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How much caffeine does my coffee have? It depends on how you prepare it

22 mayo, 2021

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world that also continues to reinvent itself with the evolution of fashions and trends. Since the rise of the so-called third wave, its artisan character as a quality product has been vindicated, and it is also a trend for its healthy properties. Science increasingly supports the benefits of coffee and caffeine, always in the right doses.

The problem is that we are not very clear about the recommended quantity nor exactly how much caffeine is in the coffee we drink. The answer is not so simple, as it depends on many factors, especially the type of coffee and how it is prepared. The concept “a cup of coffee” is too vague and often misleading.

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Factors that influence the amount of caffeine when making coffee

Coffee is an infusion of water obtained from roasted and ground coffee beans, the fruit of the coffee plant. This is a very basic preparation that actually hides great complexity, because until the drink reaches the cup, many factors interfere that can affect the taste, aroma, body, intensity, and also the amount of caffeine.

The variety and origin of the grains

Whole bean coffee

When we delve into the differences between naturally roasted, roasted and mixed coffee, we already mentioned that there are two main species of coffee beans: arabic and robust, each with its own varieties.

Arabica coffee is better valued because it offers a more complex coffee, with a greater wealth of aromas and more perfumed, slightly sweet and with fruity notes, somewhat acidic. What’s more, has less caffeine than robusta coffee, which presents a more bitter drink, with more earthy flavors, toasted nuts and notes of wood.

Degree of roast

Coffee beans

Consumers do not usually worry about roasting coffee because practically nobody roasts the beans at home, but it is a crucial question for professionals. The degree of toasting affects the color of the beans -from lighter or cinnamon to darker-, the flavor, the aromas and the body of the infusion.

And it also influences the final components of the coffee; a lighter roast contains slightly more caffeine than a much darker roast, despite the fact that the latter may seem “stronger” to us due to the more bitter taste. In any case, there is a greater loss of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds, so if we are interested in the healthy properties of coffee we should always choose a light roast.

Degree of grinding

Ground coffee

We already know that coffee, once ground, begins to lose aroma and flavor very quickly, that is why it is always recommended to buy it in beans to grind it instantly at home. Automatic coffee machines incorporate their own grinder that can usually be adjusted to taste, and it is that every good barista knows that the grind level also affects the result of the drink.

The grind influences the way of preparing the infusion, so a finer or coarser grain depending on the type of preparation. Generally speaking, the longer the extraction process, the coarser the grind should be.

For the purpose of caffeine level, we must know that a finer grind provides a higher concentration of caffeine in the Cup. It is the typical grind used for automatic or espresso machines; the mocha or Italian types admit a fine or medium grain.

The type of preparation: different coffee machines

Filter Coffee

There are many ways to make coffee with different coffee makers, from the simple and humble pot coffee to the manual brewing methods, as fashionable as the Chemex or V60. You have to know that the different types of preparation require different extraction times, that is, the time that the water is in contact with the ground coffee.

This time, together with other factors already mentioned, provide coffees with different aromas, bodies, flavors and intensities. What interests us here is to take into account that, the longer the extraction takes, the more caffeine we will get. This can be confusing, as a cold brewed coffee is very smooth and light, with virtually no bitter notes, but can still contain much more caffeine than a stronger espresso.

The amount of coffee

Coffee

This seems like a no-brainer, but the same amount of ground coffee is not always used to prepare similar amounts of drink. In principle, the more coffee the preparation has, the more caffeine the cup will have.

The standard measure that is usually indicated to make an espresso is 7 g of ground coffee per cup. However, more and more baristas put buts to this convention, and there is more talk of myth than reality. There is no single perfect espresso, again it depends on many variables. There are those who prepare an espresso with 6 g or even up to 10 g of coffee per cup. Other types of beverages use larger amounts, such as filter coffee.

