Almost on par with beer, but sliding steadily, the average American drank 20.2 gallons of milk in 2011. That was down more than 3 percent from the previous year, and a whopping 30 percent since 1975. This is interesting, because as soda came under the microscope for its role in obesity, milk was often mentioned as a healthier alternative for school kids. So you’d kind of expect milk consumption to go up as soda guzzling went down, but alas, apparently it was only water’s race to win.
Beer is the only alcoholic beverage to make the list. Americans drank an average of 20.8 gallons of suds in 2012, down from 21.4 gallons in 2005. In comparison, wine—which many consider a much healthier alcoholic alternative—has risen slightly over the same time period, but still only clocks in at a little more than 10 percent of beer consumption. And that means beer fans guzzle a lot more than wine lovers, since 39 percent of drinkers prefer beer and a very close 35 percent choose wine, according to a 2012 Gallup poll.
As expected, the beverage that fuels many a morning commuter had to be on the list. More than 80 percent of adults in the U.S. drink coffee, up 5 percent from the previous year, according to a 2013 survey by the National Coffee Association. But ounce for ounce, it’s not necessarily rising; discerning tastes and the popularity of gourmet blends mean that in 2012 Americans sipped an average of 23 gallons of java, which is less than half what the consumption was in 1946.
Blame the giant tubs of the stuff regularly served up at convenience stores and fast food restaurants. Or blame Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby hawking Pepsi and Coke in the 1980s. But for two decades carbonated soft drinks topped the list of popular beverages, with people drinking 44.7 gallons on average in 2010, 51.5 gallons in 2005 and a whopping 54 gallons in 1998, the height of its reign. That constant decline, though—fueled by findings that it contributes to the nation’s out-of-control obesity—led to the king being knocked off the top of the mountain by its old rival, water, in 2013.
Water is free of calories, and practically free of cost if you drink it from the tap. Throughout history it’s been the life-giving beverage of choice. But it’s not all that exciting, so for 20 years it was overshadowed by America’s love affair with soda. That all changed in early 2013, when water once again became the beverage of choice in the USA. We now drink an average of 58 gallons a year; 21 gallons of that is the bottled variety. That’s quite an increase from the 42 gallons of water we drank in 1998.