You may have thought coffee is coffee, right? Surprisingly a shot of espresso has less buzz than an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee. You may be able to drink an espresso shot faster than a cup, which can make you feel like you are getting a bigger blast of energy at first. But, in the long run your cup of coffee will win the marathon.
To keep things in perspective, we are only looking at a very small aspect of the coffee bean. Although most coffee drinkers associate caffeine as the main compound in coffee, there are over a thousand compounds in coffee and caffeine only makes up about .01% of coffee’s composition. Pure caffeine is actually a white powdery substance that is very bitter.
But, why are we so interested in learning about this insignificant compound? Caffeine does have a significant impact on the body. You can read more about that in one of our articles: “How Caffeine Works on the Body”. In this article we’ll explore what creates these differences in levels of caffeine in coffee and learn how much caffeine is in your cup.
How much caffeine in Robusta versus Arabica?
A bean is a bean… is a bean, but serious coffee drinkers know the type of bean plays a big role in flavor. What you may not have known is that the species of coffee plant have differences in caffeine content. Unroasted Robusta coffee beans have almost twice the caffeine as Arabica beans. In fact in the chart below, you’ll see there are differences of caffeine content within the variations of each of these species as well.
This may be a disappointment for caffeine loving coffee connoisseurs because you know you won’t find Robusta beans in your delicious artisan coffee blends. Robusta beans are very bitter. (Remember, pure caffeine is a bitter compound.) You’ll find Robusta coffee beans used in instant coffee and some espressos like Italian espresso. On the contrary, Arabica beans, although higher in acidity, are softer and more complex. This allows coffee roasters to work with a wider palette of flavors to craft the numerous artisanal blends you find in the market today.
How Processing and Preparation Methods Affect Caffeine Content
Contrary to popular belief, caffeine levels remain virtually unchanged after roasting. Although lighter roasts have a higher concentration of caffeine per bean than darker roasts because dark roasted beans weigh less than light roasted beans, pound per pound the caffeine content difference is insignificant. Aside from type of coffee used, in the beverage, the actual concentrations of caffeine depend primarily on the grind, method of brewing, temperature and extraction time so absolute measurements are nearly impossible. Below, you can get a sense of how much caffeine you are taking in every day.
How much caffeine is too much?
Caffeine affects several hormone and neurotransmitter levels in the body. You can read more about that in our article, "How Caffeine Affects the Body". The main hormone responsible for your "buzz" is the same one that gets released when you are about to get eaten by lion; adrenaline. Adrenaline increases blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate and too much can give you the jitters.
For this reason scientists have found that 400 mg /day is the safest average dose of caffeine for adults. That would be around 3 eight-ounce cups of coffee or 8 cups of black tea. And on a side note scientists have also found that caffeine becomes toxic around 10 grams, which works out to be around 75 cups of coffee or 180 cups of black tea. These amounts will vary by person because we metabolize coffee uniquely. But, it's highly unlikely anyone would reach toxic levels. So... Bottoms Up!
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