I hope you drink coffee because you love the taste of it. But chances are you also drink coffee for a little wake me up every now and then.
You probably know that the thing in coffee that keeps you awake (or wakes you up) is caffeine. But do you know how much caffeine your morning cup of joe contains? And what the effects of caffeine on your body are?
Caffeine in coffee is something that you hear a whole lot about but in very little detail.
Continue reading when you would like to know more: from the amount of caffeine in different kinds of coffee, how the caffeine in coffee affects your body, and whether you should be worried about caffeine in coffee.
But, let’s start with the most basic question:
What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a substance (a stimulant) that can be found in a variety of natural sources and is also found in coffee beans. Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, heart, and your muscles. It is a drug. Really, there is no way around it.
However, unlike many drugs, there is no stigma associated with consuming caffeine regularly.
In fact, roughly 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine in some form every single day. And, as with most drugs, stopping the regular consumption of caffeine can lead to withdrawal effects.
How Much Caffeine is in a Cup of Coffee?
he amount of caffeine in coffee largely depends on the type of coffee and the particulars of the brewing process.
For instance, Robusta coffee beans contain about twice as much caffeine as Arabica coffee beans. The amount of coffee grounds you brew with, grind size, and the steeping time all have some impact on the amount of caffeine that is extracted.
The list below is, therefore, only a rough guideline to give you an idea about how much coffee is in different types of brews.
As you can see in the list above, caffeine comes in tiny amounts. But don’t underestimate the effects! When you consume coffee in large volumes, the amount of caffeine you ingest adds up quickly. As with most things: when you enjoy coffee in moderation, you have nothing to worry about.
Another interesting fact worth noting is that decaffeinated versions of your favorite coffee do contain caffeine. A lot less than in a regular version of the same coffee drink, but still. Personally, I think there is very little to worry about, even if you are trying to eliminate the intake of caffeine (e.g., when you are pregnant or have high blood pressure). But I am not a physician. If you need to moderate your caffeine intake for medical reasons, consult your doctor before switching to decaffeinated coffee!
What Actually Affects the Amount of Caffeine in Coffee?
As said, the amount of caffeine in coffee depends on the characteristics of the coffee bean and the brew method. But slight variations can even lead to a difference in the amount of caffeine between one cup and the other. This is caused by:
Changes in the coffee bean:
Not every single bean has the exact same amount of caffeine. Even when the beans are of the same variety. When you are using a blend of different coffee beans, variations in the mixture also lead to variations in the amount of caffeine in your cup.
The amount of ground coffee used:
When you use a coffee scoop to measure out the amount of coffee you use for a particular brew method, there are variations in the amount of coffee you use between one brew session and the next. If consistency is your goal, you should use a kitchen scale to weigh out the amount of coffee for each brew session. In my opinion, consistency should be your goal. You want to brew a great cup of coffee each time, right?
The brewing technique:
There are a lot of different brew methods for coffee. There is the difference between drip coffee or espresso, of course. But there are also differences in caffeine content between French Press coffee, coffee from a percolator or Moka pot, and coffee made by boiling (Turkish or Greek coffee).
What is the effect of the brew method on the amount of caffeine in coffee?
So, there are a lot of different ways to make coffee, and these all result in a different caffeine content:
Brewing coffee using the drip or filter brew method is by far the most popular way of making coffee in the western world, especially in the USA. While you will get more caffeine per serving from a Moka pot or from Turkish coffee, drip coffee has a pretty high caffeine content. And because drip coffee is regularly consumed in large quantities (the smallest Starbucks serving is 12 oz, or 350 ml, or 1.5 standard serving), big coffee drinkers will ingest a pretty large amount of caffeine each day.
How much caffeine is in one Ounce of Brewed Coffee?
The problem with the numbers above is that it is difficult to compare different coffee types by caffeine content. The amount of caffeine you consume depends largely on the size of your drink. And though espresso might contain a higher caffeine content than coffee, an espresso is much smaller than a regular cup of coffee.
Espresso contains 45-75 mg of caffeine per ounce (or 30 ml). Regular drip coffee or filter coffee contains about 20 mg of caffeine per ounce (or 30 ml). So, an espresso contains way more caffeine than a regular cup of joe, right?
