Category • Blog articles

Sugar vs sweetener – which is better in your coffee?

Alex | September 8, 2023

Want to keep your office running smoothly? Then you’ll want to make sure the coffee keeps flowing. Coffee culture is key to a successful office. A freshly ground cup of coffee in the morning can help kick-start the day and help people get through long afternoons.

Not only can it help you to stay alert and be productive, but it also has a great way of bringing people together. It’s an affordable office perk that we know teams value. Providing quality freshly ground coffee at work shows your team that you care about their health, happiness and well-being.

However, for those with a sweet tooth, the age-old question remains. Sugar or sweetener in coffee – what’s best? We take a look at the various pros and cons of each so you as an office or facilities manager can provide the very best for your team.

Pros of sugar

Let’s start with all the great things we love about adding sugar to our coffee. Firstly, sugar is a natural source of sweetness so there are no artificial nasties. It’s been around for centuries. In fact, sugar is one of the world’s oldest documented commodities and at one time, it was so valuable that people locked it up in a sugar safe! It’s made from sugar cane or sugar beets which are processed at a sugar plant and then packaged and shipped.

A spoon or two of sugar in your coffee can help enhance the natural flavours and balance out any bitterness or acidity. By adding sugar it can actually change your coffee’s texture slightly by giving it a fuller body and richer mouthfeel.

Another one of sugar’s pros is that it doesn’t have an aftertaste like some sweeteners do. Finally, you may be surprised to learn that a recent study in the UK with over 170,000 respondents found that coffee with sugar can be good for your health and can even help you live longer.

Cons of sugar

With that being said, there are some downsides to sugar to be aware of. Sugar is high in calories, so if you’re looking to manage your weight you should enjoy it in moderation. Regular consumption of sugary coffee can lead to an excess of ‘empty’ calories resulting in weight gain. You’ll also likely have heard of the dreaded sugar crash. This is caused by the rapid absorption of sugar which can cause blood sugar levels to spike. Shortly after this though, your blood sugar levels will crash, leading to energy slumps. This can even result in some potential long-term health issues, such as insulin resistance.

And of course, we all understand that sugar is a well-known contributor to dental problems like tooth decay when consumed in excess. The bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar, producing acids that can erode tooth enamel and increase your trips to the dentist!

A more serious side effect of excess sugar intake is a link to an increased risk of heart disease. Some reports say that it can contribute to high blood pressure, inflammation, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Again, like anything in life, sugar is best enjoyed in moderation.

Pros of sweeteners

Now let’s take a look at sweeteners. They too have an interesting history. Saccharin, which is the Latin word for sugar, was the first artificial sweetener. It was discovered accidentally in 1897 by a Johns Hopkins University researcher who was looking for new uses for coal tar derivatives. He forgot to wash his hands and tasted something sweet on his fingers and this is how saccharin was found. It is around 300 times sweeter than sugar. Next up is Cyclamate, a chemical that’s 30 to 50 times sweeter than sugar and then Aspartame which is 200 times sweeter.

Whilst all of these have since been linked with some health issues, they did successfully revolutionise the diet industry as they’re all either low or zero-calorie options.

Popular sweeteners today include stevia, sucralose, and monk fruit extract which offer sweetness in your coffee without the added calories. This makes them an attractive option for the diet-conscious.

Stevia is one of the most popular sweeteners as it’s a natural product. It’s made from a leaf related to popular garden flowers like asters and chrysanthemums. Monk fruit extract is also considered to be natural and is processed from a small, round fruit typically grown in Southeast Asia. Sucralose is another popular choice – although not natural – a lot of people choose it for its taste and you’ll probably know it better as the brand name, Splenda.

Health-wise, sweeteners are suitable for people with diabetes or those monitoring sugar intake as they don’t significantly affect blood sugar levels. And of course, they’re not fermented by oral bacteria in the same way sugars are which helps to reduce the risk of tooth decay and avoid a dreaded filling at the dentist.

Cons of sweeteners

Of course, it’s not all good news. Some sweeteners can leave behind an artificial aftertaste that masks the natural flavours of your bean to cup coffee. This can potentially affect the overall taste experience of your favourite cup of coffee. Sugar aficionados will quickly identify if you’ve put sweetener in their cup so if you’re making the drinks make sure you don’t get them mixed up!

Another downside is that in some cases, certain sweeteners may cause digestive discomfort or mild laxative effects when consumed in excess. Having said that, some people are also sensitive to the caffeine in coffee which can also cause digestive problems.

The main debate surrounding sweeteners though is the overall safety of some of them. While regulatory bodies have approved many sweeteners for consumption, many people still have reservations about their long-term health effects.

If you want to opt for a more natural sweetener, you can also try honey, maple syrup or agave nectar. These do have a higher calorie content, but you don’t have to worry about chemicals or processing.

So which is best?

When it comes to deciding between sugar and sweetener for your office coffee, there isn’t one answer. It all depends on the personal preferences and health considerations of your team. Some may prefer more natural and traditional ways to sweeten their coffee whereas others may prefer to cut calories or manage blood sugar with sweeteners.

It’s best to communicate with your team on what they want and we recommend providing them with a choice. Both options are affordable and add a new flavour profile to whatever bean to cup coffee you offer in the office.

And if you’re looking for a bean-to-cup coffee machine to elevate your team’s coffee experience, simply get in touch with our team.