Cold weather makes us want to wrap our hands around a hot beverage and warm up from the inside out. But, finding caffeine-free hot drinks that are IC friendly isn’t all that easy. Coffee, tea and hot chocolate are the most common hot drinks, and the vast majority of them aren’t good for our bladders. However, if you’re looking for a hot drink to warm up or figure out what to order when a friend invites you to meet at a coffee house, we have ideas for you. You can enjoy a hot drink without aggravating your bladder.
Generally, you want to look for caffeine-free hot drinks, because hot drinks tend to have fewer other types of problematic ingredients than cold drinks. Hot drinks don’t usually have hidden acid in them. But, even with that said, check for any problem ingredients in addition to caffeine when you are considering a new hot drink. Everything in our list is a caffeine-free hot drink and has any potential problematic ingredients noted based on the ICN Food List. (Along with these options, you can find a wide variety of IC friendly hot beverages in the ICN Shop.) We always suggest starting with the most IC friendly choices first and then working your way up in small increments from there to see what your bladder best tolerates.
Americans consume more coffee per year than tea, juice and soda combined.(1) That’s a lot of java! With coffee showing up pretty much everywhere, figuring out an IC friendly alternative can be a good idea. The first place to start would seem like it should be decaffeinated coffee. But, beware that decaf coffee still has caffeine, just significantly less. While a 12-ounce cup of regular coffee has 180 mg of caffeine, the same amount in decaf only has 5.4 mg caffeine.(2) To give you a further comparison, that’s the amount of caffeine in about 2/3 of a 1.5-ounce Hershey’s milk chocolate candy bar which has has 9 mg of caffeine.(3) So, if chocolate irritates your bladder, then decaf coffee has enough caffeine to irritate your bladder as well.
Besides the caffeine component of coffee, the beverage is also very acidic. So to find an IC friendly alternative, you need something without caffeine or acid. When it comes to coffee, that can be difficult to find, but it’s not impossible.
With just a few tricks, you can brew up an actual low-acid cup of joe. First, go for a low-acid, dark roast coffee bean. Two popular brands are Bella Rosa and Puroast. Then use a cold water brewing process, which helps remove acid. Finally, take two tablets of Prelief, which can reduce the acid in 6 ounces of coffee by 97.5%.(4) It is worth noting that low-acid coffees fall into the “Foods Worth Trying” category and not in the “Usually Bladder Friendly” category. Definitely try it first in small amounts to see how well your bladder tolerates it.
If you’re looking for different caffeine-free hot drink, some teas are good alternatives. And the good news is many coffee shops and restaurants have some teas on hand that are IC friendly. But, you can also easily carry a couple of IC friendly tea bags with you and just order hot water. Chamomile tea, peppermint tea and some herbal teas are usually bladder friendly and safe for IC patients. The ICN store also offers a variety of IC friendly pumpkin spice teas, including one that also contains CBD.
Other teas require a level of caution for trying them. Teas in the “Foods Worth Trying” category include alfalfa, roasted carob, marshmallow root, licorice root and roobios. Green tea, black tea (including decaf) and many herbal teas are bothersome to most IC bladders and should receive extra caution.
Hot chocolate is such a delightful flavor that is nostalgic for so many of us. It’s a sweet treat that’s perhaps followed us from childhood. However, as you might guess, it is often problematic for IC patients. But that doesn’t mean you have to totally skip out on this treat, even though chocolate is remains in the “Foods to Avoid” category. There are a few ways to make hot chocolate and some alternatives that are usually IC friendly.
Milk hot chocolate
Since milk chocolate and cocoa powder are usually problematic, you might assume that all milk hot chocolate is out. However, not all hot chocolate is created equal. Yes, chocolate itself does have some acid in it. Just like with coffee, try taking two tablets of Prelief to reduce the acid by 97.5% before you drink hot chocolate.(4) The next issue is caffeine. Hot chocolate is not a caffeine-free hot drink, but it can come pretty close. Not all hot chocolate is created equal.