The typical espresso usually contains 2 ounces (or 60 ml) of liquid. Drip coffee or filter coffee, on the other hand, comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The comparison below might help to understand this:
Hopefully, this makes clear that even the smallest serving of regular drip coffee contains roughly twice the amount of caffeine of a standard serving of espresso. Many people associate the strong taste of espresso with a very high amount of caffeine. And this is true, but a typical drip coffee contains way more caffeine despite the more ‘mellow’ taste.
Nonetheless, it isn’t merely the size that matters. There are other factors you must take into consideration too.
Which factors influence the amount of caffeine in a coffee bean?
The factors that have an impact on the amount of caffeine in the ground coffee you use are: the roast level, the grind size, the water quality and temperature, and the coffee bean species.
Coffee Bean Roast Level
When coffee beans are roasted, the water they contain evaporates, and they grow larger due to the popping of the bean when they are heated (the same thing happens when making popcorn). But something else happens during the roasting process as well. The longer you roast the coffee beans, the darker they become, and the more caffeine by weight they LOSE. Contrary to popular belief, caffeine isn’t ‘burned off.’ It is the size and weight of the coffee bean that changes during the roasting process.
When roasting coffee beans, the weight of the bean changes because of evaporating water. So the beans become lighter in weight the longer you roast them. At the same time, the coffee beans become larger due to the popping or cracking of the beans. So, if you measure the amount of coffee to use by volume, you get less caffeine per cup. If you use scales and thus measure the amount of coffee you need by weight, you get more caffeine per cup.
Confusing? Yes. But true.
Coffee Bean Grind Size
The size of the grind matters because for caffeine to end up in your cup, extraction needs to take place. The water you brew with needs to be in contact with the coffee for the caffeine (and flavor!) to end up in your cup. A finer ground has more surface-level than a coarser ground. This means that more of the coffee comes into contact with the water, and more caffeine can be extracted.
So: the finer the ground coffee, the more caffeine in your cup.
Water quality and temperature
Water has a massive influence on the taste of your brew. The quality of your tap water might not be good enough to make coffee. My personal rule is: when you like your local tap water enough to drink it, it is okay to make coffee with it.
It is always a good idea to experiment. It might be that even though you like drinking your tap water, making coffee with bottled water improves the quality of your cup of coffee vastly. So my advice: try making coffee with bottled water at least once. You might be surprised.
For caffeine extraction, the temperature of the water you use is what counts. Generally, water between 195 degrees Fahrenheit (or 90 degrees Celsius) and 205 degrees Fahrenheit (or 96 degrees Celsius) is best for optimal caffeine extraction.
It is also for this reason that cold brew coffee contains a lot less caffeine than coffee brewed with water between 195 degrees Fahrenheit (or 90 degrees Celsius) and 205 degrees Fahrenheit (or 96 degrees Celsius).
Coffee Bean Species
Every type of coffee bean has a slightly different amount of caffeine. But the big difference is between the Arabica and the Robusta coffee bean. The Arabica bean is generally considered to be a better quality coffee bean. It is not surprising then that about 70% of the coffee that is grown in the world is of the Arabica variety.
But, they contain far less caffeine per bean than the Robusta coffee beans. The typical Arabica coffee bean contains, on average, half the amount of caffeine compared to a typical Robusta coffee bean.
Robusta beans are usually found in the cheapest coffee brand in your local supermarket. Specialty coffee bars mainly serve coffee from Arabica beans. The reason: barista’s value the quality of a coffee bean over the amount of caffeine in a bean.
Lately, some brands have tried to find a way to up the caffeine content in their coffee without lowering their quality standards. And they have succeeded! Below we will discuss some excellent quality, high caffeine coffee varieties
How much caffeine is in espresso?
We have mentioned that a regular espresso has roughly 150 mg of caffeine, provided you get a standard shot. But espresso has quite a few variations: fancy things like ‘doppio,’ ‘ristretto,’ or ‘lungo’ might sound familiar.
The question is: does changing how a shot of espresso is made, change the amount of caffeine? Let’s find out!
A doppio is just a fancy Italian name for a double shot of espresso. So obviously, a double espresso is twice the size of a single or regular espresso, and it also contains twice the amount of caffeine. That means one doppio or double espresso will give you a whopping 300 mg of caffeine to digest.
