Butter Coffee

We here at the Earth & Star have noticed health and wellness enthusiasts tend to fall somewhere on a very broad spectrum. On the one end is anyone that’s ever tried a green juice, and on the other are the freaks that drink their own urine. Somewhere hovering in the middle, probably closer to the green juice end of things but still a bit more renegade, are those who wake up salivating for a hunk of butter in their coffee. And before going any further it seems now would be a good time to unequivocally state that the Earth & Star will never, ever, ever drink pee for a taste test. Ever.

When considering the cult phenomenon of butter coffee we are reminded of an episode of the Simpsons, in which Homer forces Bart to butter his bacon and then “bacon up that sausage.” Bart, clutching his chest whimpers, “But, Dad, my heart hurts!” Ours does too. And, on a purely emotional level, it seems like a really cruel and dickish way to ruin two of our favorite vices. And yet, if it’s good enough for Shailene Woodley…

The History

Although the current butter coffee cult was largely birthed by bio-hacker Dave Asprey’s Bullet Proof Coffee blend, (more on this in a moment) butter has been a traditional part of the brewing process for centuries in places as far flung as Vietnam, Singapore, and Ethiopia. And butter’s not just for coffee. Sherpas in Nepal have been sipping yak butter tea for as long as they’ve been yukking it up on the mountain. In fact, it’s on such a mountain that millionaire Dave Asprey, then just your run of the mill Silicon Valley entrepreneur on a humble-brag Tibetan trek, first came in contact with the secret sauce that would make him even richer. After suffering from mild altitude sickness, the legend goes, Dave was ushered into a guest house and given a creamy, steaming cup of the yakky goodness. Immediately rejuvenated, Dave embarked on a mission to spread that creamy mouthfeel all over the United States.

The Product

The industry leader, Bulletproof Coffee, is made with three seemingly straightforward ingredients: coffee, butter and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) – okay, that last one might need a little explaining. MCT is a saturated fatty acid found, among other places, in coconut and palm oils. Research has shown that consumed over time, MCT’s may promote mild weight loss. As for the other two ingredients? Turns out they’re not so straightforward either. Bulletproof claims that their coffee, unlike a lot of others brands, is of the low mold variety. Didn’t realize you were drinking moldy coffee? That’s because you probably weren’t. Although Bulletproof maintains their coffee undergoes a fancy pants process that eliminates almost all mold producing mycotoxins, almost every coffee producer in the world has been washing their beans clean of mycotoxins for decades, they just never thought to brag about it. Their bad. And finally, the butter. It better be grass fed, which is higher in Omega-3’s and vitamins than the other stuff, otherwise this “meal replacement” cup of coffee has almost zero nutritional benefits.

So how do you make it? Take 8 ounces of coffee, 1 tablespoons of grass-fed butter, 1 tablespoon of MCT oil and blend for approximately the length of time it takes you stop gagging… We kid, we kid.

The Promise

Butter coffee has gained traction among the keto crowd, that dietary subset of over achievers who ingest a low carb/high protein diet in the hopes of turning their body into lean, mean, fat burning machines. It’s also popular among intermittent fasters, who, while their body is in a state of fasting, can burn up the fat bomb easier than those of us who have been known to scarf down a bagel and chips for dinner. In addition to providing energy, butter coffee enthusiasts claim they get an added mental boost of focus and clarity and that the MCT aids in digestion, slowing the caffeine release to the brain and freeing coffee drinkers of the jitters and hunger pangs they’ve come to accept. And they’re not wrong. We can 100% verify that slurping down a 440 calorie, 51 fat gram drink first thing in the morning will indeed make you feel fuller longer than a typical cup of Joe. Trust.

The Reality

Much like when skinny jeans made their debut in the 00’s, there are people that can benefit from the trend and others that should steer clear. Going keto or fasting? Do it up! But if you plan on washing back a stack of flapjacks with a mug of this stuff you’re going to gain weight, raise your cholesterol and probably fall asleep before noon.

The Bizness

We’ve got to give it up to Dave Asprey for coming up with an incredibly sticky brand and building a multi-million dollar empire on such simple ingredients–it’s about as ingenious as turning vegetables into juice…

After years of selling the ingredients separately, Bulletproof has launched a ready-to-drink version, opened a coffee shop in Santa Monica and has another planned for New York City. With competitors like Grass Fed coffee joining the ready-to-drink game and Picnik Coffee inking its own Whole Foods deals, we’ll see if Bulletproof can keep a stronghold on the industry they helped create.

Our Take

First up was the ready-to-drink Bulletproof Original Cold Brew + Collagen Protein. Again, mad props to Dave Asprey for pulling off one of the most impressive marketing coup’s this century, but DAAAAAMMMN was this gnarly, and we’re not quite sure why. Maybe it was the collagen? It kind of tasted like someone stirred our coffee with a turkey leg.

Next we made our own with Bulletproof Power Up Oil (MCT) and Ghee (clarified butter). This was better but not great. To be fair, we didn’t use a blender as we were trying to use it the way someone would if they were going to incorporate this into their daily routine (on the go, thrown together, shaken and stirred), so maybe we didn’t unlock its full potential. Maybe. But having to use a blender before we’ve even had our morning coffee? That’s asking a lot.

Finally we gave Picnik Butter Coffee Creamer a go. A grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and grass-fed whey protein creamer, this is primed to be the gateway drug into the butter coffee craze. Erica buys this product and loves it. It’s creamy and rich with a mouthfeel similar to Half-and-Half but without the funky, farmy aftertaste. Zoe remains skeptical of the whole jam, however, and would appreciate a study on the benefits of putting whiskey in coffee, which, at least anecdotally, she can assure us are plentiful.