Coffee is Good, Toxic Coffee is Bad

[Updated on March 29, 2017 with the section, “The Other Blind Spot”]

Much to the surprise of many, I’m not anti-coffee. But I think it needs to be consumed responsibly.

This post isn’t about the pros and cons of coffee or caffeine, although I offer some tips at the end on how to enjoy coffee without it burning out your adrenals, interrupting your sleep, and dysregulating your blood sugar.

And if you want to read up on some of the more recent and prolific studies around the benefits of coffee, check out PubMed.

So yes, I drink coffee. One cup of organic, fair-trade, half decaf in the morning, with my breakfast. But I drink most of it after breakfast.

This is after I’ve already had my first-thing-in-the-morning cocktail of warm water with lemon, liver-supportive herbs, and black seed oil. Delicious.

I’d go full decaf, but my husband doesn’t enjoy the taste, so we compromise. That half-blend of “leaded” doesn’t wig me out, so I feel okay about it.

A while back, we made a major shift in the way we make coffee – and I want you to know about it because it has big implications for your hormones and immune system. 

Blind Spot
We all have blind spots, right? One of mine was that we had a typical coffeemaker – a Cuisinart drip coffeemaker.

One day, I slapped myself on the forehead. Oh my gosh, the guts of this thing are made of plastic! It’s not like I didn’t know this, but…again, a blind spot…

If you’re at all tuned into holistic health and wellness, you likely know that plastic is bad news – especially when heated. “You heat it, you eat it.”

And it’s not just BPA that you need to worry about. BPA, the synthetic, estrogen-like chemical in polycarbonate plastic that has endocrine-disrupting effects that can cause reproductive, developmental, behavioral, and neurological harm, is the darling of most “plastics are toxic” headlines.

But new research is showing that all plastics, even BPA-free plastics, are a problem. A big problem.

When I hear about “safe” BPA-free plastics, I stick my fingers in my ears and go, “La la la la la.”

So back to my coffeemaker. The implications of how the water is heated to a high temperature and then filtered through a plastic unit before making its way to the pot hit me like a ton of bricks.

I said to my husband, “We have to get rid of this thing.” 

Body Burden
I’ve worked hard to rid my home of toxins and endocrine disruptors, as should everyone. I’m a sleuth when it comes to water filters, air filters, skincare products and cosmetics, cleaning products, and what I use in my kitchen. For example, you’ll never find anything nonstick in my kitchen.

Don’t even get me started on the journey I went on right before my daughter came into the world. I refuse to let her get “hormonally hothoused.”

So while I’m not wide-eyed, a “the sky is falling” coach or mommy and I approach this whole world of toxins and endocrine disruptors in a pretty practical, you-don’t-have-to-be-perfect manner, I still encourage people to do the best they can to protect themselves and their families. 

I educate my clients on how to clean up their skincare and cosmetics, food, water, kitchen tools and gadgets (often riddled with plastics), home cleaning products, and even their mattresses and other sources of toxic flame retardants to reduce their body burden and toxic load, which altogether has big implications for our hormones – and our immune system.

While I was shocked about my blind spot, I didn’t freak out because I do a pretty good job with everything else – and because freaking out doesn’t do any good and would just torment my adrenals. 

The Solution
I set out to find a plastic-free, wireless coffeemaker that wasn’t a French press or an Italian stovetop model.

(I know that a lot of people love their presses. I don’t like the unfiltered oils from a press – you can see them floating on the top of your cup. They really do a number on me – I get too wigged out. But I don’t have a problem with coffee from a press from a health standpoint. In fact, some experts claim that you get the most health benefits from coffee when it’s unfiltered. In other words, with the oils. Still, some say that the oils can cause irritation of the digestive lining. As with everything, find what works for you.)

Okay, so does this plastic-free, wireless coffeemaker exist?

It does.

It’s called Chemex. Not a sexy name, but I’m in love with it.

It makes the best tasting coffee I’ve ever had – it’s rich without bitterness or sediment.

And it’s sexy in the sense that it appeals to my design sensibilities.

It’s a hand-blown water kettle made from non-porous, borosilicate glass and fastened with a wood collar and tie. It’s even on permanent display at MOMA NY and other museums and was selected by the Illinois Institute of Technology as one of the 100 best designed products of modern times.

This thing looks beautiful sitting on our kitchen counter.

You have to get specific filters – you can’t use any ol’ coffee filter. And it’s a good idea to get a coffee drip kettle for the perfect pour. This is the one I have.

Lastly, you need to get pretty specific about how your beans are ground. As with any coffeemaker, you don’t want them too fine or too coarse. For a typical coffee grinder, you want the “metal” or #7 setting for your Chemex coffee.

Once you try Chemex, you’ll never want anything else. It’s that good. And you can feel great about the fact that it’s completely plastic-free. 

The Other Blind Spot
This hasn’t been a blind spot for me so much as it is for a lot of people – and that is plastic lids on to-go cups. If your drink – especially your hot drink – is touching toxic plastic every time you sip, you’re getting plastic exposure. With every sip.

In this case, you heat it, you drink it.

