Common Grounds Between Coffee and Weed

cup of coffee and weed leaves

Ah, coffee. Hundreds of millions of people around the world love waking up to the smell of a fresh brewed cup, including the nearly 600 million cups United States consumers brew per year. That works out to three cups of coffee per person, per day. As one of the most popular beverages among adults, coffee is the subject of countless and constant studies. Though many of these are not up the the highest scientific standards, the number of reputable and genuinely interesting studies on coffee continues to grow. Naturally, studies involving coffee and weed have occasionally cropped up – and the most recent from Northwestern University sheds some new light on the relationship between the two beloved substances.

Coffee and Weed: A Shared Pathway

Marilyn Cornelis, who works as an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, led a team of researchers in an attempt to discover more about how coffee affects our physiology. They were stunned to find that coffee altered far more blood metabolites than we knew of before. 

  • Background Bonus: Metabolites are byproducts of the metabolization of food, drink, and other substances we put in our body. In the case of cannabis, metabolites are the leftover byproduct chemicals that trigger a positive in drug tests.

The study was based in Finland, where 47 participants undertook a strict coffee-drinking regimen. For the first month, they eschewed coffee altogether. During the second month, participants drank four cups every day. For the third and last month, coffee intake ramped up to eight cups per day. Researchers found that coffee produces metabolites related to activity in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) – the same system responsible for our responses to cannabis.

Effects on the Endocannabinoid System 

So, how exactly do coffee and weed affect the endocannabinoid system? Coffee at the highest dose in the study (eight cups per day) resulted in a decrease in the number of neurotransmitters active in the ECS. Since this system regulates everything from blood pressure to the immune system to the metabolism of glucose, it was a bit of a shocker to discover that coffee is active within it. Notably, the ECS also regulates stress. It's possible that the decrease in ECS neurotransmitters was the result of extra coffee consumption causing the body a form of chronic stress. 

Cannabis, on the other hand, is well-established as an agent that works within the ECS. Of its many compounds, we're most familiar with THC and CBD – but hundreds of compounds all work together to produce different effects, thanks to the entourage effect. THC gets us high, but along with CBD it has a variety of other non-psychoactive, therapeutic effects. While we now know coffee and weed operate in some of the same brain pathways, we still don't know exactly how (or even if) they interact directly with each other.

Does Coffee Enhance Cannabis?

With the results of the new study out, it may be time to give a little more credence to that one friend who insists his morning coffee and joint session is a near-spiritual experience. Given the high variability of configuration between individual systems, it's highly plausible that coffee and weed may create a synergistic effect in some but not others. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that coffee and weed are a dream team for those looking to amp up their energy and focus without consuming too much of either substance.

Cannabis Strains to Pair With Coffee 

Regardless of the potential chemical interactions between coffee and weed, one thing's for sure: Pairing the two can be a connoisseur's dream. During its roasting process, coffee produces hundreds of distinct compounds, 20 of which constitute the major profiles of roasted coffee. But hundreds of other "minor" compounds can affect coffee's scent too, which is why inhaling a deep whiff of perfectly-roasted beans is such a complex and fulfilling experience.  

It makes perfect sense for any lover of coffee and weed to pair the unique terpene profiles of certain strains with the aromas of their favorite coffee blend. Here are three osmologically interesting strains to try:

  • Chocolope: Purists will enjoy the sweetly-earthy coffee and chocolate flavors of Chocolope, which mesh well with nearly any type of coffee.
  • Cheese: The more adventurous consumers will find the funky sour tones of Cheese and its derivatives an intriguing addition to their coffee. Cheese is best paired with light roasts.
  • Blueberry: The sweet, fruity, and mild Blueberry strain can add a balancing effect to darker, more intense roasts.

Not every strain goes well with coffee. Many people find strains high in the terpene alpha-pinene to be undesirable companions to a cup, for example.

Cannabis Coffee Products

If you're an all-in-one kind of person lucky enough to live in a legal market, you'll appreciate the relatively new invention of cannabis coffee. These products take the guesswork out by expertly infusing cannabis into ground or ready-made coffee, and providing it ready for consumption. If you're not sure about the whole concept, these products may change your mind. Some top notch brands include Canyon Cultivation, House of Jane, and Mirth Provisions.