A ristretto is a drink for hardcore caffeine lovers. It is the equivalent of hard liquor in the coffee world. That might be a bit of an exaggeration…
A ristretto is a concentrated version of an espresso. Mostly, it is made with the same amount of coffee grounds, but with less water. A single ristretto has the same amount of caffeine as a regular espresso, but with a stronger taste due to the reduced amount of water.
When you trade-in your single espresso for a single ristretto, you ingest the same amount of caffeine. But, if you try to keep the amount of liquid the same as in an espresso, you will at least double the amount of caffeine you take in. Depending on the level of concentration, you pick for your ristretto.
The lungo is the polar opposite of the ristretto. It is an espresso with extra water. The extra water is pulled through the ground, so you might think more caffeine is extracted. But the additional caffeine in a lungo is negligible. This is because caffeine is one of the first compounds to dissolve into the water during the extraction process. This means that most of the caffeine that can be extracted is extracted in the first part of the brewing process.
So, generally speaking, a Lungo has practically the same amount of caffeine as an espresso, but at a much larger volume.
For those of you who wonder: why not add the water after pulling the espresso? That’s possible and will result in a really lovely cup of coffee. But when you add the water after the espresso has been brewed, the drink is called an Americano.
What Type of Coffee Gives You the Most Caffeine Quickly?
The easy answer is a shot of very concentrated coffee. Like a double espresso or a ristretto. These drinks are highly concentrated Land you can to empty the cup in one gulp. A larger, strong drip coffee might contain more caffeine in total big, but it takes far longer to drink.
Pro tip: make sure your doppio or shot of ristretto is made with only Robusta coffee beans. This will double the amount of caffeine you take in.
There is one problem with this approach: it is purely focused on getting as much caffeine in your body as possible.
This might not be the best idea for your health.
But more on that later.
First, we need to discuss a more short term oriented problem.
The taste of your brew.
Brewing a double, triple, or quadruple espresso or even a ristretto of giant proportions with only cheap Robusta coffee beans might result in a horrible drink.
To get a cup of coffee that is packed with caffeine and tastes amazing, you need to find a good blend of quality Robusta coffee beans and the best Arabica coffee beans roasted by a pro. Luckily, some coffee brands specifically aim to deliver a high caffeine content and a great-tasting cup of coffee.
Let’s take a look:
What are the best High caffeine coffee brands?
Some brands specifically tailor their blends of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans to contain as much caffeine without compromising on flavor. They also employ a specific roasting process to maintain as much natural caffeine in the final product as possible.
Some of the brands even approach the magic number of 1,000 mg of caffeine in a 12 oz (or 360 ml) mug. Remember, that’s more than four times the amount found in regular drip or filter coffee, which contains about 240 mg per 12 oz (or 360 ml).
WARNING! Drinking coffee with this much caffeine might not be for everyone. The average male in most western countries takes in about 600 mg of caffeine per day. The average female around 400 mg. A single cup of these high caffeine brands surpasses the daily intake of most people. So, be careful.
Let’s start with Shock coffee. Shock Coffee is the brand that got the ball rolling for super high caffeine coffee. Their product has about 50% more caffeine than the average gourmet coffee. Compared to the other brand on this list, that’s low. But, they are one the first to bring reliably good coffee with a higher caffeine content to the market, so they are worth trying.
Their coffee won’t give you the jitters after one sip, but for a balanced cup with notes of chocolate and little extra caffeine to get you started in the morning, Shock Coffee is excellent.
Next on the list is my favorite high caffeine brand. What I love about it is really the taste. It is fantastic to use in a drip coffee maker. You will get notes of cherry, vanilla, and chocolate with a nutty aftertaste. And it packs a punch! The caffeine content is about 700 mg per 12 oz (or 360 ml) cup. Wow!
Furthermore, you’ll be buying coffee from a great company. Both USDA certified organic (no pesticides!) and fair trade certified, Death Wish Coffee gives you the best ánd honest coffee.
Next, we have yet another high caffeine coffee maker: Biohazard Coffee. This one has a darker, more earthy taste profile with notes of hazelnut and cherry.
This coffee is advertised as having 928mg of caffeine in a 12 oz (or 360 ml) mug. That is more the amount you would get from downing three double shots of espresso.
If you’re looking for the biggest caffeine kick, Biohazard Coffee is a good option. But their decision to use only Robusta beans has an impact on its flavor. It’s okay, but there are better-tasting coffee brands on this list.
