How Much Caffeine Is There in Coffee and Other Drinks?

Caffeine wakes us up, stimulates the cardiovascular system, and supports concentration and attention. Normal consumption has no detrimental health effects according to current scientific knowledge. However, when does normal consumption end, and what is considered too much?

Caffeine wakes us up, stimulates the cardiovascular system, and supports concentration and attention. Normal consumption has no detrimental health effects according to current scientific knowledge. However, when does normal consumption end, and what is considered too much?

Update for 2019: Because we were tired of the endless guessing, we conducted our own laboratory investigation in the summer of 2019. Together with the Institute for Product Quality (ifp) in Berlin-Adlershof, we tested 15 preparation methods, such as espresso, cold brew or French press, for their caffeine content. Here you can view the results of the study.

That depends, of course, on how much caffeine is in your drinks and foods. You don’t ingest caffeine only when you drink coffee and “energy drinks.” You also do when you consume tea, soda and even chocolate.

Let’s take a closer look at exactly what caffeine quantities we are talking about.

The Caffeine in Coffee: The Basics

Caffeine is an alkaloid found mainly in coffee beans, tea leaves and cocoa beans. Coffee Beans Caffeine ContentAlkaloids are naturally occurring nitrogen compounds, which have various and specific effects on humans or animals. For example, nicotine and other opiates also fall into the alkaloid category.

Coffee beans and ready-prepared coffee have different caffeine contents. Even the beans themselves contain different inherent amounts of caffeine. The amount that ends up in the finished drink also depends on:

  • The beans’ roasting temperature
  • How finely the beans were ground
  • How long the coffee grounds were steeped
  • The steeping temperature

The best-known types of coffee are Arabica and Robusta. They differ, amongst other things, in caffeine content. Arabica beans contain about half as much caffeine as Robusta coffee. Arabica averages 1.2-percent caffeine and Robusta averages 2.2-percent caffeine.

If you want to limit your caffeine consumption, the good news is that Arabica is much more widespread. Manufacturers sometimes even mix in some extra Robusta beans to make other coffees stronger.

The Average Caffeine Content of Coffee and Other Foods

Espresso CaffeineThe European Food Safety Authority has assessed that 200 milligrams of caffeine per single dose and 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is harmless to healthy adults. Pregnant or breastfeeding women can safely consume 200 milligrams per day without damaging their children.

However, what does that mean in terms of coffee, espresso, tea or chocolate? The following table provides an overview.

DrinkCaffeine Content (Milligrams per 100 Milliliters)Milligrams Per Serving% of Recommended Daily Limit
Filter Coffee55
82.5 (150 milliliters)
20.6
Espresso13333.25 (25 milliliters)
8.3
Decaffeinated23 (150 milliliters)
0.75
Instant Coffee39
58.5 (150 milliliters)
14.6
Black Tea2030 (150 milliliters)
7.5
Green Tea1928.5 (150 milliliters)
7.1
Drinking Chocolate69 (150 milliliters)
2.2
Coca-Cola10
33 (330 milliliter-can)
8.2
Coca-Cola Light/Zero1239.6 (330-milliliter can)
9.9
Afri-Cola1020 (200-milliliter bottle)
5
Afri-Cola 255
50 (200-milliliter bottle)
12.5
Fritz-Kola2582.5 (330-milliliter bottle)
20.6
Club Mate20100 (500-milliliter bottle)
25
Red Bull
3280 (250-milliliter can)
20

For drinks, I indicated caffeine content per 100 milliliters and per serving size. Espresso, for example, contains more caffeine than filter coffee, but it still has less caffeine per cup because the serving sizes are usually smaller.

In the serving column, I indicated in brackets the assumed portion sizes. The fourth column refers to one serving and indicates how much of the recommended daily limit you would therefore use.

Most of the figures come from a presentation about caffeine-containing foods published by Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences. I was able to roughly reconcile these figures with other values I found online – for example, the German Coffee Association website.

How Much Is Too Much Caffeine?

