Re-Thinking Your Morning Brew: Why Timing is Crucial for Your Coffee Kick

Sometimes, do you find yourself enforcing a strict ‘socks must match’ policy, or only eating the green M&Ms because they’re obviously the best ones?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone in these little idiosyncrasies.

In fact, even Ludwig van Beethoven, the stern-faced musical genius with the foppish hair and scowling stare, wasn’t immune to the odd quirk or two.

It may surprise you to know that, in addition to his vast musical accomplishments, Beethoven left a legacy of truly peculiar habits:

  • His workspace was usually dirty and cluttered – he would often have a soiled chamber pot hidden beneath his piano.
  • He loved to hide behind doors so he could jump out and scare his visitors (ta ta ta taaah!)
  • Every Thursday, without fail, he would eat a special ‘bread pudding soup’, served with exactly ten carefully scrutinised eggs.

Possibly his strangest habit (though perhaps not so strange to coffee-addicted Melbournians) was his morning ritual….

The 200-Year Old, 60-Bean Coffee Recipe for High Performance

In his fascinating book about high performance habits –  ‘Effortless’ – Greg McKeown describes how Beethoven would kickstart his day not just with any coffee, but with one brewed from exactly 60 beans, which he would count meticulously himself – a practice he adhered to even when he had guests.

It was this number, he believed, that would make the absolute perfect coffee. 

Intriguingly, a number of world-class baristas have since tested Beethoven’s 60-bean-no-more-no-less coffee recipe to see if the German composer had inadvertently stumbled across the golden-ratio of caffeine.

Alas, it seems that while 60 beans make an ok espresso, this quantity is nowhere near the strength required to satisfy our sophisticated, 21st-century, caffeine-addicted palate.

The Best Time to Drink Coffee for Mental Performance

Like Beethoven, many of us use coffee to kickstart our day (his started at dawn), using caffeine to shake off sleep and prepare for what’s ahead.

In fact, Australians love their morning brew so much that, according to a 2021 survey by Mccrindle Research, three in four of us enjoy at least one cup of coffee per day.

That’s a lot of coffee beans being brewed daily!

However, if you’re a morning coffee drinker looking to optimise your energy and performance, it might be worth reconsidering your coffee-drinking timing.

It turns out that for some people, there is a MUCH better time to drink coffee than first thing in the morning.

…Here’s why:

If genetically your internal clock is set to early morning rising, your levels of cortisol, the wake-up hormone, will peak in the morning, around 8:30 a.m.

Since caffeine also boosts cortisol, you’re effectively boosting something that doesn’t need boosting. 

However, since cortisol levels start to decline after 8.30am and then surge and peak again around lunchtime, the sweet spot for maximising your coffee’s potency might lie between 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. This will help you experience optimal levels of cortisol through to lunchtime. 

This, at least, is what Andrew Huberman, Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford University, advocates.

And I have to say that having experimented with this renewed schedule with many of my Morning Star (early rising) clients I can say this definitely makes a big difference.

If, however, you’re a Rockstar type – that is your internal clock is set to later, and you’ll know you’re a Rockstar if you hate early starts and you need an alarm to wake up – I recommend ignoring Professor Huberman’s advice and sticking to your morning cup of coffee to get you going.

So, as you pour your next cup, ask yourself this: ‘Is there a better way I could be enjoying my coffee?’