I find drinking coffee relaxes me. Given that caffeine is a stimulant, I would expect it to do the opposite. Why? is it psychological? does it have something to do with it being a hot beverage? is it an effect of the caffeine?

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    Try a cold brew sometime, and you'll be able to test the "hot beverage" hypothesis. But my guess is that it's a more general effect of drinking liquids. Did you notice the same effect with tea or other beverages? – Ivan Kapitonov Oct 28 '15 at 0:22
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    Do you sit down and read the paper when drink coffee? Maybe it is what you are doing when you drink coffee that relaxes you. Some minds like a small amount of stimulant. – paparazzo Oct 31 '15 at 16:21
  • Same here, though I try to avoid caffeine around 5 PM. Generally, of course : - ) – Coffee Nov 3 '15 at 19:50

A 2008 U. Colorado (Boulder) study*, suggests that merely holding warm drinks (vs. cold) can positively influence perception of people.

There is apparently some connection between the physical act of holding a warm drink and one's perception of the outside world. The association of warm beverages and positive feelings may underlie the sensation of relaxation as well, although I didn't find a study on precisely on point.

Whether the effect is physiological or psychological the authors weren't sure.

*Experiencing Physical Warmth Promotes Interpersonal Warmth, Science, 322: 606-607 (2008) Williams and Bargh.

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  • I also heard some thing interesting in regards to why people go to StarBucks (or other coffe shops). Is that there is something of prestige or feeling socially empowered, in regards to buying a Starbucks coffee. But I'd have to pull it up – Coffee Nov 3 '15 at 19:51
  • No doubt there is something of that in any discretionary purchase. – daniel Nov 3 '15 at 20:00
  • @Coffee: Your bounty may go to waste. There are no studies directly on point and everything else is speculation. People may have nice associations with certain smells or contexts, but that's just a casual observation. – daniel Nov 8 '15 at 16:29

Coffee has many compounds beyond caffeine. There are trigonelline, proteins, carbohidrates, quinic acid, caffeic acid etc... So the chemical mix in your cup is a little more complex than just a caffeine shot. All of these chemicals are going to stimulate your sense of taste, and this effect may be relaxing, even if they are latter followed by a caffeine high.

On the other hand you have some effects in your physiology that come from drinking a hot beverage, even if it is only hot water, the temperature change would produce an effect in your body that can be perceived.

Your psychology may also be playing a role here, if you associate drinking your cup of coffee with a relaxing situation it may help you relax at a psyc level.

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  • I would suggest that the caffeine makes the heart beat faster and may have in impact in the relaxing effect. – Gordon Amable Oct 29 '15 at 13:09
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    yes, but caffeine doesn't kick in immediately as you drink your coffee. Oral delivery of any mind altering substance takes a few minutes to kick in. – PabTorre Oct 29 '15 at 17:50

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