Home Tips What Does Death Wish Coffee Taste Like? (And Is It Safe?) | Wirecutter

What Does Death Wish Coffee Taste Like? (And Is It Safe?) | Wirecutter

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Death wish caffeine content k cup

If you’ve browsed any of our coffee coverage, you know that we take our brew pretty seriously. From pour-overs to espresso machines, and from bean roast to brew strength, we have strong opinions about it all. This week, it’s all things coffee at Wirecutter.

On some mornings, my mental gears turn extra slowly, as if their lubricating oil has congealed to tar. It’s those times when I’ve wondered whether the ultra-high-caffeine coffee Death Wish could give me a much-needed jump start.

Death Wish is billed as the “world’s strongest coffee.” And although the company doesn’t release caffeine-content figures, we have seen third-party test results in an eye-opening range of 650 to 728 milligrams of caffeine in a 12-ounce (Starbucks “tall”-size) cup. By contrast, Starbucks’s dark, medium, and blonde roasts have 193, 235, and 270 mg, respectively. (Darker beans generally have less caffeine than lighter ones.) So drinking a cup of Death Wish is like drinking 2½ to 3 cups of Starbucks coffee.

After brewing a 12-ounce cup of Death Wish (using the company’s recommended brewing ratio and grind size, and our top-pick pour-over dripper), I found the taste hearty and, yes, potently strong—all coffee, no subtlety. It was stronger than two Starbucks dark roasts I compared it with, but not bitter or unpleasant. It’s what I’d expect to find in the thermos of a lumberjack or a Bering Sea crab-boat skipper.

Then again, I like dark-roast coffees. Most of the 16 other Wirecutter staffers who did a casual taste test gave it a vehement thumbs-down, calling it “bitter,” “overly roasted,” or “having a burnt flavor.” There were four enthusiastic supporters, but even two of them were hesitant about drinking it regularly.

I found the taste hearty and, yes, potently strong—all coffee, no subtlety.

Death Wish definitely delivers the buzz. Even from a 12-ounce cup, I felt a giddy surge of focus and alertness, a mental rocket launch into a personally productive stratosphere. But after a while, it left me feeling a bit edgy. Almost all of our testers felt more buzzed than normal, but less than half thought the extra caffeine helped them focus better. The few that found the experience uncomfortable complained of jitteriness, a headache, and acid reflux.

So, the inevitable question: Is it safe? Most experts agree that healthy adults can safely consume about 400 mg of caffeine daily. But that varies a lot depending on the person’s weight, age, gender, metabolism, caffeine sensitivity, and built-up tolerance. According to Mary Margaret Sweeney, PhD, an instructor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences (and a recognized caffeine expert) at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, drinking more than that could cause you to experience restlessness, nervousness, agitation, insomnia, and other effects. “Moderate doses of caffeine, usually up to 300 mg, tend to increase human performance on cognitive tasks,” she told me, but “higher doses may actually impair performance” in some people.

Where does that leave Death Wish? According to Ted Kallmyer, a sports-nutrition coach and caffeine expert with Caffeine Informer, highly caffeinated coffees are intended for people who have built up a high tolerance to caffeine: “Their tolerance level is so high that only huge doses of caffeine produce a perceived effect beyond just feeling ‘normal.’” For anyone else, Kallmyer said, “steer clear.”

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