For all the coffee drinkers out there, have you ever stopped to think: “How much caffeine is in my cup of coffee?”
In reality, there are many factors that go into caffeine content, such as type of coffee, brewing methods, type of bean, and brand. So how much caffeine are you drinking each day and how does this affect your health?
What is Caffeine?
Many people are familiar with the term caffeine and associate it with something that can keep you awake and energized. But what is caffeine exactly and what does it do?
Caffeine is a type of stimulant drug. This basically means it speeds up the messages traveling between the brain and body. Caffeine affects the nervous system, heart, and muscles. It can be found in coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and certain medications like the ones for drowsiness and headaches.
What factors affect caffeine content?
Coffee is a caffeinated beverage enjoyed by millions of people on a daily basis. However, not all coffees are made the same! Different types of coffee contain different amounts of caffeine. Many factors can affect the caffeine content in your morning cup of joe.
Type of Coffee
The type of coffee you are drinking, such as espresso or brewed coffee can vary significantly in caffeine content. Additionally, if you prefer buying your coffee from a café rather than making it at home. The commercial brand type you choose may also influence the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee.
The way your coffee is made can also affect caffeine content. Many times if you make your coffee at home, this can depend on your personal preference. For instance, if you prefer a stronger coffee taste or flavor and brew your coffee for longer periods of time. There may be higher amounts of caffeine in your coffee as longer it takes you to brew it. The water-coffee ratio is very important as well, so the size of your coffee mug can also be a factor.
Light Roast vs. Dark Roast
The type of roast you choose, whether it is light, medium, or dark, can influence the amount of caffeine that goes into your cup. Now, don’t let the name fool you. Dark roasts actually have less caffeine than light roasts as roasting burns off some of the caffeine. If you prefer less caffeine in your cup, opt for a dark French or Italian roast for a less jolting cup.
Type of Bean
Most coffees are made with either Arabica, Robusta, or a mixture of those two types of beans. Your preferred coffee brand can play a role in your caffeine intake. Arabica beans, for example, have half the caffeine of Robusta beans. Although a higher dose of caffeine may seem like a good thing, it makes the taste of Robusta beans unpleasantly bitter and acidic. You can find more Robusta beans in espresso-like coffee or coffee blends that claim to be the strongest coffees. Read more about the different types of roasts here.
How much caffeine are in different types of coffee?
Now you must be thinking, if there are so many different factors that can affect caffeine content, then how are you supposed to know the caffeine amounts in your coffee? To start off at the base of your coffee, let’s talk about how much caffeine is in an 8 fl oz. of coffee.
- Brewed Coffee: 70 – 140 mg caffeine in 8 oz. cup
- Espresso: 63 mg caffeine in a shot (which also equals to about 1 - 1.75 oz.)
- Espresso-based drinks: 63 mg caffeine in a small cup and 125 mg in a large cup
- Instant Coffee: 30 – 90 mg of caffeine (Waka Coffee has about 70 mg of caffeine as indicated by Caffeine Informer)
- Decaf Coffee: 0 – 7 mg of caffeine
Method of preparation
As mentioned before, the way your coffee is brewed and prepared impacts the amount of caffeine is in your coffee. This is due to the way water penetrates the coffee grounds and how flavor is extracted from the coffee grounds. The amount of time water is in contact with the coffee grinds can also lead to higher caffeine concentration in your coffee cup.
Drip or Filter
- 115 – 175 mg caffeine with an average of 145 mg
French Press or Plunger
- 80 – 135 mg caffeine with an average of 107.5 mg
- 64 – 272 mg caffeine with an average of 200 mg
Boiled Coffee (for example, Turkish or Greek)
- 160 – 240 mg caffeine with an average of 200 mg
Arabica vs. Robusta
The type of coffee beans used in your favorite coffee does not only affect caffeine content, but also the taste of your coffee.
Arabica beans grow dominantly in Latin America with certain countries, like Colombia, that only produce Arabica beans. This type of bean tends to have a sweeter and softer taste with undertones of sugar, fruit, and berries. Compared to the Robusta bean, it is harder to grow it because it is more vulnerable to pests and weather conditions. It also takes a longer time for the crop to mature and produces less fruits per tree. Due to this, Arabica beans tend to be pricier.
