Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in coffee beans, tea leaves, and cocoa beans. And boy is it popular: 80% of adults in the US drink caffeine every single day.
But just how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee?
As a passionate coffee lover, I really wanted to know the answer, nuance and all. So I spent a few days looking at everything from FDA guidance to McDonald’s nutrition guides to put together what I hope is a comprehensive guide.
Like most things in coffee, caffeine levels are a highly variable outcome of factors you combine. Let’s take a closer look at those factors that determine how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee against actual medically reviewed guidelines and I’ll answer some related questions along the way.
But First: How Much Caffeine is Dangerous?
Straight up: The FDA (Federal Food and Drug Administration) says 400mg of caffeine per day should be your limit.
That may sound like a lot, but it is important to pay attention to because caffeine isn’t limited to coffee, as you likely know. So be aware of other sources of caffeine in your diet, such as tea, chocolate, and even certain medications.
Plus, some people are just more sensitive to caffeine than others. Whether by genetic disposition or weight, your personal makeup matters in your caffeine response.
If you experience jitters, anxiety, or difficulty sleeping, it may be a sign that you might want to re-evaluate your caffeine intake. Even if it is less than the FDA’s recommendation.
So definitely listen to your body and how you feel.
When You Brew Coffee, What Factors Affect Caffeine Levels?
Great question! I’m glad you asked because that’s the perfect place to start unpacking how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee. The most influential factors are:
Type of Bean: The type of coffee bean used can have a significant impact on caffeine content. Arabica beans typically have half the amount of caffeine (around 1-1.5%) than robusta beans (about 2%).
Roast Level: The darker the roast, the less caffeine will be present in the coffee. This is because caffeine burns off at a higher temperature than the other compounds in coffee. But, this is actually a super marginal difference. I would put it last on the list of influence strengths here.
Brewing Method: The way in which you make coffee absolutely affects its caffeine content. For example, espresso has a higher caffeine content (around 60mg per shot) than a regular cup of drip-brew.
Serving Size: This one may seem obvious. But because of the huge variances that the brewing method introduces, I’ve got to say it:
A larger serving size will generally have more caffeine than a smaller serving size. Shots of espresso are the rare, but uber-important exception here.
PSA: I’ve written extensively about the science behind these factors, so head to that article if you’re looking for in-depth info about them.
How Much Caffeine in a Shot of Espresso?
A single espresso shot contains approximately 63mg of caffeine. A double espresso (also called a Doppio) has between 80-128mg.
The coffee bean and espresso extraction method you use definitely affects the amount of caffeine in the espresso you end up drinking.
For example, making espresso with a Moka pot uses less pressure than a machine, which changes the ultimate caffeine content—by a lot, it turns out.
One study found that Moka-brewed espresso contains up to three times less caffeine than machine-brewed espresso in the same one-ounce serving. That’s significant!
So if you’re worried about how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee but love the magicalness (yes, that is now a word) of coffee and can’t stand decaf, Moka brewing might be the best way to make espresso at home for you.
How Much Caffeine is in a Cup of Decaf Coffee?
Speaking of decaf: It gets a bad rap. For caffeine addicts like me, it’s because of the lack of ‘the good stuff’.
Typically, a cup of decaf coffee contains 2-5 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounces, which is about 97% less caffeine than a regular cup of coffee.
You probably know that decaffeinated coffee has had the majority of its caffeine removed. But did you know there are a few different decaffeination processes that strongly change how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee?
Yep. And the most common method used today is called the “direct method,” which involves using water and solvents to extract caffeine from the beans.
But while decaf coffee may have less caffeine than regular, it is not completely caffeine-free. That means if you’re caffeine-sensitive, you may still experience negative effects from drinking decaf.
How Much Caffeine is in a Cup of Coffee That’s Flavored?
This was something I was curious about, and the answer surprised me a bit:
Flavored coffees have less caffeine on average, than non-flavored. When I say “flavored”, I mean a peppermint or hazelnut-flavored roast, for example. Not syrups or sweeteners you add to coffee.
How much less caffeine is in a cup of flavored coffee exactly? About half the amount of drip coffee, it turns out.
Of course, this varies widely, but if you are cutting back on the caffeine and enjoy cinnamon-flavored coffee by the fire during the holidays like I do, it could be a delicious path to balance.
Caffeine in Popular Coffee Drinks and Brewing Methods
If you like to stick to a few of your favorite drinks, you may just want to know how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee based on common coffee drinks’ caffeine content. I got you!
Remembering that the ranges are highly dependent on the factors we’ve discussed, here is a breakdown of the most widely consumed coffee drinks.
Drip Brewed Coffee
The FDA says a standard 8 oz. cup of brewed coffee contains between 80-100 mg of caffeine. When I say drip-brewed, I mean automatic Mr. Coffee-style multi-cup makers.
