What's the best time to drink coffee?
For many people, coffee is part of a successful start to the day. Photo: iStock.com/Halfpoint.

Best time to drink coffee: Increase your productivity

You already know that drinking coffee right before bed is pretty unwise. But did you know that there is a best time to drink coffee? Knowing and using this can have a significant impact on your productivity.

With coffee, tea and EnergyDrinks, the average American adult consumes between 110-260mg of caffeine per day. It takes between 15-45 minutes for the caffeine to reach the bloodstream after drinking. Its half-life is about 5 hours. Its half-life is about 5 hours. So long does it take until the caffeine in our body is half dismantled again. For pregnant women, this can take up to 3.5 times longer, up to 17 hours (cf. Rhee et al.).

The effect of caffeine itself is very simple: if our nerve cells are active, the by-product adenosine is formed in our body. It attaches to certain receptors that are responsible for the conduction of stimuli, and slows down the flow of information, so that our nerve cells aren’t overloaded. Caffeine is similar to adenosine. If we take caffeine, it docks on the same receptors. Although the caffeine doesn’t activate the receptors, it blocks them so that the adenosine can no longer dock there. The result: The adenosine can no longer activate the “switch” to slow down. Our nerves continue to work at full speed.

Decreasing effect of caffeine due to excessive consumption

Maybe you’ve already had the feeling that coffee doesn’t work as well with you anymore as it used to. In conversation with friends, we often joke that we have become too used to coffee.

Coffee no longer wakes you up

This development of a body’s tolerance to caffeine really exists. It results from our body responding to the constant blockade of adenosine receptors by simply creating additional, new receptors. The previous amount of caffeine consumed is then no longer sufficient to block all our receptors.

The adenosine can then dock again to more receptors and the command to slow down the flow of information is finally processed. A vicious circle begins. In order to maintain the effect of caffeine and also block the new receptors, the caffeine consumption must therefore be increased again and again.

However, there is a way to prevent this. If you give up caffeine for a few days, your body will automatically reduce the number of adenosine receptors so that you can have a much better effect right afterwards with less caffeine.

The best time for coffee

In a study, scientists have studied the question of why coffee – and therefore caffeine – sometimes seems to work more and sometimes less with us. The answer lies in our metabolism and the so-called chronopharmacology. This deals with recurring and temporally predictable fluctuations in the effect of chemical substances in humans and animals.

Immediately after waking up, our body releases the stress hormone hydrocortisone (also known as cortisol). It speeds up our metabolism and makes us feel awake.

Between 8-9am, hydrocortisone levels are highest in most people. At this time, our body is naturally the most alert and can not become more alert.

“The effect of hydrocortisone can’t be increased by caffeine”

Debone et al. 2009

Unfortunately, this also means that the consumption of coffee during this period (although it is the usual time for most of us) has no significant effect on our wakefulness. So, even if you don’t want to hear that, right after getting up isn’t the best time to drink coffee.

On the contrary: In addition to the fact that you only satisfy your habit, you additionally – as described above – ensure that further adenosine receptors are formed and that caffeine generally works even less with you.

When to drink your coffee

To avoid the just mentioned effect, you should better avoid the cup of coffee directly after getting up. If this is difficult for you, perhaps because of years of habit, you might want to try a decaffeinated coffee instead.

There is a best time for coffee consumption

The hydrocortisone value is increased by about 50% with us humans immediately after getting up and sinks then relatively fast again. Therefore, you should wait at least one hour for the first caffeine intake in the morning after getting up, if you want it to have a positive effect. So for most of us until we arrive at work, at school or at university. Sounds feasible right?

There are two more times when our body is largely immune to the effects of caffeine due to increased hydrocortisone secretion. On the one hand between 12-1 clock noon and again between 5.30-6.30 in the evening. In these periods, the consumption of caffeine so also has no great effect on your wakefulness.

If you need your coffee in the morning to wake up at all, try to optimize your sleep behavior. Learn to use human sleep cycles and make sure you don’t sleep much more than necessary.

In a nutshell

Caffeine has a stimulating effect on our body, which unfolds after consumption within 15-45 minutes and can last up to 17 hours.

Caffeine is very similar to the body’s own adenosine, which is responsible for slowing down the transmission of information. When we consume caffeine, it blocks the adenosine receptors, so that the information transfer continues at high speed.

Because of the release of the hormone hydrocortisone, our body is already as awake as possible at certain times of the day, so consuming caffeine does not always help as well. The drinking of coffee and other caffeinated drinks is therefore recommended for exactly the times when the hydrocortisone level is relatively low. So, the best time to drink coffee is, for example, an hour after getting up, before noon and between 1 and 5 p.m.


Debono, M., Ghobadi, C., Rostami-Hodjegan, A., Huatan, H., Campbell, M., Newell-Price, J., Darzy, K., Merke, D., Arlt, W. and Ross, R., 2009. Modified-Release Hydrocortisone to Provide Circadian Cortisol Profiles. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 94(5), pp.1548-1554.

Rhee, J., Kim, R., Kim, Y., Tam, M., Lai, Y., Keum, N. and Oldenburg, C., 2015. Maternal Caffeine Consumption during Pregnancy and Risk of Low Birth Weight: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. PLOS ONE, 10(7), p.e0132334.

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