April 05, 2019

As we have traveled from coffee shop to shop, sometimes people make reference on how much caffeine is being consumed by what you are drinking, not by how much you are drinking.  For example, it is assumed an espresso is highly caffeinated. We wanted to do some research and see how much caffeine was truly in espresso vs. drip coffee vs. cold brew coffee.

Before we dive into the comparisons, there is caveat that needs to be acknowledged. Calculating how much caffeine is in coffee is probably not always an exact science, especially when you are making it at home.  There are many variables that come into play when calculating or even assuming how much caffeine might be in your brew. The brewed temperature, the brewing time, the saturation of the grinds, the grind size, the roast of the beans (to a certain degree), type of bean: arabica or robusta, probably even the water used (solubles are pulled out of the coffee bean by the minerals present in the water). So for this journal we are pulling data from various parts of the Internet. Quick point, caffeine is measured in milligrams (mg).

So here is what a quick search turns up:

  • Espresso (double shot - 2 oz, assuming 63 mg per oz.) (2): 126 mg
  • Drip Coffee (16 oz) (assuming the median of 12 mg per ounce) (2): 192 mg
  • Drip Coffee (12 oz) (assuming the median of 12 mg per ounce) (2): 144 mg
  • Drip Coffee (8 oz) (assuming the median of 12 mg per ounce) (2): 96 mg
  • Cold Brew Coffee (12 oz) (17.25 per ounce) (1): 207 mg

Just a quick glance at the caffeine in Starbucks coffee (3), assuming a Tall is 12 ounces:

  • Tall Cold Brew Coffee: 150 mg
  • Tall Brewed Coffee - Dark Roast: 193 mg
  • Tall Brewed Coffee - Medium Roast: 235 mg
  • Tall Brewed Coffee - True North Blonde Roast: 270 mg
  • Espresso Quad (3 ounces) - 300 mg x4 for 12 ounces = 1200 mg

Starbucks is a great reference point but the varieties of brews out in the market widely varies.  Even though the table above shows less caffeine in a tall cold brew that can change easily by changing any of the variables mentioned above.  There are ready to drink cold brews in stores that have a significantly higher (almost double) content of caffeine.

Cold brew coffee can be brewed as a concentrate then diluted using water or some type of milk product or it can be brewed ready-to-drink. The dilution ratios for concentrates vary and as mentioned before the amount of caffeine present depends on a number of variables. Ready to drink cold brew will also vary be brand in terms of how much caffeine is present per serving.

Caffeine content varies and there is really no true agreement or standard.  But the general idea is to account for the volume of coffee consumed while being mindful of the way it was brewed. If someone mentions your double shot of espresso, while they have a 12 oz drip coffee in hand, you can mention they are consuming more caffeine than you are.  Might be a great conversation starter.

Citations

  1. Fuller, Megan, and Niny Z Rao. “The Effect of Time, Roasting Temperature, and Grind Size on Caffeine and Chlorogenic Acid Concentrations in Cold Brew Coffee.” Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group UK, 21 Dec. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5740146/.
  2. National Nutrient Database, USDA. “USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release.” Food Composition Databases Show Foods -- Beverages, Coffee, Brewed, Espresso, Restaurant-Prepared, 2018, ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/14210?fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=14210&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=.
  3. “Starbucks Coffee Company Beverage Nutrition Information.” Starbucks, 0AD, globalassets.starbucks.com/assets/94fbcc2ab1e24359850fa1870fc988bc.pdf.