The average cup of coffee contains about 100 milligrams of coffee, but there is a lot of variation. An espresso often contains as little as 50 milligrams per shot, while a cup of drip coffee can easily contain 200 milligrams of caffeine.
Determining the caffeine levels of coffee and espresso drinks can be very tricky. But you need to know whether that cup has enough caffeine to help you wake up, while not exceeding the recommended 300 milligrams per day. There are many factors that influence the caffeine levels in different coffee drinks, such as espresso, French press coffee, and drip-brewed coffee. Learn why caffeine levels vary and see a list of caffeine levels in different coffee drinks, including Starbucks coffee caffeine levels.
Caffeine Levels of Coffee Roasts
Many people believe that darker coffee roasts have more caffeine because they have a stronger flavor. However, darker roasts generally have lower caffeine levels than lighter roasts. This is because the prolonged heat of heavier roasting breaks down the caffeine molecule, or as some people like to put it, roasting "burns off the caffeine." If you're not sure of your coffee's roast, just look at the color. A lighter color means a lighter roast and more caffeine.
Caffeine Levels of Ground Coffee Beans
Varying levels of coffee grinding are used for different brewing methods. For example, espresso and Turkish coffee require much finer coffee grind levels than drip-brewed coffee. Assuming that the brewing method is the same, the finer the coffee grind, the higher the coffee's caffeine level.
Caffeine in Coffee Bean Varietals
Like different tea varietals, different coffee varieties, and cultivars have naturally varying levels of caffeine. Robusta coffee beans (the type used in many low-grade coffees and instant coffees) have about twice as much caffeine as Arabica coffee beans (a softer, sweeter coffee bean that makes up 70 percent of the coffee beans on the market). If you're drinking an instant coffee, it's probably the higher-caffeine Robusta coffee bean. If it's from a coffee shop, a decent restaurant, a drip coffee maker, ground beans, or whole beans, it's probably from lower-caffeine Arabica beans.
A naturally low-caffeine coffee bean (not decaf coffee) called Excelsa is sometimes blended with Arabica to create a lower-caffeine coffee.
Caffeine Levels of Coffee Brewing Methods
The longer you brew the coffee, the higher the level of caffeine it will have. The brewing time will vary by the method. For example, French press coffee is left sitting for several minutes before the plunger is depressed and the coffee served, resulting in a higher caffeine level. Drip-brewed coffee from a coffee machine (which is often left to brew for around five minutes) also has a higher caffeine level. The larger, slower extractions of espresso called lungos will have a higher caffeine level than ristrettos (smaller, faster extractions of espresso).
Similarly, if you brew your coffee with more ground beans per cup of water, there will be more caffeine in the brew. Most coffee recipes call for about 30 grams coffee per 12 to 16 ounces water. Using more coffee than that will also increase the caffeine level in your coffee. Many people accidentally use more because they use a measuring spoon (or eyeball method) rather than a scale when making coffee.
Caffeine Levels in Pre-Made Coffees
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, caffeine levels in fast food and coffee shop coffees vary wildly. A cup of coffee from McDonald's contains about half as much caffeine as the same serving size from Starbucks, and a cup from Caribou Coffee falls right between the two.
Here are three things that you can do:
- Some chain coffee retailers will provide caffeine counts on request. Ask and see if they can tell you.
- Note that many coffeehouse drinks contain more milk and flavorings than coffee and that means less coffee and less caffeine per serving.
- When in doubt order a small.
What Is the Coffee With the Most Caffeine?
If you look at all these factors together, the highest caffeine coffee would be a light roast, finely ground (as in, Turkish ground or espresso ground) Robusta coffee that has been brewed with a drip filter coffee maker or a French press for five minutes or more. Using more than the usual 30 grams coffee per 12 to 16 ounces water will also increase the caffeine level in your coffee.
As with drip coffee, the espresso highest in caffeine would be made with light roast beans using 7 to 8 grams (relatively coarsely ground) coffee grinds and a lungo pull.
Which Coffee Has the Least Caffeine?
Dark roast, coarsely ground Arabica coffee beans that are brewed with a quicker brewing method (such as a pour-through drip filter) will have the least caffeine. Be sure to measure your grinds with a scale (not with a spoon, and definitely not with your eyes) to make sure you're only using 30 grams per 12 to 16 ounces water. This is approximately two reasonable servings, or one Starbucks Grande or Tall. For a super-low caffeine coffee, use a decaf coffee or a blend with Excelsa beans.
