All the Characters on Friends Were Suicidal Caffeine Junkies, FYI


It may seem pointless to discuss the coffee-drinking habits of television characters that faded away in 2004, but the Internet is a repository of pointless stuff, and, anyway, you’ve probably always wanted to know if Chandler’s caffeine consumption was physically dangerous. Didn’t it seem like everyone on Friends drank a shitload of coffee out of those giant Central Perk tureens? That couldn’t have been good for them, right?

According to a gleefully speculative article from Scientific American, the series finale of Friends probably should have ended with everyone tweaking out at Central Perk before collapsing face-first into their giant coffee mugs. It takes a lot of assuming just to estimate the amount of coffee that Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey, and Monica drank over the 10-season course of their fictional lives, but math is super-exciting and this all seems like it would make a great word problem for a new math teacher who tries (and fails) to show her students how hip she is:

If each friend drank two mugs of coffee over each episode, the whole gang downed, in total, 445 gallons of coffee. You could brew that amount of coffee in five large water heaters. These six friends could start a small coffee importing company.
But it’s not just the liquid we are interested in, how much caffeine is in all that java? Going with the Starbucks standard, a 20 oz. coffee contains 480 milligrams of caffeine. Adding this number to the calculation, our friends consumed three whole pounds of caffeine over their 10 seasons.
Three pounds doesn’t sound like a lot, but the dose makes the poison—for caffeine that deadly dose is pretty small.

SA’s Kyle Smith points out that, although there’s no agreed-upon overdose amount for caffeine, some researchers put the amount somewhere between five and ten grams. Thus, he concludes, “If you distributed all the caffeine the friends ingested over the decade at Central Perk, it would be enough of the drug to send almost 300 people to the hospital—if not outright kill them.”

Ah, but each Friends episode only represents a relatively short span of time in the characters’ lives, right? If we’re going for gritty realism, the Friends caffeine overdose would have looked positively biblical:

If each episode represented a week of time, on average, then these java junkies downed nearly 3,100 gallons of coffee—enough to fill over half a freight container. This amount of joe could send over 1,900 people to the hospital.

Armed with this information, media professors in the future will no doubt teach Friends as a dark satire on caffeine addiction and the ugly decisions otherwise reasonable people make when they’re mainlining coffee and feeling so lonely in the big city that they become friends with a total boner named Ross.

[Scientific American]

Image via AP, Mark J. Terrill

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