Red Bull vs Coffee: Moderation Is Key!

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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I’m convinced there are two main types of people in the world: those who like to start their mornings with a steaming cup of coffee and those who like to get things going with a chilled Red Bull. Both beverages pack an energy boost, but in the Red Bull vs coffee debate that's where the similarities end!

Coffee vs red bull

I’m convinced there are two main types of people in the world: those who like to start their mornings with a steaming cup of coffee and those who like to get things going with a chilled Red Bull. Both beverages pack an energy boost, but in the Red Bull vs coffee debate that’s where the similarities end!

In this Red Bull vs coffee article I’ll be taking a look at the key differences between these caffeinated beverages. Oh, and in case you’re hoping for a Red Bull latte recipe, you can forget it. That’s never going to happen!

Red Bull vs Coffee Overview

When most people consider Red Bull vs coffee they focus on caffeine content (which I’ll get into later). However, there are plenty of other differences between these drinks . For one, Red Bull is a specific energy drink with fixed ingredients, while coffee is more of a broad category. For example, a caramel latte macchiato is going to have different amounts of caffeine and sugar than a plain old cup of joe.

The history of these beverages is wildly different too. Coffee has a rich history that can be traced back through centuries and across continents – all the way to the ancient forests of Ethiopia.

Red Bull, on the other hand, is an invention younger than the Internet. Many people consider it the “mother of all energy drinks,” and for good reason! The creation of Red Bull birthed the energy drink market – pun intended.

Unlike coffee, Red Bull is synthetically produced, and there’s no easy way for you to make it at home. If you want Red Bull, you’ll need to find it pre-made on grocery store shelves or in the reach-in fridges of your local gas station.

As far as flavor goes, the tangy, sour taste of Red Bull won’t agree with every coffee drinker. It’s carbonated and sweet, which is why some people may stick with morning coffee and save Red Bull for an afternoon pick-me-up.

Really, there are far more differences between Red Bull vs coffee than there are similarities. While people may consume both drinks because they like the taste and the energy boost, that’s about where the resemblance ends between these two.

How Much Caffeine Is in Red Bull vs Coffee?

There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question when we’re talking about coffee. As I’ve said, the caffeine content of coffee can vary based on preparation method – such as cold brew, espresso or just drip coffee.

I’ll go into more detail about the caffeine in all of these common preparation methods in a second, but if you’d like to see the data for yourself, you can also check out my caffeine study.

Arne testing out how much caffeine there is in each coffee drink.

Fortunately, ascertaining Red Bull’s caffeine content is a little more straightforward. An 8.4 ounce (250 milliliter) can of Red Bull contains 80 milligrams of caffeine. The larger 12 ounce (354 milliliter) can packs in around 111 milligrams of caffeine.

What’s interesting is that Red Bull often advertises itself as containing the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. But as you’ll see below, this isn’t necessarily true!

Now, using some of the most popular kinds of coffee drinks, let’s compare Red Bull’s caffeine content to java. Since the standard Red Bull can clocks in at 8 ounces (250 milliliters), that’s the serving size I’ll be using to compare with the coffee drinks below: 

  • Drip coffee: Using a drip coffee maker, an 8 ounce (250 milliliter) cup of brewed coffee may contain around 170 milligrams of caffeine. That’s actually way more than the 8 ounce (250 milliliter) can of Red Bull. If you’re only goal is an energy boost, downing brewed coffee may be the better option. 

  • Espresso: So, here’s the thing about espresso shots. Whether you drink espresso shots directly or in a cappuccino, each shot is only around 1 ounce (25 milliliters). Each shot of espresso packs around 68 milligrams of caffeine. You’d need to drink 8 espresso shots to get the same serving size as a Red Bull…which would be 544 milligrams of caffeine. Considering that’s more caffeine than you should be consuming in a day, I don’t recommend taking eight shots back to back. However, even just consuming two espresso shots would be 136 milligrams of caffeine. 

  • Cold brew: Using cold brew that’s gotten to hang out in the fridge for a full 24 hours, you can expect 280 milligrams of caffeine from an 8 ounce (250 milliliter) serving. Now, if you only let your cold brew sit for around 8 hours, that caffeine content drops down to around 238 milligrams. 

  • French press: I can’t forget about one of my favorite preparation methods. As it happens, 8 ounces (250 milliliters) of French press contains around 223 milligrams of caffeine. That’s more than double what you’d get with a small can of Red Bull. 

  • Pour over: Last but not least, pour over coffee contains 185 milligrams of caffeine in an 8 ounce (250 milliliter) serving.  

