Which Coffee Has the Most Caffeine

by TobyJul 10, 2024

If you’re a coffee lover there’s a good chance that it’s partly because of the caffeine hit you get when you enjoy your daily brew. Some of us can’t even function in the morning until we’ve had our caffeine-packed cup of coffee…or three. So if you’re drinking your coffee primarily for the caffeine, how much caffeine is in coffee, which beans/grounds contain the most caffeine, and how much caffeine should you be drinking, anyway?

What is Caffeine & Why Do We ‘Need’ It?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that as well as being found in coffee is also in tea, cocoa, cola and energy drinks, which often have Guarana as an ingredient, another source of caffeine. Caffeine stimulates activity in the brain and the nervous system, and while we don’t ‘need’ caffeine, it’s this effect of making us feel focused and alert that causes millions of us to drink coffee every day. These effects usually happen within half an hour of drinking your coffee and can last as long as a few hours, so you can see how in small doses, the caffeine in your morning cup of coffee helps to kickstart your day.

What Determines Coffee’s Caffeine Content?

So if all coffee beans contain caffeine, do they all contain the same amounts? And what affects how much of the caffeine ends up in the code we drink? First off, let’s talk about the beans. There are two main types of coffee beans – Aribica and Robusta. Arabica beans tend to be more expensive and generally have a sweet, fruity taste. Arabica coffee beans also have about half the caffeine content of Robusta beans, which tend to be less expensive and taste more bitter.

So, the caffeine content you end up with is first affected by whether you choose Arabica or Robusta coffee beans, and then it’s onto the roasting process. It’s now believed that the roasting process itself doesn’t have a direct impact on the caffeine levels of the beans – it was thought that darker roasts resulted in higher caffeine content to lighter roasts, but it’s not as straightforward as that.

What happens is that the longer darker roasting process reduces the density of the beans more than the shorter lighter roasting process. This means that you need more of the dark roast beans to make up the same weight as the light roast beans, which is what accounts for the higher caffeine content in dark roasts – there’s simply more beans and their caffeine in the cup.

Already, with the choice of beans and the type of roast you can see how it would be possible to get significant differences in caffeine levels, and the factor to consider is how your coffee is brewed. How you brew your coffee can have a big impact on how much caffeine you end up with in your cup, and three factors have the biggest influence on caffeine levels.

  1. Size of your grounds: The finer the coffee grounds you use in your process, the more caffeine is likely to be extracted, due to the water contacting a larger total surface area with smaller grounds.
  2. Temperature of your water: The hotter the water, the more caffeine you will need up with, so boiling water will extract the most.
  3. Your brewing method: Methods of brewing that take longer and mean the grounds are submersed in the water, rather than the water simply being tired over the coffee, will result in more caffeine.

So you can see that drinks like Turkish coffee, which use fine grounds immersed in boiling water, are going to give you a coffee with a really high caffeine content, whereas a drip coffee maker using coarse grounds and water that isn’t boiling will result in less caffeine in your cup.

How Much Caffeine Should You Be Drinking?

If we know why we like the caffeine in our coffee, and also how to create a brew that has more or less caffeine content, it’s probably a good idea to take about how much caffeine we would be drinking. How much caffeine is enough to get you started in the morning, and how much is to much and a possible risk to your long-term health?

The FDA has actually put a figure on the amount of caffeine that’s considered as the normal daily intake, and that is up to 400 milligrams. Depending on what you drink, that’s probably around 4-5 average cups of coffee a day. At this level, the majority of individuals shouldn’t experience any harmful or negative effects.

As I say, it depends on what you drink as to how quickly you might hit this daily limit, for example, you might think that an espresso shot will give you a bigger caffeine hit but it’s only likely to have about 80mg of caffeine, whereas an average Cappuccino can have around 150mg of caffeine. Coffee shop brews can have even higher caffeine content, a Tim Horton’s large brewed coffee can have 270mg of caffeine in it, and a Dunkin Donuts Iced coffee has 297mg – so it may not always be obvious how much caffein is in the coffee you’re drinking.

Also bear in mind, that some people may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, so these numbers are a guide and if you’re wondering about your own caffeine intake and what’s healthy, you might want to get some professional medical advice.

Which Coffee Drinks Contain the Most Caffeine?

If you’re keen to start keeping track of the amount of caffeine you’re drinking every day, we’ve put together a list of some of the more popular drinks and the approximate amount of caffeine in an average-sized cup of each. Remember, depending on the size of your drink, the coffee bean and the roast you choose, these figures could vary quite a bit, so check out your specific coffee drink of choice if you want an accurate figure if you’re trying to avoid drinking too much caffeine.

  • Decaf coffee – 5mg of caffeine
  • Instant coffee – 60mg of caffeine
  • Frappuccino – 65mg of caffeine
  • Espresso shots – 75mg of caffeine
  • Cappuccino – 75mg of caffeine
  • Macchiato – 75mg of caffeine
  • Hot brewed coffee – 95mg of caffeine
  • Latte – 60-125mg of caffeine
  • Iced coffee – 120mg of caffeine
  • Flat white – 130mg of caffeine
  • Cold brew coffee – 155mg of caffeine
  • Drip coffee – 165mg of caffeine
  • Nitro cold brew coffee – 215mg of caffeine

The Last Drop

So there you have it, if you’ve ever wondered how much caffeine was in your daily brew, how much caffeine you should be drinking every day, or indeed, how you could get more ‘bang for your buck’ and get more caffeine in the coffee you’re drinking, you have the answers. Caffeine is a natural stimulant that gets many of us up in the morning and through the day, so if you’re looking for which coffee has the most caffeine, and you want to healthily increase the caffeine in your coffee, opting for Robusta beans that are dark roasted, and choosing a brewing method that gets the most out of them, should give you all the caffeine you need.