Chances are that if you’re reading this article then you are one of the sane people in the world who has come to love coffee. But you have probably also at least heard rumors that your morning hit is damaging your health, ruining your liver, negatively impacting your general performance, stunting your growth, and basically slowly killing you. What can I say, the haters will hate…
In all seriousness though, if you both love drinking coffee and consume fairly substantial amounts of it, then you have likely wondered how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee. And at least had some disquieting thoughts of what the long-term consequences of high caffeine consumption might be.
So how much caffeine is in coffee? Does it depend on which type of coffee it is? Is caffeine bad for you? What about espresso? And how much is safe to drink? These are a few of the questions we will seek to answer in this article.
How Much Caffeine Is In a Cup of Coffee? (The Short Answer)
The short answer is that an average cup of brewed coffee contains around 95 milligrams of caffeine while for any espresso or espresso-based drink it is 63 milligrams for a single shot of espresso and 125 milligrams for a double shot of espresso. To put that in context, health experts recommend 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for healthy adults. So you do the math, the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee (either brewed coffee or espresso) makes up around a quarter of your daily recommended caffeine consumption.
What is Caffeine and How Does it Affect Us?
So what is caffeine? Well the simple answer is that caffeine is a natural stimulant that can be found in a range of both foods and drinks. It works by stimulating both the brain and nervous system, which in turn leads to greater alertness as well as slowing the onset of tiredness. In addition to coffee, caffeine can be found in tea, hot chocolate, and energy drinks.
Caffeine affects our bodies in a whole range of ways including aiding physical performance, increasing brain function, slowing metabolism, and protecting against heart disease and type 2 diabetes. For an in-depth discussion of this you can read our article on the Health Benefits of Coffee.
However, while caffeine may not be the bad guy that he is made out to be, there are some adverse side effects to be aware of. These side effects, which may be due to too much caffeine, or simply to different people’s sensitivities, include trouble sleeping, anxiety, higher heart rate, migraines, and increased blood pressure. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms then we recommend that you go and see your local health professional and limit your caffeine intake until you have at least talked to him or her.
It is generally recommended that 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is a safe amount for an adult. This is not to say that going over this will always result in detrimental health effects, but it may for some people. In addition, taking larger doses of caffeine in short spaces of time are more likely to lead to negative side effects. It is also worth being aware that women who are pregnant should be particularly aware of caffeine content, and should seek to limit their daily intake to 200 milligrams of caffeine. Similarly, children, adolescents, and women who are breastfeeding have a lesser tolerance for caffeine and may experience negative side effects.
In summary, caffeine is a natural drug found in a variety of foods and drinks that stimulates both the brain and nervous system. It can have health benefits when taken in moderation, or can lead to some negative side effects for certain people or when consumed in excess.
How Much Caffeine is In a Cup of Coffee? (The Long Answer)
The long answer to the question of how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee is that it depends on a lot of factors. It depends on which type of coffee beans you use. It depends on the serving size, and it depends on which brewing method you employ.
Here is a short rundown of the caffeine in coffee depending on the different brewing methods.
|Average Serving Size
|Espresso- Single Shot
|30ml (1 oz)
|Espresso- Double Shot
|Drip coffee/ Pour Over
|1 cup (8 oz)
|1 cup (8 oz)
|1 cup (8 oz)
|1 cup (8 oz)
|1 cup (8 oz)
|1 cup (8 oz)
|1 cup (8 oz)
Brewed coffee involves grinding coffee beans and then extracting the flavors with hot water. The first method of brewing is by immersion, where the ground coffee is steeped in water for an extended time. French press or Cold brew are immersion methods. The second method is Drip brewing, where water is poured or dripped over ground coffee to extract flavors. This includes brewing methods like drip and pour over. As you can see from the caffeine chart above, despite the differences, most cups of brewed coffee contain somewhere between 70 and 150 mg of caffeine.
As a side note, cold brew is often thought to have a higher amount of caffeine than other coffee. And it is true that it is brewed with a higher ratio of coffee to water. However, cold brew is typically brewed as a concentrate, and when diluted down it is comparable to other brewing methods when it comes to caffeine in a cup of coffee.
Espresso is brewed by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee at 9 bars of pressure. This produces a short but concentrated shot of coffee. While espresso has a higher amount of caffeine in it per volume, it is typically served as a single shot of 30mls or a double shot of 60mls. So the average amount of caffeine in a shot of espresso is 95-105mg (this is for a double shot, who are we kidding- who has a single shot!).
