Hundred-Year-Old Coffee FAQs


I’m never quite sure whether coffee is good for me, so I was thrilled that the December, 1916 issue of Ladies Home Journal answered a lot of my questions. Here’s an abridged version of the questions and answers:

Does coffee really keep people awake?

It certainly does! The drinking of coffee sometimes serves a useful purpose in emergencies, such as in the case of a train dispatcher who must be possessed of a clear, active brain in order that human lives may be properly safeguarded. Or, to the nurse on night duty it is often found a very welcome beverage. But, in all such cases, the purpose for which coffee is taken is to insure wakefulness; the very condition that the average man or woman seek to avoid.

How does morning coffee with sugar and cream affect the stomach? With sugar or cream alone? What about black coffee?

When you take your cup of coffee at breakfast one thing occurs in the stomach no matter whether the coffee is taken “straight,” or with either cream or sugar, or both. The thing which universally occurs is a stimulation of the glands or workshops in the lining of the stomach, causing the glands to form more gastric fluid. In other words coffee, from this standpoint, acts very much the same as water.

What is the effect of coffee on the nervous system?

After the coffee leaves the stomach it passes into the bowel, from which it is taken and carried by the blood to all parts of the body. The effect on the nervous system is soon seen. The pulse quickens and the hand of the coffee drinker is no longer steady.

Does cold coffee produce the same stimulating effect as hot coffee up entering the stomach?

Yes! So far as the stimulating effect of the coffee in the stomach or the subsequent effect of the coffee upon the nervous system is concerned, it is immaterial whether one takes the coffee hot or cold. In other words, no matter what the temperature of the coffee may be, the stomach sees to it that the temperature is raised or lowered as the case may require, and that in a very few minutes a temperature approximating that of the body is established.

51 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Coffee FAQs

  1. I love coffee, and drink it every day: two cups in the morning, and one or two at night. I’m one of those odd ones that can drink it even just before bedtime without it keeping me awake. I do think I’ve read some research results indicating that adding milk reduces the effect of the acidity in coffee — or, at least, reduces its effects.

  2. Lovely topic, whoever discovered coffee was brilliant.😁 I love coffee… morning ,noon or night…and any time in between. I try not to over do though for moderation is good thing.

    1. Makes sense to me. πŸ™‚ Your comment makes we wonder if coffee was particularly popular a hundred years ago. 1916 was just a few years before the beginning of prohibition – and there was a lot of public sentiment favoring its enactment. Maybe people drank more coffee and less alcohol.

      1. I recently was on a binge reading books from around the turn of the century written by someone who was for prohibition. Her name slips my mind right now but good, strong coffee with plenty of cream and sugar was often given to men (always men) who were in danger of drink.

        1. The women were going to reform the men. πŸ™‚ It’s interesting how the role of women and women’s rights played out in the pre-prohibition/pre- women’s suffrage years.

  3. I’m one of those who reads any research which proves how good coffee is for us. I understand it can be protective against Alzheimer’s Disease. That’s good enough for me!

  4. I gave up coffee for about a year under the misguided belief that it was no good. I now drink about 2 cups of organic coffee that I grind myself each day and I couldn’t imagine not doing so. I feel much better “on” coffee – more energy throughout the day, happier and healthier. All things in moderation so long as they’re legal and don’t hurt anyone is my motto.

  5. I love seeing what people thought about coffee 100 years ago! I wonder what the people who read this article in 1916 would think about all of the research we’ve done on the health benefits of coffee since their time.

    1. It’s interesting to see the key points that the author made – but it’s good to know that, both then and now, coffee at breakfast can be a good thing. πŸ™‚

  6. “Workshops in the lining of the stomach.” I love that. Did the longer version mention anything about the acidity of coffee? I wonder as A.M.B. said above about what people would think had they known what we know now. I, too, feel better “on” coffee than when I am not drinking any. It’s great stuff. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing, Sheryl. πŸ™‚

    1. I don’t think that it said anything about acidity or other characteristics of the coffee. The questions and answers seemed to focus more on the characteristics of the coffee drinker – with an extended discussion of whether coffee affected some people differently than others.

  7. So so interesting that comment about people seeking to avoid wakefulness! I guess when more people did physical labor it was true! Not sure I can explain what I mean . . . .

    1. I took it to mean that if people wanted to go to sleep (or “avoid wakefulness”) that they shouldn’t drink coffee. Is that how you interpreted it?

  8. I have been researching a British historical figure from the 1700s who drank beer, port, and wine because they were the cheaper beverages of the working class. One of his biographies noted that coffee wasn’t imported by Great Britain until 1660 and was consumed by aristocracy and the well to do. I’d have thought it would be the other way around. Cool fact:)

    1. Thanks for sharing the information you found. I’m amazed that coffee wasn’t imported into Great Britain until the mid-1600s. I wonder when it was first available in other countries. I have no idea how long it has been sold in the U.S.

  9. That is the first thing I love to try in another city or country: a cup of Joe. Everyone interprets a good cup of coffee differently. So far the best coffee by far was enjoyed in New Orleans.

    1. I should visit independent coffee shops more. Too often when I travel, I buy coffee at Starbucks or other national chains – and I’m probably missing the unique characteristics of how coffee is interpreted in different locales.

  10. Yeah those are most common questions, everyone asks when they start drinking coffee. You cleared them in an understandable manner. I am a heavy coffee drinker, usually drink 6-7 cups a day. After divorce, I stay at home, work from home. It’s like my friend, whenever I feel bored, I just brew a cup. I also love to write on coffee much.
    Thanks for Sharing Sheryl.

  11. I’ve never developed a taste for coffee! I love the smell, and the ritual of making coffee in the morning (as my parents did), but neither my husband or I drink it. We get our caffeine from Diet Coke instead, which I’m quite sure isn’t good for us.

  12. While I’m basically a tea drinker, I do occasionally enjoy a cappuccino on a cold day. I can’t drink coffee or tea in the evening or I will have a hard time sleeping. I look forward to your posts next year. Wishing you all the best in the New Year.

  13. Great post. Lot of interesting info about coffee.
    Coffee certainly is a big part of humans lives.
    I wish you a Very Safe and Happy 2017 with oodles of success!

  14. I was so intrigued by the title and enjoyed reading about the benefits of coffee!
    I look forward to reading more history in this coming year!
    Happy New Year!

    1. I wasn’t quite sure about the title I gave this post. It’s nice to hear that it piqued your interest. Happy Yew Year! I’ve enjoyed getting to know you via our blogs over the past few years.

    1. The original article was much longer. It contained more questions, and there was more detail in the answers. In general, magazine articles were a lot wordier a hundred year ago than what they are now. My guess is that back then people didn’t have easy access to as much reading material as we do now – and that magazine readers wanted magazines that had lots of content so that it would keep them entertained for most of the month (until the next issue arrived in the mail).

  15. Love this wisdom! I no longer drink coffee later than around 2 p.m. I learned my lesson when we lived in Ethiopia many years ago. I had 4 (!) tiny cups of the strong Ethiopian coffee at an evening reception with a Coffee Ceremony – and I fell asleep at 5 a.m., which was an hour before I had to get up for work.

  16. My husband can drink coffee 24 hours a day and has no problem sleeping. I’ve switched to tea most of the time as coffee does tend to keep me awake and increases my anxiety. Funny how differently our bodies respond to caffeine.

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