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From the Coffee Roast to the Type of Coffee Bean: Everything You Know About What Coffee Has The Most Caffeine Is Wrong

The coffee with the most caffeine is technically a fine-ground, dark-roasted Robusta doppio espresso that’s been weighed out and brewed via a high-pressure machine.
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But the actual facts according to researchers paint a much more complex picture. And the truth is there are so many variables across at least four primary factors when determining caffeine content, every cup and coffee shop is different.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says a healthy adult should cap their intake at 400 mg of caffeine per day. I’m not a doctor, but I do know that high caffeine content contributes to making certain conditions worse.

So if you love coffee and drink it every day like many people, it’s a smart move to know how much caffeine is in your favorite drink.

Ready to get jittery with it? Here’s what the science says.

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My Process Researching Which Coffee Has the Most Caffeine

Spoiler alert: Determining what coffee has the most caffeine so you can follow those USDA guidelines is not a simple or straightforward process.

Why? Because of the many variables at play.

That’s why I spent a week going through several academic research papers and recent studies. I took a magnifying glass to myths and let me tell you:

The coffee drinkers I asked in researching this article believe dark roast makes the most caffeinated coffee. They also said espresso has the highest amounts, period.

And that is where common knowledge seems to end.

This is problematic because there are crucial elements that determine if a dark or light roast has more caffeine, a shot of espresso or cold brew, etc.

So I set out on a mission:

  • Corral the research.
  • Create a definitive article detailing the complexities of caffeine in coffee
  • Explain it as simply as possible.

To start, four main factors affect the strength of caffeine levels:

  1. Bean type
  2. Roast level
  3. Grind size
  4. Brewing type

Each of these factors has significant nuances we have to examine when determining the most caffeinated cup of coffee.

We need to go through each of them to get to the truth, rather than conveniently overlook complexity in favor of a quick answer.

Here’s why:

It’s not just the individual factors. It’s how you combine them for any one cup of coffee that finally determines the highest amount of caffeine.

Arabica Coffee vs. Robusta: What Type of Coffee Beans Have the Most Caffeine?

The short answer: Robusta!

But different types of coffee beans have different levels. In fact, Robusta has nearly twice the amount of caffeine as the Arabica coffee bean.

According to the National Library of Medicine: “Arabica green beans contain, on average, 0.9 to 1.5% dry weight of caffeine. In contrast, Robusta green beans have between 1.2 and 2.4%.”

Remember: This is an average.

The coffee’s origin affects caffeine levels, too.

One study tested caffeine differences between Arabica and Robusta green coffee beans solely grown in India.

In the case of the study on Indian coffee, researchers isolated the caffeine in equal amounts of 100 grams across two samples.

They found their Robusta beans sample to contain 182 mg of caffeine per 100 g. The Arabica sample yielded 154 mg/100 g.

The conclusion is that Robusta beans still contain more caffeine than Arabica across origins. But not exactly ‘double’ the amount everywhere.

Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a light Robusta-only blend.

Light Robusta on its own is not popular (or easy to find) because of its savory, grainy, and even vegetal flavor.

Not palatable to most people, but does make coffee with an extra kick.

That’s why roasted Robusta coffee beans are either medium-to-dark on their own. Or, roasters add it in small quantities to Arabica light roasts to increase the caffeine per volume.

what coffee has the most caffeine

What Coffee Roast Has the Most Caffeine Content?

The short answer is: If measured by weight, dark roasts have more caffeine. If measured by volume, like with a spoon, then lighter roasts have more caffeine.

Let me explain why.

You see, there is a common misconception that roasting dramatically changes the caffeine content in beans.

This simply isn’t true. Whatever caffeine is in the green coffee bean is also in the roasted bean, and any attributed differences in caffeine content will be slight.

Roast Level and Weight Both Impact How Caffeinated Coffees Are

The longer you roast coffee, the more porous the bean becomes, making darker roasts lighter in weight. So, the darker the roast, the less the beans weigh, but the bigger they are.

