by Nick Marshall
Can you enjoy a rich robusta with your Houdini, or would a morning brew limit your Over the Rainbow experience? We need to know, given that 62% of Americans drink coffee daily and 18% are partial to cannabis. At some point, the streams will cross.
On paper, coffee and weed look like a dream pairing, uniting two exquisite natural psychoactive substances. In practice, there are certain interactions to be aware of, although there are no clear rules for what to expect. Ultimately, each person will react differently, so the goal is to experiment with different strains, brews, and flavors to find what hits the spot.
The Chemical Reactions of Weed and Caffeine
We typically look to caffeine for a boost. Since it blocks drowsiness-inducing adenosine in the central nervous system, caffeine gives an energizing lift in the morning, improves reaction time, and nips brain funk in the bud.
Cannabis can produce the same effects, but usually, we’re expecting to enjoy its relaxing, sedative properties as the THC and CBD get to work on the body’s endocannabinoid system. It’s not as simple as saying that Indica will give you couch lock and Sativa unleash your creative side. It depends on the terpene profile too.
Coffee and Cannabis Combined
What happens when the two feature in the same session? The THC or THCv in cannabis hits your short-term memory, but caffeine is a cognitive enhancer that limits memory deficit. That would suggest that a brew and a bong should balance each other out. Yet somehow the science indicates otherwise.
Studies in rats showed that caffeine actually exacerbates memory deficits produced by cannabis. That’s rats for you. But you, dear cannabis connoisseur, may react differently.
Here’s what else we know from anecdotal evidence and scientific research.
Caffeine May Keep You High Longer
Monkey lovers may want to skip this paragraph, but studies on squirrel monkeys showed that those that were given low levels of caffeine (1mg) were more reluctant to self-serve an unlimited supply of cannabis. In other words, a little caffeine kept the high alive. However, increasing the caffeine dose flipped the effects…
Lots of Caffeine Can Block Weed
The same monkeys wanted more cannabis when they were given higher doses of caffeine, suggesting that high levels of caffeine can limit the effects of THC.
But what constitutes a high level of caffeine for a human? Here are the typical levels for common coffee and soda servings:
- 8oz brewed coffee: 80 to 135 mg
- 8oz drip coffee: 115 to 175 mg
- 8oz instant coffee: 65 to 100 mg
- 2oz espresso: 100 mg
- 8oz Red Bull: 80 mg
- 12oz Pepsi/Coke: 45 to 55 mg
- 8oz Iced Tea: 45 mg
- 8ox Green Tea: 15 mg
Based on those numbers, if your day starts with a coffee grinder and a weed grinder, or a French press and a weed vape, you might find that a full-strength brew tempers the effects of your terpenes and THC.
Both Make You Happy
Another study on juvenile rats showed that both coffee and cannabis temporarily alter brain chemistry and promote the production of dopamine, the “happy hormone”. That might not be a shocking revelation, but it’s significant. If caffeine could take the shine off a high, or even stimulate anxiety or panic, that would be a cause for concern. However, the opposite appears to be the case.
What About the Jitters?
Reach for a second or third morning espresso and you may well experience the jitters. It’s one of the reasons why you wouldn’t normally take coffee after midday if you struggle with insomnia. The good news is that because many cannabis products contain THC and CBD, they can alleviate the effects of caffeine jitters. On the flip side, both weed and coffee cause tachycardia or increased heart rate, so moderation is key.
The Best Coffee and Weed Pairings
In previous blogs, we’ve championed the mango as a great weed and fruit pairing, drawn up a shortlist of the best weed and wine combinations, and suggested the best food for when you’re high. Coffee deserves the same attention too.
The two make a comfortable fit. Both give pleasure as much through preparation and process as consumption. Each invites the opportunity to splash out on accessories and kit. And coffee and cannabis aficionados both appreciate the rich variety of aroma, depth, and flavor that you’ll get from the best strains of all time as well as a bag of fresh beans.
Wake and Bake
Start the day with an espresso or bong or Over the Rainbow or Phantom vape. Both have citrusy notes that can handle the assertive flavor of a thick, dark espresso roast.
Take the edge off the afternoon by grinding some cannabis (heated not raw) into your beans. Or settle down with a cafetiere and a Houdini. The floral, earthy aroma combines pleasantly with any acidity in the coffee, while the Indica triple-strain blend promotes calm and relaxation.
When you’re thinking about pairing cannabis with anything, whether it’s coffee or whiskey, we recommend paying attention to the terpenes as much as the strain. (As a quick refresher: terpenes are the compounds found in cannabis and other plants that are responsible for their aroma.)
Tastes may differ, but here’s a rough guide of what goes well together:
- Light roast coffee + pungent, forceful strain to balance the acidity.
- Medium roast + a fruitier, sweeter strain to cut through the bitterness.
- Dark roast + sweet, sticky bud to temper the rich coffee flavor.
Both coffee and cannabis can be as accessible and convenient as you need, or as sophisticated and artisan as you choose. That’s the beauty. There’s an element of accomplishment in seeking out the exclusive beans and strains that are the mark of a true epicure.