How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

By: | Updated: April 13, 2021

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A good coffee, even better if of excellent quality, is one of the joys of our everyday life. However, coffee is not always positive for everyone. In fact, one of its most well known compounds, Caffeine, can have various side effects for some.

According to the Centre of Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH), caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world. In North America, more than 80 percent of adults regularly consume caffeine. For this reason, it’s important to know how much caffeine is safe to consume daily.

In this article, we answer the most popular questions regarding caffeine.

Since the caffeine compound is found in a multitude of beverages, we have also included a caffeine calculator and chart to help you keep a healthy lifestyle, while still enjoying all the positive benefits of caffeine.

PLUS – we’ve added a FREE caffeine calculator tool at the end of the post for you.

What Is Caffeine?

Caffeine Molecular Formula
Caffeine Molecular Formula

Before diving into details on the properties of caffeine, it’s important to know what the substance is and where it comes from. Most coffee drinkers associate caffeine as the main compound in coffee. 

That is not the case. In fact, caffeine only makes up around .01% of the entire coffee chemical composition. Caffeine in its purest form is actually a white powdery substance that is extremely bitter.

So the natural question to ask would be:

Why do we give such importance to caffeine when it is found in such minuscule amounts in coffee?

The reason is caffeine has a significant impact on the human body and it’s also highly addictive. Caffeine also has a lot of numerous benefits, the main one being a significant energy boost.

However, when learning about caffeine, learning the safe amounts to take is crucial for a healthy lifestyle. People at higher risk, pregnant women, older adults, and those with underlying diseases, should pay careful attention to their daily caffeine intake.

What Determines The Caffeine Content In a Cup Of Coffee?

If you’re a serious coffee drinker, you know that where a coffee bean is grown, plays a significant role in the final flavor profile. Similarly, the different species of coffee plant and the region where it’s grown, also determine the caffeine content.

Why? Caffeine is the coffee plant’s natural insect repellent. High altitude regions have less insects, resulting in lower caffeine levels. On the other hand, low altitude and tropical regions require the coffee plant to produce more caffeine as a defense mechanism.

In fact, some of the regions which produce the best coffee beans for espresso (strong, high-level caffeine content), are mostly located in lower altitude and tropical climates. 

This is not the only factor determining the caffeine content though, the others being:

  • Roast Profile
  • Grind
  • Brewing Method
     

Expert roasters and baristas are able to combine all of these factors (Coffee Bean, Roast, Grind Level, and Brewing Method), to create a balanced cup of coffee that extracts the natural flavors of the coffee bean

There’s a lot of coffee brewing methods and all have their different extraction methods and resulting caffeine content. We have provided a table with the most popular ones.

The table illustrates the caffeine content concentration (milligrams per ounce) of each brewing method, the actual serving size (assuming a standard 8oz cup) caffeine content will be much lower.

Coffee DrinkCaffeine Content ( MG / OZ )
Espresso47 – 64
Cold Brew12.5
French Press13.4
Brewed Coffee12 – 21
Decaf Espresso3 – 16
Decaf Brewed~ 0.75
Turkish Coffee~ 0.75

Does Decaf Coffee Contain Caffeine?

This might be surprising due to its name, but yes, decaffeinated (decaf) coffee contains caffeine.

One thing to note though, is that the caffeine content in decaf is quite negligible, hence why it is promoted as an alternative to coffee drinkers who don’t like much caffeine content. 

If you are monitoring your caffeine intake and want to drink decaf coffee, your best bet is either hot brewed decaf or cold brew.

The reason for this is that during the extraction process when brewing decaf coffee, less caffeine is extracted from brewed and cold brewed decaf; while decaf coffee contains a much higher caffeine content (although still lower than other brewing methods). 

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

After listing all the information regarding caffeine content in coffee, the most important question is: how much caffeine is too much? 

On average, an adult in the US consumes around 300 milligrams per day. Keep in mind that this isn’t only caffeine content from coffee as an adult may consume multiple drinks during the day that can contain caffeine (soft drinks, tea, etc).

Furthermore, some foods such as dark chocolate, also contain caffeine in them, although when compared to coffee, the amount is rather small at 2.3 milligrams per day.

According to the FDA, 400 milligrams per day is the safest dosage for healthy adults that can be consumed per day (roughly three 8oz cups of coffee). This amount is just a ballpark figure though as every person metabolizes caffeine differently. 

Furthermore, older adults, pregnant women, and those with preexisting conditions, require different caffeine intake amounts.

We recommend you consult with a health professional for advice if you need guidance on your ideal caffeine intake. 

We have provided a handy Caffeine Calculator to help you determine the safe amounts to consume based on the beverage. Check it out below:

Final Thoughts

While this article focuses on the properties and risks of caffeine, coffee is still a great drink that brings numerous benefits. As always, conducting a balanced and healthy lifestyle is key to a long life.

Caffeine is one of the most fascinating natural compounds in existence and it is what makes coffee so great.

Leave a comment if you have any questions and we will be happy to answer them.

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by Brett