cup of coffee with coffee beans on a saucer
Coffee Basics

How Much Caffeine Is in a Cup of Coffee?

cup of coffee with coffee beans on a saucer

When most people want a little caffeine, they turn to a cup of coffee. The little jolt of java adds a kick to the day and can serve as a pick-me-up in the mornings or afternoons. But how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee? That depends on the roast of the coffee bean and how it’s brewed. As the most consumed caffeine in the world, we’ll go over the average amount of caffeine in coffee and highlight what factors can affect the caffeine content of each mug.

How Much Caffeine Is in a Cup of Coffee?

how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee: molecule of caffeine

The average cup of coffee contains 80 to 100 milligrams of caffeine. However, the precise amount of caffeine in each cup varies depending on the roasting level, type of coffee, and other factors. It’s very difficult to determine the exact amount of caffeine you’re drinking — unless you’re willing to do a chemical analysis on each cup. There are several guidelines you can follow to determine a rough estimate of how much caffeine you’re getting in your cup.

The right amount of caffeine in each cup varies from person to person. Some people like darker roasts that have less caffeine while others prefer strongly caffeinated beverages. 

According to the FDA and USDA, healthy adults can consume around 400 mg of caffeine without adverse side effects of caffeine. That’s equivalent to four or five cups of coffee a day. Keep in mind, this includes all sources of caffeine — including things like green tea, black tea, energy drinks, and soft drinks in addition to regular coffee drinks.

To determine the right amount of caffeine for you, consider your preferences and talk to your doctor. If you have heart rate issues, lots of caffeine may exacerbate the problem. Other individuals can consume large amounts of caffeine without issue. Caffeine can also offer several health benefits so it’s best to discuss with a physician to determine if there are any limitations when it comes to your caffeine consumption.

Factors That Affect Caffeine Content

how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee: four different types of coffee drinks

There are several factors that affect the amount of caffeine in your cup of coffee. Each cup is different thanks to the origin of the beans, the way it’s brewed, and how it is roasted. Here are the main contributors to caffeine levels.

Coffee Bean Variety

There are two main types of coffee beans: robusta beans and arabica beans. Studies have shown that robusta beans tend to have more caffeine compared to arabica beans. In fact, one study of tested beans showed the robusta variety had 68 to 81 grams of caffeine per kilogram compared to 34 to 39 grams of caffeine per kilo in the arabica beans. Brewing a cup of coffee with different types of beans will result in different caffeine levels. 

Roasting Level

Coffee beans are green until they are roasted. During the roasting process, the beans are heated, causing them to turn dark brown or black in color. There are three main types of roasts: light roast, dark roast, and medium roast. Light roast coffee beans have the most caffeine since they are denser than their counterparts. Dark roast coffee beans have the least caffeine and medium roasts land in the middle. 

Type of Coffee

The type of coffee also factors in when calculating the amount of caffeine in a cup. Decaf coffee has had most of the caffeine removed while instant coffee, espresso, and regular brewed coffee all clock in at different caffeine amounts. In general, a shot of espresso will have more caffeine than the others. A shot of espresso is made by forcing water through finely ground coffee beans. Regular coffee is made using coarse grinds, which don’t produce as much caffeine when steeped in water. The amount of caffeine present comes down to where the beans were grown, how they were produced, and how they are brewed.

The type of coffee drink also matters. A latte, macchiato, or cappuccino that has milk and flavorings added may have less caffeine compared to a double shot of espresso. An Americano, which is brewed with twice the water, will also have less caffeine compared to a pour-over coffee.

Serving Size

Serving size plays a huge role in the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee. An 8-ounce cup will have less caffeine than a 16-ounce cup, for example, simply due to volume. The amount of coffee you add — say one or two scoops — will affect your caffeine intake. The same goes for ordering java at a coffee shop like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. A venti will have signifcantly more caffeine due to volume compared to a tall.

Brewing Method

Brewing methods also lead to different amounts of caffeine in each cup of coffee. Coffee can be brewed in a variety of different ways. You can make iced coffee, cold brew coffee, or brew it as a hot beverage using different water temperatures. There are also different tools that can affect the amount of caffeine in your coffee cup. A Moka pot, Chemex, drip coffee, French press, and espresso machine will all brew coffee slightly differently, thus affecting the caffeine levels.

One study found that cold brew tends to have the highest concentration of caffeine among the different brewing methods. The same study also found that coffee brewed at 203 degrees Fahrenheit for 4 minutes had the lowest caffeine content.

Getting the Right Amount of Caffeine for Your Tastes

hands holding a mug of coffee

How much caffeine is in a cup of coffee? In summary, if you’re trying to get the most caffeine, opt for a lighter roast robusta coffee bean. Or choose an espresso shot and make it a cold brew. On the other hand, if you want less caffeine, consider brewing a decaf coffee. Or opt for a dark roast at higher temperatures for several minutes.

When it comes to caffeine consumption, experts recommend limiting your intake to 400 mg (or 4 to 5 cups of regular coffee) per day. Remember that if you like strong coffee like espressos with more caffeine, you’ll have to drink fewer cups.

Looking for more ways to enjoy a cup of java? Continue browsing Cup & Bean where you’ll find popular coffee recipes and guides to coffee basics including how to make the perfect cup. Plus, you’ll discover country guides where you can learn more about how each bean is grown, harvested, and produced to create the different flavors in your cup.

After chasing down everything there was to know about tea on the Cup & Leaf blog, I'm now exploring the world of coffee. From different types to countries with the best brews and everything in between, I'll be your guide on this coffee discovery.