Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by Barry Gray
It’s fair to say that people associate coffee with caffeine. After all, getting that caffeine fix is the main reason why we tend to indulge in this drink in the first place.
But here’s an interesting point often overlooked by many. Different types of coffee and coffee drinks have differing amounts of caffeine. It’s not all the same, no matter the drink you either make or order.
The amount of caffeine in a coffee depends on various factors. The beans used, the roasting process, the coffee you make, and the brewing method matter. Each aspect can change the caffeine content in your drink, so each coffee shop could deliver a different coffee-drinking experience.
But what does all of this mean to the humble coffee drinker? Well, I thought I’d better investigate as I’m quite fond of getting my caffeine fix, and I wouldn’t say I like the idea of getting less than I expected.
Why I Feel Understanding More About Caffeine is Important
I think the one thing I hate most in life is a weak coffee. Now, I’m not talking about that Americano with a pale complexion where you know the coffee has been under-extracted.
Instead, I’m talking about that weak taste where you just feel you have had a drink of some slightly colored water. You know the type of coffee I’m talking about where it simply doesn’t give you that buzz after drinking it or where you almost feel less alive after finishing it.
Of course, I’m talking about that lack of caffeine where you feel you would have been better off drinking some decaf coffee, where there’s less of a surprise about not getting that caffeine hit.
So, I want to guide you away from ever encountering the type of coffee that makes you want to simply spit it out after the first mouthful. I’ve been in that very situation several times, and it’s always gut-wrenching knowing some coffee has been wasted.
But enough about my thoughts on wasted coffee and on to the more interesting stuff: how caffeine varies in different coffees and what contributes to it.
Which Coffee Bean Contains the Most Caffeine?
I feel it makes sense to start things off at the most obvious place, which is the coffee bean. For those who don’t know, there is more than just one type of coffee bean in the world, and different beans have varying levels of caffeine.
If you want to use the bean containing the most caffeine, it’s the Robusta bean you should focus on. Yet this bean is less popular than Arabica beans, the most expensive of the two. Yet, the caffeine content is vastly different.
But what you will also notice with the Robusta bean is it is more on the bitter side compared to the Arabica bean. However, it’s not generally over the top when it comes to that bitterness, so don’t stress about it.
The Roasting Process Changes the Caffeine Content
Aside from the bean, the roasting process also plays a major role in the caffeine levels you get in your coffee. Different roasting processes have the ability to draw out more caffeine than others, and the difference can be pretty remarkable.
But here’s something that surprises people when I tell them: a darker roast does not have more caffeine.
I know a number of my friends who fall into this trap of believing a darker roast that pulls out more oil from the bean must do the same for the caffeine, but it’s not true.
Instead, coffee beans lose caffeine during the roasting process, so it’s lower in a darker roast as the bean is roasted for longer.
A Light Roast Has More Caffeine
When you then realize what’s going on with a dark roast, I don’t think it takes a giant leap in the imagination to then reach the conclusion a light roast has more caffeine.
Well, it certainly does, but only because it has lost less of the caffeine through the roasting process.
And yet, there’s not too much of a difference between the two with the caffeine level. So, if you want that extra bit of a kick with your morning coffee, using a light roast is best.
Just remember the flavor profile and depth of flavor will be different compared to that dark roast bean, so it’s a balancing act between caffeine and taste preference in this instance.
The Brewing Method Changes Caffeine Levels
One thing I love about coffee is the sheer array of brewing methods you can use to get your finished coffee. However, the different brewing methods also change the amount of caffeine that ends up in your coffee.
I remember being out for lunch with a couple of relatives, and we had all ordered our drink of choice. They knew I was a coffee lover, so they were asking my advice on which coffee they should order from the relatively sparse menu.
After giving my suggestion, talk got around to the question of which type of coffee they thought was the strongest. My aunt spoke up and proudly stated espresso, and I think that’s the answer most people would give.
Now, an Espresso is undoubtedly a strong coffee regarding the caffeine kick, especially if you use Robusta beans to move it up to a whole new level. However, it’s not the only brewing method that has the ability to produce some coffee with a high caffeine level.