This means if you weigh your coffee, a dark roast cup’s caffeine has more of the compound since you need more beans to account for weight.

Say your grind size is the same between a light and a dark roasted batch of beans. One gram of the dark roast will hold more caffeine because dark beans weigh less.

If you are not weighing your coffee after grinding it, the situation is completely different.

Lighter roasted beans are technically smaller and have more mass or density. So, more coffee fits into volumetric measurements—like a tablespoon.

light vs. dark

If you just scoop ground beans into your French press, for example, you’ll have more caffeine per bean with light roast rather than dark roasted beans.

All this said, there is likely to be a negligible difference in caffeine content from the roast. Where we really get the most caffeine variances is with the beans.

Does Grind Size Affect Coffee Caffeine?

fine grind

Yes, significantly.

If your bean and roast type influence total caffeine mass (potential punk rock band name?), think about grind size as available surface area.

The finer the grind, the more coffee becomes available to water during extraction. And because caffeine is one compound out of several in coffee, it dissolves early on in the brewing process. With Turkish coffee, for instance, the grind size is close to a super fine powder. 

compound

So when you brew finely ground coffee, you’re increasing the ratio of coffee to water.

Different brewing methods call for different grind sizes. But generally speaking, a finer grind yields more caffeine, faster.

What Type of Coffee Brewing Method Brews the Strongest Coffee Beverage?

If you’ve gotten this far, you may be wondering which coffee has the most caffeine per cup.

Espresso has the highest caffeine by concentration. And espresso has the most caffeine when extracted by machine. But cold brew has an espresso drink beat by volume, according to this Italian study.

Here’s a graphical abstract from the study detailing its comparisons across eight brewing methods:

Screenshot 2023 01 15 at 10.20.49 PM
Image source. CGAs stand for chlorogenic acids, coffee’s second most important compound after caffeine.

How you brew your coffee dramatically affects how much caffeine you extract into your java.

In fact, your chosen brewing method is a much clearer indicator of how much caffeine you’re drinking than roast or bean type.

Comparing Espresso vs Cold Brew

Espresso extraction’s pressure through fine grounds yields hyper-concentrated coffee. But you are likely not drinking 10, 12, or 16 oz. of espresso. You drink more brewed drip and cold brew coffee.

So again, we have to consider the most caffeine-derivative brewing method in two ways: Concentration vs. volume.

  • By concentration, espresso undoubtedly wins at 63 mg of caffeine per ounce (or one shot).
  • By volume, cold-brewing coffee wins at about 200 mg of caffeine per 16 ounces.
caffeine type

Espresso vs Cold Brew vs Hot Drip Coffee: Which Has the Highest Caffeine Content?

Technically: Espresso, again by concentration at 63 mg per shot. But hot drip coffee has cold brew beat by volume on this one.

Why?

The cold brew extraction process calls for more ground coffee than hot brewed java, so the method itself yields higher levels of caffeine.

In fact, cold brew’s coffee-to-water ratio is about 2.5 times higher than hot drip java.

Yet, if you equalize cold brew’s coffee-to-water ratio to that of hot brew, the latter wins hands-down.

This is because hot water extracts more caffeine from coffee than cold water. In fact, hot-brewed coffee contains between 12-16 mg per ounce or 192-256 mg per 16 ounces.

The other factors we’ve discussed that determine what caffeine amounts still affect whether cold brew or hot brew is stronger. You need to consider your bean and roast types, serving size, and grind size, too.

But typically, with the coffee-to-water-ratio equal, our champs are:

  • Espresso has more caffeine per concentration.
  • Hot-brewed drip coffee has the highest amount per volume.
caffeine by kind of coffee

What to Add to Coffee for Energy if You’re Looking for Less Caffeine?

OK, so let’s say you’ve read this article and are wondering how you can feel more energetic from drinking coffee. But you don’t want to increase your amount of caffeine per day.

