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What Social Distancing Did to 13,000+ Hardcore Coffee Drinkers

Drinking Coffee in a World Where Every Day is “-day”

Do we turn to caffeine in times of trouble or change? A new survey suggests the answer is “yes.” 

Pie chart of coffee consumption since the start of COVID19, where 55.08% of people report an increase in consumption

Chart: Change in coffee habits among those who were either new to working from home, or who lost their job or were furloughed. Note that the majority report drinking at least “somewhat more coffee,” and nearly 20% say they’re drinking “Far more coffee.”

Death Wish Coffee surveyed more than 13,000 of its customers to understand how their lives had changed as a result of COVID-19. The results show that people whose lives were the most disrupted by the pandemic also made the biggest changes to their coffee consumption — and in most cases, it’s upward. Or way upward. 

An analysis of the survey reveals:

  1. Most people are drinking more coffee today than they did before the outbreak. Half of all respondents say their consumption is up by at least one or two cups per day. 
  2. A significant increase in non-stop caffeination. Around 60% of people report they now drink coffee all day. Before the outbreak, about 2 of every 5 people drank coffee all day. 
  3. Job loss or working from home led to the biggest shifts. Those who were new to working from home, or who were home more because of a job loss or furlough, were the most likely to increase their coffee habits. Nearly 20% say they’re drinking at least three additional cups per day. 
  4. What hasn’t changed: Buyers are stocking up a little more, but not “stockpiling.” Strong coffee fans don’t seem stressed about their coffee supply and haven’t taken to hoarding. The majority say they’re buying at most an additional bag or two when they restock. 
  5. What has changed: Where people buy. Data shows a dramatic shift away from buying coffee in-store toward buying online. 

It’s worth noting that these responses don’t come from “just your average” coffee sippers. The respondents are drinkers of Death Wish Coffee, a.k.a. the World’s Strongest Coffee, which combines a rich, bold flavor with more than twice the caffeine you’ll find in a more typical cup of joe.

Those who answered this survey were committed coffee consumers to begin with — and in 40% of cases, their daily intake hasn’t changed. But for the others, the onset of the COVID-19 crisis has led coffee to play an even bigger role in their lives.

COVID-19 Coffee Survey Results: Who’s Drinking More (and Why)

1. Work-from-home newbies

“The way I see it, I am spending much less on gas for my truck since I am not commuting,” says George, an aircraft maintenance analyst in San Diego, California. “I would say I’ve exchanged that money for fuel for my mood (i.e. coffee).”

George is an example of one of the groups who are the most likely to have changed how much coffee they drink: Those new to working from home or those who’d lost their jobs or had their jobs put on hold. (Conversely, those who worked from home before the outbreak, or who are still reporting for duty at their workplace as usual, coffee consumption in most cases hasn’t changed.)

By and large, those who are now spending more time at home are also making more frequent trips to the percolator, Keurig or Chemex. About 40% say they’re now drinking at least 1-2 additional cups of coffee per day, and another 20% say they’re drinking much more than that.

Pie chart explaining when people drink coffee, with 91.49% who say "all f*ucking day"
Chart: Among those who report drinking 3+ additional cups of coffee per day, more than 90% say they now drink coffee all day.

George falls into that category experiencing a more dramatic increase. “Prior to the stay-at-home order, I was drinking 2-4 cups a day, mostly in the morning. During the stay-at-home order, I find myself drinking at least double that, averaging 6-8 cups a day,” he says.

George adds that he’s now imbibing all day and into the evening, too. That’s par for the course for people whose daily consumption has gone up by 3 or more cups. Among those who’ve experienced such an increase, more than 90% report that they now drink coffee “all f*ckin’ day.”

For George and many others, the increase in intake can be a matter of access — or boredom. George says that, since he no longer has to walk down a long hall to a break room to reach the coffeemaker, his refills come more frequently. But he adds that the extra caffeine helps him stay alert during days packed with e-meetings.

“As a result of the stay-at-home, my employer has increased the frequency of teleconferences, forcing me to be on the phone for hours each day,” George says. “To stave off narcoleptic events, I make it a point to start with an 18-ounce mug of Death Wish Coffee before logging in to the call.”

2. Working parents-turned-homeschool teachers

Nearly equal percentages of people report that changes in their coffee consumption are due to diametrically different reasons: “I’m bored” or “I have more to do.”

Pie chart dividing reasons for change in coffee consumption, with 16% of people who said they "have more to do" and another 14% who said they are "bored"

Many of the folks finding themselves facing more to do than ever before are parents who’ve added the (often undesired) role of homeschool teachers to their list of daily responsibilities.

