Caffeine In Coffee

Caffeine is only one of several hundred chemicals found in coffee. However, it is the most notorious because of the many physiological effects it has on the human body. Caffeine naturally occurs in many other plants apart from the coffee bush, such as tea and cocoa plants.

There is a long established link between coffee and mental stimulation, which gives a cupful a certain appeal. In fact, it could be argued that coffee drinking has helped change the course of history. In 1773, it was in a Boston coffee house where citizens planned the Boston Tea Party; and in 1789, it was from Café Foy that Camille Desmoulins led the angry mob that later brought down the Bastille.

Is Caffeine Good For Us?

Whether caffeine is actually good for us is a long and much-argued debate. Caffeine is commonly used by endurance athletes to permit them to train for longer and aid their recovery afterwards. Scientific studies have also linked it to the prevention of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. 

However, too much caffeine can lead to insomnia, diuresis, gastrointestinal disturbance, arrhythmia, psychomotor agitation and osteoporosis. It is also an addictive chemical, and can cause withdrawals if you choose to cut down or go ‘cold turkey’ for a while. 

Coffee Cup On Table

How Can I Reduce The Amount Of Caffeine In My Cup?

You can alter the amount of caffeine in your cup, as opposed to the amount of coffee – it is always worth using a Coffee Calculator to ensure you aren’t overloading though.

The amount of caffeine in an average cup of coffee (8oz/230ml) varies from between 80 to 150 milligrams. This variation is due to several factors: 

Variety

The main difference is caused by from where, and from which variety of plant, the coffee beans are harvested. As caffeine has natural antifungal properties, coffee plants grown in environments less favourable to the growth of fungal spores contain less caffeine. At high altitudes, the temperature and humidity are such that spores germinate too slowly to have too much of an effect on a coffee plant. So, generally speaking, the higher the altitude at which a bean is grown, the lower its caffeine content. Also, Arabica beans typically have half the amount of caffeine when compared to Robusta beans.

Roasting

The roasting process alters the amount of caffeine in a bean. A common misconception is that the darker the roast level, the lower the caffeine content. However, this is not really the case as caffeine changes very little during the roasting process. Caffeine has a very stable structure with a boiling point above 315°C, well above roasting temperatures which rarely exceed 245°C. Nevertheless, a small amount of caffeine is lost due to sublimation, where a substance changes directly from a solid state to a gaseous one. This occurs in caffeine at approximately 175°C.

The roasting process dramatically alters a coffee bean. A bean loses weight, mostly due to water evaporation, causing the level of caffeine by weight to increase. However, as beans nearly double in size when roasting, the level of caffeine by volume decreases.

Brewing

The final factor affecting the caffeine content of your cup of coffee is the brewing method. Different brewing methods require different amounts of coffee, ground to different sizes. Many people believe that espresso contains less caffeine than a regular cup of coffee. But as you need more coffee to make an espresso than a regular cup and the coffee is ground finer (increasing the surface area), the caffeine content is roughly the same. However, the effects will be felt more quickly with an espresso, and wear off faster, as caffeine is absorbed more rapidly when taken in concentrated doses.