Drink lids often fall in the #6 or #7 class of plastics, with most in the #6 category, where the primary component is Styrofoam or polystyrene. Polystyrene is a neurotoxin and carcinogen and the EPA has labeled polystyrene as number five in the creation of hazardous waste.

The risks associated with Styrofoam is deserving of another post, but for now, know that it leaches into your drink, no matter what temperature. In fact, the cups are said to lose weight while in use!

The styrene in Styrofoam mimics estrogen and along with this comes whole host of issues, one of which is that the damage is comparable to that of BPA.

Plastics labeled #7 are “miscellaneous” plastics that don’t fall in the other categories of plastic and are mostly made with BPA.

So think about this. If you’re getting coffee to go, it’s often made in a coffeemaker where the hot water is coming into contact with a least one plastic part. To add insult to injury, most people are slapping a plastic lid on their cup, significantly increasing ingestion of toxic and hormone-disrupting chemicals. Talk about a double whammy.

Would you like some coffee with those toxins?

More and more coffeehouses are offering plastic-free lids, but you want to steer clear of the brown ones made with fibrous composite – unless you want your coffee to taste like cardboard.

The safe option is a lid made with corn. These are also compostable, which I feel great about.

I don’t know about other brands, but the Cornware brand has several “green” accreditations; they don’t leach, even at high temperatures; and the corn product is food grade and safe for food contact.

My favorite local coffeehouse and my food co-op both use corn-based lids. I hate walking through life with my “toxin goggles” on and in talking about endocrine disruptors and toxins in our environment with my clients, I encourage them to do the same.

Still, there are plenty of things that I get my feathers ruffled about when it comes to the toxic bath that we all swim in (and there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself, by the way), but I gotta say, when I see plastic lids stacked up at typical coffeehouses, I cringe.

(Keep in mind, this all applies to any hot drink – not just coffee. So we’re talking tea, chai, etc.)

How To Drink Coffee
A lot of people abuse coffee and other forms of caffeine. This is never a good idea, especially if you have more advanced adrenal issues.

Again, most of my clients are surprised to hear that I’m not necessarily anti-coffee. But we’re often making some shifts in how and when it’s consumed.

Let’s face it, coffee is delicious. So let’s talk about how to consume it in a way that keeps you balanced.

Here are my recommendations: 

  • Your coffee should always be organic and preferably fair trade. I drink Peace Coffee, a local roaster. 
  • Never use a plastic lid for to-go coffee. I realize this may be problematic if you want to drink and drive. Make your coffee at home (which will save a lot of money), drink out of a ceramic cup, or bring your own to-go cup from home. Make sure it doesn’t have a plastic interior liner or plastic lid. This is the one that I recommend. It’s completely plastic-free with a silicone lid. (Some of the Amazon reviews aren’t great, but I know a few people who have it and love it. Before writing this post, I asked two of my friends who have this cup if it makes their coffee “taste funny” and they both said, “No.”)
  • Never drink coffee before breakfast. No one should drink caffeine on an empty stomach, which is a form of torture for your metabolic glands – like rocket fuel. Some will spend the rest of the day recovering from this jolt and blood sugar scramble.
  • Speaking of blood sugar, caffeine acts like sugar in the body, in that it can destabilize blood sugar, but not if consumed after breakfast and in moderation.
  • Don’t drink coffee after mid-morning. If you need something in the afternoon, drink herbal tea or an herbal “coffee” blend like Dandy Blend or Teechino. (These are both gluten-free.)
  • Never use coffee as a crutch or a non-nutritional form of energy.
  • It’s best to consume coffee with some form of fat, like whipping cream (if you can tolerate dairy) or coconut creamer. Here is our recipe for an upgrade. And yes, I know that “bulletproof coffee” is popular right now and if you like the flavor of butter in your coffee, more power to you. The problem I have with bulletproof advocates is that some claim that it’s a substitute for breakfast. It’s not. And according to this post, “The problem is that Bulletproof Coffee, the company behind the trend, is claiming that drinking a mug of fatty joe every morning instead of eating breakfast is a secret shortcut to weight loss and mental superpowers, and now the butter coffee has developed a cult of highly caffeinated, shiny-lipped adherents.”
  • Lastly, examine your relationship with coffee. If you’re really dragging and fatigue is a big issue for you, you’re much better off completely eliminating caffeine, at least for a while, and using some kind of healthful substitute. One way of putting it that really resonates with people is that when you’re on the advanced end of the adrenal dysfunction spectrum, drinking caffeine is like taking out a high interest loan on your adrenals. 

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Jill, you are such a star making this info available. Thanks. And yes we drink half and half - one a day - using water-processed decaff (organic and FT). We make it in a glass cafetiere.
I'm vegan and haven't found a substitute for milk - not sure we get coconut creamer in the UK? Do you think just cocnut cream would do it?

All best to you. Thank you.


Hi Roselle, if you can’t get coconut milk or creamer in a tetra pak (the milk comes both refrigerated and shelf-stable and the creamer is refrigerated), then try canned coconut milk (BPA-free can, of course). It’s thick and heavy, so you can cut it with nut milk for a nice creamer.