Despite popular belief to the contrary, decaf is not caffeine-free. A 16-ounce decaf coffee from Starbucks still contains about 12.5 milligrams of caffeine, while a Starbucks decaf espresso has a bigger range—3 to 15.8 milligrams per serving.
Fancy coffee drinks (with milk and other additives) often contain less caffeine per serving. For any type of coffee, a small cup has far less caffeine than a large.
Which Kind of Espresso Has the Least Caffeine?
An espresso made with 7 grams of dark roast, relatively coarsely ground Robusta beans pulled as a single ristretto shot has less caffeine than other espresso shots. For a super-low caffeine ristretto, use a decaf coffee or a blend with Excelsa beans.
Although people tend to think of espresso as super-high in caffeine, one shot of espresso is generally lower in caffeine than a cup of coffee. It may be more concentrated, but espresso is actually lower in caffeine than brewed coffee. But be aware that many coffee shops sell double shots as their standard size.
Ways to Cut Down on Caffeine
Caffeine overdose and caffeine sensitivity are both seriously unpleasant, and too much caffeine can be dangerous for your health. If you want to lower your caffeine intake or stay within a healthy limit (below 300 milligrams per day), here are some great ways to do it.
- Order small. Never order a large when you can order something smaller.
- Brew small. Don't make more coffee than you want to drink.
- Remember that caffeine isn't just in coffee. There's also caffeine in tea, chocolate, cola and other substances, such as some types of aspirin. If you consume those substances, look into cutting down on them as well.
Caffeine in Espresso (by Preparation Method)
Espresso is a type of concentrated coffee drink made by extracting the essence of roasted coffee beans with heat and pressure. Espresso drinks like lattes and cappuccinos contain varying levels of caffeine. Here are some estimated levels of caffeine in various espresso drinks:
- Espresso, Single Shot: 29-100 mg (often around 75 mg)
- Espresso, Double Shot (Doppio): 58-185 mg (often around 150 mg)
- Decaf Espresso, Single Shot: about 8 mg
- Decaf Espresso, Double Shot (Doppio): about 16 mg
Caffeine in Coffee (by Preparation Method)
Although caffeine levels in coffee vary, these lists of caffeine levels in coffee will give you a general idea of what to expect from some of your favorite coffee drinks.
- Boiled Coffee (Greek Coffee or Turkish Coffee, measured per 8 ounces): 160-240 milligrams (averaging at around 200 milligrams)
- Drip Brewed Arabica Coffee (6 ounces): 80-130 milligrams (often around 110 milligrams)
- Drip Brewed Robusta Coffee (6 ounces): 140-200 milligrams
- Drip Brewed Single-Serve Coffee Pods: (usually) 75-150 milligrams
- Drip Brewed Passiona Excelsa/Arabica Low-Caffeine Coffee Blend (6 ounces): 40-60 milligrams
- Drip Brewed Decaf Coffee (8 ounces): 2-12 milligrams, although testing has shown that decaf coffee levels are sometimes much higher
- French Press or Plunger Pot Coffee (8 ounces): 80-135 milligrams (with an average of around 108 milligrams)
- Instant Coffee (8 ounces): 27-173 milligrams (often 65 to 90 milligrams)
- Instant Decaf Coffee (8 ounces): 2-12 milligrams
- Percolated Coffee (5 ounces): 80-135 milligrams
Caffeine in Coffee & Espresso (by Brand)
These are figures provided by these brands. But note that they can vary substantially from what is listed.
- Breve (Medium): 180 milligrams
- Brewed Coffee (Medium): 305 milligrams
- Brewed Decaf Coffee (Medium): 5 milligrams
- Caffe Americano (Medium): 270 milligrams
- Caffe Latte (Medium): 180 milligrams
- Caffe Mocha (Medium): 195 milligrams
- Cappuccino (Medium): 270 milligrams
- Coffee With Steamed Milk (Medium): 192 milligrams
- Depth Charge (Medium): 370 milligrams
- Espresso (Medium): 270 milligrams ( Caribou Coffee serves much larger espressos than most coffeehouses. They are twice the usual size of an espresso elsewhere.)