What is the effect of caffeine on my body?
Our body is an amazingly complex machine. Caffeine has a profound effect on this fantastic machine, and it is worth finding out how it works. Every process in your body is driven by chemical signals. Two of the most critical chemical signals are hormones and neurotransmitters.
Caffeine alters the activity of some of these hormones and neurotransmitters
First, caffeine binds itself to the adenosine receptors throughout the brain and nervous system. These receptors are an inhibitory neurotransmitter that inhibits the degree of activity of the neurons that interact with this. Adenosine is associated with promoting relaxation and sleep while also suppressing arousal. Since caffeine binds itself to these receptors, it prevents them from doing their job. So the effect here is less relaxation and sleepiness.
Once the caffeine has the function of the adenosine receptors, it then starts a chain of events that alters the way hormones and neurotransmitters function in the body.
The most significant effect is the increased production of epinephrine. Epinephrine is one of the hormones (together with cortisol) that is associated with stress and the “fight or flight” response our bodies have to danger. Caffeine has been shown to increase the epinephrine levels in the body with as much as 250%.
Another effect is the increased circulation of serotonin in some parts of the nervous system.
What all this mumbo jumbo basically means is that caffeine inhibits relaxation and sleep, increases your heart rate, and elevates your mood. Pretty positive effects, right?
If used properly, caffeine can be used to optimize performance and alter the way your body works. Of course, this effect has its limits and downsides. But let’s take a look at the uses first.
How caffeine can help you wake up in the morning
We have all been there: the kids kept you up all night, that Netflix binge went on a bit too long, or you had to work late again. The next morning it can be a pain to get started. A head full of cloudiness, you can’t focus, and all you want is to crawl back in bed. But you can’t. You need to wake up.
Caffeine can help. That little kickstart a cup of coffee can bring, should help make these mornings just a little easier.
Just remember: it takes a little time to kick in. The first effects of caffeine stimulation are noticeable about 10 minutes after consumption, but the peak of your caffeine kick will be approximately 45 minutes after consumption.
How caffeine can improve your athletic performance
Studies have found that caffeine may help athletes improve both their endurance and muscle strength. So a cup of coffee 30 to 35 minutes before you have to perform can really help you make the best of your workouts.
The effect of coffee can be quite significant. One study found that the amount of caffeine in the equivalent of two cups of regular or drip coffee increased endurance in athletes. Tested athletes were able to cover 1.3–2 miles (2–3.2 km) more than the control group.
Another study tested the effects of caffeine on cyclists. Caffeine was shown to have a more positive impact on performance than carb-rich food. It increased the maximum output by 7.4%, compared to 5.2% in cyclists who were given carb-rich foods.
Finally, the results of coffee, specifically as a ‘vessel’ for caffeine, in another study showed that in a 1,500-meter run, the coffee drinkers were 4.2 seconds faster than those drinking decaffeinated coffee (the control group).
How caffeine can improve your cognitive performance
In addition to having a physical or athletic effect, caffeine can also have an impact on your brain function. Caffeine has been shown to improve short-term memory. But only in low to moderate caffeine users!
The caffeine in coffee acts as a mild stimulant. Many studies have shown that, depending on the level of intake, caffeine can help to improve mental performance, especially on alertness, attention, and concentration.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that enough research has been done to establish a clear relationship between improved alertness and the intake of 75 mg of caffeine (the amount found in one small cup of regular drip or filter coffee).
So, a moderate amount of caffeine can help you stay awake when driving or working at night, or to help you feel more energetic when you have a cold, or to help you recover from a post-lunch dip.
But be careful. Studies clearly show that only moderate levels of intake have a positive effect. There is some evidence that overdoing it can actually have the opposite effect and make you feel drowsy.
What are the adverse effects of caffeine on my body?
While there are many clinically proven benefits to the consumption of caffeine, there are also drawbacks that must be discussed. It is essential to be aware of the side effects of caffeine consumption and what may happen when you drink too much coffee.
The first thing you should realize is that caffeine, like any other drug, is addictive. Your body can get used to certain levels of caffeine. If you drink, say, 8 cups of coffee each day, your body will come to expect that amount of caffeine. If you suddenly stop drinking coffee, your body will react. Essentially, your body will be forced into a continuous replacement of hormones broken down from the constant binding of caffeine.
