Brow Beat

I Took Bulletproof Coffee’s Challenge. I Still Don’t Like Butter in Coffee.

Nope, sadly still vulnerable to bullets.

L.V. Anderson for Slate

About two months ago, I wrote a post for this blog about my misadventures in making coffee with butter in it. The short version of the story is that I found buttered coffee, which is all the rage in certain circles, difficult to swallow and mildly nauseating. I also found that it did not give me the hoped-for benefits of “a massive impact on cognitive function” and “keep[ing] you satisfied with level energy for 6 hours.”

Not long after my post was published, I received a reply on Twitter from the man who had made those claims about buttered coffee, Dave Asprey. Asprey is the author of The Bulletproof Diet, a forthcoming diet book that claims to help you “lose up to a pound a day” by consuming buttered coffee and other high-fat foods; he’s also claimed to have reached enlightenment after a single week of meditation. Considering that I had just panned buttered coffee and described Asprey as a megalomaniac, he was surprisingly polite. “Thanks for the article!” he said. “The right ingredients&proper prep make a huge difference. Would love to send you a coffee kit.”

Reader, I am nothing if not willing to taste new, weird things, even when reason dictates otherwise. And it only seemed fair to make buttered coffee according to the precise Bulletproof method if I was going to dismiss the entire beverage category as repulsive. (The main difference between Bulletproof Coffee and what I had done is that Bulletproof Coffee contains a proprietary oil blend in addition to butter; Bulletproof Coffee is also emulsified in a blender, whereas I had merely vigorously shaken my buttered coffee to mix it.) So I took Asprey up on his offer of sending me a sample, which turned out to be a bag of whole-bean “Upgraded Coffee”—free of the “toxins” that ostensibly plague regular coffee—and a large bottle of “Upgraded Brain Octane Oil.”

Before I got a chance to make my own Bulletproof Coffee at home using Asprey’s samples, I had to go to Los Angeles for a reporting trip. It so happened that I was staying only about a mile away from one of the only cafes in the world that serves official, Asprey-sanctioned Bulletproof Coffee, a natural food store and juice bar called Erewhon. Since Erewhon’s baristas have been trained in the art of making Bulletproof Coffee, I figured that I should see them in action. So I strolled over to Erewhon on my first morning in L.A. and forked over $4.50 for a paper cup full of coffee that had been blended with oil and butter in an industrial blender for 30 seconds.

It was definitely much better than the not-quite-emulsified coffee I had made previously. When butter is blended thoroughly into hot coffee, the mixture takes on a consistently golden color and smooth texture—no more unincorporated pools of melted butter. The creamy, uniform texture, however, didn’t translate to an improved flavor. The Bulletproof Coffee was distinctly bitter, almost acrid—which makes sense, given that fat has a tendency to amplify other flavors. As for physiological effects: I felt just as perky as I do after a cup of regular coffee with milk in it—no more, no less—except my stomach felt perturbed afterwards.

I went back to Erewhon twice more while I was in L.A., hoping to experience the alertness and energy that Asprey had promised. (Maybe I had to let the Brain Octane Oil accumulate in my system before I experienced the desired effects.) Alas, nothing changed: The coffee was drinkable, but not exactly enjoyable, and I felt more bilious than ebullient after consuming it.

I must say, though, that the biggest drawback of Bulletproof Coffee is neither the taste nor the gastrointestinal weirdness but the hassle of making it. Unless you live in Central L.A. and are willing to shell out $4.50 for a cup of coffee, you will have to make Bulletproof Coffee at home, in your own blender. Once I got home from my trip, I did just that. It turns out that the last thing I want to hear when I’ve just woken up, before I’ve had my coffee, is the roar of a blender. And then there’s the potential for injury and chaos: If you try to blend more than a cup of coffee at a time, the hot liquid will come burbling out of the lid, potentially scalding your hand and splattering all over your countertops. (I learned this the hard way.)

I appreciate Asprey’s confidence in his product and his kind offer to share it with me. I am also sure that his diet book will be a huge bestseller when it hits store shelves next month, which will probably result in even more people buying, blending, and drinking Bulletproof Coffee. (Be careful with your blenders, folks!) As for me: I will not seek out Bulletproof Coffee again. If I ran out of milk and had nothing else to put in my coffee, would I blend butter into it? Maybe. Or I might just go out and buy more milk.