Although the guidelines I’ve detailed have caffeine coffee ranges, you might know how much caffeine you’re drinking already and be looking to actually cut back. Or, you’re sensitive to it and want to experiment with healthy additions or supplements.

I’m all for that personally, so I thought I’d share some things I’ve tried when I want a boost but know another coffee would send me spinning.

So, if you want an extra eye-opener out of your coffee without adding more caffeine, try adding a bit of:

  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom
  • Cayenne powder
  • Coconut or MCT oil
  • Unsweetened cacao powder

Not all at the same time, of course. 😉

Each of the above provides a slew of antioxidants and energy-boosting nutrients that you can hide in your coffee.

That said, I am definitely not a doctor, so talk to yours before supplementing your morning coffee using any of these ingredients.

energy no caffeine

The Cliff Notes – From Light Roast and the Type of Bean to Most Caffeinated Coffee Drinks: What’s the Coffee with the Most Caffeine?

To wrap things up, caffeine concentration is dependent on any combination of these four factors:

  1. Light or dark roast does not matter as much as how you’re measuring out coffee: By weight or volume (spooning it out of the bag). Dark roast yields more caffeine when weighed. Light roasted coffee beans contain more by volume. The opposite is also true: Darker roasts have less caffeine by volume. Light roast brewed coffee has less by weight.
  2. Robusta beans generally contain about twice as much caffeine as Arabica, but the actual number varies by the coffee bean’s origin. Different types of coffee farm environments (like altitude, climate, and soil) significantly affect how much caffeine is in your coffee.
  3. The finer the grind, the higher you’ll be flying. More surface area means you can extract more caffeine from the coffee.
  4. The brewing method is an influential factor in how much caffeine ends up in your cup. Machine-brewed espresso has the highest amount of caffeine per concentration. But cold brewing wins out on volume because of the sky-high coffee-to-water ratio.

Phew! That’s it for this one, coffee lovers. Looking into this topic is like opening a can of worms in some respects. You think it’ll be straightforward until you realize how complex the bean-to-cup adventure is!

So while I can’t provide simplicity, I do hope this has made sense and been helpful.

Strong Coffee Calculator: Discover How Much Caffeine is in Your Cup

I used the ranges from the research I found to put together a calculator that estimates how highly caffeinated coffee will be by combining the factors discussed above. Remember: This is an estimate only.

Bean type:
Arabica
Robusta

Weight (in grams):


Serving Size (in ounces):


Grind size:


Brewing method:



What’s the Most High-Caffeine Coffee? – FAQs

Which coffee brands have the most caffeine?

For those who want a higher caffeine content, look for blends that incorporate Robusta beans. Some coffee brands offer specific blends or roasts designed for an extra caffeine boost, so keep an eye out for those.

These brands make some of the strongest coffee out there:

– Death Wish
– Starbucks
– Chameleon cold brew
– Black label coffee by Devil Mountain
– Biohazard coffee (928 mg of caffeine per 12 oz. cup!)

Which brewing method produces coffee with the highest caffeine concentration?

If you’re looking for a brewing method that delivers a high caffeine kick, consider espresso. Due to its concentrated nature, espresso typically has a higher caffeine concentration compared to other brewing methods.

What beans generally contain the most caffeine?

Robusta coffee beans generally have a higher caffeine content compared to Arabica beans. If you’re seeking a higher caffeine boost, opt for Robusta.

How does the caffeine content vary between light and dark roast coffee?

Contrary to popular belief, the caffeine content in coffee remains relatively stable regardless of the roast level.

But darker roasts often taste stronger due to the caramelization of sugars, which can give the perception of a more robust caffeine kick.

The way you grind and measure your coffee out affects the ultimate caffeine amount more so than whether your beans are light or dark. But your combination of all these factors matters most.

What is the average caffeine content in a regular cup of drip-brewed coffee?

On average, a regular cup of drip contains around 95 milligrams of caffeine. However, do keep in mind that this can vary depending on factors such as the type of beans used and the brewing process.