If this data proves anything, it’s that coffee almost always comes out on top in the Red Bull vs coffee debate – at least when we’re talking about caffeine content. 

Health Considerations When Drinking Red Bull

Since Red Bull is made synthetically, you won’t have as much control over what’s in your energy drink. Like most caffeinated beverages, you run the risk of increased heart rate and blood pressure when drinking Red Bull. This is especially true if you’re a caffeine newbie.

Much like coffee, you don’t want to exceed the recommended 400 milligram threshold. Granted, you’d need to consume around four 12 ounce (354 milliliters) Red Bulls to get there. And let’s face it, that’s probably more Red Bull than any of us need.

Outside of caffeine, Red Bull also contains Taurine. Like caffeine, Taurine is another naturally-occurring stimulant, so you could experience a bigger energy boost. When the commercials say that Red Bull gives you wings, they aren’t kidding!

One of the biggest health considerations with Red Bull has to do with the added sugar. The 8.4 ounce (250 milliliter) can contains 27 grams of added sugar, which is close to the daily recommended intake for most adults. Doesn’t exactly leave you much wiggle room for other sweets, does it?

Health Considerations When Drinking Coffee

Unsurprisingly, most of the health considerations surrounding coffee have to do with its high caffeine content. Talk to the experts, and you’ll find that your recommended daily caffeine intake shouldn’t exceed 400 milligrams. Remember, some types of coffee, like cold brew or French press, can contain half of that in a single cup. So, it’s best to keep track of how much you’re drinking!

Not to mention, some coffee drinkers can be a lot more sensitive to caffeine than others. One cup of coffee may barely wake you up, but it could leave other poor souls feeling too jittery to function.

As far as other health considerations go, sugar could be a concern if you’re adding a lot of it to your morning java. Certain coffee drinks, like sugary lattes or mochas, will pack a lot more sugar than just a plain cup of coffee.

Ultimately, as long as you keep an eye on how much coffee you’re drinking, measuring caffeine and sugar intake is manageable for most people.

Of course, not all the health considerations for coffee are negative. Coffee can have some health benefits as well, which are usually linked to the antioxidants in each cup. I won’t bore you with all the scientific jargon. However, there’s some evidence to suggest that coffee may be linked to lower risks of developing type 2 diabetes, liver conditions and even depression.

Depending on your preferred preparation method, the benefits of coffee may end up outweighing the potential cons.

How to Know When You’ve Had Too Much Caffeine

Speaking of that caffeine threshold, how do you know when you’ve had too much caffeine? Many of us are familiar with the feelings of a caffeine overdose. It’s usually accompanied by nausea and some unpleasant physical symptoms, such as: 

  • Insomnia 

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Fever

  • Irritability

I’m no doctor, but if you start to experience more serious symptoms like trouble breathing, chest pain, hallucinations or confusion, it’s time to take a trip to the emergency room.

Some people may be more sensitive to caffeine than others, so it may not even take 400 milligrams to begin experiencing caffeine overdose symptoms. So, the life lesson here is to make sure you’re checking in with yourself whenever you consume caffeine. And don’t be afraid to check in with a doctor if you’re not feeling well.

Which Poison Will You Choose?

If you were waiting on me to tell you which beverage comes as the winner of the Red Bull vs coffee debate, I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer! While I’m partial to coffee myself, which poison you pick ultimately comes down to preference.

If a real buzz is what you’re looking for, coffee and its higher caffeine content may be the right choice. Coffee is also customizable. Plus, if you’re looking to cut back on sugar, black coffee will win against Red Bull every time. 

However, if you’re craving something tangy and sweet to wake you up in the morning, Red Bull will really deliver. 

I suppose Red Bull with coffee is always an option, but I can’t guarantee these two flavors will pair well together. Interestingly enough, Red Bull released a cold brew flavor in Vietnam for a limited time. So, maybe there is something to combining the two. If that flavor ever makes it a little farther west, I’ll do a comprehensive review.

Regardless of which beverage you choose, it’s important to monitor caffeine intake. It’s all too easy to down too much coffee or Red Bull when you’re having a long, tiring day. As with most things in life, moderation is key!

Which beverage do you prefer to start your morning with: Red Bull or coffee? Let me know which drink comes out on top for you in the comments below!

Red Bull vs Coffee FAQ

Generally, Red Bull does not have more caffeine than coffee, unless you’re talking about a single espresso shot.

Both drinks have their health potential risks, but a plain cup of coffee packs less sugar and additives than Red Bull.

No, Red Bull will not necessarily keep you awake longer than coffee does.

Alternatives to coffee and Red Bull include other caffeinated beverages, such as black tea, green tea and soda.

Your coffee expert
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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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