Why Do People Drink Coffee After Dinner?

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Is it weird to drink coffee after dinner? Depending on where you grew up, the idea of an after-dinner espresso could seem confusing, obvious, or just unheard of. So why do people drink coffee after dinner anyway?

After-dinner coffee has its roots in European culture. It has several benefits like encouraging socialization, helping with weight loss and general health, and boosting your energy to counteract after-dinner sleepiness.

Let’s take a look at all of the common reasons why people crave coffee after a meal, why restaurants serve after-dinner coffee, and what cultures started this trend. I’ll even give you some pointers about the best type of coffee to drink after a meal.

Why Do People Drink Coffee After a Meal?

A table of people drinking coffee and espresso after a meal

1. Coffee encourages socialization

Coffee serves as a reason to stick around at the table and catch up, even after the food is gone. Sure, you could just grab a glass of wine or a beer, but it’s good to have options.

And a toasty cup of coffee is especially nice when you’re having dinner out on a chilly patio where a cold beer just sounds, well, cold.

2. Coffee has health benefits

Whether you drink it in the morning or after a meal, coffee is rich in antioxidants. Since the average western diet doesn’t do a great job of providing antioxidants to the diet, an after-dinner coffee is an ideal addition.

3. Coffee helps with weight loss

The jury is still out on whether coffee directly aids in weight loss. What we do know, though, is that black coffee is an appetite suppressant, and it has less than five calories per cup.

Trading your dessert or wine in for a cup of coffee is an excellent way to cut your calorie count. Of course, that assumes you aren’t adding a lot of extra sugars and creamers to your mug.

4. Coffee after a meal help digestion (Maybe)

It’s long been believed that coffee helps slow digestion when you drink it after a meal. The health science community has supported some of these claims, while other claims are still inconclusive.

In particular, small amounts of coffee may reduce your risk of constipation, and some reports claim that daily coffee consumption can help prevent gallstones and gastrointestinal issues.

5. Coffee provides an energy boost

There’s no controversy here: caffeine gives you energy.

A big meal, especially one heavy in carbs, can spike your blood sugar levels. Your body releases insulin to compensate, which leaves you feeling sleepy and lethargic.

When you’re feeling the effects of a heavy meal, a dose of caffeine can be the perfect solution. The caffeine counteracts the insulin, letting you stay awake and alert.

6. Coffee is a family and cultural tradition

For many of us, the question isn’t ‘why do people crave coffee after a meal?’. It’s just an accepted fact of our family or culture. Since coffee has always been served after dinner, we’ve come to expect it.

Questioning coffee would be like questioning appetizers or desserts. They’re just a part of the meal, and that’s the way it has always been.

Why Is Coffee Served After Dinner at Restaurants?

Restaurants are always looking for ways to enhance customer experiences and make upsells. When they offer you coffee after a meal, you’re more likely to order a dessert, more food, or maybe another drink from the bar.

Restaurants thrive when they turn over tables faster, but drinks and desserts tend to be higher-margin items. And when customers are sticking around chatting anyway, you may as well keep offering them items. When the time comes to pay the bill, a happy, well-fed patron is a better-tipping patron.

And, of course, some restaurants are just following their own cultural or family traditions.

Which Cultures Drinks Coffee After Dinner?

After-dinner coffee is common in several European cultures as well as parts of North America.

When you visit France, you’ll often be presented with coffee and a cognac after your meal or possibly an intense, sweet coffee drink called a Cafe Granit.

Italy is known for several coffee drinks. Milk-containing drinks like cappuccino are usually confined to the morning in Italy. After dinner, on the other hand, they prefer to sip a straight shot of espresso instead of the richness of their morning drinks.

In the Netherlands, you may be offered a traditional dutch drink called a koffie verkeerd. This drink is just a glass of milk with a small amount of coffee added in. It’s really more like a latte than an espresso or coffee.

Since America is a hodge-podge of several cultures, after-dinner coffee isn’t unheard of, but it also isn’t standard. You can generally find coffee or espresso on a dessert menu, but it likely won’t be offered by default at most restaurants. Of course, that changes if you are at an Italian or French restaurant.

What Type of Coffee Should You Drink After Dinner?

It’s usually best to follow the lead of the Italians and avoid too much milk or cream in your after-dinner coffee. Richer, heavier drinks will counteract the energy, weight loss, and digestion advantages of your after-dinner coffee.

Espresso is probably the best option, maybe with a slight amount of sugar or low-fat milk to taste. You could opt for a regular coffee instead, but the smaller size of an espresso shot makes it particularly sippable and easy to consume on a full stomach.

A shot of espresso, showing a rich crema layer

Although espresso has more caffeine per ounce than coffee, a shot of espresso has less total caffeine than a cup of drip coffee. That’s because of the small size of an espresso, which is several ounces smaller than a drip coffee.

If you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, you could always opt for decaf coffee. That will still give you many of the health and socialization benefits without the coffee jitters or the diuretic effect of caffeine.

What’s Next?

Go, enjoy an after-dinner coffee. And if you want to make it a tradition in your home, all you need is a drip coffee maker or a cheap espresso machine.

For an even simpler way to make at-home coffee, you could go for the pod-based Nespresso machines. Their VertuoLine machines (including my favorite, the Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe) offer one of the only ways to make both drip coffee and espresso in a single machine. That way, you can keep all of your dinner guests happy.