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Everything You Wanted to Know About Coffee and Caffeine

April 02, 2018

coffee caffeine content

In the world of coffee, one of the most frequently asked questions is “How much caffeine is in a cup of coffee?” Other questions include topics like the roast of the coffee: light vs dark, the origin(or variety) of the coffee bean, and what species of coffee bean has the most caffeine.

Well, let's talk about caffeine first. What is caffeine?

Caffeine in its pure form is a bitter tasting alkaloid with the chemical name of 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine. It is best known for being a central nervous system stimulant.

At least 60 plants worldwide are known to contain caffeine including the Theobroma cacao plant. This is the wonderful plant, which gives us cacoa beans, or better known as chocolate.

Caffeine has several effects on our bodies. It increases metabolism, stimulates the central nervous system, acts as a diuretic, can increase acid levels in the stomach, and increase blood pressure.

The effects of caffeine can be felt as soon as 10 minutes after consumption and for as long as six hours. The most effective time for caffeine is 45-60 minutes after consumption.

Caffeine also has some downside effects. It can cause things like restlessness, insomnia, shakiness, headaches, dizziness, abnormal heart rhythms, anxiety, and even dehydration.

Coffee and Caffeine

First, we need to discuss the two different species of coffee bean, and how that affects the caffeine content of your morning cup of coffee. There are a lot more species of coffee out there, but the following two make up the vast majority of the commercial coffee market.

The main two species of coffee plant are Arabica and Robusta, and Arabica accounts for around 80% of coffees sold around the world. As a general rule, Robusta beans can contain up to four times the caffeine as Arabica beans do, and have about twice the Chlorogenic Acid.

Arabica beans are generally sweeter, have a higher acidity, and give off notes of fruits, chocolate, florals, and nuts.   They are grown at altitudes from 2,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level and in temperatures ranging from 59 to 75 degrees.

Robusta beans have lower acidity, a stronger and more bitter taste, and have been described as tasting like burnt rubber. They are usually grown at altitudes less than 3,000 feet above sea level and in temperatures ranging from 65 to 100 degrees. If there is a high caffeine coffee out there, it probably has some Robusta in it.

An 8oz cup of brewed coffee has between 95 and 165 mgs of caffeine. One ounce of espresso will contain 47-64 mgs. Compare that with a standard 8oz cola soft drink with 24 to 46 mgs of caffeine.

What difference does the roast make on caffeine content?

Well, there is a lot of myth and speculation out there on this topic, but the bottom line is that the roast has very little effect on caffeine content. Caffeine, chemically, is very stable even at temperatures exceeding 400 degrees, so the roast doesn’t really have much of a measurable effect on caffeine content.

The biggest variables that do affect the amount of caffeine in your freshly brewed cup of coffee are the species of the bean, the amount of coffee used to brew, the grind, the coffee to water ratio, and the length of the brew.

Some say that dark roasted coffee has more caffeine. This myth may be a result of associating dark roasted coffee’s more intense taste to a higher caffeine content, but that may also be because those who enjoy dark roasted coffee may use a higher coffee to water ratio to achieve the desired taste.

The bottom line to all of this is that if you are looking for more caffeine in your morning cup of coffee, try Robusta, but otherwise just enjoy your favorite flavor and let the caffeine content be what it is.

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