Most people naturally assume that espresso has more caffeine than regular drip coffee but is this really true?
We’ll be investigating this today and we’ll jump straight in with a quick definition…
I. What Is Espresso?
Espresso might be diminutive in stature but it packs quite a punch on the flavor front.
These short shots are achieved when hot water is forced through your coffee grounds under great pressure and at high speed. This means you’ll need an espresso machine for best results.
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Espresso machines first came on the scene in the latter part of the nineteenth century in Italy. Initially, these machines required a great deal of technical skill to operate. With today’s super-automatic and semi-automatic machines, nothing could be further from the truth.
Espresso has a reputation for packing more caffeine but is this true or one of the many myths surrounding coffee?
Before we answer that, it’s worth briefly highlighting the factors that impact caffeine levels in your coffee…
II. What Makes Caffeine Levels Differ?
You might be wondering why caffeine levels differ between drip coffee and espresso.
The short answer is that several elements come into play here.
Caffeine is extracted into your drink when the hot water acts as a solvent. Although this extraction takes place over a finite time, not all brewing methods impart the same percentage of caffeine.
What influences caffeine levels then?
As we just mentioned, the hot water performs the role of a solvent and helps to extract the caffeine from those fresh beans.
When you’re making coffee, you should aim for near-boiling water. Go too hot and you’ll scorch the beans.
The ideal temperature is roughly 205 degrees Fahrenheit. As with all aspects of brewing coffee, feel free to tweak this to suit your tastes.
That said, the hotter the water, the more rapidly caffeine will be extracted. Cold brew, for example, takes literally hours.
If you’re looking to extract all the caffeine available in your beans, you’ll need to ensure the grinds are thoroughly saturated.
Grind is one of the leading factors impacting the pace at which caffeine is extracted.
The finer the grind, the quicker the process but why is this the case?
Well, with a fine grind, water is able to penetrate the whole surface area and fully saturate those beans taking advantage of an increased contact area.
The vast bulk of caffeine is typically released in the opening minute of extraction.
With espresso, you’re usually only taking 30 seconds or less to pull your shot, so you’ll miss out on a little extraction time.
With that background in place, which type of coffee in general contains most caffeine?
III. Which Coffee Contains Most Caffeine?
When you examine all of the above factors and account for everything, you can expect most caffeine from a light roast. This is surprising as most people assume that dark roast packs a heavier punch. This is untrue.
What else beyond the roast?
Well, a fine espresso or Turkish grind with Robusta beans will give you most chance of extracting maximum caffeine.
If you are using espresso, opt for a lighter roast bean and opt for a lungo. While espresso has plenty of caffeine, the tiny shot means you have proportionally less than if you pour a larger mug.
You can also increase the amount of coffee you use going beyond the standard 30g per 16oz of water.
So, espresso does not have more caffeine than coffee.
We appreciate that while many people seek out a really stiff eye-opener with maximum caffeine content, plenty of others are looking for a drink with less caffeine. How can you achieve that?
IV. Which Coffee Contains Least Caffeine?
Counterintuitively, dark roast Arabica beans have less caffeine.
You should also opt for quicker brewing methods if you’re hoping to reduce caffeine content. Drip filters are ideal for this purpose.
Measure out your coffee grinds precisely using a scale so you’ll hit that ratio of 30g per 16oz of water.
It goes unsaid you could also use decaf if you want to minimize caffeine to trace levels. You’ll still get up to 15mg of caffeine but this is still negligible.
Also, if you shoot for more elaborate drinks containing milk, syrup, and other additives, you’ll usually end up with less caffeine in each serving.
V. Key Takeaway: Does Espresso Have More Caffeine Than Coffee?
It doesn’t, no.
Here’s a breakdown of the exact amount of caffeine in various espresso forms:
- Single shot: 30 to 100mg
- Double shot: 60 to 190mg
- Single shot (decaf): 8mg
- Double shot (decaf): 16mg
Turkish coffee can hit 240mg of caffeine while drip Robusta regularly exceeds 200mg. Even a medium cappuccino contains a thumping 270mg so you should be aware espresso is far from your only option when you want your coffee strong.
Well, you should now be aware that it’s a myth espresso contains more caffeine than coffee. When you consider the tiny shot you’ll get, you’ll actually be getting less caffeine in relative terms.
Don’t let that put you off your morning treat, though. And, if you absolutely must have the strongest coffee available, use some of our tips above to achieve that.
Bookmark La Mano for all your coffee-related needs and come back soon. With the holiday season in full swing and the smell of pumpkin latte everywhere, we’ve got a busy schedule here and we’ve got plenty more coming your way so make sure you pop back later this week. See you soon!