Is Espresso Stronger Than Black Coffee? Myth Busted


Espresso is touted as a strong, concentrated, flavorful drink with a lot of caffeine. These claims are true when taken with the proper context! One of the most common questions regarding espresso is about the caffeine content.

Espresso has higher levels of nutrients, oils, and caffeine and is more concentrated than standard drip coffee, so it tastes stronger. However, the average cup of coffee varies between 6 and 12 oz, while a shot of espresso is only 1 oz. Espresso is stronger by the ounce, but a standard cup of coffee contains more caffeine than espresso.

There are many questions when it comes to espresso versus black coffee. Fortunately, all these questions have answers, and some of the most common are addressed below.

This includes information about the differences and similarities between espresso and drip coffee, the nutritional benefits of coffee, and a thorough breakdown of the caffeine levels.

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How Do Brewing Methods Affect Caffeine Content?

Brewing methods very much affect levels of caffeine, as well as levels of other nutrients.

This is because different brewing methods result in different amounts of the coffee bean ending up in your cup.

The more of the beans’ content is in your cup, and the more caffeine is in your cup. It’s that simple!

What’s not as simple is figuring out which brewing methods produce the strongest coffee or what serving sizes you need in order to get your desired amount of caffeine.

With standard coffee makers, generally, the longer the hot water is in contact with the coffee grounds, the more concentrated your coffee will be, and therefore the caffeine level will be higher, too.

This calculation doesn’t necessarily hold true for other brewing methods, such as the ones used for espresso and cold brew.

Espresso grounds are finer than coffee grounds, which means that the water absorbs more of the beans’ content in a shorter amount of time.

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For brewing, hot watered is forced through these finer grounds, which pulls quite a bit of the coffee bean through.

This results in the thicker, stronger, more concentrated product we know as espresso.

Cold-brew, as the name implies, is brewed without using hot water at all. However, the brewing process is much longer than for a traditional coffee pot, usually 18-24 hours.

This allows more of the bean to be absorbed into the water, resulting in a stronger coffee.

Like espresso, cold brew is meant to be either diluted, mixed, or served in small quantities, though some people drink it like normal coffee.

Because the water is cold, it doesn’t absorb the bitter flavors you would get from over-extracted drip coffee.

Why Is Espresso Stronger Than Drip Coffee?

Espresso is stronger than drip coffee because of the brewing method described above.

Basically, espresso is a much more saturated drink than drip coffee. The increased material from the espresso beans means that espresso is thicker.

It’s also more densely packed with nutrients, oils, flavors, and caffeine. Generally, this is what people are referring to when they say espresso is stronger than coffee.

Some people, however, really only want to know about caffeine content when they refer to the strength of a caffeinated drink.

That answer, as discussed above, depends on quantity. Based on average serving sizes, a cup of black coffee has more caffeine than a shot of espresso.

However, if you were to put multiple espresso shots into a cup and treat it like black coffee, there would be much more caffeine in the overly-large cup of espresso.

Why Is There Confusion About Caffeine Levels?

The lack of a straightforward, simple answer makes it hard for some people to remember whether espresso or coffee has the higher caffeine levels.

The fact that when it comes to a set volume, espresso has more caffeine, but when it comes to an average serving, coffee has more caffeine really throws people.

It’s actually pretty similar to alcohol. Stronger drinks have a much lower standard serving size.

This means that one shot of liquor and one glass of wine will have roughly the same effect on your blood alcohol level.

Espresso, in this comparison, is the liquor; a little bit goes a long way, so think about how much liquid you want to consume, how much caffeine you’re aiming for, and go from there!

How Much Caffeine Is in a Single Shot of Espresso?

The average shot of espresso has around 40mg of caffeine. Some factors can adjust this, such as exactly what type of bean was used, but that is the average amount.

This is right around the same amount of caffeine as in a standard cup of tea, and it’s less than half of the amount of caffeine in an average cup of coffee.

Because espresso is mostly made from pretty similar beans (very dark roasted Arabica), caffeine content variation isn’t nearly as high as it is for drip coffee.

How Much Caffeine Is in a Cup of Black Coffee?

The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee can vary widely. The average cup of coffee has 95-165mg of caffeine. That’s a big range! Several factors can cause this.

First, the type of bean affects the amount of caffeine. The two plants we get most of our coffee from are Coffea canephora (known more commonly as Coffea robusta) and Coffea arabica.

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These give us Robusta coffee beans and Arabica coffee beans. Of these, Robusta coffee beans tend to have much more caffeine.

Second, roasting level affects caffeine content, with longer, darker roasts generally containing less caffeine than light roasts.

Third, while espresso requires a specific machine to make, there are many different brewing methods for coffee, and every brewing method creates a slightly different product.

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much Caffeine?

When you make your coffee at home, you probably don’t need to worry much about how much caffeine you’re having unless you’re caffeine-sensitive or doing things like drinking 8 ounces of espresso.

However, coffee shops are common, and chains like Starbucks have made a high caffeine intake a pretty common thing, with their drinks containing as much as 470mg of caffeine. That’s before any optional, additional shots of espresso.

How much caffeine should you have in a day?

For a healthy adult, the upper limit for caffeine in a single day is generally 400mg.

This means that you can consume more than the safe limit of caffeine in just a single drink from Starbucks.

That said, this upper limit is where most people start experiencing unpleasant side effects. Side effects requiring hospitalization don’t start until more like 1,200mg in a short period of time for a healthy adult.

There are groups of people who have a much lower maximum amount of tolerable caffeine per day.

This includes children, women who are pregnant or nursing, and people who are caffeine sensitive.

The exact amount will vary by person, and if you have any concerns, it’s a good idea to check with your physician. Generally speaking, this population should stick to 100mg or less of caffeine per day.

This translates to one cup of weaker coffee, one or two espresso shots, or two to three cups of tea.

Some people can’t handle any significant amount of caffeine. If you fall into this category, even decaffeinated coffees and chocolate may be too much.

However, there are some types of coffee beans that are naturally without any caffeine. These can be hard to find but might be the best solution for coffee lovers with extreme caffeine sensitivities.

Should I Drink Coffee or Espresso Before Exercising?

Some studies show a benefit to consuming caffeine before exercising. Since energy drinks are rarely healthy and tea rarely has enough caffeine per ounce to make a big impact, coffee is usually the go-to drink for this.

Espresso may even be the better choice since it puts less liquid in your stomach before you start working out. Drinking a coffee or espresso 45-60 minutes before your workout can result in multiple benefits.

Having more energy for a workout is almost always a good thing. This means you can run faster, jump higher, and it’s not as much effort to get into the workout groove.

After a really good workout, your body actually continues to burn extra calories for a few hours.

After a caffeinated workout, your body can burn about 15% more calories for the few hours following a workout. If you’re trying to lose weight, that’s not a small thing!

Caffeine helps most people concentrate. This means that you can focus on your workout and on getting the results you are looking for.

Some studies show a reduction in pain with caffeine consumption. If you’re like most people, pain is harder to handle when you’re tired.

Well, the same principle applies here! The more awake you are, the less likely you will be overwhelmed by normal aches and pains.

Drinking caffeine in healthy amounts won’t mask warning signs or pain that indicate something is wrong, which you should never ignore.

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