Chances are that if you’re reading this article then you are one of the sane people in the world who have come to love coffee. But you have probably also at least heard rumours that your morning hit is damaging your health, ruining your liver, negatively impacting your general performance, and basically slowly killing you. What can I say, haters will hate…
In all seriousness though if you both love coffee and drink fairly substantial amounts of it then you have likely had at least some disquieting thoughts of what the long term consequences might be and how much caffeine you are taking in.
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 I will seek to answer in this article.
How Much Caffeine is in Coffee? (The Short Answer)
The short answer is that an average cup of brewed coffee contains around 95 mg of caffeine while for any espresso or espresso based drink it is 63 mg for a single shot and 125 mg for a double shot. To put that in context, health experts recommend that people shouldn’t exceed more than 400 – 600 mg of caffeine per day. So you can do the math, a single cup of either brewed or espresso coffee (double shot, I mean who drinks single shots!) makes up around a quarter of your daily recommended caffeine intake.
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, it can be found in tea, 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 here.
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 an overload in 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 coffee intake until you have at least talked to him or her.
It is generally recommended that 400 mg 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 intake and should seek to limit their daily intake to 200 mg. 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, can have health benefits when taken in moderation, and can lead to some negative side effects for certain people or when consumed in excess.
How Much Caffeine is in Coffee? (The Long Answer)
The long answer to how much caffeine is in coffee is that it depends. It depends on which type of beans you use? Whether the beans are light, medium, or dark roasted, it depends on the serving size, and it depends on which brewing method you employ. Here is a short run down of the average rundown of caffeine in different brewing styles
As you can see from the chart above, despite the differences most cups of coffee contain somewhere between 70 and 150 mg of caffeine. This number will go up if you tend to drink larger coffees or use beans that are particularly high in 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 cup consumed. Coffee beans that advertise particularly high caffeine rates should be consumed with great care (if at all!).
As well as brewing method, the types of beans used has a significant intake on caffeine levels. As a brief introduction, the two main types of beans used in coffee are Arabica and Robusta. Robusta is more easily grown in lower altitudes and is consequently more often mass produced. Most instant coffee is made from Robusta beans. Arabica, 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 speciality coffee. Robusta beans typically contain around twice as much caffeine as Arabica. If the process of coffee growing and beans interests you then see our article here on where coffee comes from
In addition, it is worth being aware that coffee from commercial chain cafes often have higher caffeine levels. While we don’t love coffee from any of these cafes, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. And in the end a coffee is a coffee. Although just writing that last sentence makes me wonder if it is heresy.
So from McDonalds the small (12 oz.) has 109 mg, Medium (16 oz.) has 145 mg, and the large (21-24 oz) has 180 mg. Similarly, at Starbucks, the short (8 oz.) has 180 mg, the tall (12 oz.) has 260 mg, the Grande (16 oz.) has 330 mg, and the Venti (20 oz.) has 415 mg. Finally at Dunkin donuts a small (10 oz.) has 215 mg, a medium (16 oz.) has 302 mg, large (20 oz.) has 431 mg, and extra large (24 oz.) has a staggering 517 mg. There is your caffeine intake for the day smashed in one admittedly large cup of coffee.
Well, I hope this article has been useful in helping you to understand caffeine in coffee. In summary, while the caffeine level in 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.
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.