Pour Over Coffee
You might be surprised to learn that pour-over coffee can have quite a bit more caffeine than drip brewed. In fact, 8 oz. of pour over can have up to 175mg of caffeine!
You read that right. A study done in Australia shows their work on this and it’s fascinating.
Why? You need hotter water to effectively extract coffee from grinds in a pour-over method. Hotter water means more caffeine.
A safe rule of thumb for cold brew is 200mg of caffeine in 16 oz. But I’d be doing a disservice to the science if I left it there. The reality is that gauging how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee is never a simple exercise—and cold brew is no exception.
In fact, cold brew is a wonderfully complex drink on the subject of caffeine and how it compares to others. Part of the reason why is because there are several versions of cold brew you an both buy and make at home.
For example, a 10 oz. ready-to-drink cold brew like Stumptown contains 279mg of caffeine. Or you can find cold brew concentrates at double the strength! There’s also nitro cold brew, which is a comparatively recent discovery but has exploded in popularity.
This well-designed experiment compared the caffeine and acidity levels of French press vs. cold brew. The major difference researchers found between hot and cold brewed coffee is the acidity levels. By long-steeping ground coffee, cold brew was significantly less acidic.
Less acidity makes coffee easier to drink, and for many people, more pleasurable. So, if you enjoy cold brew, you’re likely to drink more. And that’s where you should watch your caffeine intake.
Instant coffee has a reputation for being ‘bad’, and that may be due to the fact that is has much less caffeine.
In fact, an 8 oz. cup of instant coffee contains just between 50-90mg of caffeine. When it comes to instant, how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee totally depends on the brand you buy it from. But there’s research out there confirming instant coffee has about two-thirds the caffeine as plain ol’ drip brewed coffee.
The way instant coffee is made is actually super interesting. I can’t say it better than Science Direct:
In the typical process of instant coffee production, ground and roast coffee are treated with hot water and high pressure for extraction of the water-soluble material. The soluble material is then cooled, sometimes centrifuged, concentrated through heating and then dried through spray vaporizing, or freeze drying.A. Farah, in Functional and Speciality Beverage Technology, 2009
Crazy, right? Instant coffee is freeze-dried sometimes.
The process of making coffee ‘instant’ necessarily means it has less contact with water for extraction vs. traditional brewing methods.
With an average of 25mg of caffeine per fl oz., Turkish Coffee contains roughly 40-60mg of caffeine per serving. The drink is known to be strong, concentrated, and robust. When I have the pleasure of drinking Turkish Coffee, I treat the caffeine intake like espresso, since the milligrams per ounce are very similar.
Caffeine Chart: Amounts by Serving Size and Drink Type
Caffeine Chart: By Brewing Method
I chose an amount from the caffeine ranges we’ve discussed and standardized the serving size to 8 ounces. Hopefully, this helps visualize which brewing process yields more caffeine.
But take this with a grain of salt: I chose values from the ranges I discovered in my research. So there will be variances in how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee based on bean type, grind size, etc.
Caffeine is a potent compound and some people are simply more sensitive to it than others. But no matter how much you wish you could wave your wand and trade water for coffee, it’s important to be aware of the caffeine content.
At the end of the day, how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee depends entirely on how much you know about elements that affect caffeine—and what you do with that knowledge.
The best way to do this is to pay attention to the type of bean, roast level, brewing method, and serving size in your drink. That way, you can better control the amount of caffeine you consume and keep it safe.
Check out our in-depth article on the scientific research behind and experiments done on coffee’s caffeine content. There’s even a handy dandy calculator.
How Much Caffeine in Starbucks Coffee?
– Short (8 oz): 180mg
– Tall (12 oz): 260mg
– Grande (16 oz): 330mg
– Venti (20 oz): 410mg
Milk and/or espresso based:
– Tall (12 oz) Caffe Mocha: 95mg
– Tall (12 oz) Frappuccino: 65mg
– Tall (12 oz) White Chocolate Mocha: 75mg
– Grande (16 oz) Caffe Latte: 150mg
– Grande (16 oz) Americano: 225mg
– Venti (20 oz) Caramel Macchiato: 150mg
– Venti (20 oz) Iced Coffee: 235mg
How Much Caffeine is in a Cup of Coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts?
– Small (10 oz): 180mg
– Medium (14 oz): 210mg
– Large (20 oz): 270mg
– Extra Large (24 oz): 330mg
Milk and/or espresso-based:
– Small (10 oz) Cappuccino: 118mg
– Small (10 oz) Americano: 237mg
– Medium (14 oz) Latte: 166mg
– Medium (14 oz) Iced Coffee: 297mg
– Medium (14 oz) Cold Brew Coffee: 260mg
– Large (20 oz) Mocha: 150mg
How Much Caffeine is in a Cup of Coffee from McDonald’s?
– Small (12 oz): 109mg
– Medium (16 oz): 142mg
– Large (20 oz): 180mg