The French Press
After telling my relatives they were quite right about the espresso, I then told them the French Press brewing method also produces a strong coffee with a high caffeine level. Actually, it’s on a par with espresso.
This stunned them. We just appear to be programmed to believe an espresso is the only coffee capable of delivering a strong shot.
Well, that’s not true.
The French Press typically produces around 80 – 100mg of caffeine in a typical coffee. That’s a lot, and it’s right up there with an espresso in the strength stakes.
It’s all thanks to how a French Press works as a brewing method. There’s just this constant infusion of water and beans, which allows the perfect level of caffeine to be pulled out of the coffee.
The result is something more potent than most people expect, so make sure you don’t allow yourself to be caught out.
Look, I’m not going to go through what happens with an espresso machine. Most people know it delivers a coffee with a strong caffeine kick. So, why have I now jumped to talking about filter coffee?
Well, it’s for a couple of reasons.
First, filter coffee is a hugely popular way of brewing coffee. Secondly, the way you make your filter coffee will have a profound impact on the caffeine level, so that makes it interesting to me.
The crucial part here is the speed at which the water flows through the ground coffee. This applies no matter if you are using the drip method or the pour-over method.
If the water flows through the ground coffee quickly, the caffeine content will be higher as a result.
But I must tell you that it’s a real balancing act here. Get the water to flow through too quickly, and your coffee will be under-extracted, making it taste weak. You need to perhaps perfect that fine line between speed and having a coffee that is actually something you could drink.
Oh, and if you are wondering, a cup of coffee made with this brewing method will typically have between 60 and 80mg of caffeine, which is still pretty impressive.
Other brewing methods, such as an Aeropress, will typically produce between 50 – 70mg of caffeine.
The Coffee Drink Changes Caffeine Content
Your coffee drink will also change the caffeine content, which makes sense to me.
But here’s something I find people overlook: the serving size.
You see, some drinks are clearly smaller than others. That means the amount of caffeine you consume will change, and not just because of the actual strength. Instead, the sheer quantity of liquid plays a role.
Caffeine Quantity vs Caffeine Strength
I need to better explain what I mean about the quantity of caffeine you consume compared to the size of the coffee. So, here I go.
Take your typical espresso. A shot of espresso will have anywhere from 60 – 100mg of caffeine per serving, but we are talking about a small serving of around 2 fl oz.
That means your espresso has a caffeine per oz value of 30 – 50mg.
Now, look at some cold brew coffee. Your serving size here jumps from 2 fl oz to 16 fl oz with a typical coffee. With this, you will consume around 200mg of caffeine, which is double the espresso, but you are consuming 8 times the amount of coffee.
I just find it cool to think that if you love something the size of cold brew coffee that you can get more caffeine as well.
Coffee Drinks and Caffeine Levels
So, I’m going to make things nice and easy here with a quick run over the different coffee drinks and the caffeine levels you typically get with them. I think it will allow you to make a better call about the drinks you may wish to make at home or order at a coffee shop.
- An espresso has up to 100mg of caffeine per serving.
- Cold brew coffee has up to 200mg per serving.
- Regular brewed coffee has up to 95mg of caffeine per serving.
- Decaf coffee still has around 3mg of caffeine per serving.
- Light roast coffee has more caffeine than dark roast.
- Brewing methods such as Pour Over and Drip coffee produce more caffeine.
- Remember serving size in relation to caffeine quantity.
What I’ve found is it’s interesting to note how caffeine quantities do change, and the issue of serving size is something often overlooked. But then, not everyone wants to drink a large coffee, which is why the espresso remains so popular thanks to its potency and small size.
So what I’m saying here is to use a light roast with a French Press to get a whole lot of caffeine in your coffee. I say that because using a light roast with an espresso just doesn’t deliver a nice tasting coffee, so it’s best to avoid that.
At the end of the day, the most important thing about coffee is enjoying the flavor; the caffeine level comes a distant second. If you hate the taste of the beans used, how could you then enjoy the caffeine aspect?
I suggest learning more about coffee, the flavor, and what you enjoy before embarking on stressing about which coffee will deliver the biggest kick.