Coffee, perhaps with the descriptor of "black as night" or "black as a witch's heart", is a very bitter drink on its own. Having a character drink it undiluted shows that they are "tough" enough to enjoy it. Milk and sugar weaken the pure coffee flavor too much for this character, and thus the trope only gets downplayed when a character does exactly that.
With coffee culture changing so frequently around the world, this trope can evolve significantly depending on the setting. For an office environment, the easy availability of coffee makes only the blackest of black truly distinguish a character as a leader figure or go-getter. It's also common in any Cop Show, Detective Fiction or Film Noir, where the Hardboiled Detective that isn't knocking back heavy scotch will most assuredly take their coffee black to keep themselves alert. With the Japanese usually preferring tea, coffee consumption in general (no matter the strength) becomes a quick signal of confidence or hyper-masculinity in Japanese media.
This is a Sub-Trope of Drink-Based Characterization with an extra shot of manliness. Also see Klatchian Coffee, which explores the extremity of the coffee itself and its uses (e.g. a G-rated Mushroom Samba or a hangover cure).
Compare Real Men Hate Sugar, the direct alternative to this. See also Real Men Eat Meat, its culinary cousin, and Age-Stereotypical Food. The idea that milk isn't manly is invoked in the Lactose Over Liquor trope (bystander surprise when a "macho" character orders milk).
- Parodied in an omake of Yowamushi Pedal, where Naruko tells Onoda how real men drink their coffee black, only to subvert it by asking for milk as soon as Onoda went to the bathroom.
- Yo-Kai Watch: Puppiccino is a child yo-kai who desperately wants to be seen as a mature adult. While showing off his "maturity", he says that adults drink their coffee black and then sips some. He promptly starts gagging at the taste.
- Female example: in the first chapter of New Game!, when Rin asks Aoba if she wants anything to drink, Aoba asks for an orange juice at first, but quickly changes her mind and asks for black coffee because she thinks it's what she's supposed to drink as a "responsible adult". Kou takes Aoba's coffee by accident and spits it back out, preferring her cups with lots of sugar. When Aoba tries it, it turns out that she can't handle it black after all.
- Another female example from Kirarin☆Revolution: when Kilari briefly switches agencies and goes to Black Wood, one of the first things she is told about her new, more mature image as "Blackmoon Kirarin" is that she can't be seen in public consuming anything but black coffee.
- In one chapter of Teasing Master Takagi-san, Nishikata tries to appear more mature to Takagi by drinking canned black coffee from a vending machine.
- In Non Non Biyori, Komari has something of a complex over her childish appearance. She is very upset to learn in one chapter that Hotaru takes her coffee black, yet another sign that the younger girl acts more mature than her.
- In Spy X Family, secret agent Nightfall is surprised to see superspy Twilight take his coffee with milk at home, being used to him taking it black. She thinks that either family life has softened him, or it's part of the persona he's adopted. He's actually trying to protect his stomach in light of his stressful life and considering a switch to decaf.
- Used as a plot point in Sudden Impact. For years Cowboy Cop "Dirty" Harry Callahan has been ordering his coffee black and is tipped off of a robbery by his server pouring a bunch of sugar into it.
Every day for the past ten years, Loretta there's been giving me a large black coffee, today she gives me a large black coffee only it has sugar in it, a lotta sugar. I just came back to complain. Now, you boys put those guns down.
- Airplane!: "I like my coffee black. Like my men." Spoken by a six-year-old girl to the boy who sits next to her (for laughs, obviously.)
- Subverted in Pulp Fiction. Winston Wolf is a badass among badasses in the Marcellus Wallace crime organization, but when Jimmy offers him a cup of coffee, he tells him he likes it with a lot of cream and sugar. No one dares to question his man card.
- In Guards! Guards!, Vimes takes his coffee black. He tries to order it "black as a moonless night", but the owner picks apart the metaphor until Vimes finally settles for "a moonless night as black as that coffee."
- James Bond, in contrast to most of his fellow-Brits, hates tea, and takes his coffee black. When at home, he (or rather, his housekeeper) makes it in a Chemex Coffeemaker.
- Nick Andros, a young and skinny but tough and resourceful deaf-mute drifter in The Stand, takes his coffee black. Lampshaded by Sheriff Baker: "Take it like a man, do you?"
- In Saga of Soul, the multiversal Serial Killer "Murder" makes his order to a surviving barista after killing everyone else in line at a Starbucks, saying he likes "coffee as black as my soul".
- Our Miss Brooks: Mr. Boynton and Miss Brooks both take their coffee black in "Space, Who Needs It?"
- Captain Janeway's preferred drink on Star Trek: Voyager: "Coffee. Black." It's good stuff. She beat the Borg with it.
- Gibbs in NCIS is also known for drinking black coffee. It comes with being a former marine. When Tony takes over Gibbs' position during his 10-Minute Retirement, Tony also starts drinking black coffee. Non-Action Girl Abbie prefers soft drinks.
- Detective Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks is a talented, experienced FBI agent who always takes his coffee black.
- Michael Ian Black of Stella (US) provides an example that it's probably best not to overthink:
Michael: I like my coffee the way I like my women: Strong, black, and proud.
