How to Stop Drinking Coffee? Weaning off of Caffeine Made Easy

Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive stimulant in the world. Even those who aren't big coffee or tea drinkers likely consume more caffeine than they think because it's even in foods like chocolate and soda.

July 8, 2024
The last cup of coffee before quitting.

It may surprise you that you can develop an addiction to caffeine. While this is nowhere near the same sort of addiction as is common with psychoactive drugs, you can come to rely on caffeine's ability to alleviate drowsiness and aid productivity.

Heavy drinkers often report feeling tired and unfocused and may experience a lingering headache after they quit.

In this article, we’ll explain two methods to quit drinking coffee quickly or without the withdrawal symptoms.

1. The Cold Turkey Method

This is the all-or-nothing approach to quitting. It’s the best way to tackle your reliance on caffeine in the shortest amount of time. However, this method can be a shock to your system and undoubtedly comes with side effects. 

Expect a range of caffeine withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, irritability, fatigue, low mood, brain fog, anxiety, and even tremors — which is why it isn’t our first recommendation. 

These symptoms are usually at their peak after the first 24 hours without caffeine and can continue to make life pretty miserable for the next couple of days. After nine days, you should be symptom-free.

Here are some useful tips that could help make your first week without caffeine more tolerable:

  • Choose the right time to stop drinking coffee — If you are about to have a stressful week at work or school, you may want to choose an alternative time to start. Quit caffeine when you have a chance to rest or can get through the worst of the symptoms during a non-working week. 
  • Tell co-workers, friends, and family —They can hold you accountable and support you, but it also helps them understand why you might not be up to par (tired and irritable).
  • Consider quitting alongside someone else —It’s easier to deal with and will strengthen your resolve if you have a friend or partner who’s going through the same thing as you.
  • Plan ahead —You don’t want to see other people drinking coffee as it will only add to your cravings. Take a different drink into work, or drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Eat nutritious food — A high-protein, Mediterranean diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables can nourish your body and make you feel a little better. 
  • Have painkillers on hand — Knock a headache and general discomfort out with over-the-counter painkillers.
  • Avoid places that you associate with coffee — Although this might not always be possible, plan coping strategies for how you will manage these scenarios. Chew gum or have another drink ready and be prepared for temptation.
  • Drink plenty of water — One of the best ways to alleviate headaches and fatigue from caffeine withdrawal is to consume plenty of water and electrolytes.

2. The Weaning Method (Avoids Withdrawal Symptoms)

Much as it sounds, this is a tapering strategy, which means you slowly cut down on caffeine and wean yourself off it as opposed to cutting it out all at once. 

This method is highly recommended for those who would like to reduce or even eliminate the dreaded withdrawal symptoms. 

Follow these tried and tested steps to see if they can help you cut down your caffeine intake:

Week 1: Track Your Coffee Intake

Over the first couple of days, drink your usual amount of coffee, but count how many cups you consume daily on average. Be mindful of the strength of your coffee and the size of your cup. It’s important, to be honest about how much you are drinking before you can cut down.

Week 2: Reduce Your Coffee Intake By Half, or Substitute With Decaff

For the next three days, you want to do one of two things. Either cut back the amount of coffee you drink by half, or mix your regular coffee with 50% decaffeinated coffee. 

The latter option means that you won’t feel deprived by drinking fewer cups. If the word decaf fills you with dread, drink your usual coffee but substitute a glass of water for the cups of coffee you are no longer drinking. 

Week 3: Halve The Quantity Again

Once you have adjusted to the reduced quantity of caffeine, halve it again or blend your regular coffee with decaf coffee at 25% and 75%, respectively. 

You’ll likely be drinking very little coffee by now, but stick with this for a few days if you are experiencing any side effects.

Week 4: Start Drinking 100% Decaf

At this stage, you should be able to switch to decaf coffee without any ill effects. If the thought of decaf seems less appealing than avoiding coffee altogether, try replacing your coffee with another drink of choice. 

However, high-quality decaf coffee will taste almost as good as your regular brand. You could also try herbal substitutes such as chicory, to which you can add cream and sugar as you would with your regular coffee.

Related: How is Decaf Coffee Made?

Should You Stop Drinking Coffee?

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system to improve cognitive function, focus, alertness, memory enhancement, and physical performance. It’s been used for centuries as a means of staving off sleepiness, and many people view it as a necessary part of their day. 

While a caffeine addiction isn’t the worst thing out there — caffeine is considered a safe substance — excessive use could lead to health problems. 

It’s important to be able to break the addiction and keep your caffeine use within a healthy range. Caffeine doesn’t seem to cause long-term problems with moderate daily use (under 400 mg). 

The problem is, consistent caffeine use causes you to build a tolerance to it, and you need larger amounts to get the same effects. You could be using unhealthy amounts of caffeine without being aware of it. 

Related: Why Doesn’t Caffeine Affect Me?

Long-Term Effects of Too Much Caffeine

One risk that comes with high caffeine intake is osteoporosis — especially if it exceeds 750 mg. Other long-term problems from caffeine include anxiety, increased stomach acid, increased blood pressure, and sleep problems.

Short-Term Effects of Too Much Caffeine

Caffeine affects everyone differently, so there’s no set amount of what can be considered “too much.” 

Mild symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Fidgeting
  • Insomnia
  • Flushed face
  • Increased urination
  • Irritability
  • Muscle twitches or tremors
  • Agitation
  • Tachycardia or irregular heart rate
  • Gastrointestinal irritation

However, here are the symptoms of consuming too much caffeine:

  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Cardiovascular disorders (i.e., cardiac arrhythmia or cardiac
  • arrest)
  • Insomnia
  • Accelerated breathing
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea)
  • Diuresis
  • Gastric acid secretion
  • Seizures
  • Elevated blood levels of free fatty acids and glucose
  • Hypertension
  • Hypotension
  • Resistance to peripheral circulation (decreased blood flow)
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations 
  • Interrupted sleep

Related: How to Reduce Heart Palpitations from Coffee.

FAQs: Stop Drinking Coffee

Still have questions on this topic? Check out our FAQ section to find out more. 

1. What are some health benefits of ditching caffeine?

You may find that cutting out caffeine has a positive impact on your sleep cycle. However, those who refrain from drinking coffee in the afternoon will probably not have sleep issues from caffeine. Those who abstain from drinking coffee can have whiter teeth, lower blood pressure, healthy digestion, and fewer headaches.

2. Why should I avoid caffeine?

You should avoid caffeine if you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding. 

You should also avoid it if you suffer from conditions such as acid reflux, diabetes, or gout. As it is a stimulant that often acts on the gut, those who suffer from digestive issues such as IBS may find it exacerbates their condition. Certain medications, such as antibacterial drugs, asthma drugs, and some antidepressants, can contraindicate with caffeine.

Related: How Much Caffeine is in Different Coffee Drinks?

3. Does caffeine affect hormones and hormonal balance?

Caffeine can affect estrogen levels in women, which can pose problems for those who have or are at risk of conditions such as breast cancer, endometriosis, and ovarian cancer. It can also aggravate menopausal symptoms.

4. Does caffeine affect the absorption of vitamins and nutrients?

Tannins in coffee are effective inhibitors of nutrients, meaning that those who do not drink caffeine may be better able to.