Robusta beans, on the other hand, are grown exclusively in the Eastern Hemisphere, mostly in Africa and Indonesia. It has a stronger, harsher taste and tends to have a bad aftertaste. This stronger taste is due to the fact that is has twice as much caffeine as Arabia beans. Compared to the Arabica bean, it is a lot easier to grow, matures at a faster rate, and yields more crop per tree.
The roast of your bean can also play a role in the amounts of caffeine in your daily cup of coffee. Like the type of bean, the type of roast can also change the taste and flavor of coffee. By roasting coffee beans, they lose water and expand in size. Caffeine is also lost in this process. For instance, while a darker roast contains deeper flavors than lights and medium roasts, they contain less caffeine. So lighter and medium roasts tend to contain the most caffeine.
Most caffeinated coffee
So now that we’ve covered all areas that can affect the amounts of caffeine in coffee, you must be wondering, which is the coffee with the highest caffeine content? While this may seem like a straightforward question, there are other variables that come into play that can affect the answer to this question.
You can look for the coffee with most caffeine in terms of the type of coffee you’re drinking. As mentioned previously, the 8 oz. brewed coffee contains 70 – 114 mg of caffeine, which means it has about 9 – 10 mg per ounce.
However, in terms of having more caffeine per ounce, the espresso wins. A shot of espresso has about 60 – 80 mg of caffeine, which is 40 – 55 mg per ounce. So if you order a drink with a double shot of espresso, you can get just as much caffeine, if not more than what’s in a 8 oz. of brewed coffee.
Brand and Cup Size
The commercial brand you are buying coffee from can affect the amounts of caffeine you are getting in your coffee. This is because each brand could have different standard amounts of caffeine and varying cup sizes. Many places, such as fast food chains, have large cup sizes, which can hold 3 or 4 cups of a regular sized coffee. This tends to increase the caffeine intake as most people drink the entire cup and consider it as “one cup” of coffee when in reality it’s a lot more than that. Some commercial brands also have high caffeine coffee compared to the coffee you brew at home.
Health and caffeine
Health benefits of caffeine
With the popularity of coffee, caffeine contain many acclaimed health benefits, many of which we have discussed in detail in a previous blog. Coffee and caffeine help with increased energy levels and alertness. With the use of caffeine, a person also has lower ratings of perceived exhaustion that can allow them to be on the move for longer periods of time. Additionally, it improves physical performance in terms of working out and exercise. While containing beneficial antioxidants and nutrients for the body, caffeine can also help to weight loss. This is because caffeine has an appetite suppression effect as well as signals the body to break down fat. This breakdown of fats turns them into free fatty acids for the body’s fuel.
Caffeine side effects
With all these positive benefits of coffee and caffeine, you must be thinking: there can always be too much of a good thing right? So actually, how much caffeine can you have in a day?
The effects of caffeine varies from person to person depending on their size, weight, health, amount taken, and if their body is used to caffeine or not. It is always important to be aware of your body’s reaction to coffee and caffeine to be sure not to go overboard with your caffeine intake!
Some short-term effects of caffeine include restlessness, anxiety, irritability, higher body temperatures, and dehydration (this is due to caffeine’s diuretic effect, so make sure to also keep hydrated with water!).
Most caffeine users need a surprisingly small amount of the stimulant to enjoy its pleasant effects. Studies have shown that only about 100 mg of caffeine produce a lift, which is about one a half cups of coffee. It is certainly not recommended to go over 400 mg of caffeine a day, but of course that varies from person to person. If you are a heavy coffee drinker, such as four or more cups a day, you may feeling the long-term effects. This includes difficulty sleeping, muscle tremors, low blood pressure, irregular heart rate, and weakness and fatigue.
While caffeine has its positive health benefits, is it important to know that more is not more! Managing your caffeine and coffee intake by tailoring it to your own body’s needs will allow you to gain the benefits of caffeine and enjoy your daily coffee without all of the negatives.
Caffeine-related resources for more information:
Caffeine 101: National Geographic by National Geographic