A completely IC friendly milk hot chocolate alternative is using carob for making the drink instead of cocoa powder. Try this imitation hot chocolate recipe from Bev Laumann.
If you want a more traditional sort of hot chocolate, the best option is actually packaged hot chocolate mix. It has the least amount of caffeine overall. One packet of Swiss Miss hot milk chocolate has 1-3 mg of caffeine.(3) It’s a pretty small amount, but it could trigger some IC bladders, so try it with caution.
Other types of milk hot chocolate only increase in caffeine. Most homemade hot chocolate is made with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder per serving. Cocoa powder has 5 mg of caffeine per serving.(3) So, one cup of homemade hot chocolate has 10 mg of caffeine, which is significantly more than a packet of mix. Using chocolate syrup, such as Hershey’s chocolate syrup, to make hot chocolate, still has more caffeine than the packets. One tablespoon of Hershey’s chocolate syrup has 2.7 mg of caffeine.(5)
By far the hot chocolate with the most caffeine comes from restaurants. Starbucks, for example, has 15 mg of caffeine in its 8-ounce cup of hot chocolate and 35 mg of coffee in its 20-ounce cup.(6) So if you’re meeting a friend for “coffee,” peruse the menu ahead of time to find out how much caffeine is in the drinks you’re considering. Starbucks’ website tells the amount of caffeine and ingredients in all of its drinks. It would be a fair assumption that most local coffee houses would have similar ingredients and caffeine levels, so the Starbucks’ site is a good resource. Many restaurants don’t list caffeine amounts in their nutrition information.
White hot chocolate
A great alternative to milk hot chocolate is white hot chocolate, which is more IC friendly. White chocolate itself falls in the “Foods Worth Trying” category. The good news is that whether you make it from a mix, from scratch or order it at a restaurant, your bladder isn’t going to get angry about it!
If you’re looking for white hot chocolate mixes, check out the ICN Store, which sells gourmet hot white chocolate, cookies & cream hot cocoa and white hot chocolate candy cane. But if you’re thinking that a homemade version sounds better, this white hot chocolate recipe from Julie Beyer is a great, IC friendly one. It includes some variations as well, such as white chocolate peppermint and hot butterscotch milk. Yum!
White hot chocolate from restaurants also is usually IC friendly as well. Sticking with our Starbucks example, all of the white hot chocolate drinks listed on its online menu (white hot chocolate, toasted white hot chocolate and peppermint white hot chocolate) are caffeine free.
Other caffeine-free hot drinks
Hot drinks aren’t limited to just coffee, tea and hot chocolate. And you can find other caffeine-free hot drinks that are also IC friendly. You’ll want to check out some of these concoctions to warm you up from the inside out this winter!
- Hot spiced pear juice
- Hot pumpkin molasses mug
- Golden milk tea (This recipe uses turmeric and ginger, which are both in the “Foods Worth Trying” category.)
- Vanilla almond steamer
- Hot spiced molasses mug
- Vanilla steamer
And if you’re out at a coffeehouse looking for something different, consider trying some of the following caffeine-free hot drinks. These are all based on the list of ingredients from Starbucks. Please check each to make sure they would work for you. Be sure to double-check ingredients with your local coffeehouse or restaurants to make sure you don’t end up with troublesome ingredients.
- Chestnut praline crème
- Cinnamon dolce crème
- Steamed milk (With the only ingredient being milk, this beverage is completely IC friendly.)
- Vanilla crème
- Paul K. International Coffee Day: Americans Drink More Coffee Than Soda, Tea and Juice Combined. MarketWatch. Sept. 29, 2017.
- Goodson A. How Much Caffeine Is in Decaf Coffee?. HealthLine. Sept. 15, 2018.
- Center for Science in the Public Interest. Caffeine Chart. Feb. 2021.
- Osborne J. How to Make a Truly Low Acid Cup of Coffee. May 28, 2013.
- Hershey’s. HERSHEY’S Simply 5 Chocolate Syrup.
- Starbucks. Hot Chocolate.