How does the caffeine content in espresso compare to regular coffee?

While the serving size differs, a typical shot of espresso contains less caffeine than a regular cup of coffee. However, since espresso is consumed in smaller quantities, the caffeine concentration per ounce is significantly higher in espresso.

What factors affect what coffee has the most caffeine?

What coffee has the most caffeine is influenced by the type of coffee beans, brewing method, water temperature, brewing time, and even the grind size. Each of these variables can contribute to slight variations in caffeine content.

Does the grind size of coffee beans impact caffeine extraction?

Yes. Finely ground coffee beans tend to have increased surface area, which increases caffeine. However, it’s important to note that the overall impact on caffeine is relatively minor.

Are there any decaffeinated coffee options available that retain a higher caffeine level?

No. The decaffeination process involves removing caffeine from coffee beans, so decaffeinated options naturally have significantly less caffeine compared to regular coffee.

How does instant coffee compare to brewed coffee in terms of caffeine content?

Instant coffee generally contains slightly less caffeine compared to regular coffee. However, the difference is minimal.

Is cold brew coffee higher in caffeine compared to hot drip coffee?

Yes. The extended steeping time during the cold brewing process allows for more caffeine to process out of the beans.

Does the brewing time affect the caffeine concentration in coffee?

Brewing time can impact caffeine concentration to some extent. Longer brewing times may lead to slightly higher caffeine extraction, but the effect is relatively small compared to other factors such as coffee bean type and grind size.

What are some alternative coffee beverages with high caffeine content?

If you’re looking for alternatives to regular coffee with a high caffeine content, consider drinks with espresso-based recipes (e.g., cappuccino, latte), energy drinks, or even certain types of tea, like matcha or yerba mate.

Can you provide tips on how to maximize caffeine extraction when brewing coffee at home?

To maximize caffeine extraction when brewing coffee at home, consider these tips:

– Use freshly roasted beans.
– Grind them just before brewing.
– Ensure proper water temperature (around 195-205°F).
– Maintain the recommended brew time.
– Experiment with different brewing methods to find what works best for you.

How does the caffeine content in coffee compare to other caffeinated beverages, like tea or energy drinks?

Coffee generally contains more caffeine compared to tea or energy drinks. However, it’s essential to note that the actual caffeine content can vary significantly depending on the specific product and serving size.

Does the geographical origin of coffee beans have any impact on caffeine?

The geographical origin of coffee beans does not directly influence caffeine levels. Instead, factors such as coffee bean variety and roast level have a more significant impact on caffeine content. But different regions often produce distinct flavor profiles, offering a diverse coffee experience.

What type of coffee is the strongest?

If you’re in search of a coffee that can give you a serious jolt, there are a few types that are known for their strength. When it comes to the strongest coffee, robusta beans take the crown.

Robusta coffee beans are known for their high caffeine content, making them a popular choice for those seeking an extra kick. Compared to arabica beans, which are generally milder and smoother, robusta beans have nearly double the caffeine content.

But “strongest” doesn’t solely depend on caffeine content. The strength of a coffee can also be influenced by factors like the roast level, brewing method, and even the amount of coffee grounds used per serving. So, if you’re looking for a strong cup of joe, consider combining robusta beans with a darker roast measured by weight and a brewing method that extracts more flavor.

Remember, finding the strongest coffee may not always be equal to what coffee has the most caffeine. Dark roast on its own tastes stronger, for example. You’ll want to experiment with different coffee types, blends, and brewing techniques to discover the perfect balance of strength and flavor.

What coffee is best for caffeine?

If you’re seeking a strong caffeine kick, robusta coffee beans are your best bet. Robusta beans tend to have higher caffeine grades compared to their counterpart, arabica beans. So, if you’re after a real caffeine boost, look for coffees that contain a significant proportion of robusta.

Don’t forget that the taste profile of robusta can be more bitter and less nuanced compared to arabica. So, while it may be high in caffeine, it might not offer the same depth of flavor.
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