Brown Sugar In Coffee: Should You Add It Or Not?

By Shabbir
Last update:

Although many coffee lovers prefer to drink their coffee black, a lot of people enjoy coffee with a dash of sugar to slightly offset the bitter taste.

One preferred sweetener is brown sugar – so that begs the question: how is brown sugar in coffee?

adding brown sugar to coffee is a neat way to sweeten it

Brown sugar in coffee: a quick overview

You can absolutely use brown sugar in coffee instead of white sugar(there are other sweeteners too, like maple syrup and honey). Brown sugar comes in may types(detailed below) but generally, brown sugar has a more earthy, molasses-y flavor that some may find complements the flavors of coffee better than white sugar, which is just straight up sweet.

When you add sugar to coffee, I strongly suggest that you add as little as possible – only enough to offset the bitterness. If you add too much sugar(brown or otherwise), you’ll just end up tasting the sugar and nothing else. Good coffee is enjoyed with the vast medley of flavors you find in it.

That said, I am also a strong believer in the fact that coffee should be authentic but not to the point of being a stickler. After all, you’re supposed to enjoy the beverage, and if you have to pinch your nose and gulp it down in the name of authenticity, what’s the point?

Is brown sugar in coffee healthy? (brown sugar vs white sugar)

A cup of black coffee is just one to two calories, which is incredible when you think about it. You can have a rich, flavorful beverage at the cost of virtually no calories at all.

Overall, coffee is pretty healthy to have, as long as you don’t overdo the caffeine.

Once you start adding sugar, however, the calorie count starts ticking up.

One teaspoon(4 grams) of white sugar contains about 16 calories.

One teaspoon(4 grams) of brown sugar contains about 17 calories.

As you can see, every spoon of sugar you add will start stacking on the calories. Before you look at the fact that brown sugar has one more calorie than white sugar, it’s worth noting that white sugar is much more heavily processed than brown sugar.

Many people choose to avoid processed foods as much as possible and using brown sugar instead of white sugar is a good way to avoid unnecessary processed foods.

Note: It’s still better than sugary sodas, which can contain up to 30 grams of sugar per 300ml. That’s nearly 140 calories.

There’s also 2 mg of sodium, which is 1/1000th of the daily recommendation of 2300 mg of sodium intake per day. You’re not going to be hitting any sodium limits with sugar 🙂

But calories are not the only measure of whether something is healthy or not. In fact, calories are generally a poor measure! Sugar is something you should generally have in extreme moderation, so you’d do best to avoid it as much as possible.

If you can’t do without your coffee and you need a bit of sugar to make it palatable, then you need to know your body’s limits and tolerances.

What is brown sugar and how is it made?

Sugar primarily comes from two sources: sugar cane and sugar beets. Both have a high enough content of sucrose to be used for commercial sugar production.

Whether you’re using beets or cane, they’re first pressed to extract the juice, which is then boiled to reduce it, and put in to a centrifuge to crystallize the sugars.

The sugar crystals originally are sucrose and molasses combined, and the existence or non-existence of molasses determines whether it’s brown sugar or white sugar.

The initial combination of sugar and molasses is what is known as raw sugar.

Raw sugar is not just sweet, it’s actually a lot of flavors together – which is one of the reasons raw sugar imparts such a nice flavor to certain goodies like chocolate chip cookies.

Other types of sugar include:

Light brown sugar

Light brown sugar is raw sugar which has been refined into white sugar and a little bit of molasses has been added back to it for some flavor.

You may be wondering why manufacturers would go through the trouble of refining sugar only to add the molasses back, but it’s actually so they have more control over exactly how much goes in, as well as the grain size of the sugar. It also ensures that it’s only molasses in the sugar and none of the other minerals.

Dark brown sugar

Dark brown sugar is almost the same as light brown sugar except there is a little bit more molasses added back to it than light brown sugar.

Demerara sugar

Demerara is a semi-refined sugar. It is actually one of the best brown sugars to complement coffee, because the flavors are quite deep, earthy, and similar to those naturally found in coffee.


As far as sweeteners go, I would certainly prefer using natural sweeteners to artificial ones. Unless you are diabetic and absolutely can’t have sugar, go for using brown sugar in coffee. If you’re health conscious, just add a tiny bit of sugar, just enough to get the bitterness under control.

If you’re watching your weight and trying to cut back every calorie possible, you need to do some math and make some tough choices. One teaspoon of sugar is 17 calories – if you want to have sweet coffee, you’ll need to cut back the 17 calories somewhere else.

Otherwise, you can just try buying freshly roasted beans, grinding right before brewing, and enjoying coffee in its original form!

Frequently asked questions

Is brown sugar better than white sugar in coffee?

If you like the earthier sweetness of brown sugar, it will pair very nicely with earthy coffees. White sugar tends to have a straight up sweet flavor.

What is the healthiest way to sweeten coffee?

The healthiest way to sweeten coffee would be to use something all-natural like honey or maple syrup. Both honey and maple syrup are very sweet and have lots of health benefits.

How can I make coffee taste better without sugar?

There are a lot of natural sweeteners you can add like honey, maple syrup, or even cinnamon to give a sweeter flavor to your coffee. You can also try adding just milk, as milk has natural sugars which will dull the intensity of the coffee.

Coffee Brewster is completely reader supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. We appreciate your support!
About Shabbir

Shab is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee Brewster. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.