For example, Jocelyn used to be a tax attorney working in corporate compliance in Washington state. Now that she’s homeschooling her two kids, one in first grade and one in junior high school, she says her coffee intake has “dramatically increased,” as she’s now found herself doing the “most difficult job ever!”

Similarly, Alexandria is a full-time master’s student and a single parent to four children, ages 2, 4, 7 and 9. With the onset of stay-at-home orders in her state and others, her classes shifted online and her children’s school and childcare were all canceled, leaving her to carry the load.

Like others, she turned to more coffee. Alexandria says that when she’s tired, in lieu of a nap, she’ll throw a K-cup on to brew. On a typical day pre-coronavirus, she says she would drink half a pot and then maybe one iced coffee from a coffee shop each day. “Now, I drink a pot or so and a couple of K-cups a day.”

“Homeschooling the children and staying on top of my own school work has been quite the challenge,” Alexandria said. “On May 8, I graduated with honors from college, and Death Wish definitely helped me along the way.”

3. The newly unemployed (but not always)

About three out of every five people who say they’ve been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic say their coffee consumption has gone up. But that’s not true in all cases.

Pie chart of coffee consumption for those laid off or furloughed due to COVID19, with 57.05% saying their consumption increased

For example, Brenda is an elementary school lunch server and stay-at-home mom. She says she was surprised by how she’s now dialing down the coffee since she’s not going to work.

“I have a (Death Wish Coffee) subscription, and just in case, I’d bought a couple more bags from the store. I thought I'd drink more coffee with the ‘free time’ I have. Apparently not,” Brenda says, adding that an upside of being home is that she now has more time to sleep. “I guess that set my caffeine-need meter a little lower,” she says.

Another Death Wish Coffee drinker, Gypsy, says she’s in a similar boat. “I went from working 40 hours a week and drinking a minimum of 32 ounces of Valhalla Java per day at work plus usually a mug when I got home, to now being off work and drinking just a mug or two a day.”

Hooray for Not Hoarding

The onset of COVID-19 led to panic-buying that stripped store shelves everywhere of essentials like toilet paper and disinfectant. Coffee lovers across the Internet began sharing memes indicating that, if shoppers did the same to coffee supplies, there’d be violence. They were joking — mostly. 

Meme with guy holding a gun that reads "Y'all better not start hoarding the coffee"

Thankfully, the freakout didn’t materialize. Death Wish Coffee drinkers may be a caffeine-loving bunch, but most didn’t let the prospect of lost supplies drive them into a frenzy. Nearly equal numbers of respondents said they hadn’t changed their buying habits at all, or at most they were purchasing an additional bag or two per trip:

Pie chart of the amount of coffee people have been buying since the start of COVID19, with 45% saying the amount has not changed and 44% saying they've bought a bag or two extra

What has changed is where coffee buyers are making their purchases. Before the outbreak, the majority of respondents sourced their java from a local grocery store. Now that in-person shopping trips are being discouraged in many places, a larger number are buying their coffee online.

In fact, a look at the before-and-after of store-bought and online purchases show the two venues pulled a nearly perfect flip-flop in position: 

Bar chart of where people buy there coffee before and after the start of COVID19. Before, the majority of people bought at a store. After, the majority has switched to online.

Those who bought online before have largely continued to do so — or increased their orders. Even though Gypsy reported drinking less Valhalla Java since losing her job, she’s kept her subscription going, because she knows she’ll always need coffee — and as soon as she’s back to work, she plans to get right back to her usual 32-ounce mug per day.

George doubled his Death Wish Coffee subscription, adding an extra 50-count box of Valhalla Java cups (every other month) to the 50-count of Death Cups he gets each month. But with his recent increase in consumption, he’s now spreading the love to stores too. George says he supplements his subscription with 2-4 boxes (18-count cups each) he buys each month from the local Walmart. Hey, you can never be too prepared, right?

More Than Just a 'Morning Mug': Coffee As Companion

For those who do report that they drink coffee “all f*ckin’ day,” the reasons can run far deeper than a lengthy to-do list (or lack thereof). Those who spoke with us for this story expressed that coffee isn’t just a source of energy, it can also serve as a source of comfort during these uncertain times.

“I am a mostly solitary creature of habit,” George says. “This pandemic has forced me to change my routines. I find it odd that I’m finding myself missing social interaction, no matter how annoying I considered it in the past. I want to eat in a restaurant, go see a band play, have a few drinks with friends -- but for now, that isn't happening. So, I'll just make another cup of coffee. Coffee is my friend.”