Wondering if you should put honey in coffee? In this post, we compare honey vs sugar in coffee. Plus pros, cons, flavor and healthiness of honey with coffee.
Which is Better in Coffee? Sugar or Honey
If you want to add honey to your coffee it may be better for you, or it may not. There are some conflicting opinions about honey and coffee, so you may be wondering which is correct?
It really depends on your health considerations. And of course your taste buds. Although when it comes to taste buds, they can be trained. Yes, you can teach an old taste bud new tricks. 🙂
Honey has some benefits that sugar doesn't. It may contribute to keeping your blood sugar levels stabilized because it's processed differently than table sugar.
But, because honey has a different sugar makeup it could cause digestive problems for some (including me) so let's take a closer look and see if honey is the right choice for you.
3 benefits of coffee with honey
When considering the benefits of honey in coffee it's good to remember that when it comes to vitamins and minerals, we're talking about trace amounts of goodness.
And to get the most you'll need to use raw honey, the unpasteurized stuff.
White table sugar, on the other hand, doesn't even have trace amounts so you may decide to switch to honey for that reason alone.
So, what are the benefits of honey? Here are some you can think about as you sip away on your next cup of honey-sweetened coffee.
Raw honey contains trace amounts of minerals and vitamins. They include:
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- Vitamin B (pantothenic acid)
- Amino acids
It also has antibacterial properties and pollen which may help reduce allergies while boosting the immune system. Some have found that choosing a raw local honey has helped ease their seasonal allergies.
It is interesting to note that some of the benefits of honey are lost at hot temperatures so if you want to get the benefits it's probably best to let your coffee cool a little before adding honey (more about that later).
Does honey have sugar?
Yes. Honey is a type of sugar. It's made up of glucose and fructose.
If you're wondering about honey having added sugar, that may depend on the brand of honey.
Some brands add corn syrup (and other things) to their honey. So if you don't want honey with added sugar your best bet is to make sure you're getting pure honey.
Brands can be tricky in their claims of “pure honey” because they can say that and still add things. Why not, if part of what's going in the bottle is pure honey, right? We probably agree that philosophy should not be allowed, but branding can be confusing.
So make sure to read the ingredients and maybe do a little extra research.
Better yet is getting honey from a local farmer. This way you can ask about it and feel good about the pureness of your honey.
If you're looking for ways to sweeten your coffee without sugar check out this popular post where I share 19 healthy alternatives.
What kind of sugar is honey?
Honey is a monosaccharide, largely made up of the sugars fructose (40%) and glucose (30%). The rest is mostly water, a little sucrose, some vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
In table sugar (white sugar) those molecules bond to become sucrose, a disaccharide.
Because these molecules are not bonded in honey the body process it differently. If you have issues with your blood sugar honey may be a better choice (more on that below).
If you have issues with fructose, it may not.
Is honey in coffee better for blood sugar?
Honey may be a little bit better because it's metabolized slower than sugar, so it may not spike your blood sugar as quickly.
Honey is also lower than sucrose on the glycemic index. Sucrose is indexed at 65, while honey can vary but is around 61. This indicates that it may be slightly better, but according to the Mayo Clinic, those with diabetes need to know that it will still affect their blood sugar.
There seems to be some confusion about how honey and sucrose affect blood sugar. But based on my research it seems that while the sugars in honey can be used by the body faster, they give more sustained energy. Meaning they don't spike your blood sugar as fast.
Sucrose, on the other hand, has to be processed more before it can be turned into energy. But once the sugars become useful they are less sustained – giving a burst of energy and falling off quickly, therefore, spiking blood sugar more. Due at least in part to the higher percentage of glucose.
Is honey lower in calories than sugar?
Surprisingly no, honey has more calories than sugar. A tsp of honey has around 22 calories, a tsp of sugar has around 16.
So if you're trying to lose weight you'll need to keep an eye on how the calories are adding up if you want to switch from sugar to honey in your coffee.
You may be interested in reading about putting brown sugar in your coffee.
