Bulletproof Decadence; And I Guess It’s Good For You
By Nichole Dupont
A few months ago, RI editor Lisa Green sent me a link to a New York Times article about the bulletproof coffee craze that seems to be blowing up in major cities and fitness communities across the county.
“Is this a thing?” she wrote.
In my house, it had become a “thing,” partly out of curiosity and partly out of perceived necessity. Bulletproof coffee is black coffee with butter and any form of MCT (that’s medium chain triglycerides) oil in it.
The origins of this greasy little cocktail are somewhat fuzzy, but the general consensus is that David Asprey, a high octane entrepreneur/investor from Silicon Valley (and bestselling author of The Bulletproof Diet) was at 18,000 feet on Mt. Kailash in Tibet when he was given a cup of yak butter tea and was “literally rejuvenated” by the concoction of fat and caffeine. And, of course, everything improves with coffee, so…the rest is history. Or current events.
I started drinking bulletproof coffee about two months into a rigorous new hobby. I began my MMA (that’s mixed martial arts) training twice a week and in addition to barely making it up the three steps to my front door after class, my mornings were brutal affairs in which a simple cup of joe could not come close to feeding the raging beasts of hunger and fatigue that lurked inside of me. (If you think this is a dramatization of what happens in an MMA program, take a class for yourself. But be advised, I’ve watched Cross Fit instructors and seasoned trainers look to the sky for mercy during just the warm up.)
Regina Burgio, Paul Green and Nichole Dupont.
The “science” behind bulletproof coffee is that the butter gives you sustained energy throughout the day and the MCT oil (I use coconut oil) is brain food. We’re talking about ‘healthy fats,’ as they’re often referred to. Great. But there’s something very important to consider about all of this, and that is taste. Just because Asprey lost 100 pounds thanks to a revelation and some yak butter doesn’t mean that taste is not important. Especially in the circles I run in, because coffee people are even more hardcore than MMA people.
Since the bulletproof trend has not even touched the edges of this region (I have yet to see an offering in any one of our region’s countless cafes), some of us at RI gathered for our own bulletproof alchemy. Five coffee snobs from five very different walks of life: RI editor Lisa Green who is an adventurous coffee drinker, her husband, clarinetist Paul Green, who is a bit pickier than his lovely wife, RI assistant editor Amy Krzanik who is in it for the caffeine, graphic designer and yogi Regina Burgio who is at the point in her life where she would rather go without than drink a crappy cup of coffee and me, freelancer MMA mom whose second career will involve a chunk of land somewhere in Ethiopia.
We did two tastings. The key differences between the two were brewing method, coffee brand and type of butter. The two constants in the tastings were the coconut oil and the use of a small Black and Decker blender to froth the whole business up.
The basic recipe (makes one hearty cup of bulletproof coffee):
1 cup of brewed black coffee, hot
1-2 tablespoons of unsalted, grass-fed pasture butter (it’s pretty essential that it’s unsalted and pasture — Kerrygold is a good one and easiest to find)
1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil — comes in a peanut-butter looking jar; the “oil” is solid. Don’t worry, the hot coffee and the blender melt everything.
We used Six Depot Ethiopia Amaro Gayo, coarsely (and freshly) ground to accommodate the Chemex brew method. While you don’t need a Chemex to make bulletproof coffee, you should probably have one for your general happiness. For the fats we used Organic Valley unsalted pasture butter and LouAna coconut oil. Since there were five of us, we brewed about two and a half cups of coffee and added almost three tablespoons each of butter and oil. We used a little personal blender to mix it all together. Even this seasoned gal was delighted by the frothy outcome of the blender (I’ve been using a little whisk this whole time at home).
The results of this run-through were pretty delightful, even to the skeptics in the bunch (Amy was getting itchy, even hostile for caffeine; Paul cleared his throat impatiently). We ended up with a buttery latte that needed no sweetener (although you can add sugar, coconut milk, cinnamon, honey) or any modification at all really.
“This is really like velvet,” Paul said. “I can’t get over how creamy it is.”
“It’s like dessert,” Regina piped in.
Noting the tiny oil bubbles at the top of the coffee once the foam had settled, we all agreed that it wouldn’t stop us from finishing the cup. Not in the least.
We used Assembly Coffee Roasters Bellwether Blend brewed in a basic automatic drip coffeemaker. Taking the same amount of coffee (about two and a half cups), we added the coconut oil and butter. Just plain ol’ unsalted supermarket butter to see if the hype about the butter was actually true. Immediately noticeable was that the froth on this round was not as thick and the color of the coffee was just a tad darker. Which leads us to the taste.
“Definitely more hard-edged,” said Paul. “But it’s still very flavorful.”
“It tastes like diner coffee in Ireland,” I said. “Or, or…”
“Like Dutch coffee,” said Regina. “You know, coffee milk. I think they actually call it coffee milk. I’d drink this as an afternoon treat.”
The second round, while delicious, was more bitter and not as creamy and pillowy. My educated guess: auto drip coffee and that stick butter. However, it was unanimous that this bulletproof business tasted more like a treat than a hardcore executive brainchild. And while I can’t imagine that you’d need butter and MCT oil every morning unless you ARE training MMA or some other extreme sport, definitely try it out for yourself.
And try it cold. Lisa saved a little cup for herself and put it in the fridge to cool, then took it out that afternoon and ran it through the blender. The subject line of her email to me: “Cold bulletproof coffee tastes like coffee ice cream…”