Is "The World's Strongest Coffee" a Sham?

Rachel Kuzma/Thrillist

A week or so ago, a bag of Death Wish Coffee came across my desk. For the uninitiated, this particular brand of coffee is no ordinary bag of beans -- one cup of this stuff has basically double the amount of caffeine as your standard cup of Starbucks. 

I wanted find out if the brand’s claim to be the “World’s Strongest Coffee" is actually credible, but I’m a strict cup-a-day coffee drinker and was pretty certain anything with more caffeine than a 4oz K-Cup would give me heart palpitations until next Christmas. So I conned six of my co-workers into testing this stuff for me!

Each guinea pig -- Kara, Ryan, Gianni, Dave, Michelle, and Jeremy -- drank one cup of this strong-ass brew to start, and then catalogued how they felt throughout the day. Below are their time-stamped check-ins. Did anyone die? Read on to find out!

Rachel Kuzma/Thrillist

10:30am: Pre-coffee check-in

Jeremy: "I actually bought coffee from up the street, because I forgot this was all happening. So, not only am I tired, but grumpy as well. My heart feels fine."

Dave: "I had one cup of normal coffee this morning because I forgot we were doing this today. It was Chock Full O'Nuts regular roast, brewed at home. I don't know if this is going to spell disaster for later, but I'm willing to carry on with the experiment anyway. I'm in good spirits, neither jittery nor overly sluggish."

Michelle: "For some reason my body chose to wake me up every two hours last night, so I should be asleep, but I'm actually feeling pretty okay."

Rachel Kuzma/Thrillist

11:00am: The first sip aftermath

Kara: "Things are feeling good. Things are clicking. I’m up. I’m typing really fast. I just spilled a little coffee on my shirt. I was a little too excited to get it into my mouth. That sounds terrible but I’m doing some stream of consciousness typing here. Also, my hands are shaking. Not a good combo."

Dave: "That tasted like a totally normal cup of coffee. It's well-balanced, if a little acidic. Definitely not like, frighteningly dark, thick, or overwhelmingly bitter. Sort of want another cup, as I drink about six cups of regular coffee per day, but I'm going to hold off for now."

Gianni: "The coffee itself was pretty normal, it tastes like strong coffee. I felt a fairly quick onset of caffeine rush as I was drinking it, but nothing completely out of control, and I can noticeably feel my heart beating in my chest. Again, though, it feels like a normal caffeine rush. No poop yet."

Michelle: "I feel no more energized than I would after a normal cup of coffee. Might need a second cup. Or a pint."

11:15am: Jeremy ignores scheduled check-ins

Jeremy: "I added this, because now I feel something. It's very hard to concentrate, and I feel super horny. Just kidding about the last part, but it's really hard to concentrate. I feel like I want to tell everyone everything I'm thinking, which is hard, because it's like a blender is going off in my head."

11:48am: Michelle listens to German electronica

Michelle: "On to my second cup! is this double-strength? The rim of the liquid looks orange. I admit I feel pretty caffeinated at this point, and I know this because I have the urge to write without punctuation and spam my team with Spongebob GIFs. Am currently listening to some Nils Frahm to calm down."

11:55am: Ryan's leg tremors are totally normal

Ryan: "Feel normal, but definitely have leg tremors."

12:00pm: Gianni gets existential

Gianni: "I've started drinking my second cup. This time, I'm told it's been brewed a bit stronger, and if nothing else it does indeed taste stronger -- like when you drank coffee for the first time as a kid, and it tasted like the bitter darkness you rightly assumed adulthood to be."

12:09pm: Gianni has to pee

Gianni: "Second cup is finished, urge to pee is rising."

Rachel Kuzma/Thrillist

12:30pm: The third official check-in

Jeremy: "I just had a second cup, and I feel nothing. What's wrong with me? Am I this immune to caffeine? Is it like that scene in The Princess Bride where Cary Elwes freely drinks that lidocaine [sic] poison because he's spent his life growing an immunity?"

Ryan: "Basically, feel normal. Not really feeling the effects of the coffee anymore. I was anticipating a post-coffee crash, given how "up" I felt before. But it never really happened."

2:00pm: The second cup comedown

Kara: "The high left within like, a half hour, and now I just feel normal. No crazy come down. Just feel like the time is approaching for my afternoon cup of coffee. I usually do one or two cups in the morning and one in the afternoon. So I normally have a lot of caffeine. All in all, this feels like a regular day."

Jeremy: "I feel nothing."

Dave: "I feel fine. I had a second cup and still feel nothing out of the ordinary. If anything, I miss normal coffee because I enjoy the ritual of raising the cup to my mouth while I work, and since Death Wish discourages you from drinking multiple cups, I'm sort of lost."

Michelle: "Post lunch, my buzz is fading. Just like it would with a standard cup o' joe. Disappointment escalating."

Rachel Kuzma/Thrillist

3:30pm: Third cups are still not enough

Kara: "On my third cup of the day now... "

Ryan: "Drank another cup. I wasn't that enthused that I couldn't find any sugar in our office to pour in there. I also just struggled to type "office" and had to retype it about four times. I can't stop bouncing my legs at my desk. Both of them. And this kinda weird tunnel vision thing is happening."

Gianni: "Still at my baseline. Might grab another cup after lunch!"

4:00: Kara feels... something!

Kara: "OK, NOW I’m starting to feel dehydrated, and my heart is beating pretty fast, and I’m only halfway done with my cup. I think I reached my limit at about two and a half cups in a day. Also, I’m no longer getting that crazy 20-30 minute rush of the first two cups. Now I’m just getting the bad effects of slight shakiness and heart racing."

4:02: Ryan's heart palpitations are totally not normal

Ryan: "Definitely felt my heart beating for about 10 beats. That's not normal."

5:00: Final verdicts

Kara: "Really, that was not much of a ride. I felt that the high was a lot stronger but also a lot shorter than with normal coffee. I would absolutely do this again because it was not a big deal."

Jeremy: "I drank more coffee, but nothing happened. I'm dead inside and out."

Dave: "The coffee itself had a nice taste, definitely quality beans/roast etc, but in terms of caffeine effects, I can't report any difference from a normal cup. That said, you gotta remember -- I drink a SHITLOAD of coffee. At least six cups a day, usually more. So I may be immune to a shot-in-the-arm like this."

Michelle: "The coffee was pretty strong, and less watery than that Keurig stuff I usually get. I wouldn't do it again though because I don't enjoy the TASTE OF DECEIT."


Death Wish coffee may be a total sham, or it may just not be strong enough for a bunch of overly caffeinated internet writers. And also, Kara might be lying about just how much this stuff affected her, and Gianni eats lunch really late.

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Carrie Dennis is Thrillist's National Food and Drink Editor, and she wouldn't hate it if you sent her an espresso machine. Make shipping arrangements with her on Twitter: @carrriedennnis.