Crio Bru is a food brand with an interesting product line: ground cacao that’s brewed like coffee. This means that their drinks are caffeine-free, and the brand claims that their product “Brews Like Coffee” but has the “Benefits of Cacao.”
But what’s the actual difference between coffee grounds and cacao? Is one really healthier than the other? Does cacao have any proven health benefits or is Crio Bru just making marketing claims? And how do real users rate and describe the effects of Crio Bru?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we discuss the differences between coffee grounds and cacao based on medical studies to give our take on whether one is healthier than the other.
We’ll feature real user reviews of Crio Bru and provide a cost comparison to document which retailer sells the brand for the best price.
Is Ground Cacao Really Healthier?
Before analyzing the relative health benefits of coffee grounds and cacao, it’s important to explain to readers the difference between the two compounds.
Coffee grounds are made from the seeds of berries from a flowering plant, and cacao beans are found in a fruit derived from the Theobroma cacao tree. This means that coffee grounds and cacao are two different chemical compounds with different nutritional profiles and health effects.
But is one healthier than the other, as suggested by Crio Bru?
Brewed coffee is very well-studied in medical publications, and was shown in a 2018 medical review to improve cardiovascular health, reduce risk of diabetes, reduce risk of cancer and improve symptoms in asthmatic patients.
Coffee consumption may also be associated with weight loss as we documented in our review of Java Burn.
Cacao has also been studied in a number of clinical trials.
Cacao was shown to enhance cognition and improve mood in a 2013 medical review.
A medical review published in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal found that cacao may reduce the risk of a number of chronic diseases, and may even exert beneficial effects on aging (suggesting an anti-aging effect).
Based on the available research, we don’t believe it’s fair to suggest that coffee or cacao are healthier than the other. Both compounds have substantial health benefits according to medical studies.
Given that coffee contains caffeine which can increase blood pressure, cacao may be a better option for individuals with high blood pressure.
A YouTube video published by the “Out of the Doldrums” channel discusses some of the proven health benefits of cacao. We’ve timestamped the video to begin where the health benefits are discussed:
We Tried Crio Bru Ourselves
As the author of this article, I wanted to try Crio Bru myself to share my thoughts on the taste and overall product effects.
I bought the Nicaragua version from the brand's website and made it instead of coffee to start my morning for the better part of a week.
As someone who eats baking chocolate (which is made from the same ingredient), I was expecting this drink to be highly bitter but it had a surprisingly smooth and rich taste. It tastes and feels like healthy adult hot chocolate.
There are two minor inconveniences:
- The product opening is too small. You're supposed to use two or more tablespoons per serving and it's hard to even fit a tablespoon in the opening
- It takes around 10 minutes to prepare according to the instructions on the bag, which is around twice as long as it takes me to make coffee
I didn't notice any particular product effects and it's definitely not stimulatory, but it's a really nice sensory experience in the winter (which is the season I had this).
I wouldn't really compare this product to coffee, but I do plan to purchase and use it in the future given the health benefits and taste.
Overall, I'd rate Crio Bru 9/10.
Crio Bru Ingredient Analysis
Crio Bru sells flavored and unflavored versions of their products.
From a health perspective, we would recommend the unflavored versions. The ingredient list below is from Crio Bru’s “Nicaragua – Medium Roast” product:
Cacao is the only ingredient in this product, and it’s organically-derived which may provide additional health benefits.
Organic coffee was shown to have higher levels of bioactive compounds in a 2011 clinical trial than conventional coffee. Cacao is a different food product than coffee, so this doesn’t necessarily prove the same effects.
The ingredients in the “Double Chocolate” flavor of Crio Bru are shown below:
Beyond the cacao, there are two flavoring additives. While natural flavors are a healthier option than artificial flavors in our opinion, there are still some toxicity concerns regarding natural flavoring additives according to a medical review, as we documented in our article on is coffee bad for you.
Overall, we cosider Crio Bru likely to have health benefits due to the overwhelming evidence of the health benefits of cacao consumption, but for consumers interested in purchasing from this brand, we recommend choosing one of the unflavored options.
Real Users Review Crio Bru
A YouTube creator named “As the tea brews” has a Crio Bru review that includes an instructional on how to make it and a taste test:
A TikTok creator named “Nerd Meets Food” reviewed Crio Bru in a video that’s under a minute long:
@nerdmeetsfood Today I am trying the Crio Bru that is a cocoa you can brew like coffee. Here is my honest #review #criobru #nerdmeetsfood #food #decaffeinate #coffeealternative ♬ original sound - Nerd Meets Food
Was Crio Bru Sued?
In 2021, Crio Bru was served a notice about an intent to sue regarding heavy metal levels in their products which may have violated California’s Prop 65 laws.
The notice suggests that Crio Bru contains cadmium, and that no warning is provided to consumers that this product may expose them to cadmium, which is a heavy metal that has harmful effects to human health.
At the time of publishing this article, we cannot find any information about whether this lawsuit took place, or what the results were. The notice does not include cadmium levels, which would be the most important factor for consumers to consider.
Many food products and supplements contain heavy metals due to environmental contamination. The relevant consideration is what those levels are, because reducing heavy metal intake as much as possible should be the goal of any health-conscious consumer.
Until actual contaminant levels are published either by Crio Bru or an independent third party, there’s not any actionable information here for consumers, in our opinion.
Where to Buy Crio Bru for the Best Price
Crio Bru is sold at a variety of online retailers. Here’s a price breakdown for the flavored and unflavored versions at the time of publishing this article:
Brand website: $13.95 (plus shipping, link)
Amazon: $15.95 (free shipping – link to official Amazon listing)
Brand website: $15.95 (link)
Amazon: $17.95 (free shipping – link to official Amazon listing)
When factoring in shipping fees, Crio Bru is currently around 5-10% cheaper on Amazon than on the brand’s website.
Real Customers Review Crio Bru
Amazon is a better resource for honest customer reviews than a brand’s website in our opinion.
Crio Bru Double Chocolate has been reviewed over 1,900 times on Amazon, with an average review rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars.
The top positive review from a verified purchaser is written by a user named “Michelle Kassell” who likes the taste:
“I am halfway through this bag and worried about running out I love it so. I make it using my espresso machine and it turns out rich and flavorful. Sometimes I brew the cacao with half espresso grounds, a little 50/50 blend of joy.”
The top negative review from a verified purchaser comes from a user named “Doorboard” who claims the product doesn’t hold up to regular coffee:
“I followed the directions exactly the first time I made it. It tasted like someone had served me hot water with some kind of weird cocoa dropped in. Very diluted and watery. The second time I made it, in an attempt to get a stronger flavor, I doubled the amount of grounds in the French press. Unfortunately, I got the same result. Watery, weak, warm beverage. It's quite gross, IMO. It's so disgusting to me that I won't even finish the rest of the bag.”
Our Clean Coffee Picks
The black coffee we recommend is Bulletproof Coffee. It’s ground for convenience, Rainforest Alliance Certified, contains no questionable additives (the only ingredient is ground coffee beans) and is affordable.
The amount of coffee cups you can get from a 12 ounce bag depends on how strong you make your coffee, but at a total cost of $15.99 this coffee costs well under $1 per cup.
Interested consumers can check out Bulletproof Coffee at this link to the product page on Bulletproof’s website.
Coffee is one of the few whole food ingredients associated with weight loss in clinical trials. A meta-analysis published in the Nutrients journal found that coffee intake was associated with reduced body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.
VitaCup Organic Instant Coffee Sticks is our top coffee product for weight loss, due to its convenience. No preparation or machinery is needed. The sticks can be mixed into hot or cold water (or other beverages) and consumed. The only ingredient is organic instant coffee; no questionable additives.
Pros and Cons of Crio Bru
Here are the pros and cons of Crio Bru in our opinion:
- Unflavored versions have no additives
- Cacao may enhance cardiovascular and metabolic health
- Uses organically-derived cacao
- Mostly positive customer reviews
- May be healthy option for consumers with caffeine sensitivities
- Brand was served legal notice over cadmium content/disclosures
- Flavored versions contain “natural flavoring” additives
- Unclear whether brewed cacao is healthier than brewed coffee
- Brand doesn’t appear to publish contaminant testing