Monster Energy hit US markets in 2002 and helped establish the energy drink stereotype: “energy drinks are dangerous concoctions with high amounts of caffeine and sugar”. It’s hard to deny this stereotype is still applicable, however, there are a growing number of caffeinated beverages which don’t fit this mold. What happens when one of the energy drink companies responsible for the Energy Drink Boom comes out with one of these not-quite-an-energy-drink alternatives?
I declared myself a biochemistry/chemistry major in 2003 – right at the beginning of the Energy Drink Boom. Fascinated by these drinks and all the fears surrounding their use, I’ve applied my education (and basically all my free time) toward understanding the science behind energy drinks and their ingredients. After 10+ years in this field, I believe parents have a right to be concerned about energy drinks, but that concern needs the right context to do anybody any good. How concerned should we be about the safety of Caffe Monster Energy Coffee?
The Energy Drink of the Month is Caffe Monster Energy Coffee.
For this month’s in-depth review, we’ll examine Caffe Monster Energy Coffee ingredients and how this drink compares to a stereotypical energy drink, as well as a similar beverage from a big-name coffee brand.
First, a look at the what’s in this coffee-energy drink hybrid.
If you’re not here to geek out with me over the food science, then the most important thing to know about Caffe Monster is it has 150 milligrams, total, from the arabica coffee, green coffee beans, and Coffeeberry®.
Here’s what that looks like compared to regular coffee and the top three energy drink brands:
The caffeine content in one bottle of Caffe Monster (150 mg) is about the same you’d get from two cans of Red Bull, one can of Monster Energy, or one can of Rockstar Energy. And, SURPRISE – you could also drink one 8-oz cup of coffee or one Tall Starbucks Cold Brew to get the same amount of caffeine that’s in Caffe Monster.
Many people believe energy drinks have dangerously high levels of caffeine – some of them do, but it’s not the ones you would think. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded healthy adults can have up to 400 mg caffeine per day and 200 mg per occasion [source]. Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar all have less than the 200 mg limit. There are some flavors of Rockstar with 240 mg caffeine per 16-oz can but it’s the energy drinks most people have never heard of which come perilously close to this 400 mg per day limit.
But what about the sources of caffeine? This is often a source of concern regarding the safety of energy drinks versus coffee. In this case, that concern is moot. Caffe Monster only has caffeine from natural sources: Arabica coffee beans, coffeeberry, and green coffee beans. These three sources are not something you’d expect from a stereotypical energy drink.
While Coffeeberry® is only present in teeny amounts, it’s encouraging to see this in an energy drink. Coffeeberry ® has some fascinating science behind it – which I’ve summarized in this post here.
Green coffee beans are also a pleasant surprise for an energy drink. If you’ve ever wondered about how green coffee beans are different from, you know, “regular” coffee beans, come geek out with me over here, in this article.
OTHER INGREDIENTS IN CAFFE MONSTER: CHEMICALS AND COMPARISON TO STARBUCKS BOTTLED FRAPPUCCINO
Before we get into any conversation remotely related to the safety of “chemicals”, it helps to do a side-by-side comparison of this Monster Caffe drink and the drink it seems to be imitating: Starbucks bottled Frappuccino.
Since I am a food scientist, I have a different stance than most consumers when it comes to ingredients like cellulose and artificial sweeteners/flavors. If you do not want artificial sweeteners or flavors in your diet, I fully respect that! I, personally, have not seen enough evidence to convince me of any health risks behind consuming (in moderation) artificial flavors or sweeteners like the Sucralose used in Caffe Monster.
The same goes for sodium citrate and cellulose ingredients: I don’t want to shame anyone who chooses to cut these plant fibers out of their diet. Too often, cellulose ingredients are described as “wood pulp” or “sawdust”, which is both over-dramatic and misleading. If you are avoiding cellulose ingredients, I hope it’s not solely because of these names. The EFSA considers these ingredients safe, so that’s good enough for me.
- Sodium citrate and it’s less-scary-sounding sibling citric acid are naturally found in citrus fruits. They’re used in beverages to help control the acidity or pH level.
- Microcrystalline cellulose (MCC), also called “cellulose gel”, is used to thicken a food or drink to make it the perfect texture.
Bottom Line – What should you drink?
In terms of caffeine safety, neither Starbucks bottled frappucino nor Caffe Monster is appropriate for those under 18.
- Starbucks bottled frappuccinos do not declare the amount of caffeine on the bottle. This is a problem because, if you had no idea the Starbucks Bottled Frappuccinos had different caffeine contents per flavor, you’d be in for an unpleasant surprise switching from the Vanilla flavor (75 mg) to the Coffee flavor (130 mg caffeine).
- All flavors of Caffe Monster have 150 mg caffeine per bottle, which again is too much caffeine for those under 18, but at least it’s consistent and declared on the bottle.
- If you’re over 18, you can have up to 200 mg caffeine at a time and 400 mg caffeine per day. Both Caffe Monster and Monster Energy drinks are under these caffeine limits, but Caffe Monster is better than the canned Monster Energy drinks because Caffe Monster provides caffeine from three different natural sources. Furthermore, both green coffee beans and coffeeberry® come with antioxidants.
- Caffe Monster may have artificial ingredients, but it has half the sugar as its Starbucks counterpart. If caffeine safety is not an issue for you, then whether you chose Monster or Starbucks should depend on your diet preferences for sugar or artificial ingredients – this is a preference, not a safety issue.
As long as you are over 18 years old and consume these Caffe Monsters in moderation, the safety of this product is undeniable. Caffe Monster is yet another example of how not all energy drinks are dangerous concoctions of caffeine and sugar.
Review the entire ENERGY DRINK OF THE MONTH SERIES
I’ve researched the science and safety behind energy drinks and their ingredients since 2003. This book is the culmination of my research:
- Get your copy of MY BOOK: “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely” on Amazon and NOW ON AUDIBLE***
Explore the CAFFEINE INFORMER database
Need help with quitting caffeine?
- If you’ve decided you want caffeine out of your life entirely, I HIGHLY recommend this Caffeine Informer guide: Awake: How to Quit from Caffeine for Good or this set of capsules to help you Wean Caffeine