As a coffee shop owner, I get asked about caffeine a lot. How much caffeine is there in coffee? Whether a light roast or a dark roast coffee has more caffeine? How much caffeine is there in cold brew coffee? How does coffee compare to teas and sodas?
To answer the question let’s talk about the two main types of commercially grown coffee beans – Robusta and Arabica. Robusta coffee comes from Coffea canephora plant. Robusta can have more than twice the amount of caffeine than Arabica. But too much of a good thing is rarely real or the best - caffeine is a bitter tasting compound. Robusta is used primarily in instant coffee and as a filler in ground coffee blends. Arabica Coffee is from Coffea arabica plant. Arabica is used by specialty coffee shops due to its more nuanced flavors and smoother taste.
At Sip Java, all I serve is Arabica, but I lack a clear measurement on the amount of caffeine that is in each of the different roasts. So, I have compiled this information from a few reliable resources. I would love to test the coffee myself but caffeine testing requires a UV spectroscopy. The Laboratory People explain step by step How To Measure Caffeine Content In Drinks. Good luck!
How Much Caffeine is there in Coffee?
Light Roast vs. Dark Roast
Which has more caffeine – dark roast or light roast? Well, the answer is nuanced, it’s a volume vs. weight question – a true bean counting exercise. Coffee beans expel water during roasting. A lighter roast will retain more water and be heavier. Darker roasts are lighter having expelled more water. As a compound, caffeine remains stable during the roasting process - meaning a darker roast doesn’t lose its caffeine. At the coffee shop, we do everything by weight. When weighing out coffee for brewing, a darker roast will require us to use a larger quantity of beans, a lighter roast fewer beans. The reasoning goes, the more individual coffee beans the greater the caffeine content. So, a darker roast should have more caffeine but its very close in terms of bean count. To brew a great dark roast coffee, we don’t need very much coffee by weight. In fact, by weight I use slightly more of the light roast to achieve the flavor profile I prefer.
Getting a definitive answer on the caffeine in cold brew is not straight forward. At our shop, cold brew coffee is steeped for 24 hours using the Toddy method, then diluted with water. Based on my research I estimate that an ounce of cold brew coffee has between 26mg to 33mg. We sell our cold brew in 16- and 20-ounce cups with ice – so approximately 338mg in 16 ounces assuming 3oz of ice.
How does coffee compare to other caffeinated beverages? The amount of caffeine in tea varies base on the variety and the how long its steeped.
Sources used in preparing this post:
I've been blessed by my association with strong women. Both my grandmothers were widowed at a relatively young age. Both had children still in school. Both entered the work force to support their families. All sent their children to college, most received degrees, some received advanced degrees. Until I was 12, my mother stayed at home but went to work after my father suffered a heart attack. For the next 14 years my mother was the primary bread winner in our household.
In my extended family I had 3 great-aunts that never married in a time when marriage was the norm. My mother's aunts, Katie and Gertie were nurses and my father's aunt, Nora, worked as an executive secretary to the president of a large insurance company. I can't say with any surety what issues they faced in terms of working conditions, harassment or pay equity - issues that International Women's Day highlights. As was typical of a generation that faced the economic uncertainty of the Great Depression, they were grateful to have jobs.
So how can I explain the love and reverence I have for these women? They have set the standard by which I judge all the women in my professional and personal life. When I describe them to others it may seem I am writing a hagiography. But I can't overstate their intelligence, resolve and kindness.
Each was a lifelong learner. My maternal grandmother became an expert in football so she could participate in conversations with my uncles and her grandsons. Aunt Nora would recite from memory Longfellow's The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere followed by The Song of Hiawatha. From her I imbibed a deep love of history and reading.
My paternal grandmother, a school teacher, participated in a program in the 1950's that taught prisoners to read. I don't know if this program paid her a stipend or if she did this as her Christian Duty to visit the imprisoned. Unquestionably, there is a definitive mental toughness that corresponds with teaching the incarcerated. She had a wicked sense of humor - she once called my eldest cousin Paul, her favorite grandson in front of everyone. Obviously, we expect grandparents not to openly pick a favorite, but she laughed when explaining, "well, I've known him longer." I can live with this explanation.
Gertie and Kate, the nurses, started their careers at Boston City Hospital in the South End. In my imagination, I see them working the night shift, with film noir lighting - not taking crap from drunks, cops or first year residents - calling people they liked a "good egg" and referring to full grown men as "kids". Kate, an optimist, took out a 30-year mortgage, at 79 and worked in a nursing home taking care of "the old people." Gertie - no words will do her justice - lived on her on terms even when dying. She lived with my family for a bit. Stubborn and willful she smoked despite having cancer. Whenever I did something stupid and I did a lot of stupid things between 6 and 10, she would rhetorically ask - "Are you damn fool altogether?" She once convinced me I could purchase a pony with a $5 bill.
I could go on about the lessons my mother taught me, but she deserves her own post. If I had a favorite, it would be my maternal, football loving grandmother. One word sums up everything I remember about her - Brave.
In the mid 1960's she was diagnosed with breast cancer and opted for one of the few treatment choices at the time - surgery. My family lived in the same town as my grandmother, about 1 mile away. My uncle lived right next door, 100 ft. as the crow flies or 105ft if my grandmother had trained that crow to hop across the adjoining lawn with a note stuffed in its beak saying, "Hey, son, tomorrow I am going in for a radical mastectomy. Just thought you should know." No, not my grandmother - she opted for silence. My mother learned the news from the surgeon, who called to say, "Your mother is resting comfortably." My grandmother possibly shared the news with her sisters, Kate or Gertie or one of 8 other siblings. I don't l know. All I do know was my grandmother chose not to share the news with her children because "what could you do but worry?"
At Sip Java, I have 11 employees, 9 women and two men. On Friday as we celebrate International Women's Day, we will all be wearing purple T-shirts in solidarity with women everywhere. The time has come to recognize that equal work deserves equal pay and that everyone deserves a safe and harassment free work place.
I can't forget the images from June 2018, when a male pilot whale died in a canal in Thailand. As the whale floated in the canal, volunteers with umbrellas tried shielding him from the sun. The necropsy revealed the whale had swallowed 80 plastic trash bags. If plastic bags are killing the largest mammals on the planet what are they doing to the smallest?
So what does this have to do with coffee? Maybe nothing, maybe everything, primarily it's about accepting responsibility and trying to find a solution to cut down on the mountains of trash created every day. Consequently, I think about all the plastic bags I use in both locations. I think about ways on how to cut down on bags and the trash that goes into them. No easy solution comes to mind.
Like most people I hold a particular set of expectations about how a product should be packaged and how that package should look. For instance I tried returning the heavy cardboard boxes for reuse to our roastery. "Thanks, but no thanks" was the response. Storage in restaurants is always at a premium and the exterior of the boxes invariability got scuffed, stained or soiled. Not to the point of being functionally unusable but certainly not worthy of representing a brand. Like so many people, I am guilty of assuming if the packaging is compromised, the product inside is as well. So rather than recycle or reuse, we grab new stuff off the shelf.
Eight months ago I made a commitment to use compostable straws and take out containers. After some early struggles, I found local sources for these items at reasonable prices. Often, I need to order these online. Obviously, online ordering create another set of issues that involves trucking them from a distant warehouse. Ironically, I end up with boxes packaged in boxes to hold the boxes of compostable straws.
So my next attempt at saving the planet is to cut down on paper and plastic cups by encouraging the use of reusable cups. So if you bring a reusable cup from home, we will wash it and serve your drink in it - plus I'll give you a discount. I don't know if I can save a whale, but I want to try.