We all have our own reasons for watching our caffeine intake, but it can be tricky to know what’s what in the world of coffee drinks. Have you always wondered how much caffeine is in a latte, how to know how much caffeine in a tablespoon of coffee, or why coffee affects different people in different ways? Here's the official Coffee Bean Shop guide to caffeine.
What is caffeine
Coffee is one of the most widely enjoyed beverages in the world, and if we are being honest, it's for the buzz it gives us as much as for its unique taste.
This is down to a compound found within the beans called caffeine.
Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant that works on our central nervous system and makes us either feel like we can take on the world or leave us a jittering mess.
Lattes are one of the most ordered coffee drinks, and if you’ve always wanted to know how much caffeine there is in a latte, we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at why caffeine affects us all differently, why a drink from one place can be vastly stronger than the same drink in a different store, and how much caffeine the best-known beverages contain. Here we go.
How much caffeine is good for me?
Moderate consumption is generally agreed to be anything between 300-400 mg per day, but it is best to take that on a person to person basis, you will know how much caffeine is too much for yourself. Teenagers shouldn’t really have more than 100mg a day, even if cafe culture is being pushed upon them at worryingly young ages. Plus, with the advent of energy drinks that are deceptively easy to drink but include a high caffeine content, it is now a lot easier to expose yourself to caffeine toxicity (an overdose of caffeine), which comes in at anything over 400mg per day.
Why doesn't caffeine affect me?
Multiple factors play into the overall caffeine content of a coffee-base drink, as well as how much it will affect one individual to the next.
As we have discussed before, coffee in itself is known to have some amazing benefits to our health, when consumed within moderation. There are, however, side effects from excess caffeine consumption that can occur, and the threshold for this will vary from person to person.
How sensitive you are to caffeine is primarily a genetic disposition, and usually down to how quickly your liver can metabolise it, but your sensitivity can change over time or because of outside factors. Not having coffee for a while will naturally lower your tolerance once you consume it again. Body weight, dehydration, whether you have eaten anything recently and various health conditions can also impact how well your body reacts to caffeine. There’s even research now that certain neurodivergent types have different tolerances for caffeine, to the point that it may impact them in different ways.
As well as the individual consuming the coffee, the way that the beverage is crafted will also impact its caffeine content.
- The raw materials: not all coffee beans are made equally, and generally speaking, robusta beans contain higher levels of caffeine - twice the amount, in some instances - , as they are a hardier plant than their Arabica counterparts.
- The ratio of water or milk to coffee: We drink coffee with some version of milk to lessen the impact the acidity of the beans have on our stomachs - it is the very reason why in Italy Cappuccino is drunk as a breakfast drink - a small, easily digested jolt to start the day. Without this buffer, the coffee will taste stronger and may hit you harder. So, while an americano and a latte are both made up with the same amount of espresso (usually 2 shots), how they go down in terms of caffeine may feel different - but the caffeine levels are exactly the same.
- The brewing process: how you get the blessed taste and caffeine out of your beans will have a huge impact on the caffeine content of your drink. In an overly simplified manner of speaking: the longer the coffee steeps, the stronger the caffeine will be, so cold brew and drip filters will give you a larger buzz than a 20-second pulled espresso shot.
- The amount of coffee beans used: This brings us to the amount of coffee in said drinks. An americano with 4 shots will have far more caffeine than one made with just two. It may go without saying, but a lot of people forget that as there are no hard and fast rules for the makeup of certain drinks (except maybe the flat white, but that’s a whole other topic) you could order a large cappuccino from one popular maroon branded chain and end up consuming a whopping 370mg of caffeine in one sitting.
How much caffeine is in a latte? - The caffeine content in your favourite drinks
We all have our go-to preferred caffeinated drink, but how often is it ruled by how tired you are rather than what tastes you prefer? If you’ve ever wondered exactly how much caffeine you are consuming, here’s our guide to just how much caffeine is in a latte, what is stronger - a cappuccino or flat white, and whether milk or hot water play any part at all.
