If you’ve ever tried to find out exactly how much caffeine is in one cup of coffee, then you’ll know how the answers can really vary, but why is this?
Why don’t all cups of coffee have the same caffeine content? Wouldn’t that make it so much easier for those who are trying to limit or count their caffeine intake?
It sure would, but nothing in life is ever perfect, although coffee is pretty much as close to perfect as you can get.
To try and help you out, we’ve written a handy guide about what factors can influence the fluctuation of caffeine content in coffee and why it matters.
So you’ll know the answer, next time you look down at your travel mug and wonder just how much get up and go juice is in there.
What Is Caffeine?
It’s easy to bat around the phrase caffeine content, but how many of us have ever asked what it is?
Billions of us ingest caffeine every day out of habit or in a conscious effort to make ourselves more awake, more alert, and more productive.
In a high-pressure world where being slow is seen as being weak, we can’t afford to waste time yawning through our days. But what is it?
In simple terms, it is a natural stimulant that affects the brain and central nervous system. It is naturally occurring in tea, coffee, and cacao plants and is recorded to have been consumed by humans almost 3000 years BC.
While coffee, tea, and cacao are natural sources of caffeine, caffeinated soft drinks began cropping up in the late 1800s, and energy drinks soon followed.
Healthline reports that “80% of the world’s population consumes a caffeinated product each day, and this number goes up to 90% for adults in North America.”
Caffeine is ingested and then absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream.
Caffeine functions by blocking a neurotransmitter known as adenosine, which makes you feel relaxed and tired.
Caffeine sort of hijacks the connection between the brain and the adenosine receptors, without allowing the message to get through to the brain that your energy is depleting.
Who Needs To Know How Much Caffeine Is In Coffee?
For starters, women who are pregnant or hoping to conceive will need to limit their caffeine intake to 200 mg per day or less.
While there is no prescribed safe limit for caffeine during pregnancy, it is widely thought that if you ingest 200 mg or less a day, then your baby will be at a lower risk of caffeine-related defects.
Many healthcare professionals state that moderate caffeine intake during pregnancy demonstrates no increased risk for the development of the fetus.
Breastfeeding mothers also should limit their caffeine intake to the prescribed 200 mg a day.
This is because small babies cannot process caffeine as efficiently as our bodies can.
You wouldn’t give a five-year-old a cup of coffee to set them up for their day at school, so passing on high amounts of caffeine in your breastmilk isn’t advised either.
It seems like a cruel trick of nature, because who needs caffeine more than a breastfeeding mother of a small baby? We’ll hedge our bets and go with: ‘nobody’ as our final answer.
Couples who are trying to conceive should also abstain from ingesting large quantities of caffeine because it has been linked to a delay in conception.
It is not conclusively proven that caffeine causes infertility in any way, just that it appears to delay the desired conception somehow, so it’s best avoided if you mean business.
Why Does It Matter To The Rest Of Us?
The simple answer to that is that caffeine has been linked to various health issues. While caffeine consumption is generally safe, it can become addictive, or at least it tends to be habit-forming.
While caffeine dependence does not produce the same life-wrecking side effects as other addictive substances, withdrawal can cause several days of depression, irritability, headaches, and anxiety to name a few.
Excessive consumption of caffeine can have a number of unpleasant and unhealthy side effects too, such as increased anxiety, tremors, irregular heartbeat, and difficulty sleeping.
It can also induce headaches, migraine, and high blood pressure too, so it’s worth thinking about your daily caffeine levels even if you aren’t in any of the groups we mentioned above.
The caffeine content in various beverages:
We’ve mentioned that caffeine is naturally occurring in tea, coffee, and cacao-derived products, but it is also added to other things and found in unexpected places.
- Espresso: 240–720 mg
- Coffee: 102–200 mg
- Yerba mate: 65–130 mg
- Energy drinks: 50–160 mg
- Brewed tea: 40–120 mg
- Soft drinks: 20–40 mg
- Decaffeinated coffee: 3–12 mg
- Cocoa beverage: 2–7 mg
- Chocolate milk: 2–7 mg
From this, we can understand that even decaffeinated beverages contain some caffeine.
