According to a 2019 project by Coffeeness, there are between 49.2 and 280 milligrams of caffeine in a single serving of coffee.
That’s a far cry from the generic “95 milligrams per cup of coffee” most people have read about. However, coffee preparation and roasting can vastly alter the amount of caffeine in coffee.
For most Americans, caffeinated coffee is the primary source of caffeine. Caffeine levels vary widely among caffeinated beverages (including tea, energy drinks, and other sources).
Because research suggests you should limit your intake to 400 milligrams per day, it’s important to know how much you’re getting (and the drawbacks of getting too much).
What affects caffeine content?
A few factors determine caffeine content in coffee.
- Type of coffee beans. The two primary types of coffee beans are arabica and robusta. Arabica tends to contain less caffeine than robusta.
- Location. Where the coffee beans were grown can come into play. Coffee beans grown at a higher altitude will typically have less caffeine than those grown at a lower altitude.
- Roast. Lighter roasts tend to have a bit more caffeine than darker roasts, as some caffeine is essentially cooked off. Dark roast coffee has the least caffeine, while gold roast and light roast have the most caffeine per serving. Note: The amount of caffeine lost during longer roasting is fairly nominal, so this doesn’t have as significant an impact as the other factors.
- Brewing method. Generally, the lengthier the brewing time, the higher the caffeine content. Also, the higher the water temperature, the more caffeine is extracted.
- Grind size. The finer the grind, the greater the surface area of the grounds, which means a faster release of both caffeine and flavor.
How much caffeine is in coffee?
The caffeine content in coffee varies due to:
- Preparation method
- Coffee roasting method
- Serving size
A venti coffee drink from Starbucks, for instance, may contain anywhere from 150-475 mg of caffeine. Lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas will be under 200 mg of caffeine. Brewed light and blonde roasts may have more than 400 mg in a large serving.
Per typical serving, here’s how much caffeine in coffee you’ll find based on the preparation method:
- Cold brew (24 hours): 280 mg
- Cold brew without ice: 247 mg
- Cold brew (8 hours): 238 mg
- French press: 223 mg
- Aeropress: 204 mg
- Pour-over filter: 185 mg
- Cold brew with ice: 182 mg
- Chemex: 172 mg
- Drip coffee maker: 170 mg
- American press: 146 mg
- Drip coffee from espresso machine: 116 mg
- Espresso: 68 mg
- Ristretto: 63 mg
- Stove-top espresso maker: 49 mg
Image used with permission from Coffeeness.de
Brewed coffee, sometimes just known as “regular coffee,” is hot water poured over ground coffee beans.
There are 116-223 grams of caffeine in a “regular” 8-ounce cup of coffee, depending on how you make it. Drip coffee ranks on the lower end, while a cup via French press has nearly double the amount of coffee as drip.
Filter coffee, french press, and pour-over coffee fall under this umbrella.
For cold brew coffee, coffee grounds are steeped in room temperature or cold water for 8-24 hours. The lengthy process and the lack of boiling water result in a less acidic, smoother, and sweeter coffee.
Cold brew coffee ranges from 182-280 mg of caffeine per 8-ounce serving. The longer you cold brew coffee, the more caffeine it will contain. Using ice also reduces the caffeine in cold brew.
A shot of espresso is about 1 ounce and has about 68 mg of caffeine.
Espresso is typically made from robusta coffee beans for a bolder flavor and higher caffeine content. Pressurized, piping hot water shoots through compacted, finely ground coffee in an espresso machine. This takes about 30 seconds.
Many popular coffee drinks are espresso-based, such as
What is the difference between a latte and a cappuccino? Both lattes and cappuccinos are made with the same ingredients, but the amounts used in each differ. Cappuccinos have a 1/1/1 ratio of espresso, steamed milk, and foam. Lattes are 1 part espresso, 2 parts steamed milk (mixed together), and 2 parts foam.
Made from freeze-drying or spray-drying coffee extract, instant coffee requires only hot water or hot milk and stirring. Voila, your cup of coffee is served!
There are about 70 mg per cup of instant coffee, but this may differ a lot by brand.
Contrary to popular belief, decaffeinated coffee is not 100% caffeine-free. A typical cup of decaf coffee will have about 2 mg of caffeine.
Which coffee has the most caffeine? Viscous Coffee in Adelaide, Australia, boasts the strongest cup of coffee in the world. The caffeine content of Viscous Coffee is 80 times a typical espresso shot.
The “Asskicker,” as it’s affectionately known, has the potential to nearly wake the dead. It gets its high level of caffeine from 4 espresso shots, half a cup of cold brew (steeped for 10 days), and 8 cold brew ice cubes. Mind you; it’s advised that you sip this drink slowly over 3-4 hours.
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is in over 60 different species of plants that tend to thrive in tropical climates. The top plant sources for caffeine include:
- Coffee beans (from the coffee plant)
- Cacao beans
- Kola nuts
- Tea leaves
- Yerba mate leaves
Caffeine’s chemical name is 1, 3, 7 trimethylxanthine (try saying that 5 times fast!). We know and love it because it falls into the stimulant category. Caffeine is coffee’s most well-known of the beverage’s 1000+ compounds.
How does it work?
Once consumed, caffeine is digested and carried throughout the body. Caffeine is absorbed and goes to work about 15 minutes after consumption. Because it is a stimulant, it primarily affects the central nervous system.
Once in the brain, caffeine will bond with adenosine receptors. Caffeine molecules are very similar structurally to adenosine molecules. Adenosine is responsible for allowing the body to grow tired and regulating heart rate.
Of course, caffeine has the exact opposite effect of adenosine. It increases alertness, heart rate, and neurotransmitter responses. Though caffeine goes to work quickly, that initial boost tends to wear off almost as quickly.
Nevertheless, caffeine has a half-life of about 6 hours. The initial boost may be gone, but caffeine is still in the body, likely continuing to block adenosine. This is why consuming caffeinated beverages near bedtime could pose a problem.
What are the effects of caffeine?
Caffeine consumption has many health benefits, including:
- Increased metabolism
- Greater focus
- Energy boost
- Enhanced mood
- Increased motivation
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced risk of heart disease
Though caffeine has several benefits, caffeine can also cause some side effects:
How much caffeine is safe?
The Food and Drug Administration advises no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day for healthy adults. Pregnant women or breastfeeding women are advised to limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg.
Adolescents under 18 years of age should have very little caffeine, if any.
Individuals with anxiety should avoid caffeine when possible.
Is 200 mg of caffeine a lot? 200 mg is not a lot of caffeine. It’s about half of the daily recommended intake of caffeine.
What is the most caffeine you can drink in a day? While the FDA recommends limiting caffeine to 400 mg per day, some people may be able to exceed that limit without experiencing adverse effects. The safest maximum daily amount of caffeine depends on metabolism, body weight, and caffeine tolerance.
That said, it is possible to overdose on caffeine. 80-100 mg/L in the blood could be fatal. To reach this overdose level, you’d have to consume about 13-19 grams of caffeine or roughly 50-100 cups of coffee.
Is caffeine addictive?
Because caffeine is a stimulant and technically considered a drug, this begs the question of whether or not it’s an addictive substance.
According to the NIH, caffeine is not considered addictive. One can develop a dependency on caffeine if consumed regularly or excessively. If a dependency is formed, cutting back on caffeine could cause withdrawal symptoms such as
- Flu-like symptoms
Other Caffeine Sources
Though coffee often gets top billing for caffeine, there are many sources for caffeine:
- Energy drinks
- Soft drinks
- Teas (black tea has the most caffeine, while green tea has less)
- Some protein/energy bars
- Some supplements
- Some medications