This leads to withdrawal symptoms. Many heavy coffee drinkers have experienced these, maybe even unknowingly. Have you ever experienced headaches on the weekend? This might very well be from caffeine withdrawal. Many people drink far more coffee during the week (at work) than on weekends. If this difference becomes too large, withdrawal symptoms might occur.
What are the Side Effects of drinking too much coffee?
When you drink coffee, the caffeine will make you feel more awake and alert. You might even feel you have more energy. This is why coffee is the drink of choice in the mornings for many people.
But, there are negative effects that you should be conscious of. When these occur depends on your sensitivity to caffeine. Some of these side effects are:
Everyone reacts differently to caffeine. The bodies of some can handle more caffeine than the bodies of others. The more often you consume caffeinated beverages, the more your system will have the ability to process it. You develop a tolerance for caffeine. This means it takes more caffeine for the negative side effects to occur. At the same time, this tolerance also means that you have to consume more caffeine to be able to enjoy the benefits.
So, it is crucial to understand that drinking more coffee may make matters worse and not better. When you experience these negative side effects, the best thing to do is to reduce your daily caffeine intake gradually. And most importantly: consult with your physician if you feel terrible or if you are unsure what to do!
How to Maximize the Benefits and reduce the harm of caffeine?
As we have seen, the use of caffeine is a trade-off between benefits and less than positive effects on our health. And although we love coffee at MonsieurCoffee.com, and can’t get enough of it, we need to pace ourselves. There are some steps you can take to make sure you do get the benefits of caffeine and as little as possible of the side effects. All while enjoying your favorite black beverage.
Don't drink coffee every day
As much as it pains me to say it, it is a good idea to hold off on the coffee one day each week. This way, you make sure your body doesn’t get entirely accustomed to daily caffeine intake. If you really can’t go without coffee, limit yourself to one cup.
Or, and this is a pro-tip that I use all the time, drink good quality decaf for one day a week.
Find out what your coffee-limit is
Sometimes you will drink too much coffee. We have all been there. You have been gulping down cup after cup mindlessly, and suddenly you feel it: you have ‘the jitters.’ It is quite useful to know what your limit is. After how many cups of coffee do you get the jitters?
If you know your limit, you can make sure you never go over it. Track how many cups you have had and if you approach your limit, stop drinking coffee.
Or, and there it is again: switch to good quality decaf!
Find other stimulants
If you drink coffee purely for the stimulating effects, it might be worth looking into other things that give you more energy. A good mix of energy sources is a good idea in the first place. It’s healthy and far more effective than gulping down cup after cup of coffee.
Some examples of things that make you feel more energetic, awake, and/or stimulated:
Cacao or chocolate
Cacao in chocolate contains a chemical that is similar to caffeine but works slightly different. For one, the stimulating compounds in cacao do not interact with the body’s nervous system. Instead, it stimulates blood circulation. This helps your circulatory system to deliver more nutrients to your brain. You will feel more awake and more energetic.
Yes. Plain and simple water. Keep yourself properly hydrated, and you will feel more energetic. A couple of glasses of water each day should do the trick.
Fruit and vegetables
Make sure you consume enough healthy food during the day to keep you fueled. Candy bars don’t count. Fruit and vegetables contain loads of nutrients your body can quickly transform into energy to last you a while. A sugary drink or candy bar may give you a kick, but this will be short-lived.
When you are stuck in an office all day, it might help to take your breaks outside. Some fresh air and sunlight can vastly improve your energy levels and your general sense of well-being.
Should I reduce the amount of caffeine I consume?
After reading about the side effects of caffeine, this is a valid concern. But, I am not a doctor. If you have concerns about your health in relation to the amount of caffeine you consume, you should consult with your doctor.
Having said that, if you consume more than 8 to 10 cups of coffee or other drinks that contain caffeine, it might be a good idea to rethink your caffeination-strategy. Dial it back a notch.
Coffee is an absolutely wonderful drink. But too much of anything is a bad thing.
One more time: pro-tip switch to good quality decaf every now an then!
For most of us, drinking coffee is a daily joy and no big deal. Still, it is essential to know what you put into your body and what the effects of your caffeine intake are.
Enjoy your coffee, but enjoy it responsibly.
And… switch to good quality decaf every now and then (wink smiley)
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