First of all, it is worth noting that all of these caffeine contents are based on a general recipe for the most popular drinks on offer. For simplicity, we have made the drinks contain 2 shots of espresso as that is what most regular-sized versions of these coffees contain in most high street stores. It is intended as a guide only, and if caffeine is a concern for you, we would advise asking the specific coffee shops for their own advice when seeking out accurate information.
Let’s begin by looking at espresso-based coffee drinks, as these are the ones you are most likely to find in your local coffee shops.
Latte: 173mg but the milk will make the taste and impact milder.
Cappuccino: 173mg, but as the milk is about a quarter the amount as in a latte (it is mostly made up of air to create the froth) it will taste stronger than a latte.
Americano: 173mg if made with two shots as the above 2, but will taste stronger without the milk to temper it.
Flat white: 130mg of caffeine, but as it is almost half the size of the other drinks, this may have a stronger effect.
Iced coffee: 165mg in a 500ml serving. Also, if drunk slowly, the ice melting will water down the intense taste of the espresso.
Espresso shot: 63-77mg per shot, depending on the beans used.
Compare these with a teaspoon of instant coffee (30-35mg per level spoonful) and you can see why a fresh brew hits you so much harder than the stuff at home.
Now for the types of coffee that you are making at home, or purchasing from more niche cafes. Again, as this is not an exact science and we do not know the type of coffee beans you are using, how long for, or the exact amount, this is an educated guess (at best) for the general amount of caffeine in an average-sized cup of coffee.
Cold brew: 200mg of caffeine in an average 500ml serving. This is usually used as a base for a drink with milk or water added to it. A coffee cordial, if you will.
Drip filter: 95mg per cup.
Pour over: 90-165mg per average cup.
French Press: 80-135, depending on the amount of coffee grounds used.
Moka pot: 350mg per full pot - but this usually creates about 3 cups worth.
Does chocolate have caffeine? What about decaf? Unexpected sources of caffeine.
Unless you are someone trying to avoid or control your caffeine intake (pregnancy being one of the most common reasons for this) then you may not know that caffeine can be found in other food and drink items outside of the traditional cup of joe. While this will mostly be from human intervention, it is also worth remembering that caffeine can be found in over 60 varieties of plants naturally, so always check if it is something you are watching.
Does chai have caffeine?
Chai and chai lattes are the dark horse of the caffeine world. The word latte leads many to believe that it is made with coffee, and thus when they ask for a decaf chai latte, a thorough explanation is needed. Chai lattes are made up of a chai tea mix (chai literally translating to tea) usually in the form of a concentrated syrup or powder that contains tea, spices and sugar. That’s where it can get a bit complicated, as tea also contains caffeine, sometimes even more so than coffee itself. So while technically there is no coffee based caffeine in a chai latte, the tea content could contain some, even if just trace amounts, depending on the ingredients used.
Does chocolate have caffeine?
Most people are aware that chocolate comes from Cacao, a similar plant to coffee and which also contains caffeine. And just like in the case of latte drinks, the darker the chocolate, the higher the cocoa content, thus the stronger the caffeine. A 50 gram bar of 75% cocoa chocolate could contain as much caffeine as an espresso shot, but generally milk chocolate is much lower. In an average bar of dairy milk, there’s only 9 mg of caffeine.
There are also some items that could contain caffeine that you may be totally unaware of, such as some painkiller tablets or cough syrup. Caffeine is added sometimes to alleviate symptoms associated with what the medicine is treating, or to help the body process the medicine more efficiently and quickly.
Caffeine is also added to some diet drinks, protein shakes and meal replacement options to help give the consumer a boost of energy, at a time when they are probably feeling quite depleted.
We hope that this article has answered all of your coffee buzz based questions, from how much caffeine can be found in a latte all the way through to hidden sources of caffeine that can be found in everyday items.
However you choose to get your daily hit of caffeine, make sure you use the freshest, highest quality coffee beans, such as the single origin and luxury blends that we sell here at the coffee bean shop.
Want to know more about the fascinating world of coffee beans, caffeine content or want to improve your barista skills? Explore our blog for all these kinds of topics and more.