkins neurologist who talked about how kids with ADD don’t respond to negative punishment but behave better when motivated by positive reinforcement. It made me wonder how much our theology has been influenced by inadequate understandings of the neurological basis for behavior.

  • RJS

    Do you find that coffee gets you into a thinking mode? Absolutely

    Does it help you concentrate? Yes

    I probably err on the side of too much … but coffee is a staple.

  • Kyle

    In my experience caffeine assists verbal fluency and alertness while measurably hindering spatial working memory. And then there’s the “tip of the tongue” fact retrieval issue. To say it benefits thinking is saying far too little without domain and skill-specific application.

  • Darryl Willis

    Do you find that coffee gets you into a thinking mode? Certainly

    Does it help you concentrate? Of course

    Are you addict? What’s to point if you’re not???


  • Darryl Willis

    um, sorry *the point*

  • Mike M

    Like any ergogenic aide, caffeine’s effects wear off with overconsumption (on any one day) & overconsumption on a continued basis (addiction). Caffeine affects thinking on at least two pathways: as an adenosine antagonist and as as a dopamine releaser. Adenosine causes tiredness so antagonism produces alertness. Dopamine is the “pleasure” neurotransmitter so it’ s release causes feelings most Christians find sinful. So, drink up but no more than one cup of coffee per day, three cups of black tea, three cans of diet Dew, or (more beneficially) 7 cups of green tea.
    Caffeine is also a great weight loss aide since it causes fatty acid release from fat cells which are used as fuel. The other ingredients in green tea also enhance this effect.

  • A Mother’s Milk on Unley Rd and Bar 9 on Glen Osmond Rd are the two best specialty coffee places near Tabor Adelaide, but if you are after a more Starbucks style coffee you would have to go to a Gloria Jeans but there aren’t really any near by Tabor.

    Was great to hear you yesterday and hope you enjoy the rest of your week in Adelaide.

  • Adam P

    I’m sorry, but allow me to interject–duh!

  • Trav

    Scot, are you coming to Melbourne whilst in Australia?