Updated 3/26/2020 by Danielle Robertson Rath (the “GreenEyedGuide”)
When Energy Drinks Look Like Coffee Drinks
Monster Energy hit US markets in 2002 and helped establish the energy drink stereotype. Over 10 years later, there are still plenty of energy drinks that still fit this stereotype, but is Caffe Monster one of them?
Monster Energy is undeniably an energy drink company. In fact, they’re one of the Big Three responsible for the “Energy Drink Boom”. In this post, we’ll discuss whether Monster Energy’s wannabe-coffee warrants the same level of concern as their standard energy drinks.
Hi there, I research energy drinks.
I declared myself a biochemistry major in 2003 – right at the beginning of the Energy Drink Boom. I’ve always been fascinated by caffeinated drinks and all the fears surrounding their use. That’s why I’ve put my education 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?
An In-Depth Review of Caffe Monster
For this month’s in-depth review, we’ll assess:
- Caffe Monster Energy Coffee ingredients
- A comparison between Caffe Monster and a Stereotypical Energy Drink
- A comparison between Caffe Monster and Starbucks Frappuccino
Caffe Monster Ingredients
If you’re not a Food Science nerd like me, the most important detail is Caffe Monster has 150 milligrams of caffeine total, from arabica coffee, green coffee beans, and Coffeeberry®. If you ARE a Food Science or nutrition nerd, the table above lists the major ingredients and what they do.
Caffeine Content in Caffe Monster versus Energy Drinks and Coffee
The caffeine content in this drink isn’t much different than the caffeine content of a stereotypical energy drink or a strong cup of coffee.
Here’s what the caffeine content looks like compared to coffee and the top three energy drink brands:
The caffeine content in one bottle of Caffe Monster (150 mg) is about the same as two cans of Red Bull, one can of Monster Energy, or one can of Rockstar Energy.
According to Caffeine Informer, an 8 oz cup of brewed coffee made with Arabica beans has about the same amount of caffeine as Caffe Monster. However, it’s worth noting that the caffeine content in coffee can vary by brewing method.
How much caffeine is safe?
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded healthy adults can have up to 400 mg caffeine per day and 200 mg per occasion [source].
Many people believe energy drinks have dangerously high levels of caffeine, and some energy drinks do, but it’s NOT the brands people usually think. Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar energy drinks all have less caffeine than this 200 mg limit.
There is a growing trend among both energy drinks and ready-to-drink coffee drinks to have 300 mg caffeine per can. While these drinks are technically under the limit an adult should have in one day, that’s more caffeine than an adult should have in one serving.
The Source of Caffeine in Caffe Monster
This is usually a topic of criticism for energy drinks, but for this drink, it’s a moot point.
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.
Similarities Between Caffe Monster and Starbucks Bottled Frappuccino
Before we get into any discussion around the safety of “chemicals in our food”, let’s compare Monster Caffe drink to the drink it seems to be imitating: Starbucks bottled frappuccino.
As someone with advanced degrees in food science and biochemistry, I have my own opinions on ingredients like cellulose and artificial sweeteners/flavors. But none of that matters as much as this:
If you don’t want artificial sweeteners or flavors in your diet, I fully respect that! You should buy and drink what works for you!
This is not the time nor the place for me to ramble on and on about whether artificial sweeteners are safe or not. Let me just say 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. That’s your decision. 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 imagery associated with these names.
The EFSA considers sodium citrate and cellulose 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. [EFSA Safety Assessment]
Should you drink Caffe Monster?
Neither Starbucks bottled frappucino nor Caffe Monster is appropriate for those under 18 due to the caffeine content.
- People under 18 years old are not supposed to have more than 100 mg caffeine
If you’re a healthy adult and you’re trying to decide between Caffe Monster and Starbucks Frappuccino, consider the following pros and cons:
- Starbucks bottled frappuccinos do not declare the amount of caffeine on the bottle. This is a problem because the different flavors of Starbucks Bottled Frappuccinos all have different caffeine contents. The Coffee flavor (130 mg caffeine) has nearly TWICE as much caffeine as the Vanilla flavor (75 mg).
- All flavors of Caffe Monster have 150 mg caffeine per bottle, which again is too much caffeine for those under 18. But at least the caffeine content is consistent and declared on the label on the bottle.
- Unlike a regular Monster Energy drink, Caffe Monster has caffeine from natural sources. With caffeine from arabica coffee beans, green coffee beans and coffeeberry®, Caffe Monster has more antioxidants than Starbucks Frappuccino (though it’s hard to say whether this really makes a difference in the human body).
- Caffe Monster may have artificial ingredients, but it has half the sugar as its Starbucks counterpart. That means you can pick a drink based on what matters most – are you more concerned about limiting Added Sugars or artificial sweeteners?