Ninety nine healthy young volunteers (58 men, 34 women, aged 17-27 years) answered a questionnaire concerning their bowel habit with particular reference to the effects of beverages. Twenty nine per cent (63% women) claimed that coffee induced a desire to defecate. The rectosigmoid motor responses to black, unsweetened coffee were then investigated by multiport manometry in 14 healthy-subjects (12 men, two women, eight of whom claimed coffee caused a desire to defecate (responders). Results revealed an increase in motility index within four minutes after ingestion of both regular and decaffeinated coffee (p less than 0.05) in the eight responders, but not in the six non-responders. The increase in rectosigmoid motility induced by coffee lasted at least 30 minutes. There was no increase in the motility index in any subject after a drink of hot water. These results suggest that drinking coffee can stimulate a motor response of the distal colon in some normal people.