As I mentioned earlier, though, you certainly shouldn’t rely blindly on this information, especially in the case of coffee. These are average values can vary greatly from one cup of coffee to another. That’s why a 2014 study called for an end to using “a cup of coffee” as a unit measure of caffeine.

The researchers in that study tested more than 100 espressos and cappuccinos across Scotland, Italy and Spain. The measured amount of caffeine per serving ranged from 48 milligrams to a whopping 317 milligrams! A serving of 317 milligrams is officially no longer classified as “harmless” and uses up a good three-quarters of an individual’s daily limit.

It must be said, though, that the serving must have been pretty big. Hopefully anyone faced with it would think for themselves and decide that it wasn’t a particularly healthy choice!

I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything more specific about your personal caffeine intake. The subject has simply not been researched in more detail, and caffeine content differs greatly from cup to cup.

Filter Coffee Caffeine

When brewing your own coffee, though, I can at least pass on one rule of thumb. The hotter the water, the longer the steeping time, and the finer the coffee grinds, the more caffeine will be infused into the finished drink.

Additionally, part of the caffeine molecules dissolve when they are roasted at high temperatures. Since these roasts have a darker color, this is also an indication of beans with a lower caffeine content. If you have a lighter roast, it might have more caffeine.

Should Children Consume Coffee?

There’s another interesting fact to note from the German Coffee Association’s websiteCan Children Drink Coffee. A bar of milk chocolate contains 20 milligrams of caffeine, but a bar of bittersweet chocolate contains nearly 80 milligrams – more than a double espresso! Good thing kids generally don’t like dark chocolate, anyway.

It’s a good question, though: What about children? Are there any specific health risks associated with children consuming caffeine? Are there legal regulations?

At the moment, the answer to both questions is “no.” The European Food Information Council determined that, in principle, a child’s body can process caffeine just as well as an adult.

Caffeine by Numbers

It should be noted, however, that a smaller or lighter body can process less caffeine. The same European Food Safety Authority article suggests a general rule for calculating personal intake limits:

  • The body weight in kilograms multiplied by three equals the recommended maximum consumption per serving in milligrams. (1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds)
  • The body weight in kilograms multiplied by 6 equals the recommended maximum consumption per day in milligrams. (1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds)

Examples:

  • 50 kilograms (110 pounds) body weight * 3 = 150 milligrams of caffeine per serving
  • 50 kilograms (110 pounds) body weight * 6 = 300 milligrams of caffeine per day
  • 120 kilograms (264 pounds) body weight * 3 = 360 milligrams of caffeine per serving
  • 120 kilograms (264 pounds) body weight * 6 = 720 milligrams of caffeine per day

However, this is only a rough guide because tolerance also depends on other (unknown) factors. Coffee drinkers usually know from their own experiences what their limit is.

Legal Limits to Caffeine

The only legal requirement is that beverages with a caffeine content of more than 150 milligrams per liter must be labeled accordingly. Coffee and tea are exempt because the authorities assume that everyone knows that these drinks contain caffeine. The regulation therefore mainly concerns energy drinks.

However, this has nothing specifically to do with children. At the moment, minors can still buy unlimited amounts of energy drinks. In some instances, retailers have voluntarily introduced age restrictions, but only partially. Even then, these restrictions are not always consistently implemented.

Because the excess consumption of energy drinks can be quite harmful, the Foodwatch organization is calling for a statutory age limit. (The article is only available in German.)

In your experience, how much coffee per day is okay, and how much is too much? Should energy drinks be legally regulated, or should it be left up to parents? I look forward to hearing your opinions!

  • Main Picture Copyright: iStockPhoto.com/BartoszLuka
  • First Picture Copyright: iStockPhoto.com/msk.nina
  • Second Picture Copyright: I took this in my kitchen.
  • Third Picture Copyright: I took this in my living room.
  • Fourth Picture Copyright: iStockPhoto.com/Tomwang112

2 Comments

    Well explained! Great charts and very informative. I got all the information I needed and learned about caffeine so much . Thanks for the well written article!

    Reply
    Arne

    Hello Sue,

    thank you very much for your comment :). Greetings Team Coffeeness

    Reply

I look forward to your comment