How much honey to sweeten coffee?
This will depend on your personal preference but you may need less honey than sugar. Many find that honey tastes sweeter than sugar, probably because of the fructose it contains (fructose tastes sweeter than glucose).
With this in mind, you may find that you can use a half teaspoon of honey where you may be used to adding a full teaspoon of regular sugar.
Switching to cold brew coffee may be another way to reduce the amount of sweetener you need because when coffee is brewed at cooler temperatures some of the bitter flavors are reduced resulting in a sweeter, or more pleasant flavor.
Also, using high-quality medium roast Arabica beans will usually ensure a pleasant flavor in your cup. Look for flavor notes of chocolate, caramel, and nuts.
What does coffee with honey taste like?
Your coffee will taste differently depending on which flowers the bees used to make their honey. And also how that flavor pairs with the flavor notes in your coffee.
Some honey has a stronger flavor than others. For example, clover honey is a popular choice because of its mild flavor. Other mild flavors to consider are orange blossom, wildflower, lavender, and acacia.
Why use raw organic honey in coffee?
Some choose to use organic raw honey because it may contain more beneficial ingredients.
When honey is pasteurized some of the goodness is lost due to the heat, and others may be filtered out.
As mentioned above, if you're trying to salvage the goodness in your honey it's best to let your coffee cool a little before adding it.
5 Drawbacks to putting honey in coffee
Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering the potential drawbacks of adding honey to coffee.
- You may not like the floral or fruity flavor honey adds to your coffee. Or at least it may take some time to get used to.
- Honey is really sticky and can be messy to measure out.
- You're not going to get significant benefits by adding honey to your coffee unless you have some specific health considerations.
- It may also cause problems for some people. For example, I can't use honey in my coffee because I have IBS and the fructose causes digestive issues.
- Honey could give a false sense of “healthy” when in reality it is a type of sugar and needs to be used in moderation.
Whenever you read about cautions in regard to honey you'll read about botulism. But that is rarely a problem for adults, and I think it's pretty safe to assume you're not going to be giving honey-sweetened coffee to your baby.
Is adding honey to coffee healthier?
Maybe. As mentioned above honey is a type of sugar and should be used in moderation or it will negatively impact your health, like any sugar.
But is honey healthier than sugar (sucrose) in your coffee?
It may be slightly healthier to replace sugar with honey if:
- you have issues with your blood sugar and you notice a positive change when you switch
- you have seasonal allergies and can ensure that the pollen in raw honey makes it into your coffee intact
- you feel it's better to get some trace amounts of beneficial compounds we discussed earlier, rather than none
While the above is true, here are some things to keep in mind:
- honey contains more calories
- the fructose may cause digestive problems
- if pasteurized, some of the benefits are lost, as they may be in “hot coffee”
Just a note on that last point. Honey is pasteurized at around 160°F (70°C). The optimal brewing temperature of coffee is between 195°F to 205°F (90.5 – 96.1°C).
So while pouring your coffee into your cup will reduce the heat a little, you'll still want to let it sit and cool a few minutes before adding your raw honey, or you may get a little pasteurizing of your own going on.
Will it be Honey or Sugar?
So what do you think, will you be putting honey in your coffee?
I used to put honey in mine. When we lived in Ecuador there was a delicious type of honey which had a slight eucalyptus flavor, at first it tasted kind of strong but after a while I loved it.
Unfortunately, my digestive system has since gotten more sensitive and I can no longer handle honey, now I use maple syrup which also has a lower GI than sucrose.
I do like to choose sweeteners that are less likely to spike blood sugar so for that reason, I would say honey (if you can eat it) may be worth considering.
Let me know what you think by commenting on this post. And if you've found a type of honey that you love in your coffee please share for the benefit of our little community of coffee lovers.
Dena Haines is a co-founder and blogger on EnjoyJava! – and is working to make it the best coffee blog in the world. She also blogs about travel at Storyteller.Travel and photography at Click Like This. Dena is partner at Storyteller Media, a publishing company she started with her husband, Bryan.