Takeaway Food Week: Coffee


We’re finishing off Takeaway Food Week by looking at a takeout option that you might not consider as a meal but which also often rewards a cautious approach: coffee.

While the number of coffee outlets in Australia has expanded dramatically in the last decade, we haven’t ended up with a single dominant provider that straddles the country the way Starbucks has colonised every street corner in the US. Indeed, the all but failure of Starbucks in the local market is testament to the competitiveness of a market where independent coffee chains are taken seriously.

The Australian Starbucks equivalent is, of course, Gloria Jean’s, which operates 470+ stores throughout the country. Coffee Club has 250+ stores, and after that there’s a wide range of chain providers, but no-one who matches the scale we’ve seen from other fast-food providers this week. That said, competition is arguably even fiercer: it often seems that anywhere that sells food is likely to sell coffee.

How can I make this healthier? We’ve offered a very detailed discussion of the potential impact of caffeine on your health in the past, so we won’t revisit that angle. As with the other posts this week, we’ll look at a simple question: is drinking too much take-out coffee going to make you fat?

Obviously, if you choose a no-milk option, the answer is pretty much “no” — there’s no kilojoules worth mentioning in black coffee. Once you start adding milk and sugar, the answer is “possibly”. Once you start adding cream, the answer is “you are going to become a lardarse”.

To get more specific: the first issue, as usual, is size. Using figures from Gloria Jean’s, a small cappuccino is 484Kj, a regular is 623Kj, and a large is 725Kj. Choosing skim milk drops those figures: the parallel numbers are 275Kj, 358Kj, and 421Kj. The figures go up if you choose milkier options such as a latte or flat white.

What really sends the numbers jumping is adding flavour syrups. A large ‘caramelatte’ is 1170Kj, which is a bit too much of the average intake you’ll be aiming for in a day (9000Kj for a tallish adult male like me). A large hot chocolate is even worse, on 1360KJ. And don’t even contemplate most of the cold drinks: a large iced chocolate has 2340Kj, which is just not justifiable except perhaps as a super-occasional snack. Having a hot drink also means you’ll take longer to consumer it. Keep the size (and milk) to a minimum and your waistline needn’t worry overmuch.

The other key point is to resist ordering other food when you order a coffee. For instance, if you grab a double choc muffin at the Coffee Club, you’ll have almost 2500 kilojoules in muffin — more than you’ll likely need for a meal. As ever, the rule to avoid anything with the word ‘double’ in the name is a good one to follow. (You can grab full nutrition guides for Gloria Jean’s and Coffee Club online.)

How can I save money? The harsh truth is that the simplest way to save money on coffee is to give up the habit of buying it. Last year’s Lifehacker Mastercheap experiment was predicated on the idea that it was possible for an adult to cover their daily food requirements for around $3.50 a day — the price of a single coffee. But who am I kidding? The queues I see for coffee on my way to work every day suggest no-one is that worried by the cost.

If grabbing coffee is a vital step in your day, then saving 30 cents but getting a cup you don’t like arguably isn’t worth it, and you might as well stick with a trusted provider. But if you’re buying multiple cups a day, consider reducing your intake or shrinking their size. If you work in a busy city location, you’ll also have lots of choice within easy distance, so try a little shopping around.

How do you manage your caffeine intake without sending your waistline spiralling or spending too much? Let off steam in the comments.


  • Want to save money? Two words: instant coffee.

    (I was going to say “Two words: International Roast”, but you don’t have to be a coffee snob to know that’s just WRONG…)

    OK, so the taste won’t be so great, but I figure most people want the caffeine hit more than the best possible flavour. If you want to be a bit classier, get yourself a little one or two-cup plunger that can live on your desk.

      • +1 to Aeropress. Only erson who drinks coffee and is quite nice (depending on the coffee quality of course) and is easy to clean ect. Only problems is 60 in Aus but can be found on amazon for 25 (with 25 shipping) but is still cheaper than the aus ripp off murchants. I dont know why they price it so high with the Aus $$ so high or I would have bought one here.

  • Bit off Topic – But I love the names for various Coffees just like

    Short Black – Sammy Davis
    Long Black – Michael Jordan
    Cap – Pamela Anderson – Full White and bit thick
    Mocha – Michael Jackson – Neither White nor Black

    Dont know Mac’s

  • On the rare time I drink coffee (chronic reflux) I only have short black. To me, diluting the flavour of the coffee beans with milk just seems pointless.

    I tend to drink tea for my caffiene. Strongly brewed cup of tea with just a stain of milk, or black, and I’m fine.

      • if you have sugar, milk is a good idea because the fat lowers the GI, so you are less likely to have a sugar crash (you might eventually crash through the floorboards 🙂

  • I usually try to stick to 3 or 4 coffees a week from Gloria Jeans. Usually I have a large Flat White, Cappuccino or Latte, always with skinny milk.
    Two sweetners, and slowly drink that while reading a book for ages. Then I hit the gym straight away, and due to the caffeine hit I usually have a pretty mega workout!

  • My local coffee shop has a frequent discount card so I get each 8th coffee free. Given the frequency of my visits it’s worth using (or asking if your coffee shop has one).

    • D&D!!! LOVE IT!!

      I’m sooo disappointed that it’s not on my route to work 🙁 Otherwise, that would be a daily stop 😀

      If you haven’t, you MUST try the Cold drip on one of their single origins. A-May-Zing.

  • Another thing in favour of only having small coffees from takeaway places is that often barristas don’t know what they’re doing very well, and it’s easier to get a good tasting small coffee than it is a larger one. Some places will just over-extract the standard dose of coffee to get enough for a large cup, which makes it taste awful. some will double dose, but still over extract. Smalls, its harder to stuff up with a coffee shop’s standard setup.

  • Paradoxical as it may seem, heavy cream can be the best choice after black coffee.

    I couple of teaspoons of cream takes the edge off the coffee slightly and makes it significantly more palatable.

    A couple of teaspoons of heavy cream has around 150kj and almost no sugar. It also has none of the milk proteins in milk, the biggest one being caseine. The sugar and casein in milk are highly insulinogenic which causes your insulin levels to spike and in turn leads to increased hunger and elevated blood sugar.

    At home I have cream and cinnamon in my coffee, when I’m out I just get a long black with a couple teaspoons of cream.

    Best and healthiest way to enjoy a coffee in my opinion.

  • Buy a reusable cup called “Keep Cup” which can be used for take-away coffees, but make your coffee at home and it still feels like you have bought a coffee. I usually use my coffee maker so it’s just as good as bought coffee. Of course there is always the choice of instant. If I want refills on long road trips I fill a flask with perculated coffee and refill my cup.

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