In addition to this, a standard chocolate bar such as a Three Musketeers bar contains 4.2 mg which doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you’re pregnant and constantly snacking, you’ll need to add your sweet tooth snacks into your caffeine allowance to be on the safe side.
You can also see that just one espresso is generally more than the advised ‘moderate’ daily caffeine levels.
What Factors Influence Caffeine Content?
Apparently, size does matter. Who knew? The size of your coffee can affect the caffeine content of your coffee, but not always in the way that you would think.
For one thing, a single espresso can contain more caffeine than a whole cup of instant coffee. Instant coffee generally has less caffeine than filter coffee, with drip coffee firmly sandwiched between the two.
Instant coffee isn’t so popular in the states as it is in other parts of the world, but when we do drink it, it tends to be home.
That means we have it in one of our own sensible-sized coffee cups, not a huge disposable cup that’s bigger than our forearms like we might find at popular coffee shops.
So the size has an effect on how much caffeine it can contain. If you filled your sensible-sized coffee cup, with half a dozen espressos, though, you’d find that one medium-sized coffee contained a huge amount of caffeine.
So, caffeine content does depend on the size, but also on the type of coffee, too.
It may surprise you to find out that cold-brewed coffee contains more caffeine than any other type except espresso. It’s unsurprising that espresso has the highest caffeine content per oz at between 30 and 50 mg per ounce.
But it may not contain the highest level of caffeine of all the coffee drinks. This is because espresso, however strong, has to be small at around 60 ml.
Starbucks double blonde espresso contains 170 mg of caffeine so almost as much as you can have per day to call yourself a moderate caffeine consumer.
But Starbucks, like any retailer with their finger on the pulse of what the American people want, offers a Venti super-sized coffee for some items on the menu, meaning that it’s easy for the Venti Blonde Roast coffee to contain 475 mg of caffeine.
In just one (albeit massive) drink. Plenty of people don’t just have one cup of coffee a day. So let’s say someone had two Tall (that’s medium to those who have never been to Starbucks) Blonde Roasts from Starbucks a day.
One for the morning commute and one for the after-lunch slump. That adds up to 540 mg of caffeine every day and that’s without a little drip coffee in the break room mid-morning.
It all adds up, and you might be surprised at your daily caffeine intake if you tally them up. Yet, two medium coffees a day, hardly seems excessive, does it? Plenty of people have two coffees a day or more.
We’re really not here to lecture about high caffeine intake. If you are a grown adult, and you know what you’re doing then that’s fine, and it’s no one’s business but yours.
What we’re trying to say is that a lot of people would be surprised at the caffeine content of the beverages they consume and how much that adds up to, each day.
Caffeine has benefits as well as negative side effects, but it’s being informed that matters. As long as you really know what you’re putting in your body then you’re all good.
Blonde Or Dark Roast?
The difference between Starbucks’s blonde roast and their dark roast is surprisingly significant. They’re both just coffee, right?
A short featured Dark roast coffee contains 130 mg of caffeine, whereas the Blonde Roast would be 180 mg for a short drink. Maybe that’s why blondes have more fun.
This is by no means a hard and fast rule though because the Clover brewed coffees paint a totally different picture.
Clover coffee dark roast contains the most caffeine out of the range and their blond roast only has 155 mg which is much less than Starbucks’s own blonde roast blend.
What madness is this? There’s no logic to this system! What is the difference between dark and blonde roast coffee anyway?
It refers to the amount of time the beans have been roasted and how dark they appear as a result. The darker the roast generally means the stronger the flavor, but this does not necessarily affect the caffeine quantity.
If you drink coffee for the full-bodied taste, then a dark blend would probably appeal to you, whereas if you like the buzz of energy you get from drinking it, rather than the taste, then a light blend might be more suited to you.
Light and dark roast beans have more or less exactly the same caffeine levels, it is to do with how they are prepared and brewed which affects how energized you might feel after drinking them.
If you’ve learned anything from this article, it’s that coffee is confusing. Sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason that dictates their caffeine levels.
The important thing for you to take away from this is that you should know what goes into your body. It doesn’t take much time to check caffeine contents online if you care enough to do so. Coffee is great.
Millions of people enjoy it every day and use it well, just make sure you know how much of it you are drinking and what that equals in terms of caffeine content since there are no hard and fast rules that dictate it.
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