Have you ever wondered how much caffeine is in your morning cup of coffee? Turns out there’s a lot of variables that can go into figuring out the answer.
Typically, you can expect to get around 95 mg of caffeine from an average cup of coffee.
However, the mg of caffeine varies between different coffee drinks, and can range from almost zero caffeine to over 500 mg of caffeine per cup! In this article, I will provide a clear guide to the variables that go into figuring out how much caffeine in a cup of coffee.
A cup of java is a cup of java. When it comes to caffeine content, that could be another matter entirely. Data indicates caffeine content per ounce of coffee can vary widely. According to an article in The Huffington Post, coffee from McDonald’s could have as little as 9.1 milligrams per fluid ounce. Deathwish brand coffee, however, contains 54.2 milligrams per ounce.
Caffeine content matters for several reasons. First, caffeine is a nervous system stimulant. Too much can lead to a racing pulse, elevated blood pressure, jittery a feeling and insomnia. Caffeine can also cause gastrointestinal issues and large amounts have been linked to thinning bones, increased risk of miscarriage and lumpy, painful breasts.
On the other hand, coffee has been shown to have health benefits. People who drank three to five cups of coffee a day had the lowest risk of heart disease compared to those who drank more or none. As with many things, the issue is probably quantity.
How Much Caffeine in a Cup of Coffee? | Factors That Affect Caffeine Content
There’s a common belief that caffeine level is simply based on how light or dark the roast is. Some people think that darker roasts have more caffeine because they have a stronger flavor. Well, the truth is caffeine content is more complex than that. It’s largely unpredictable because there are so many factors that go into it.
Here are some of the factors that influence caffeine levels. First is the type of coffee. There are two types of beans primarily used in coffee which is arabica and robusta. Arabica makes up about seventy percent of the coffee consumed and has about two-thirds the amount of caffeine as robusta beans. So the percentage of arabica and robusta in a particular coffee affects the caffeine level.
Next is roast level. Roast level does affect the amount of caffeine. Lighter roasts generally contain more caffeine than darker roasts. This is because darker roasts have more exposure to heat. The more you heat it, the more the caffeine molecule breaks down.
Grind fineness also plays a role. Finer grind allows the brew water to extract more caffeine. So simply put, the finer the grind the higher the level of caffeine.
Lastly, brew method and extraction time also affect the amount of caffeine. The most common brew methods, are espresso, french press or drip coffee. The longer the coffee is in contact with the brew water the higher the caffeine content in the finished beverage.
How Much Caffeine in a Cup of Coffee? | Your Brain on Coffee
With it’s stimulating effects, it’s easy to understand why coffee is the second most traded commodity on Earth after oil. For many, it keeps us awake and moving through our busy days. But how does it work? What exactly does coffee do to your brain?
Whenever you’re awake, a chemical called adenosine slowly accumulates in your brain. And this adenosine binds to receptors which slow down brain activity – ultimately, the more adenosine there is, the more tired your brain feels. Which makes sense, as the longer you’re awake, the more fatigued you become.
Conversely, while you sleep, the concentration of adenosine declines, gradually promoting wakefulness. But it turns out that the caffeine in your coffee is incredibly similar to adenosine in structure. The caffeine works it’s way through your bloodstream and into the brain, where it starts to compete and binds with adenosine receptors. But because it’s not adenosine, the ‘sleepiness’ effect isn’t felt. Adenosine can no longer bind, meaning it’s calming properties are diminished. Which is great for you when you’re feeling tired!
However, with long term use of caffeine, your brain responds by creating more adenosine receptors – which means more caffeine is required to elicit the same response. It also means that when you try to quit drinking coffee or miss your daily intake, you might experience some withdrawal symptoms and feel more tired than you would have before you ever drank coffee!
But the caffeine doesn’t stop there! It also stimulates the production of adrenaline – you know, the Fight or Flight hormone? This increases your heart rate, gets your blood pumping, and even opens up your airways.
Furthermore, it affects Dopamine levels by preventing its reabsorption in the brain, which makes you feel happy! In fact, this is the exact same thing that cocaine does, just to a lesser degree. It’s a drug, afterall! This dopamine stimulation is also the aspect of coffee that makes it moderately addictive.
So can you drink too much coffee? It turns out there is a lethal dose of caffeine which is somewhere around 150mg of caffeine per kilogram of your body. This means if you weigh 70kg you would require 14,000mg of caffeine to overdose. Put into perspective, an average cup of coffee contains roughly 150mg of caffeine, meaning if you are 70kg, approximately 70 cups of coffee would kill you.
However, you’d have to drink those cups all at once making it effectively impossible to overdose on caffeine from coffee, since you wouldn’t be able to physically fit that much in your stomach. You’d also start experiencing mania and hallucinations before getting to this point.
Caffeine also has a halflife of around 6 hours -so if you drank a standard coffee with around 150mg of caffeine, after about 6 hours there will only be 75mg left in your system and you’ll be feeling half of the effect. And 6 hours after that, you’ll have 37.5mg – leaving more room for adenosine to jump back into action. Which is why you may reach for another cup throughout the day, to maintain that glorious, alert and energetic feeling. So drink up! And enjoy the buzz…while it lasts 🙂