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Preparation time

espresso

Each brewing system – each coffee maker – uses different preparation times. The automatic and super-automatic ones are very comfortable because they allow us to obtain excellent coffee in just a few seconds, while the Italian mocha and drip machines force us to wait a little longer. In addition, manual infusion methods continue to be a trend, highlighting the fashion of the cold brew or cold infused coffee.

The longer the coffee brewing lasts, the more caffeine it will have

This method offers a delicate, smooth and very aromatic coffee, not bitter at all, a good starting point for those who want to start to accustom their palate to drinking their coffee without sugar or milk. Just keep in mind that the cold brew contains more caffeine than a regular espresso.

The amount of caffeine here depends on the contact time of the coffee with the water. Cold infusions can last up to 24 hours, also using a greater amount of starting coffee, and that increases the caffeine of the resulting drink, even if it seems “soft” to us. It is also necessary to consider that some cold brew They are concentrates that are diluted when serving.

The size of the preparation

Coffee

This last point depends largely on the above factors and it is a reflection of the specific way of drinking coffee in each place. For example, when talking about espresso coffee, in Italy we can perfectly receive a cup with just 25 ml, while in Spain coffee can only vary from 40 ml to almost 100 ml; in the United States a “coffee”, without more, does not usually go below 150 ml.

A short, strong coffee may have less caffeine than a seemingly weaker one

But we already know that the total volume of the cup does not have to indicate the amount of caffeine, and neither does “intensity.” A highly concentrated espresso may have less caffeine with a lungo, longer, simply because the coffee spends more time in contact with water.

Other long coffees are brewed diluting the content with water; in that case it would not increase the caffeine. It is the opposite of a “double” coffee or doppio, which simply doubles the volume and caffeine.

Also keep in mind that it is easier to repeat several cups of short coffee throughout the day than a single coffee much longer, and that there are certain drinks that have much more volume, but because the coffee is mixed with milk, cream, liquor, cream, etc.

So how much caffeine do different cups of coffee contain?

Cafe Cold

After knowing all these factors it seems obvious to conclude in the difficulty of establishing exact figures that determine the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee. Simply because there is no single and universal “cup”. In each place it is prepared in a different way, and we don’t even agree within the same country.

In Spain, for example, there are different ways of preparing and drinking coffee depending on the region, and there is not a total consensus even in the same city. The concept of “black coffee” can be very different depending on who is behind the bar, and it certainly has little to do with Italian espresso, coffee American or the kaffee German.

A few years ago a study was published that drew attention precisely to the variability of caffeine and other components of coffee depending on how and where it was prepared, well shelled by the dietician-nutritionist Juan Revenga. It is curious to see that, for example, an espresso in Italy rarely exceeds 30 ml in volume, while in Spain coffee only moves between 40 ml and 100 ml, with great differences even when ordering the same coffee in the same coffee shop.

Source of origin

Cup volume in ml (mean)

Cup volume in ml (range)

Amount of caffeine in mg (average)

Amount of caffeine in mg (range)

Italy (espresso)

twenty

13-31

102

54-150

Spain (espresso)

66

34–104

116

82–139

Scotland (espresso)

31

13–90

100

66–276

Scotland (cappuccino)

255

115-310

180

85–311

Instant coffee

125

125

58

48–88

On the web there are calculators from various organizations that can help us get an approximate idea of ​​the amount of caffeine we usually ingest, for example this one from the OCU, which considers that a standard coffee contains 100 ml of volume, with 128 mg of caffeine if it is homemade, and 180 mg if it is from a cafeteria.

Coffees

What general orientation measure, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) indicates approximate amounts in the main types of coffee. In addition, in pages like Caffeine Informer we find more detailed data including commercial drinks – although most of the United States-.

  • Espresso (60 ml): 80 mg.
  • Filter coffee cup (200 ml): 90 mg.
  • American coffee (354 ml): 154 mg.
  • Instant coffee (236 ml): 57 mg.

Regarding the coffee in capsulesWe already analyzed a while ago what their intensity consists of and how much caffeine they contain exactly; approximately between 55 mg and 65 mg for each coffee, which can reach almost 90 mg.

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