- Macchiato (Medium): 270 milligrams
- Americano (Medio): 277 milligrams
- Caffe Carmella (Medio): 277 milligrams
- Caffe Latte (Medio): 277 milligrams
- Cappuccino (Medio): 277 milligrams
- Espresso (single shot): 92 milligrams
- Espresso (double shot): 185 milligrams
- Espresso (triple shot): 277 milligrams
- Coffee (16 ounces): 143-206 milligrams
- Coffee With Turbo Shot (20 ounces): 436 milligrams
- Decaf Coffee (16 ounces): 13 milligrams
- Espresso (single shot): 75 milligrams
- Espresso (double shot): 97 milligrams
- Coffee (16 ounces): 206 milligrams
- Classic Roast Instant Coffee (2 tablespoons grounds in 12 ounces of water): 148 milligrams
- 100 Percent Colombian (2 tablespoons grounds in 12 ounces of water): 100-160 milligrams
- Dark Roast (2 tablespoons grounds in 12 ounces of water): 100-160 milligrams
- International Cafe (all flavors; 2.66 tablespoons grounds in 12 to 16 ounces of water): 40-130 milligrams
- Master Blend (2 tablespoons grounds in 12 ounces of water): 100-160 milligrams
- Original Roast (2 tablespoons grounds in 12 ounces of water): 100-160 milligrams
- K-Cups (one serving): 100-140 milligrams
- McCafe Coffee (16 ounces): 145 milligrams
- McCafe Decaf Coffee (16 ounces): 11 milligrams
- McCafe Espresso (single shot): 71 milligrams
- McCafe Espresso (double shot): 142 milligrams
- McCafe Latte (all flavors; 16 ounces): 142 milligrams
- McCafe Mocha (all flavors; 16 ounces): 167 milligrams
- Espresso Capsules: 55-65 milligrams
- Lungo Capsules: 77-89 milligrams
Panera Bread Co.
- Coffee (16.8 ounces): 198 milligrams
- Decaf Coffee (16 ounces): 5-15 milligrams
- Frouncesen Mocha (16.5 ounces): 267 milligrams
- Brewed Coffee (16 ounces): 330 milligrams
- Cafe Mocha / Flavored Mochas (16 ounces): 160 milligrams
- Espresso (single shot): 75 milligrams
- Espresso (double shot): 150 milligrams
- Latte (incl. flavored lattes; 16 ounces): 150 milligrams
- Clover Brewed Coffee (Short): 180 milligrams
- Clover Brewed Coffee (Tall): 260 milligrams
- Clover Brewed Coffee (Grande): 330 milligrams
- Clover Brewed Coffee (Venti): 415 milligrams
- Cold Brew (Tall Sweetened): 125 milligrams
- Cold Brew (Tall Unsweetened): 150 milligrams
- Cold Brew (Grande Sweetened): 165 milligrams
- Cold Brew (Grande Unsweetened): 200 milligrams
- Venti Iced Sweetened: 250 milligrams; Venti Iced Unsweetened: 300 milligrams
- Trenta Iced Sweetened: not listed on Starbucks site (I estimate it at around 270 milligrams); Trenta Iced Unsweetened: 330 milligrams
- Decaf Pike's Place Roast (Short): 15 milligrams
- Decaf Pike's Place Roast (Tall): 20 milligrams
- Decaf Pike's Place Roast (Grande): 25 milligrams
- Decaf Pike's Place Roast (Venti): 30 milligrams
- Iced Coffee (Tall): 120 milligrams
- Iced Coffee (Grande): 165 milligrams
- Iced Coffee (Venti Iced): 235 milligrams
- Iced Coffee (Trenta Iced): 285 milligrams
- Iced Coffee with Milk (Tall): 90 milligrams
- Iced Coffee with Milk (Grande): 125 milligrams
- Iced Coffee with Milk (Venti Iced): 170 milligrams
- Iced Coffee with Milk (Trenta Iced): 195 milligrams
- Pike's Place Roast (Short): 180 milligrams
- Pike's Place Roast (Tall): 260 milligrams
- Pike's Place Roast (Grande): 330 milligrams
- Pike's Place Roast (Venti): 415 milligrams
- VIA House Blend Instant Coffee (1 packet): 135 milligrams
- Most Starbucks espresso drinks (no chocolate or coffee added): 75 milligrams (Short or Tall) or 150 milligrams (Grande or Venti)
- Cappuccino (Medium): 100 milligrams
- Tim Hortons Coffee (Medium): 196 milligrams
- Tim Hortons Decaf Coffee (Medium): 9 milligrams
- Tim Hortons Espresso (single shot): 45 milligrams
- Tim Hortons Latte (hot or iced; Medium): 50 milligrams