If you’re a fan of the ketogenic diet, you’ve probably already heard of bulletproof coffee. Since its debut in 2009, this frothy coffee beverage has become very popular among the fitness and ketogenic (or just “keto”) diet communities. As a meal replacement, it claims that it can keep you full and even improve your mental abilities.
So what is bulletproof coffee? At its most simple, bulletproof coffee is a blend of hot coffee, grass-fed butter or ghee, and oil containing medium-chain triglycerides. The mixture then blends together to make a frothy coffee drink.
Beverages made from hot drinks mixed with fats are nothing new, of course. The official bulletproof coffee recipe is loosely based on the recipe for Tibetan yak butter tea, which dates back to the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century AD. This tea is made from yak butter, tea, and salt churned together. Tibetan yak butter tea drinkers imbibe because the tea promises a rich source of calories for energy.
In the late 2000s, a traveller named David Asprey sampled some yak butter tea while travelling in Tibet. Once he returned to North America, he revamped the recipe for a North American audience. He swapped the tea for specially-treated coffee, the yak butter for grass-fed cow butter, and added a dose of medium-chain triglyceride oil. Instead of undergoing a labor-intensive churning process, it is mixed up into a froth in a blender. The end result is a high-calorie coffee drink with a perfect nutritional profile for a ketogenic diet.
How is bulletproof coffee used in a keto diet?
Because bulletproof coffee is relatively high in calories, it is a little hard to understand why it is so popular among people who are trying to lose weight. To understand why bulletproof coffee has become a dieter’s mainstay, we first have to understand how the keto diet works.
One of the primary downfalls of going on a regular, portion-controlled diet is that eating less usually means you will be pretty hungry. The keto diet is a method that promises to improve satiety on less food, so the dieter feels less hungry and is less likely to fail.
The keto diet does this by restricting food intake in a novel way. Instead of just limiting calories or amounts of food, it limits macronutrients. Namely, keto diets are all very high in fats and low in carbohydrates. The reasoning behind this is twofold:
- Fats tend to be very filling, so the dieter feels less hungry.
- High-fat, low carbohydrate diets introduce ketosis. Keto proponents argue that being in ketosis is healthy and triggering ketosis forces the body to improve its fat-burning processes.
In short, the keto diet is a high-fat diet that aims to make success easier for the dieter and to improve health. However, as a coffee blogger, I’m not qualified to give diet advice. If the keto diet interests you, I would recommend talking to your doctor about it, reading the Wikipedia entry, and checking out /r/keto on reddit.
As you may have guessed, bulletproof coffee fits into this as a meal replacement. At roughly 350 kilocalories per serving, it’s not a low-calorie food, but it’s smaller than most meals. And it promises to keep you full until lunchtime and improve cognitive abilities.
Making Bulletproof Coffee
Once I heard about this coffee recipe, I had to try it. I found the official recipe online and set out to make it at home. The recipe is really only three ingredients and doesn’t require much special equipment aside from a blender.
The ingredients themselves are a bit unique, though. They consist of coffee, grass-fed butter or ghee, and medium-chain triglyceride oil.
Makers of bulletproof coffee can use any kind of coffee, although Mr. Asprey does sell a specially-treated line of coffees that promise to sharpen the mind even more than a regular cup of coffee. However, most bulletproof coffee proponents don’t think that the special coffee line is necessary to make bulletproof coffee.
Ghee is a familiar ingredient if you cook a lot of Indian cuisine. It is a type of clarified butter, so all the milk solids have been removed from it. This leaves just the milk fat. What separates ghee from ordinary clarified butter is that it is usually simmered during production, which gives ghee a bit of a different flavor.
Medium-Chain Triglyceride oil is just a plant-sourced oil that contains- you guessed it- medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs occur in tropical, semi-solid oils like coconut and palm kernel oil. They supposed to be among the healthiest fats for you, so they have quite the following among keto dieters. You can purchase a bottle of special MCT oil for bulletproof coffee, but many people just use coconut or palm kernel oil.
My plan was to give bulletproof coffee a shot, using the ingredients I already have at home.
2 cups (500 mL) hot, black coffee
2 tablespoons (30 mL) of grass-fed butter or ghee. I used butter.
1 tablespoon MCT oil. I used coconut oil rather than buy special MCT oil.
- Put all of the ingredients in a blender.
- Blend until frothy.
- Pour and enjoy!
If you have a major sweet tooth, you could add a sweetener like Stevia without adding a bunch of carbohydrates. I gave bulletproof coffee a second run, but added a couple of pumps of sugar-free Torani salted caramel syrup, and it was divine.
On the whole, my bulletproof coffee was frothy and creamy. Unlike many blended coffee drinks, this one leaves the coffee flavor front and center, which I really liked. Blending the butter, oil, and coffee emulsifies the mixture, so the texture ends up being more like a rich breve latte than a spartan diet aid. Though, it is very fatty and calorific, it did keep me feeling full until lunchtime, so it could be a definite boon for those who struggle with mid-morning munchies.
In conclusion, bulletproof coffee is an interesting coffee invention reminiscent of a traditional Tibetan recipe. It’s definitely worth trying if you are on the lookout for an easy, homemade meal replacement or to stave off your appetite.