- Policewoman Casey Jones from Decoy likes her coffee "hot and black."
- Played with on Frasier. Martin, a retired cop, usually takes his coffee this way in contrast to his sons' more elaborate orders. Niles in particular makes very specific requests such as specifying how thick he wants the foam to be. Frasier himself tends to switch between the two extremes and on at least one occasion specifically ordered his coffee plain and black after getting annoyed with how long Niles was taking to order his drink.
- Chuck: John Casey is a gruff ex-marine. In one episode he mentions liking his coffee "black and bitter".
- Big the Musical has a song called "Coffee, Black" based on this trope.
- Shin Megami Tensei:
- Persona 3 : Ken Amada says even he drinks coffee black in a random optional conversation you can have with him (which you can even joke you like it with hot sauce). Ken is also 10 years old.
- Persona 4: There is a scene where Ryotaro Dojima asks the player how he wants his coffee:
Black: Just like me. The easiest kind to make.
With cream: Huh...? Oh, uh, well... It's just I haven't heard anyone ask for that in a while.
Cream and sugar: Hah, you have the same tastes as Nanako.
Surprise me: Alright, I'll pour you a good one.
- Subverted in Persona 5. Ryuji, the most overtly masculine of the protagonists, recoils when he gets a sip of Sojiro's black coffee, which the flamboyant Yusuke and supermodel Ann enjoy. He has to wash the taste out of his mouth with iced cola. Morgana chastises him for having a child's tongue.
Ryuji: Blech! [chugs a glass of iced cola] It's so bitter! This has got to be cruel and unusual punishment!
- Ringabel from Bravely Default is a flamboyant Agent Peacock, yet is the only member of the party who likes their coffee black. On the antagonists' side, there's Alternis Dim, who, being a Dark Knight, naturally likes his coffee to be as dark as he is. This is one of many hints that they're actually the same person.
- According to his profile, Hawke in Advance Wars likes his coffee black.
- Animal Crossing:
- Discussed in Wild World. A "lazy" villager will sometimes say "Is it true that "real men" like bitter coffee? I guess I'm just a regular guy then, 'cause I like my coffee light and sweet."
- Subverted in New Leaf. You can work part-time at the local café. It turns out some of the manliest villagers like their coffee sweet and some of the girliest are fond of black.
- Kyle Hyde in Last Window, the sequel to Hotel Dusk: Room 215. Another cop example, Kyle likes to drink his coffee black, at least shown in Last Window at the café.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials and Tribulations: Mixed in with Must Have Caffeine, Godot always drinks his coffee pure black, which even provides one of many of his famous quotes "Blacker than a moonless night, hotter and more bitter than Hell itself... that is coffee." Later in the game, you learn that someone had once slipped poison into his coffee and put him in a coma for 5 years. It's understandable that he'd be wary of putting anything in his coffee after that, especially if the poison was disguised as cream or sugar.
- Angel Down, Bernard compliments his son Samuel for taking his coffee black during their first meeting.
- Hiimdaisy parodies the coffee scene in Persona 4:
Black: Don't try to sound tough you sissy.
With cream: Oh, coming right up, madam.
Cream and sugar: What are you, Nanako?
(Nanako: [in the background] Daddy, I want it black.)
Surprise me: [throws it at your face]
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: A dweebish-looking guy tries to mock a bigger guy who takes cream and sugar in his coffee. Unfortunately, the bigger guy can justify it by virtue of his having a physically-demanding jobs that needs lots of calories.
Dweeb: RECOGNIZE THAT I AM BETTER THAN YOU!
- Parodied during one of the Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter Takeovers. Shadow is so hardcore that he eats coffee beans.
Shadow: I eat the coffee beans straight. They're delicious... and crunchy.
- In Black Jack Justice. Manly Man Jack drinks his black while Sensitive Guy Freddie takes his with cream and sugar. Downplayed, as Jack's partner, Trixie also takes it black, as do many of their clients, men and women alike.
- In Metalocalypse, Nathan Explosion has this to say about Dethklok's new song, the Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle:
We're here to make coffee metal. We're here to make everything metal. Blacker than the blackest black... times infinity.
- Dr. Algernop Krieger of Archer once ordered his coffee the same way he likes his women: "black, bitter, and preferably fair trade."
- Current or former military personnel often take their coffee black. Procurement tends to buy the cheapest, cruddiest coffee possible so the cream and sugar tend to run out fast (alternatively: the officers stole it all), which means soldiers, sailors, and airmen tend to get used to black coffee and stay with the habit after mustering out. Plus, depending on how busy you are, black coffee is just faster. Besides, it's not like sugar and cream will make bad coffee taste good.
- This trope gets invoked by Boss Coffee to the Japanese public.
- The "third wave" coffee movement, with its commitment to high-quality, single origin beans, prefers drinking coffee without milk and sugar, though latte art is also appreciated. High-quality coffee beans yield flavors that are frequently compared to citrus fruits without the need for sugar.
- This attitude is why Starbucks' milk-and-sugar-laden coffee beverages have been pegged as "girly drinks," especially the pumpkin spice latte.