What is the Healthiest way to Brew Coffee?

On the hunt for the healthiest coffee? Let’s dig into the research and find the healthiest way to brew!


Make yourself a coffee.

Take a sip.

You feel good, don’t you?


It’s not just that drop-dead gorgeous flavour that sets you smilin’… your cup of coffee has lots of health benefits:


  • Helps to lower blood pressure
  • Reduces risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Reduces risk of liver cancer
  • Boosts energy levels
  • Increases fat oxidation
  • May help to protect against Alzheimer’s disease
  • Increases alertness
  • We could go on, we really could…


We’ve got coffee’s high levels of polyphenols to thank for much of this goodness. These plant-based compounds have top antioxidant effects as they disarm the so-called free radicals that can damage our body molecules. This helps to keep our cells safe from diseases like cancer and heart disease.

So, yes, polyphenols are pretty important.

And did you know that coffee is one of the main sources of antioxidants? Fruits, veggies and whole grains are all high in antioxidants, but we get most of them from coffee!



Chart showing three ways to brew healthier coffee



What is the healthiest way to brew coffee?

But we can go a little deeper. We can make healthy coffee into the healthiest coffee.

Because brewing makes a difference. Not a major difference – we’re not about to tell you that your French press will give you eternal life – but enough for us to take note.

Here you are… the healthiest way to make coffee!


yellow coffee mug on wooden table



The beans: high-altitude are healthiest

Coffee brewing starts with beans. And coffee health comes from polyphenols. So we want coffee beans high in polyphenols. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The healthiest coffee beans – that is, the ones with the most polyphenols – grow at high altitudes. These regions sport rich, volcanic soil and tend to be located close to the equator. Ethiopia, Colombia and Kenya all make the cut as high altitude coffee countries.

This 2020 study also showed that coffees grown at high altitudes contain more nicotinic acid (Vitamin B3), which can help to lower the bad sort of cholesterol in our bodies.

Are you ready for some really good news? It’s not hard to find high altitude coffee! If you’re buying speciality arabica beans, you can be pretty certain they grew high up. This is because most arabica beans grow at high altitudes – it’s where you’ll find the best coffee growing conditions.


coffee cherries resting in Costa Rica



The roast: try a light roast

Roasting deepens the flavour and brings toffee nut flavours, but it also breaks down some of the antioxidant compounds.

Light roasts, meanwhile, spend a little less time in the roaster and so keep more of their healthy compounds intact. Studies also show them to contain higher concentrations of chlorogenic acid, an important polyphenol that helps to reduce blood pressure.

Oh, and did we mention that light roasts taste lovely and bright and berryish, too?


coffee beans in roaster cooling drum


The brew method: filter’s looking fine!

Filter is the way forward if you’re looking for the healthiest way to brew!

Unfiltered coffee contains diterpenes called cafestol and kahweol. Whoa, take a step back! Those are three funny-looking words!

Diterpenes are compounds we find in coffee’s natural oils. When consumed in high amounts, they can increase our levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and contribute to high cholesterol.

When you brew with a filter, the filter paper you use absorbs many of the diterpene compounds. The result? Brewed coffee that’s lower in cholesterol-increasing diterpenes! In fact, experts have worked out that a cup of unfiltered coffee is 30 times higher in diterpenes than its filtered chum.

Tend to give cold brew all the credit for being healthy? We might need to reconsider. Cold brew retains rather a lot of diterpenes because there are no filter paper involved.



spooning ground coffee into a Chemex



The big filter coffee study

Between 1985 and 2003, Norwegian scientists carried out a big study into coffee for health.

They spent lots of time (drinking coffee and) analysing the impact of drinking coffee over an extended period of time. What did they find? That filtered coffee is linked to a 15% lower risk of death from any cause. Out of the 508,747 people that took part in the study, those drinking between one and four cups of filtered joe a day had the lowest mortality, compared to those drinking unfiltered coffee, far too much coffee (nine cups a day!!) or no coffee at all.

It looks like filter is the way forward!


Brewed coffee in the base of a Chemex



Wait… what actually is filter coffee?

Need us to take a step back and work out what filter coffee actually is? No problem. Let’s clear up all confusion.

Filter coffee describes coffee made by passing hot water through ground coffee and a filter. You can brew filter coffee:

  • Using an electric drip machine, or,
  • Manually (we usually describe this as ‘pour over’, and use a V60 dripper or a Chemex)

The Norwegian filtered v unfiltered coffee study used drip coffee rather than pour over devices.

As you know, the filter papers used in this fabulous type of brew absorb much of the coffee oil and sediment. Filter papers prevent most of those diterpenes from trickling down into your cup, and create an utterly irresistible, sparklingly clean-tasting coffee!


pouring water into v60 coffee dripper



The extras: sugar and flavourings

Coffee can quickly go from saint to sinful. Coffee is generally healthiest when drunk black or with a splash of milk, but some days call for indulgence.

Yep, we’re talking about the double white chocolate mocha frappes and toffee nut lattes (with cream and sprinkles)! There’s ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with a coffee treat, but it’s worth remembering that the syrups, sugars and creamers all add up.

But don’t worry, sweet coffee can still be a thing if you’re trying to be good. Simply use maple syrup, honey or artificial sweetener. You can also try flavouring your coffee – vanilla or cinnamon are nice.


Small jar of honey with dripper and cafetiere


So there you have it, THE ultimate guide to THE healthiest way to brew coffee. Sorted!


Caffeine is also key when chatting coffee health. Find out more below.


Caffeine in coffee

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