What Is The Actual Amount Of Caffeine In A Cup Of Coffee?

Posted on 13. Apr, 2012 by in Articles

If you’re a regular coffee drinker then there’s no doubt that someone has at one time told you to cut down because of all the caffeine. There seems to be a stigma attached to coffee drinking that anyone who enjoys a few cups a day is putting themselves at risk by ingesting too much caffeine, but not many people seem to know the actual amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee or how much it is safe to regularly drink.

As you most likely know, it isn’t as straight forward as just looking at the caffeine in one cup of coffee because there are so many different styles of coffee that are all prepared differently and use different amounts of beans etc, so let’s look at a run-down of some of the most popular styles of coffee to get a rough idea of the range in caffeine content.

Amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee

Most coffee that you will buy in a cafe will be based on an espresso shot or two which is then mixed with milk or water to create the finished drink, so lets look at that first.

The caffeine in a single espresso shot can vary between 35mg and 75mg depending on the roast, how long the coffee is brewed and extracted for plus many other factors. Starbucks espresso shots are on the higher end of this scale at 75mg per shot.

Starbucks will put a single shot into their short and tall coffees and a double-shot into their grande and venti drinks meaning that they will have either 75mg or 150mg respectively.

Drinks from starbucks that are served in this way include:

  • Cappuccino
  • Latte
  • Flat White
  • Flavoured coffees
  • Skinny & Full Fat versions of the above
  • Americano

Mocha drinks contain more caffeine than the regular drinks listed above because they contain cocoa which contains around 5mg per 4oz of drink.

Caffeine in coffee that you make at home

If you make your own coffee using an espresso machine then your caffeine levels will probably be very similar to starbucks, but your own results may vary due to your exact methods.

However, if you are one of the many folks who use a french press or a drip coffee machine then your caffeine levels will be different.

Brewed Coffee (including drip and french press) contains on average between 65mg and 120mg per 8oz cup according to the National Coffee Association. The variance is due to the many variables that can come into play with this way of making coffee, such as bean type, roast, grind level and extraction period.

Contrary to the popular misconception, this is actually higher per Oz of served coffee than in an espresso. The longer brewing time results in more caffeine being extracted from the beans.

Does Decaf Have Caffeine?

Yes, it does! It may surprise you to learn that decaffeinated coffee does not actually equal caffeine-free coffee. In the United States, regulations stipulate that caffeine levels must be reduced by at least 97.5% in order for a coffee to be classified as decaf. This means that the average cup of decaf can contain up to 2-4mg of caffeine, which is still way way lower than a non-decaf but it is worth knowing.

Is coffee any worse than soft drinks?

When discussing the health issues around soft drinks, most people are talking about the level of sugar that they contain (which incidentally, is extremely high!!) but not as many realise that the caffeine levels can be quite high too. Let’s take the can of coke as an example.

Coco-cola.co.uk states that their can of coke contains 32mg of caffeine. This is about the equivalent of half of what you would find in a single espresso shot meaning that a grande latte from starbucks contains a similar amount of caffeine as 4 cans of coke.

The question of what is better or worse in terms of pure caffeine content per fluid oz seems to indicate that coffee on average does contain more than a coke, but there are other questions that you should also answer if you are concerned about this yourself. For example, how much coke do you (or your child) drink in a day compared to coffee?

If you want to look at the other health issues around coke vs coffee, then it is important to note how much sugar is in a single can of regular coke – 39 grams (140 calories). This is the equivalent to putting 8 serves of sugar into one cup of coffee!

Coffee can have a high calorific content depending on the type of milk used though. A tall latte from starbucks will set you back 204 calories and 11g of fat, whereas the same drink using non-fat milk contains 126 calories and 0g fat.

So, how many cups of coffee can i drink in a day?

The average healthy human adult can safely drink coffee in moderation, say around 2-4 cups per day, or 200mg to 300mg of caffeine to be precise. For most people this will not be much of an issue. Those same people may be at risk of some nasty side effects if they were to increase their caffeine intake to over 500mg though.

Anyone who drinks more than 4 cups of coffee per day is risking some of the following ailments:

  • Inability to fall and stay asleep
  • Restlessness and becoming antsy
  • Easily irritated
  • Sickness and diarrhoea

The amount that you personally can safely drink will depend on your own unique situation. Your body mass comes into play, in the same way that you might expect it to when discussing alcohol tolerance. People with a higher body mass will find that it takes more caffeine to feel the same level of effect as for a smaller person, because the amount of caffeine will be more diluted in a larger body.

If you have been a regular coffee drinker for many years already then it is possible that you have built up a natural tolerance to the effects of caffeine. Hopefully this just means you are happy to drink a normal amount of coffee each day without needing to step up and drink more just to get that caffeine hit again.

Summary

Having looked at the number of variables involved in this topic, it is not easy to give a definitive answer to the exact amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee but we can look at the averages and with a wide margin of error we can estimate that the average cup of espresso based coffee will contain 60-75mg of caffeine per shot and a brewed coffee will contain around 100mg per 8oz cup. Based on this, an average person should be able to safely consume around 2-3 cups of coffee per day.

This article is a guide only. If you require a more personalised estimate you should consult a GP or health specialist. Photo by visualpanic on flickr.

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