Can Coffee Make You a Genius? A Scientific Answer

If you, with mind untroubled,
Would flourish, day-by-day,
Let each day of the seven
Find coffee on your tray.
It will your frame preserve from every malady
Its virtues drive afar la! la!
Migraine and dread catarrh – ha! ha!
Dull cold and lethargy.

Audiences were appalled in 1732 when Johan Sebastian Bach created the “Coffee Cantata” as a satirical protest of Germany’s demonization of his favorite beverage.

At the time, coffee was villainized just as much as many illegal drugs today. But Bach loved the drink so much that he was willing to explore an entirely new genre–humor–and begin protesting through his music.

And he was not alone.

Coffee has been the drink of choice of some of the greatest geniuses throughout history. But these geniuses didn't just drink coffee, they were obsessive about it.

Beethoven famously counted every single one of the 60 beans in his morning coffee. [2]

Benjamin Franklin not only hung out in coffee shops before they were cool, but he was always sure to have extra coffee supplies while traveling at sea–believing it completely mad to rely on the captain to bring enough. [3]

Yet, none of these men even come close to the daily totals of Teddy Roosevelt, who drank an entire gallon, or Voltaire–who drank 40 to 50 cups! [4]

There are countless more examples: Jerry Seinfeld, David Lynch, and Ralph Waldo Emerson just to name a few.

But is it the coffee that leads to genius? Or something else?


It started with the necessity.

I was in my freshman year of college, and there just weren't enough hours in the day. So I needed to suck it up, drink the bitter tasting beverage I never liked (except in Frappuccino form), and study for my exams.

That's when my love affair with coffee began.

Hardly a day has gone by since then without a cup in the morning, and I've slowly increased my total to 6 per day. Hardly Voltaire numbers, but it's safe to say it's above the average.

As I was slowly increasing my total cups per day, I noticed something else–my willpower, accomplishments, and success in life also increased!

But what role did the coffee play in this success?

For that matter, what role did it play in the success of Beethoven, Benjamin Franklin, or Teddy Roosevelt?

To answer these questions, let's break down how coffee actually works.


The active ingredient in coffee is caffeine, which is present in many other foods and beverages from chocolate to Red Bull.

When the brain uses energy to perform tasks, it creates a byproduct called adenosine. Adenosine acts like "lactic acid" in the brain and makes you feel tired. Caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine, making you feel more awake.

But does it actually improve performance?

Unfortunately, the answer is not very clear. the clear studies on coffee show that if you have been a coffee drinker for years, your performance is now practically dependent on drinking coffee.

Although caffeine is not particularly addictive–it doesn't cause cravings or illness, just a headache–daily coffee drinkers will require caffeine in order to perform at their best.

This explains why the geniuses listed above were so meticulous about their coffee.

Beethoven was obsessive about counting his coffee beans because if he had fewer than 60, his creativity and skill as a composer would have suffered.

Interestingly, if you're not a coffee drinker, trying to recover from a poor sleep by drinking a huge pot of coffee in the morning actually won't help nearly as much as it would a regular coffee drinker.

But you can take solace in the fact that despite spending hundreds or thousands of dollars every year on coffee, studies have found only a slight improvement in performance amongst daily drinkers. [5]

So why, then, have all of these great thinkers throughout history been so obsessive about their coffee?


Before my love affair with coffee began, I had no real need for it.

I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life yet. I wasn't a great student, and I had no real motivation to stay up late studying. So even if I drank 40-50 cups per day like Voltaire, I wouldn't have anything to use that energy boost on.

However, once I started working towards my purpose in life, that's when coffee became a powerful ally.

I used it to stay up late, I used it to wake up early. I used it to increase my afternoon focus and to summon the energy to go to networking events.

Coffee was the fuel of my purpose, not the creator of it.

I cannot say for sure, but I believe each of these geniuses used coffee the same way. It wasn't the coffee itself that made them geniuses, but it was a powerful tool to help them along the way.

This is why studies have only found a slight improvement in cognitive performance amongst regular coffee drinkers. Most people use coffee as a tool to get through the day, not to work through the night.

It's not the tool that makes a difference, it's why you're using it.


So often we read about a great strategy to lose weight, get a promotion, run a successful business, etc. When we see the strategy in action, we immediately credit it for the success.

In reality, though, most success tools, strategies, and resources are just like coffee. They can help you reach a goal, but only after you gain a deep understanding of what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it.

Without a genuine, inspiring purpose that you truly believe in, you can follow the success habits of great people all you want–but you'll likely end up in a never-ending loop of frustration as you fail with one strategy after the next.


Several of history's greatest minds were avid coffee drinkers–even drinking as many as 50 cups per day! Some may look at these people and conclude that coffee will undoubtedly lead to success.

However, when you take a closer look at the reason why these geniuses drank so much coffee, you'll see that it was merely a tool used to help achieve success–rather than the cause of it.

Today, you can learn about nearly all of the tools, strategies, and resources used by successful people. These may explain how people can reach success, but they don't explain why they became successful.

There are many paths that lead to success. So before you commit to one, make sure you gain a deep understanding of what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Then decide whether coffee will help you along the way.