Is it true that espresso has less caffeine than regular coffee?

Yes and no. An espresso cup has about as much caffeine as a cup of strong coffee. But servings for espresso are much smaller. Which means that the content of caffeine per milliliter are much higher than with a regular brew. Moreover, caffeine is more quickly assimilated when taken in concentrated dosages, such as an espresso cup.

The myth of lower caffeine espresso comes comes from the fact that the darker roast beans used for espresso do have less caffeine than regularly roasted beans as roasting is supposed to break up or sublimate the caffeine in the beans (I have read this quote in research articles, but found no scientific studies supporting it. Anybody out there?).

One more thing that should be considered when comparing caffeine content of espresso is whether the beans are arabica or robusta. Robusta has about twice as much caffeine as arabica therefore a coffee blend starting with a large amount of robusta will have more caffeine regardless of prep method. Many (but not all) supermarket brands of coffee have a fair amount of robusta mixed into the blend to keep production costs low. Some espresso blends have between 4% and 12% robusta. The robusta is uses for a combination of reasons not least of which is flavor and better crema production. Many espresso blends have no robusta at all. For a good espresso blend price is not the reason for adding robusta and a good quality robusta is actually much more expensive than a cheap arabica bean and somewhere on par with a similar relative quality arabica.

Here's the caffeine content of Drip/Espresso/Brewed Coffee:

Drip            115-175	     (7 oz cup)
Espresso        100         1 serving (1-2oz)
Brewed          80-135     (7 oz cup)
Obviously these numbers are estimates at best.

Comments

re: Espresso caffeine content

Welcome David.

Sounds about right.

I do want to make a comment on a very fine point. You said: "Most supermarket and office coffees are primarily cheap, caffeine-riddled robustas from Brazil." In the last handful of years the robusta vs. arabica distinction has hit middle America and many supermarket coffees are now 100% arabica. It's still cheap garbage coffee but it is cheap arabica garbage coffee. I think it's a good selling point when all a person knows is "arabica = good".
As a side note the worse of the robusta actually comes from Vietnam and not Brazil. At least with Brazil there is some high quality arabica coming out of the country. Vietnam is pretty much a coffee wasteland as far as I can tell.

Thanks for the comments. They are right on the head and worth a modification to the main article.

Loss of caffeine: Clarification request...A few questions...

Hi,

If one filters the coffee, through a paper filter or cloth for example -- like straining, in other words -- does the resultant brew contain less caffeine?
It *seems* to make it less-strong, seeing as the oils get filtered out (?? I assume) -- is this so?

Is filtered/strained coffee less caffeinated?

Also, no one seems to have answered the question of loss of POTENCY, answering the question of flavor loss in its stead: Does coffee, before brewing actually lose caffeine over time? I've never heard that before.
And does it lose caffeine any other way? By "evaporation," as someone mentioned...sounds odd.

Anyone know?

caffeine

The espresso companies all claim that when brewing espresso, cappuccino etc. The vacuum pump system actually extracts most of the caffeine leaving the espresso with a much lower content then a cup of regular coffee. They claim that one espresso contains less caffeine then 2 strong cups of coffee.
hmmmmmmmm thumbs up for espresso!

Lose Caffeine over time?

Well, I was looking for any conclusive evidence on the subject as my in-laws claim they can have coffee after 1 hour because all of the caffeine is gone...

This of course contradicts my Organic Chemistry training. Water's boiling point is 212 F, Caffeine's is about 313 F.... water evaporates first. The coffee never reaches 313 F, or the coffee would be boiling.

Since the water evaporates first, that only leaves more caffeine, meaning that it actually gets stronger over time.

However they insist it gets weaker so I wanted to verify. 1 year of O-Chem tells me it gets stronger over time, but I could be wrong which is why I'm looking.

Lose Caffeine over time?

Much of the information that follows I gleaned from detailed discussions with the owners and brew masters of Java Cofee and Tea Co. They have a shop in Houston for 30 years at least and a website. Each coffee is graded by acidity and mild-bold flavor. Between them, my nurse's training which includes chemistry, and experience with coffee over the years, these are some information I have obtained:
From my understanding of the chemistry of caffeine, it does not evaporate. Instead it is the acidty in the coffee that destroys the caffeine over time. Anyone who brews tea knows that tannic acid in the tea destroys the caffine, right? so you try to brew it to reduce the tannic acid production which enhances the caffeine content. Also the flavor and drinkability of the brew for those of us who have sensitive stomachs, as the taste of tannic acid is harsh. The lower acid coffees therefore generally have more caffeine, better taste, If you ask me. I have acid reflux and acidic coffee really upsets my stomach. So I have a built in acid barometer, lol. Coffee that sits on the heat definitely becomes more acidic, harsher tasting and the caffeine might become more concentrated too if the acid were not destroying it. But saving coffee at room temperature does not necessarily lose the caffeine if you have a low acid coffee. I believe Robusto beans also have much higher acidic content than most arabica, giving it less refined taste and destroying some of that extra caffeine. Another source of destroyng the caffene is in the roasting process. What degree heat are the beans at when roasting? My impression of Starbucks Coffee beans are generally roasted fast at higher heat, making them very dark and for my taste, burnt tasting and lacking in caffeine. I work nights and I need decent amounts of caffeine to make it, lol.

Caffeine evaporation

Is it true that caffeine quickly evaporates from espresso, so it must be drank hot to get some effect? A barman told me this some time ago, adding that six minutes is the maximum time you can let it rest to have an appreciable effect.
Same question for coffee kept in the fridge and drank hours or days later: does it help in keeping me awake or a fresh one is better? :-)

caffeine evaporation

if you drink the caffeine right after till minutes after it is brewed, you will get the full force of the caffiene......... if you wait longer than that or put the coffee in the fridge, it will not give you the full force of the caffeine....neither will it taste good unless you mix it with half and half and froth it up...

Does decaffeinated coffee

Does decaffeinated coffee have no caffeine or very little? enough not to get headaches of heart palpatations?

Decaf has been shown to have

Decaf has been shown to have up to 50% of normal caffeine when ordered at a serving establishment... i.e. they don't fully rinse from previous full caf pots, get the order wrong etc. If you are sensitive at all I wouldn't trust ordering decaf out. Have green tea or something. When making your own, decaf should be in the ranges others state here. Be aware that for a regular coffee drinker decaf can certainly cause headaches. Caffeine withdrawal headaches that is!

Caffeine

De-caff had very little caffeine.... 10-15 mg per serving..

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