The great epiphany for any coffee drinker: realizing that not every coffee is caffeinated equally. So what coffee has the most caffeine?
Any cup of coffee will come with a buzz—even a decaf. But a variety of other factors, like bean or drink type, have a surprising amount of influence on which type of coffee has the most caffeine. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know.
Roasting Methods and Caffeine: Dark vs Light
Many coffee drinkers, both casual sippers, and enthusiasts believe that the amount of caffeine in their favorite mug depends on what type of roast they brew. This is true, but it doesn’t make as big a difference as you might think.
You might assume that the darker roasts have more caffeine. And it makes sense on the surface.
We often say that darker roasts are “stronger” because of the bold taste that darker brews deliver. They are generally more intense while the lighter roasts have floral or citrusy overtones. For many, that translates to “weaker” coffee.
These differences only apply to the flavors, though. Darker roasts do not contain more caffeine than light roasts. If anything, they have less.
How can lighter roasts have more caffeine?
Coffee drinkers with a little more knowledge about the bean suggest that the roasting process burns off some of the caffeine. Since darker blends are roasted for longer, the argument goes, they lose more of their caffeine content.
This is almost right. The roasting itself removes very little of the caffeine because it’s a very stable compound.
Instead, what happens is that the beans expand during roasting. Beans that have been roasted for a long time lose more water, growing larger and less dense. Thus, if you measure your coffee by volume, the lighter roast will have more beans.
More beans mean more caffeine. The difference is minimal, though. And if you measure the coffee by weight, there is no difference in the caffeine amount in light and dark roast coffee.
So when choosing your roast, base your decision on taste preferences rather than the amount of caffeine they might have. The difference isn’t enough to warrant a change.
Caffeine and the Beans: Robusta vs Arabica
This is where the real difference is. When deciding which beans to use, you have one big choice to make: Arabica or Robusta.
The typical Robusta bean has nearly twice as much caffeine as Arabica (and some have nearly four times as much). Robusta is cheaper to cultivate, and the higher caffeine content means it is more resistant to pests. So you will usually find these beans in cheaper blends and instant coffee.
Don’t expect a great flavor profile though. Robusta has a more bland and bitter taste. (In part because the extra caffeine adds some bitterness.)
Some espresso blends still have a small quantity of Robusta, but otherwise, you probably won’t encounter it if you are shopping for quality coffee.
Unless that is, you are actively seeking a high-caffeine coffee. So your gas station brews that promise a quick jolt in the morning is often made from Robusta. That’s why they’re cheap and effective.
Because of the lower quality flavor of Robusta coffee, most coffeehouses and roasters stick with Arabica beans. It provides more complex flavors and can deliver better results for light, medium, and dark roasts.
Much of this complexity comes from the lower caffeine content. With about half as much caffeine as Robusta beans, Arabica is not as bitter.
If you’re going strictly for the stimulating properties of coffee, then, look for a Robusta coffee. It packs more punch, but you will likely notice a difference in quality. And you’ll probably need to search a bit for a quality bag of beans as most roasters stick to Arabica beans.
Pay attention when choosing, though, as you can find extremes on both ends.
Death Wish Coffee, for example, is an Arabica blend with just a touch of Robusta. But it is built for caffeine, with as much kick per ounce as your typical espresso. The company bills it as “The World’s Strongest Coffee.”
What about Decaf?
Caffeine and types of coffee
You would think this one is fairly straightforward. Decaffeinated coffee doesn’t have caffeine, right?
Decaffeinated coffee has been treated before roasting, typically with water, carbon dioxide, or solvents, to remove most of its caffeine. But it is not completely caffeine-free.
Decaf usually has around 97 percent of its caffeine removed. For an eight-ounce cup, you can expect from five to ten milligrams, depending on the beans and the removal process.
That isn’t enough that you’ll notice. But if you need to remove caffeine from your diet completely, you can’t just switch to decaf. You’ll have to forego coffee altogether (sorry).
Type of Coffee Beverage
Caffeine differences can be especially variant with espresso drink types. And, gratefully, it’s quite a bit easier to know how much caffeine you’re consuming, as these drinks are measured by espresso shots—which measure in at about 50 to 65 mg of caffeine per ounce.
All the same, recognize that—bearing in mind all the above information about bean types and roasts—there will ultimately be a disparity between the caffeine content of one espresso shot versus another.
Caffeine By Coffee Type
|Type||Serving Size||Caffeine (per serving)||Caffeine Content ( / oz )|
|Decaf||8 fl. oz.||3 – 4 mg||0.38 – 0.5 mg|
|Drip Coffee||8 fl. oz.||65 – 120 mg||8.13 – 15 mg|
|Brewed Coffee||8 fl. oz.||95 mg||11.18 mg|
|Brewed Coffee||8 fl. oz.||95 mg||11.18 mg|
|Cold Brew||16 fl. oz.||200 mg||12.5 mg|
|Espresso||2 fl. oz. (1 shot)||60 – 102.67 mg||30 – 51.34 mg|
If the amount of caffeine in your coffee is one of the major reasons you’re craving a jolt of joe in the morning, we hope this has helped you find the right roast and right coffee drink to get you going in the morning.