Hi Jill - and thanks for another helpful post.
Not sure what's happening here as that wasn't actually my comment! – but I WAS about to respond to it as a UK vegan etc: Barista Almond Breeze is THE BEST in coffee. truly delicious. My only concern is that I don't know where the almonds are sourced (food miles? Californian almonds with welfare issues for the bees?).

Yes, thanks, Jill.

In response to the comment from a fellow vegan, go for Barista Almond Breeze! It's truly lovely in coffee (and I hate all the others).

My only concern is where the almonds come from (I keep meaning to ask the company): partly from the point of view of food miles, and partly because if it's California there are ethical reasons to do with bee welfare to avoid it. Guess I don't really want to know the answer... yet.

All coffee in the UK must travel from Central America, South America, Kenia or Indonesia, so you can work it out if it is ethical from an air-miles perspective.

Regarding  almonds unless they’re grown in the UK again you’re looking at imports from far away.  For ethically grown almonds you’d need to go to villages in the Greek isles for example, or villages in Iran or Turkey, or grow them yourself.

Gabriella, there are almonds grown in France, Spain and Italy. I just haven't checked these. You're quite right about coffee though of course! :-)

Wow. I'm also surprised to hear that you're not anti-coffee. I just quit coffee because I was drinking three cups a day and having strong dark chocolate squares throughout the day. I couldn't live without it. But then my hormones started wigging out and I knew I needed to stop, so I did, and my hormones regulated. I'm not one of those people who can easily drink one cup of caffeinated coffee a day. If I have one, it becomes two and three easily. As someone so addicted, would it be best to avoid even a decent decaf, or just try out a decaf to see if I'm still able to abstain from caffeine? Have you had any other clients like me? Thanks so much for your article! :) 

If you’re a true “addict,” then yes, I recommend abstaining from coffee altogether. Decaf still contains some caffeine.


super informative......

I have had hypothyroidism for 3years. I have come to the conclusion I have to change my diet.

I feel sluggish, tired, ect..

I quit coffee 3 days ago and had bad headaches for two days.

 I feel better know but can’t wake up.


 I guess I will evetually get used to it. I have no choice. Thank you for your information. It has helped me to understand what is going on.

Hey Jill,

I appreciate your sharing your opinion about coffee.  I used to feel the same way.  For many years, I consumed caffeine even though I knew it wasn't treating me well - my pee would smell like coffee, I'd get super thirsty, and I had a general feeling of dependency.  At first, I was a coffee drinker, then I switched to black tea, and eventually to cocoa - all in my attempt to decrease my caffeine intake.  

Even with minimal caffeine intake, I knew something wasn't right.  I didn't like what felt like a dependency on a hot beverage.

So, a few weeks ago I quit caffeine cold turkey.  At first, I was shocked by how hard the withdrawal was.  I mean, I was only consuming two cups of cocoa a day before quitting.  I got so tired, headachy, and foggy-headed I actually wondered at one point whether I was dying!  (Sounds dramatic, but those who have quit caffeine can surely relate).

I encourage anyone reading this to search the internet for a very interesting post about quitting caffeine on a blog called "menprovement."  I am in no way affiliated with that site.  I only share because I think it's really important that we realize how addictive caffeine really is, and what other's experiences are like when they remove it from their lives.

Too many sites talk about 3-4 days of headaches and withdrawal.  This certainly hasn't been the case for me, and as you can read on the site mentioned, hundreds of others.

Thankfully, I'm now experiencing days when my head clears and I get glimpses of what life may be like caffeine-free.

Anyway, just wanted to chime in with my experience as it might help some others.  I had NO IDEA how even such a minimal caffeine intake could have such an effect on me.

All the best,

I really appreciate this perspective. I’m not saying that everyone should drink coffee. If you know it’s not treating you well, then definitely reconsider. People who are more advanced on the adrenal dysfunction spectrum should seriously think about abstaining from all caffeine. Plus, there are claims that coffee cross-reacts with gluten for some, which can exacerbate Hashimoto’s, among other conditions. I really took this to heart when I first learned about it a few years ago and stopped drinking coffee. But my thyroid antibodies were managed at that time and I didn’t go through caffeine withdrawal, so I allowed myself to start drinking it again. I hardly ever have more than one cup a day and it’s half decaf.

I have used an older Chemex for about 13 years, for the very same reason.  I simply place a chopstick in the "spout" to keep open the air-way, and use an unbleached #6 basket filter and 4 Tablespoons of grounds.  As the grounds absorb hot water, the filter adheres to the glass.  Nothing falls in.  All types of grounds work equally well.

I’d worry about lids made of corn which would likely be GMO and contaminated with Glyphosate.  Sorry to spoil the fun.  And anyway the water used to make the coffee probably has chlorine and fluoride in it and the coffee beans are loaded with chemicals and irradiated, so I would completely steer clear of any coffee not made at home.

Can you explain a bit more why coffee before breakfast is bad on the metabolic system? I need ALL the metabolic help I can get!

Thank you so much!

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