November 16, 2023/Nutrition

When Is the Best Time To Drink Coffee?

Morning, noon or night — the best time for that cup of joe depends on you

person holding a cup of coffee with a clock behind them

Many people rely on a morning cup of coffee immediately after the alarm sounds to help launch their day. You may even set the timer to get the pot brewing before you’ve rolled out of bed.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

“People worldwide enjoy their morning coffee,” says registered dietitian Anthony DiMarino, RD, LD. “It’s a common habit, and you may feel unsettled if something disrupts your morning ritual.”

But should you push back the timing of your coffee breaks? Scientifically speaking, that’s still up for debate. Some experts believe it’s better to wait until mid-morning or afternoon to enjoy that first (or second) cup.

But don’t panic! DiMarino says there isn’t necessarily a “best time” to drink coffee.

Drinking coffee in the morning

An 8-ounce cup of coffee contains close to 100 milligrams of caffeine, though that amount varies depending on the type of coffee grounds and how you brew them.

“Because caffeine is a stimulant, drinking coffee first thing in the morning helps you wake up,” DiMarino says. One way caffeine does this is by increasing the amount of cortisol in your body. Let’s dig in.

Coffee, caffeine and cortisol

Cortisol, which is sometimes known as the stress hormone, is the chemical your body releases in response to danger — those fight-or-flight situations. Now, your average morning isn’t typically a dangerous one (even if you’re not a morning person!), but your body still releases cortisol after waking up.

“You naturally release cortisol in the morning to help you become more alert and aware of your surroundings as you wake from your slumber,” DiMarino explains.

Your cortisol levels typically peak between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and gradually drop throughout the day, reaching their lowest point in the middle of the night while you sleep. In this way, cortisol helps your body maintain its sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm.

But the stimulating effects of caffeinated coffee first thing in the morning can rev up your cortisol production. Some people may welcome this extra jolt to their systems, while others may feel more anxious, jittery or irritable.

“Everyone’s sensitivity, or internal response, to caffeine is different,” DiMarino says.

Chronically high cortisol levels — brought on by stress, too much caffeine or other factors — can lead to inflammation that causes cell damage.

“When your cortisol levels stay elevated, you’re at an increased risk for weight gain, diabetes, heart problems and other health concerns,” he adds.

Drinking coffee at night

Drinking coffee late at night may be unwise, unless you’re working a late shift.

“Caffeine has a half-life of two to 10 hours, depending on your metabolism,” DiMarino says. In other words, it could take as little as two hours or as long as 10 hours for your body to eliminate half the caffeine from one cup of coffee.

For people with a certain “coffee gene,” a late-night cup of coffee isn’t a problem. The CYP1A2 gene helps your body break down and get rid of caffeine — and some people actually have two copies of this gene, which helps them break down caffeine faster than those who have one copy.

If you can down a double shot of espresso at 10 p.m. and sleep soundly afterward, you probably metabolize caffeine quickly.


Determining the best time to drink coffee

Here’s what experts know about the timing of drinking coffee:

  • Coffee first thing in the morning increases cortisol levels, potentially making you feel more wired.
  • Coffee at night may (or may not, depending on your genes and metabolism) affect your slumber.

So, when’s the best time to have that cuppa?

There’s no scientific evidence that supports a “best time.” But a mid- to late-morning cup between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. may help you reap the most coffee benefits. That’s when cortisol levels start to dip, and you’ll get the biggest bang from the effect of caffeine.

On the other hand, you may want a cup of joe at 2 p.m. to boost you through the afternoon slump. “Many of us feel sluggish or less productive after lunch,” DiMarino notes. If a power nap isn’t in the cards, a cup of coffee may get you through the rest of your day.

Is there a best time to drink coffee for weight loss?

No, there isn’t — because coffee doesn’t help with weight loss. Despite what you might have seen on TikTok or elsewhere on social media, coffee doesn’t have magical calorie- or fat-burning properties. And the scale won’t budge faster if you add lemon to your coffee.

But coffee can be a good swap for higher-calorie beverages.

“Specialty flavored coffee drinks can have more than 500 calories, depending on the cup size,” DiMarino warns. You can cut those empty calories by switching to reduced- or fat-free milk alternatives or sugar substitutes.

Drinking proffee (coffee mixed with protein powder) may also have some benefits. Because protein takes longer to digest, it can aid weight loss by helping you feel full longer.

How much coffee is too much?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for adults and less than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day during pregnancy. This includes the caffeine you get in chocolate, tea, sodas, energy drinks and other products.

While Americans are known for overdoing it on sugar and salt, we tend to stay below the recommended caffeine amount. Many of us consume around 135 milligrams of caffeine each day. That’s about 1 1/2 cups of coffee. The time of day you decide to drink those invigorating brews is entirely up to you!


Learn more about our editorial process.

Health Library

Related Articles

Young female teen drinking canned beverage outside
December 26, 2023/Children's Health
The Young and the Restless: Why Kids Should Avoid Caffeine

No amount of caffeine is safe for kids under 12, and kids 12 to 17 should be cautious about how much they consume

close up of green coffee beans
December 14, 2023/Nutrition
Should You Go Green? What To Know About Green Coffee Bean Extract

There’s no evidence to prove this supplement can help with weight loss, and it may come with risks

person holding to go cup of coffee
November 12, 2023/Nutrition
Is It OK To Drink Coffee on an Empty Stomach?

It’s fine for most, but it can worsen heartburn and ulcers if you’re prone to them

Hot coffee in orange mug with colon outline in background.
May 24, 2023/Digestive
Coffee Enemas Are the Next Hot Trend You Shouldn’t Try

Coffee is better (and safer) ingested than injected

bulletproof coffee with butter and coconut oil
May 4, 2023/Nutrition
Bulletproof Coffee Shouldn’t Be an Everyday Drink

‘Butter coffee’ is super high in calories and saturated fats with almost no nutrients

Top view of a bag of yerba mate tea and the traditional drinking gourd filled with the tea.
April 13, 2023/Diet, Food & Fitness
Coffee Alternatives: Looking Beyond the Bean-Based Drink

Dare to be different with mushroom coffee, matcha tea or even golden milk

Mug of Coffee with Mushrooms
March 6, 2023/Nutrition
Mushroom Coffee: Is It Healthier Than Your Average Cup of Joe?

Mushroom coffee is expensive and has fewer health benefits than eating whole mushrooms

Person pouring coffee in kitchen from a French press.
February 1, 2023/Nutrition
This Should Perk You Up: The Surprising Health Benefits of Coffee

A moderate amount of coffee can lower your risk for several chronic diseases

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey