Writer Kit Lovelace, based in London, isn’t a diehard Friends fan. Yet he came across a Scientific Americanarticle four years back that miffed him. How Many People Could You Kill With All the Caffeine Consumed on Friends?, its headline asked. A fine question, yet one he felt went largely unanswered in the article, vague and unspecific about how much coffee each character on the sitcom drank.
This frustration motivated Lovelace to put actual numbers to the coffee habits of the show’s six main characters. So he mapped how much coffee each character poured, purchased, or consumed over the course of the show's decade-long run, findings he handily visualized in the now-viral graphic below.
Digging through old stuff, just found my results from the time I went through all 236 episodes of Friends to see how much coffee they drank. pic.twitter.com/4Kg7QO0mA6
The chart was the result of Lovelace spending “one particularly slow week” partaking in that Gen-Y pastime of binging Friends, yet doing so with a fine-toothed comb: He paid special attention towards scenes in Central Perk, that favored haunt of the pals, while keeping an eye out for any empty coffee mugs decaying in the background of scenes. (Hilariously, Lovelace had forgotten that he'd even done this in his spare time until a few days back, when he found himself “digging through old stuff” and came across these old data visualizations of his.)
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Lovelace determined that the six main characters, combined, drank roughly 1,154 cups over the course of the show’s 236-episode run. In what's perhaps the least surprising news of all time, Phoebe led the pack, having consumed roughly 227 cups of coffee over the series’ duration; Rachel, sitting comfortably on the other end of the spectrum, drank 138.
Moreover, I then went ahead and broke it down season by season to see how their habits developed and changed over time... pic.twitter.com/IoJ1lDNnpv
Lovelace then mapped the shift in coffee-drinking habits over time for each character—notice, for example, how Chandler began as a caffeine maniac yet experienced a rather steep, precipitous decline in coffee consumption after season 5.
For the final part of this casual, admittedly imperfect data viz exercise, Lovelace determined how much money each character spent on coffee, operating under the assumption that a cup of coffee was $1.50 (the result of some crafty guesswork—Lovelace noticed a receipt that was a bit over $4 for a scone and a coffee). Ah, what I'd give to live in that era.
It's not unreasonable to assume therefore that a coffee is ~$1.50. That being so, including tips, I also worked out how much they spent... pic.twitter.com/2G9xSbqv7c
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.