Waiting After Coffee

Question: Should you wait after drinking regular coffee with milk before eating meat?

Short Answer: According to the basic halachah, you need not wait any time after eating any dairy product before eating meat. Simply washing out your mouth is sufficient. Nevertheless, it is noble to be strict: Wait either a half-hour or an hour after eating dairy foods or drinking dairy drinks together with (even pareve) foods, before eating meat. However, if you just drink dairy coffee, without any food, there is no need at all to wait any time before eating meat.



I. No Waiting Period

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 89:2) writes that a person may eat meat immediately after eating cheese, provided that he first checks his hands to ensure that they do not have dairy residue on them; or, if it is nighttime and he cannot see his hands, he must wash his hands before eating meat. The Shulchan Aruch adds that he must also rinse out his mouth.

The Rama (ibid) notes, and adopts, the opinion that you must wait six hours after eating certain hard cheeses. However, the Rama does not rule strictly regarding other, non-hard cheeses.

Accordingly, it would appear clear that one need not wait any amount of time after drinking coffee with milk before eating meat. Rather, just check your hands and rinse your mouth, and you may eat meat.

II. Need to Bentch?

But do you need to bentch after eating bread and dairy before eating meat? In other words, may you eat milk and meat in the same meal?

The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 173) cites an opinion to refrain from eating meat in the same meal that you ate milk. This is based on the Zohar (Parshas Mishpatim) that states that the “sitra acher” (i.e., spiritual danger) attacks those who eat milk and meat in the same meal. The Beis Yosef appears to adopt this stringency. Indeed, Rav Moshe Sternbuch (T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (2:390) cites the P’ri M’gadim and the B’eir Mayim Chayim who both adopt this ruling and require a person to bentch after eating dairy before eating meat.

On the other hand, the Mishnah B’rurah (Orach Chayim 494:16) rules that you do not need to bentch in between milk and meat, and thus, you may eat meat in the same meal as milk. This is relevant when fulfilling the custom of eating dairy on Shavuos. Nevertheless, Rav Sternbuch adopts the ruling of the P’ri M’gadim and holds that one should ideally bentch before eating meat.

III. How Much Time?

According to the Zohar, who says that you need to bentch before eating meat, do you also need to wait before eating meat or may you eat meat immediately after you bentch? If you need to wait, how much time must you wait after eating the dairy before eating meat?

Rav Sternbuch notes that the language of the Zohar indicates that you must wait at least an hour (“shaah”). Rav Sternbuch adds that this is also the recommended wait-time of the Shach and the Vilna Gaon.

However, Rav Sternbuch rules that you only need to wait a half-hour before eating meat. This is based off of the common usage of “close to” (“samuch”) in halachah. In other words, when we say it is forbidden to perform certain activities “samuch l’Minchah,” we interpret this time period as “within a half-hour before Minchah.” Thus, one may not eat meat less than a half-hour after eating dairy, even if he washed out his mouth and bentched in between.

IV. Food Versus Drink

Rav Sternbuch does bring an additional crucial distinction between eating cheese and drinking milk. He suggests that perhaps you only need to wait a half-hour when you eat a dairy food, such as cheese, or when you drink milk together with some m’zonos (even pareve) food, such as a cookie. In such a case, simply rinsing out your mouth is insufficient. However, if you just drink milk, you need not wait at all before eating meat; you simply need to wash out your mouth.

 Next Week’s Topic: May you eat a meat meal alone on a table with dairy food?

Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. is Associate Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..