You may have developed a routine ending with “I’ve had two cups of coffee, so I’m all set for the day”—or like some of us, you’re only starting to slow down after 3 or 4. You’ve come down to measuring your time based on how many cups of coffee you have downed or how many are left. The problem with that is not all cups of coffee are created equally, and I’m not just talking about second versus third wave coffee.
Each cup is not going to provide you with the same amount of caffeine, and there’s plenty of reasons why.
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Factors that Affect Caffeine in Coffee
- The Type of Coffee Bean: Much like coffee beans from different locations are going to result in different notes in the coffee, there will also be differing caffeine levels in coffees made from different coffee beans.
- Roasting: Contrary to popular belief, light roast coffee has more caffeine than darker roasts you can more about that here. This difference is not completely substantial, but it is still something to take note of.
- Type of Coffee: Of course, decaf coffee is not going to have the same amount of caffeine as a regular coffee or instant coffee—although news-flash, decaf is not completely free of caffeine and you’ll have to keep reading to find out why.
- The Amount of Coffee Grinds: More ground coffee in the machine equals more caffeine! Pretty simple!
- Water Temperature: Cold brew is going to have less caffeine because hot water will extract more caffeine.
- Serving Size: A venti does not count as one cup of coffee because it is far more than 8 ounces. A small versus an extra large are going to provide very different caffeine levels.
- Brewing Technique: Percolated or boiled coffee is going to provide you with the most caffeine, with drip or filter being second, and french press or plunger giving you the smallest kick.
- Coffee Brand: Commercial coffee brands have become known for producing coffee with more caffeine, and on top of that the cups sold at Starbucks and Dunkin’ are quite hefty servings.
A single cup of coffee is going to combine a lot of those elements into what you are being served or brewing yourself, but no one has time to figure that out every morning or afternoon. Anyone like staying in bed to the last minute like most of us?
As a trusty form of reference, the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee is around 70–140 mg of caffeine, or about 95 mg on average, in an 8 ounce cup like this. Still, a large, percolated, light roast coffee may kick start your day a bit faster than most. With the Mayo clinic recommending no more than 400 mg a day, most of us are safe to maintain our habits as-is. Yay!
What About Espresso?
This may come as a surprise, but your average shot of espresso is only 63 mg of caffeine. To get the kick that you expect from a shot of espresso, go for a double shot— which will give you about 125 mg of caffeine. Luckily for most of us, a lot of shops give you a double right off the bat anyway. Espresso based drinks, like the 6 listed in this article, are mostly espresso with milk or water, so your popular lattes, cappuccinos, and americanos will have as much caffeine as just a plain espresso.
Now… Let’s Talk Decaf
Now you’ll rarely if ever find me reaching for decaf coffee (To me, what’s the point?), but this is an important one if your body can’t quite take the effects of caffeine. It may make you a little too jittery or hyper. Decaf coffee will not be loaded with as much caffeine as normal coffee, but it simply needs to be 97% caffeine free to be considered decaf by the USDA. This means there is a chance that any decaf coffee can have some sort of caffeine in it, but only the truly sensitive will notice this. It’s still a nice option to get the flavor of coffee without all of the caffeine—and some places even offer a decent decaf espresso!
Whether you are making your first cup of the day or grabbing your third, it’s important to know what you are putting in to your body. The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee is only as significant as you make it when you’re consuming a lot of coffee.There is always the chance that coffee makes you tired too, leading you to consume more.
If you’ve realized that you’ve been consuming more caffeine than you should, keep in mind that even chai and tea have caffeine in them, too. Plus the popular syrups and sugars. Once you’ve gotten a handle on what exactly you are drinking, you can savor each cup more for what it is worth.
Whether you’re new to the coffee-drinking life, or a seasoned coffee veteran, we think it’s important to be knowledgable of your caffeine intake— to avoid the jitters!