Coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks, and behind oil, its most popular trade commodity. Those are deserved recognitions, and coffee remains humanity’s most popular vector for caffeine consumption. For years, nootropic manufacturers have produced stacks and supplements that pair well with a cup of Joe, adding ingredients that compliment caffeine and work well with coffee drinkers’ timing.
Recently, neuroscientist-backed truBrain (click for current price) has released a line of what they call “performance coffee,” which sells with “focus sticks” packing Alpha-GPC and l-theanine. TruBrain is best known for their nootropic “shots,” which provide a variety of nootropic compounds in slick, on-the-go packaging. (Read our full review of truBrain shots in regular, caffeine-free, and boost.)
With the rise in popularity of Bulletproof Coffee, it’s no surprise companies are following suite with their own roasts and complimentary or bundled supplements. But how does truBrain’s brÃ¼d hold up in the eyes of a longtime coffee drinker? I tested it out under numerous circumstances, along with a few other BrainWiz testers. Read below to see my final thoughts!
Coffee: According to the manufacturer, brÃ¼d coffee is shade grown, single origin, and fair trade. In a video (embedded below), truBrain explains they put their coffee through a “special cold marinade pre-roast process with trained plant stems” before roasting in order to get an optimized brew.
However, the company doesn’t list the geographic origins of their beans, although it claims all customers receive beans roasted within 48 hours of shipping.
Alpha-GPC is the most efficient compound to increase both systemic and brain concentrations of choline when ingested orally. It’s been linked to increased cognition and reduced cognitive decline, in addition to, more recently, increased power output and growth hormone production in athletes. It’s a form of choline we tend to see most often in supplements from more reputable and higher quality manufacturers.
Theanine is a calming amino acid that is also non-sedative. Research suggests pairs well with caffeine and/or coffee in order to reduce jitters and increase focus. One of our favorite simple stacks featuring just the caffeine/l-theanine pairing is Smart Caffeine.
In addition to the above, focus sticks contain organic blue agave, purified water, manitol, vegetable glycerine, and silicon dioxide.
- Take our beans and brew them however you like.
- beans + focus sticks = smart coffee
My Personal Experience
I first tried brÃ¼d in several different preparations: Cold brewed in a french press, drip coffee in a standard 12-cup coffee maker, and as espresso. This is a remarkably light roast, and because I drink dark roasts normally, I found it to be a little lighter on the tastebuds than I would have liked. True to what the company claims, it’s very much non-bitter. While it’s smooth to sip, its very light nature means it does not mix well with dairy if you enjoy those types of beverages; the result just seems like watery milk or cream.
I do see truBrain’s reasoning for keeping the roast light. It’s a common misconception that darker roasts have “stronger” caffeine contents; on the contrary, lighter roasts tend to preserve more of the bean’s caffeine content. True to form, truBrain’s brÃ¼d provides a very solid caffeinated kick, I’d estimate among the top 10% of coffee I’ve tried as far as the caffeine boost I actually felt.
My favorite preparation ended up being regular drip coffee, as the cold brew ended up tasting far too mild and the espresso was a disaster with beans this light. Note: The beans do not come pre-ground, so make sure you have a grinder handy before ordering.
Onto the next one: the sticks. The focus sticks are a cool concept, but the packaging makes them a bit difficult to open without scissors. Even then, they’re easy to spill, and more than once I ended up with bits of plastic in my coffee as I tried to cut the stick over my cup. Squeezing and end hard is effective, but it may end up squirting coffee and/or focus stick liquid everywhere. The bit of sugary liquid doesn’t taste like much and wasn’t perceptible in my coffee, so I’d much rather truBrain include these as single-serving powders.
Overall the focus sticks did deliver as far as ingredients, and when paired with any good coffee, I tried a few apart from brÃ¼d, they add a nice, calming focus to the caffeine buzz.
What Some of Our Other Testers Say
I asked two of the other Brain Wiz testers who regularly drink coffee for their takes:
“The coffee is a light roast, and I felt like it contained a lot of caffeine; I felt it kick in before I was halfway through my cup. I’d definitely recommend drinking less of this particular brew than you think you’ll need. Also, I couldn’t taste anything from the focus sticks, I thought they would make my coffee much sweeter.”
“Good, non-bitter coffee, I put a bit of sweetener in mine and it tasted great. Definitely a decent bean, but I’m not much of a coffee snob. The focus sticks are a cool gimmick, but like Alexandra, I wish they were just a powder or pill, good pairing of ingredients, the delivery got a little too creative.”
Brain Wiz Tips
- This is a light roast that does not mix well with dairy.
- brÃ¼d seems to contain a relatively high caffeine content based on our tests, so don’t go overboard on your first batch.
- Be careful when opening the focus sticks to avoid spillage; we never found a “best” way that worked for us.
- The beans do not come pre-ground.
Overall, I liked truBrain’s coffee, but I’m not sure I’d subscribe to it every month, which is the deal they’re currently pushing (though unlike some subscription-based companies, they made it very easy to cancel when I wanted to). It’s a good, light roast, but I enjoy variety in my coffee. And while the focus sticks contain a really great pairing of ingredients, their delivery system is a bit too gimmicky for my taste. I may resubscribe every few months to restock, however, and they’re currently (as of writing this article) running a special where the first month is discounted to $19.
If truBrain reimagines the focus sticks into something a little easier to deliver to your actual cup, I’d definitely consider buying them on their own.