Is Drinking Coffee Through a Straw Better than a Cup?

I am an avid coffee drinker. The elixir of life if you will. Normally, I drink from a thick-walled mug my children gave me for my fiftieth birthday that says: I’m turning 50 let’s party (and by party I mean watch TV & take a nap).

In the United States 64% of Americans 18 years of age and older drink a cup of coffee every day. That equals about 400 million cups per day and more than 140 billion cups per year according to more than 300 hours of research (this and more data can be found HERE.)

With so much coffee consumed on a daily basis eventually someone is going to drop a straw into their cup of java and give it a sip, but should they? Is drinking coffee through a straw better than sipping from a mug? Is this a good idea or just a recipe for third degree burns of the mouth? Sure iced coffee isn't a problem, but for us hot coffee drinkers who enjoy our joe like molten lava, a straw might be a problem.

Is Drinking Coffee Through a Straw Better?

Perhaps this question has never come up for you either, or if it has, it has been dismissed. Before the coffee craze blossomed in the 1990s and the cold-brew fad began around 2015, the only way coffee was consumed was hot, in a mug that explained how television and naps equal a party. It was almost exclusively a morning beverage unless you were cramming for finals the next day having wasted the entire semester carousing and playing Dungeons & Dragons. That by the way is a purely fictitious scenario made up solely for the purposes of the article and never actually happened to anyone, including me I swear.

Coffee now comes both hot and cold. A straw in a cold beverage is no risk at all, but a hot beverage? A hot beverage could be a disaster. The point? The point is that a scalding hot beverage consumed through a straw is a likely recipe for disaster unless you have an asbestos coated palate. It can be done with control and care but is it better than drinking without a straw?

Before we delve into the skill-set required to drink liquid napalm from a degrading mug, let’s answer the question why might we want to do that in the first place?

The Benefits and History of Coffee

cold coffee, coffee beans and a straw on the side

The exact origin of coffee as a beverage is shrouded in mystery and essentially legend rather than fact. The National Coffee Association of the USA has a fantastic read on the subject (complete with a cute GIF of a hyper goat). Essentially, the legend is that a goat herder in Ethiopia discovered his goats eating the berries of a certain tree. After they ate the berries they stayed up all night and passed their trigonometry final the next day. This spread to the local monastery, then the Arabian Peninsula, and finally to dorm rooms all across the world.

WebMD lists some of the benefits of coffee in a brief article found HERE. Some of those benefits are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. Also, a lower risk of a few types of cancer, and lower instances of heart issues or stroke. Other sites tout the higher energy level as burning more fat and improving physical performance, but the scale I get on every morning contests those claims. All these are good things to have, but doesn’t explain why a straw might be a good vehicle to drink coffee from whether it is lava-hot or iced? For the record, neither WebMD nor the National Coffee Association answered the question: is drinking coffee through a straw better?

What Benefit is a Straw to Drinking Coffee?

Colgate, the makers of toothpaste who stand to benefit most from stains on the teeth, suggest the use of a straw to limit coffee staining on teeth. They even suggest sipping water in between to sort of wash the surface as a staining beverage such as coffee, tea, or hot chocolate is consumed.

A quick internet search discovers that loads of dentists are in agreement with Colgate, imagine that. The website goes so far as to explain that coffee tends to destroy the enamel of the teeth as well. A straw, QDT suggests, might save your enamel and keep those choppers white. Other sites suggest that a straw allows the hot liquid to bypass sensitive teeth thus avoiding the pain and allowing the consumption of the beverage thus providing all those benefits for those with tender teeth. Great, straws are in, but wait, there might be a downside to straws.

Paper or Plastic?

straws in cup

Those little bitty stir sticks are made of plastic. Prior to 2019 most straws were made of plastic. Now, paper straw options are gaining traction, but which to choose from? If your coffee beverage of choice is surface-of-the-sun-hot, then plastic may not be the right choice. Plastics are a petroleum distillate and, not surprisingly, heat can release elements of that plastic into a beverage passing through a plastic straw. However, paper straws that aren’t constructed well can either become too flimsy to use or the glue holding them together can release as well. Your mileage may vary so some experimentation with the various sipping sticks offered by your preferred coffee vendor is called for.

A Choice to be Made

Is drinking coffee better through a straw? You’re an adventurous sort. You’ve gone out in the rain without an umbrella, crossed the street against the light, and walked away from the microwave when popping popcorn. A little heat through a straw doesn’t worry you, or maybe it does. When next you visit one of the schools for the wise or the local penny university for a cup of joe (all terms used for coffee houses and coffee in the past) you will face a decision: to straw or not to straw?

Whether your beverage of choice is hot or cold, creamed or black, sweetened or decaff, low-fat, sugar-free (also known as the Why Bother), straws will be available. The choice will be yours, the decision up in the air, the weight of the world will (not) rest upon your shoulders.