First, the back story: Celebrity Ashton Kutcher recently revealed on The Kelly Clarkson Show that he often likes to drink his coffee with a splash of orange juice. According to him, it’s a quick trick for adding citrus notes to an otherwise bitter cup of coffee.
Though this may sound great (to some?) in theory, Genevieve Kappler, a coffee expert, roasting technologist, and the director of coffee and brewing of Roasting Plant Coffee, says this “trick” is going to buy you a one-way ticket to spoiling a quality cup of joe. Meanwhile, Christina Manian, RDN, a Boulder-based registered dietitian and sustainable food systems professional, notes that mixing the two can hinder the body’s ability to absorb its nutritional content. More ahead on this buzzy coffee trend.
Why a coffee expert doesn’t recommend mixing orange juice and coffee
Kappler says she considers herself a coffee purist, so the thought of adding orange juice to coffee makes her “instantly shudder.” “I’m all for trying new and innovative ways to drink coffee, but this pairing in particular is a no-go for me,” Kappler says. “At Roasting Plant, we take pride in sourcing the best beans from around the world, and I wouldn’t want to diminish the beautiful, natural flavors we bring out through our precision roasting with orange juice. It would completely change the taste of coffee.” What’s more, the coffee pro says that combining the two beverages, which have drastically different pH levels, can also severely alter the chemical composition of each.
If citrusy notes are the goal, Kappler says you can find that depending on the type of beans you source…without adding any OJ whatsoever. “My recommendation to fulfill this trend is to seek coffee with natural citrus flavors and notes of juiciness in the coffee. For those who love coffee and orange or citrus flavors, try Roasting Plant Coffee’s newest incredibly rare lot from Yemen; it has delightful notes of Sicilian blood orange, vanilla, and wild berries,” Kappler says.
Another way she infuses coffee with citrusy flavors without altering its composition is by infusing it with orange blossom extract. “For coffee lovers who also love orange flavor, create a fun coffee recipe by making a flash-chilled coffee or cold brew at home and adding a semi-whipped cream with pure vanilla extract, orange blossom extract, and brown sugar or maple syrup. Syrup or extract won’t interact with the coffee pH as they have a fantastic symbiosis and work together to preserve the nature and taste of coffee but add a delicate layer of orange flavor that is complimentary and so tasty,” Kappler says. Yum.
“For coffee lovers who also love orange flavor, create a fun coffee recipe by making a flash-chilled coffee or cold brew at home and adding a semi-whipped cream with pure vanilla extract, orange blossom extract, and brown sugar or maple syrup.”—Genevieve Kappler
What health implications does mixing coffee and orange juice have from an RD’s perspective?
According to Manian, mixing these two beverages can affect more than just their flavor—it can actually lead to an unwanted stomach ache. “Both orange juice and coffee are highly acidic foods. Coffee can also stimulate the production of stomach acid, all of which may result in acid reflux—or heartburn—symptoms,” Manian says. (Although she notes that not everyone will experience these symptoms.)
It’s also worth noting that the combination of coffee and OJ can hinder the body’s ability to absorb their nutrients. “The tannins [water-soluble polyphenols that are present in many plant foods] found in coffee can block some of the absorption of vitamin C found in orange juice, so if you’re looking for optimal absorption, I would give it an hour between drinking these beverages,” Manian says.
“The tannins found in coffee can block some of the absorption of vitamin C found in orange juice, so if you’re looking for optimal absorption, I would give it an hour between drinking these beverages.”
—Christina Manian, MS, RD
That said, coffee—a gastroenterologist’s favorite gut-healthy drink—can have many positive effects on its own. “In addition to stimulating stomach acid production, coffee can also stimulate bile production and increase gastrointestinal motility, which can all be beneficial to our digestion and metabolism,” Manian says. What’s more, she points out that the antioxidants found in coffee can also have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body (and gut). TL;DR? It’s best to keep coffee and OJ separate for now.
How to make a DIY dairy-free creamer: