Pros and Cons of Mushroom Coffee | Solid Grounds

Mushroom coffee is a new type of coffee that blends regular coffee beans with powdered medicinal mushroom extracts such as cordyceps and lion’s mane. Proponents claim that combining the bioactive compounds in functional mushrooms with coffee can provide various health and performance benefits. Potential upsides include increased energy, focus, gut health regulation, and immunity support.

However, there is still limited clinical evidence specifically on blended mushroom coffee products. Additional downsides are the high cost, bitter taste, and possible supplement interactions. While early findings show promise and consumer interest is rapidly growing, more placebo-controlled human trials over longer periods are needed to substantiate efficacy and safety. For now, moderate intake is recommended, especially for those taking medications or with underlying conditions.

Pros and Cons of Mushroom Coffee

The Main Pros and Cons of Mushroom Coffee

A hot new trend in the world of coffee is mushroom coffee – a blend of regular coffee with various powdered medicinal mushroom extracts such as cordyceps, lion’s mane, chaga and reishi. While adding mushrooms to your morning joe may sound strange, supporters of mushroom coffee claim it provides a range of health and performance benefits beyond your average cup. As mushroom coffee explodes in popularity, it’s important to take an objective look at potential pros and cons.

Understanding Key Ingredients

Mushroom coffee typically contains normal coffee beans combined with at least one type of mushroom extract in powdered form. Two of the most common varieties used are cordyceps and lion’s mane. Cordyceps contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds while research shows lion’s mane may support cognitive health and brain cell regeneration. Other mushrooms like chaga, reishi and tremella are also sometimes found in blends and offer immune-boosting effects.

Potential Health Benefits

Proponents claim that combining these mushroom varieties with coffee can enhance the drink’s effects. Some early research shows compounds like beta-glucans in certain mushrooms may help regulate gut health and strengthen immunity. The adaptogenic properties could also help the body better handle physical and mental stress. By pairing these with coffee, mushroom coffee could provide sustained energy, focus and concentration for work or studying. More research is still needed, but results are promising.

Nutrient Profile

In addition to beneficial mushroom compounds, mushroom coffee also provides nutrition from the coffee itself like antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as niacin, potassium, magnesium and more. Those looking to cut back on caffeine can potentially replace a cup or two of normal coffee with a mushroom coffee blend while still getting nutritional value.

Sustainable Ingredient Appeal

Another draw is that many mushroom coffee products use high quality organic, fair trade Arabica coffee beans along with organic mushroom varieties. The sustainable farming and ethical sourcing practices appeal to many environmentally conscious consumers. Brands like Rebbl Mushroom Coffee use dual-extracted reishi and chaga mushrooms paired with fair trade coffee in a low acid formula.

Potential Downsides and Risks

While intriguing, there are several key downsides of swapping your morning brew for a mushroom blend. One is the cost – these specialty mushroom coffee products are far more expensive than regular coffee, with prices ranging from $15-30 for just 10-20 servings. The taste also receives mixed reviews. Some find the earthy, mushroomy flavor unappealing while others don’t mind it or add milk/sweeteners to mellow the bitterness.

There are also some safety considerations to factor in. Because mushrooms offer highly concentrated extracts, rare cases of liver damage have occurred in extremely high supplemental doses. Mushroom coffee likely only provides a modest amount, but it’s still important to practice moderation. Those on medications or with underlying conditions should exercise caution and consult their doctor first as well.

Lack of Evidence

Beyond the risks, the largest downside is simply the lack of existing evidence on efficacy or optimal dosing guidelines. While individual mushroom extract studies show promise for things like brain health and immunity, there is limited research done specifically on blended mushroom coffee products. Without more data, claims around the beverage’s effects are largely anecdotal. More placebo-controlled, randomized human trials spanning longer periods of time are needed.

Trying Mushroom Coffee

If you find the potential upsides compelling enough to give mushroom coffee a shot, start slowly. Carefully inspect labeling to ensure the product has undergone third party testing for purity and potency. Pay attention to how caffeine and other bioactive compounds make you feel over days and weeks. Adding a dash of cinnamon or cacao can help cut bitterness.

The Future Looks Bright

While research still has a ways to go, the future looks bright for mushroom coffee and other functional mushroom foods and beverages. Companies investing in clinical trials combined with increasing consumer interest signal positive momentum. In the meantime, moderate intake is recommended – especially if you are currently on any medications or have underlying health issues.

FAQs and Answers

Do all mushroom coffee products contain the same mushroom varieties?

No, not all mushroom coffee products contain the same mushroom varieties. There is actually quite a bit of variability between different brands and formulations when it comes to the types of mushrooms used.

Some of the most common medicinal mushrooms found in mushroom coffee blends include:

  • Cordyceps
  • Lion’s Mane
  • Reishi
  • Chaga
  • Tremella
  • Maitake

However, not every product will contain all or even multiple varieties. Some mushroom coffee blends may just use one single mushroom extract paired with coffee. The combinations really depends on the specific brand.

For example, Four Sigmatic’s mushroom coffee blend combines chaga and lion’s mane mushroom extracts with organic coffee beans. Meanwhile, Cafe Gratitude mixes cordyceps, reishi and chaga in their formula. Zenify uses lion’s mane paired with instant coffee.

So when choosing a mushroom coffee, it’s important to check the label and understand exactly what mushroom varieties are included, as well as how much of each one. Some products emphasize cognitive-boosting lion’s mane, while others focus more on energizing cordyceps. The formulations vary widely, so the effects of each blend may differ as well depending on the mushrooms used.

How much mushroom extract is typically in one cup of mushroom coffee?

Typically there is not a very high amount of actual mushroom extract per cup of mushroom coffee. A single serving of mushroom coffee likely contains around 100-200mg of combined mushroom extract content. This is much lower than you’d find in a standalone mushroom supplement.

For example, a lion’s mane or cordyceps supplement would usually provide around 500-1000mg of extract per capsule or serving. However, when these mushrooms are infused into coffee blends, the amounts end up being significantly reduced. After all, the primary ingredient is still regular coffee beans.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as concentrating a high dose of mushroom extracts into one cup of coffee could potentially be overkill or even pose risks if over-consumed. But it does mean you likely won’t get extremely potent effects from the mushroom content itself.

Rather, mushroom coffee is likely better thought of as more of a “mushroom-flavored” or “mushroom-infused” coffee rather than a delivery vehicle for therapeutic doses of medicinal mushrooms on their own. Any subtle benefits would likely come from long term, sustained consumption rather than drinking it occasionally.

So in summary – while mushroom coffee provides additional beneficial mushroom compounds not found in regular coffee, there is likely only around 100-200mg in a given cup based on typical formulations. Effects will be more mild compared to standalone mushroom supplements.

Will I still get jittery from coffee when I drink mushroom coffee?

Yes, you can still experience jitteriness and other caffeine-related effects when drinking mushroom coffee. This is because mushroom coffee contains regular coffee beans as the base ingredient, just with the addition of hot water mushroom extracts.

So in a typical cup of mushroom coffee, the majority of the beverage is still made up of coffee along with all the natural stimulants like caffeine that come with it. A single cup of mushroom coffee likely contains around 95-98% regular coffee. The mushroom extract portion is only around 2-5% by weight.

This means if you are sensitive to caffeine or coffee in general, switching to mushroom coffee will not eliminate the chance of jitters, anxiety, rapid heartbeat or other energizing side effects. The mushroom powders do not cancel out the effects of caffeine or make coffee “gentler” in that sense.

The amount of caffeine per cup is also very similar between regular coffee and mushroom coffee blends. Both provide around 95-200mg of caffeine depending on factors like the coffee beans used and serving size. So the stimulant dose is comparable.

In summary – while mushroom coffee may provide additional health benefits from compounds like cordyceps, lion’s mane and chaga, it will absolutely still give you jitteriness if you are prone to caffeine sensitivity or tend to consume more than 1-2 cups per day. The coffee is still very much coffee, even with mushrooms!

Do you actually taste mushrooms in mushroom coffee?

Yes, you can often taste the mushroom component when drinking mushroom coffees. Since these products contain real powdered and extracted mushrooms, they impart some degree of earthy, mushroomy flavor into the coffee itself.

However, the intensity of the mushroom taste depends on a few factors:

  1. Type of mushrooms used – Certain mushrooms like cordyceps and lion’s mane tend to be more neutral in flavor, while varieties like chaga and reishi are more bitter with stronger tastes.
  2. Freshness of the coffee – The fresher the coffee used, the more the roasted coffee flavor stands out instead of the mushrooms. Stale coffee gets overpowered.
  3. Amount of mushroom extract – Products with higher doses of mushrooms will taste more intense. Those with lower amounts have subtler flavors.
  4. Sweeteners and flavors added – Some mushroom coffee blends contain additional flavors like cinnamon, cocoa or vanilla which help mask the mushroom taste. Sweeteners also cut bitterness.
  5. Milk/creamer – Adding dairy or non-dairy creamers can also dilute any strong mushroom flavors and make them less detectable.

So in summation, you will likely get some earthy, musty undertones from the mushrooms used in the coffee. But the intensity can vary greatly depending on the product. Many find adding cream and sweetener provides the best taste.

Is mushroom coffee gluten-free?

Yes, mushroom coffee is generally gluten-free. Since mushroom coffee contains two main ingredients – powdered mushroom extracts and coffee beans – neither of which naturally contain gluten, the beverage itself is typically gluten-free.

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. It’s not present in the cell walls of mushroom fruit bodies or in coffee beans. So plain black mushroom coffee made from mushrooms and coffee would not contain sources of gluten.

With that said, some flavored mushroom coffee blends do add additional ingredients that could introduce gluten or contamination risks. For example, some products add wheat-derived flavors or use equipment that processes gluten grains.

So when choosing a mushroom coffee, your safest bet is to look for ones that are certified gluten-free, or explicitly labeled as such. Opt for blends with minimal added ingredients beyond mushrooms and coffee. Plain mushroom coffee with no flavors added ensures gluten won’t be present. Checking processing standards can provide assurance as well.

Additionally, be aware that adding your own creamers or toppings introduces potential cross-contamination if they contain glutenous thickening agents. But as long as you keep everything gluten-free, mushroom coffee on its own should not pose any problems for those avoiding gluten in their diets.