Likewise, espresso-based drinks like lattes or cappuccinos contain a similar amount of caffeine as they have just had milk added.
Instant coffee is made by brewing coffee and then basically dehydrating it via freeze or spray drying methods. The resulting beverage is able to be brewed instantly and conveniently by mixing 1 to 2 teaspoons or coffee with hot water.
Instant coffee has far less caffeine than brewed coffee. Typically a cup of instant coffee has only 30-90mg. So go crazy!
Types of Coffee Beans
As well as brewing method, the types of beans used has a significant impact on caffeine levels. As a brief introduction, the two main types of beans used in coffee are Arabica and Robusta.
The Robusta coffee bean is more easily grown at lower altitudes, and is consequently often mass produced. Most instant coffee is made from Robusta.
The Arabica coffee bean, in contrast, is harder to grow and is usually grown in higher altitudes. It tends to produce a higher quality of coffee, and is usually used in specialty coffee. Robusta coffee beans typically contain around twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans. If the process of coffee growing and beans interests you then see our article on where coffee comes from.
It is worth noting that some coffee beans have even higher levels of caffeine. The highest caffeinated coffee that we are aware of is Devil Mountain Coffee which has a staggeringly dangerous 1037 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. coffee cup consumed. That is definitely too much caffeine! Coffee that advertises particularly high caffeine content should be consumed with great care (if at all!).
Does the roast level affect how much caffeine is in coffee? Dark roasts are often thought to have higher caffeine levels due to the strong, bold hit they deliver. But contrary to popular opinion, this is not the case. Light and dark roasted coffee have approximately the same level of caffeine per bean. However, how you are measuring your coffee does impact how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee.
If you measure by scoops, light roasted coffee will have more caffeine as light roasted beans are smaller and denser so you get slightly more beans per scoop.
If you measure by weight, dark roasted coffee will have more caffeine as dark roasted beans are lighter, so you get slightly more beans per gram.
All in all though, the difference in caffeine content between a light and dark roast is so minimal it is not worth worrying over.
It is worth being aware that espresso drinks from commercial chain cafes often have higher caffeine content than other coffee shops. The Caffeine Informer is an excellent resource to find out how much caffeine is in your favorite brands of coffee. While we don’t love the caffeinated beverages from any of these cafes, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. And in the end a cup of coffee is a coffee. Although just writing that last sentence makes me wonder if it is heresy.
There goes your caffeine intake for the day smashed in one admittedly large coffee cup! Coffee chains like Starbucks also offer healthier drink options like decaf or keto drinks.
Caffeine in Decaf Coffee
A common question around caffeine content in coffee drinks is what about decaf coffee? Is it actually completely decaffeinated? And the answer is almost…
Decaf coffee was rather interestingly discovered in 1905, when a shipment of beans was soaked in saltwater, incidentally washing the caffeine out. Since then a range of decaffeinating processes have been developed, which typically remove around 97% of the caffeine in the given coffee beans. The most common of these methods use water, organic solvents, or carbon dioxide to decaffeinate the beans.
And so while a normal cup of brewed coffee has around 95mg of caffeine, a decaf coffee has a lot less caffeine, typically around 2mg (although it can be as high as 7mg). Experts recommend that on average around 10 decaf coffees could end up with the caffeine content of a single cup of drip coffee. So if you do have caffeine sensitivities decaf is reasonably safe, but don’t go completely crazy!
Decaf coffee is completely safe for consumption, and actually still tastes surprisingly palatable. An encouraging trend we are seeing is specialty coffee roasters beginning to branch out into decaf coffee beans.
How much Caffeine Is in a cup of Coffee- In Summary
Well, we hope this article has been useful in helping you to understand how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee. In summary, while the caffeine in a cup of coffee depends on a range of factors, a normal sized home brewed coffee usually has somewhere in the vicinity of 70-150 mg of caffeine. This is around a quarter of your recommended caffeine intake of 400 mg. In comparison, a decaf coffee has a lot less caffeine, usually around 2mg.
While caffeine can have adverse side effects, it also comes with a range of health and performance benefits when taken in safe and moderate doses.
So no, your coffee is not slowly killing you. Haters will always hate.