The great epiphany for any coffee drinker: realizing that not every coffee is caffeinated equally.
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.
Coffee Bean Types
Among the most popular types of coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta beans, characterized by where they’re grown in the world. But these beans are also characterized by caffeine content.
Robusta beans are scarcer and of a more mellow quality, but pack twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans. It’s a high-caffeine coffee. And if you’re a pragmatist who perceives coffee as a caffeine vehicle, you might be glad to know that most instant coffees use Robusta beans. Their high caffeine content contributes to making the beans pest-resistant; thus, they’re cheaper to farm. Looking at the bean type on a coffee label is the easiest way to tell whether you’re getting the most caffeinated coffee.
But there is another variable that often gets thrown in the conversation of the coffee with the most caffeine: roast style.
Type of Coffee Roast
Does dark roast have more caffeine, or do light roasts have more caffeine? The answer isn’t as clear-cut as the one you might be craving.
Roasting coffee beans does not really diminish caffeine content. For example, if a Robusta bean starts with 10 mg of caffeine in a bean, it will retain that 10 mg after being subjected to heat.
What is impacted in the roasting process, however, is bean mass. This is a variable when it comes time for the brewing process. (Side note: Ideal caffeine extraction from water while brewing happens between 195-205 degrees—if you’re brewing at home, adjust accordingly.) This could make a difference in deciding the coffee with the highest caffeine content. While a coffee shop might measure out coffee by weight using a scale, most home or office coffee drinkers are using a scoop. Scoop for scoop, light roast is denser than dark roast and contains more caffeine. As a result, if you measure out the same, level teaspoon of dark roast as a light roast, that teaspoon of light roast will give you a more caffeinated cup of coffee than that single teaspoon of dark roast. However, if you were to weigh the same teaspoon in terms of equal ounces, the dark roast would actually contain more caffeine.
Still, it’s worth knowing that the differences in caffeine content will be slight. It’s truer to say that the coffee bean type matters more when considering what kind of coffee has the most caffeine, between the two.
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.
|Drink||Description||Size||Caffeine (in milligrams)|
|Espresso||A straightforward, two-ounce shot of espresso.||2 oz.||80 mg|
|Americano||This is espresso with hot water poured on top; Often, this drink will consist of a 12-ounce serving with two shots of espresso||12 oz.||80-100 mg|
|Cappuccino||These drinks can vary in espresso content, but cappuccino typically contains two shots—or ounces—of espresso in a 6-ounce cup.||6 oz.||80 mg|
|Latte||Most will prepare a latte as a double shot, though standards vary—especially as lattes tend to be served in a variety of sizes. Regardless of size, the ratio of espresso to milk will remain the same. However, the quantity — and caffeine content — would increase as your size and ratio of espresso-to-milk does.||12 oz. to 24 oz.||100-200 mg|
|Flat White||Like a wetter cappuccino, this 5-ounce Australian drink contains two shots of espresso.||5 oz.||100 mg|
|Macchiato||A macchiato is, essentially, espresso with enough milk to add texture. It contains two shots of espresso to two ounces of milk.||4 oz.||100 mg|
|Red Eye||The ultimate caffeinated beverage the Red Eye consists of 8 oz. of coffee plus at least one espresso shot on the bottom. This is the winner for anyone wondering what type of coffee has the most caffeine. If you’re ordering, ask whether the espresso is a single or double shot.||10 oz.||160 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.