espresso beans

How Much Caffeine in a Shot of Espresso? – Unveiling the Truth

Out of all the things that are associated with our lives, coffee consumption is one element that does bring along lots of myths and mysteries – some of which we still tend to believe in, mainly because we are unaware of those coffee-related facts.

And one of the most commonly misunderstood aspect is the presence of caffeine in an espresso shot – to be precise, many of us still do not know how much caffeine in a shot of espresso is there, really.

All these years you might have been assuming that other types of coffee beverages and brewing methods have lesser caffeine levels. Today, we are going to present you some astonishing facts and comparisons regarding caffeine levels in espresso shots and other coffee variations.

What is an Espresso?

Before we discuss the caffeine-related aspects of an espresso shot, let us first understand what espresso really is.

In the simplest of definitions, espresso is a specific coffee brewing method where near-boiling water is forced through a ‘puck’ of fine ground coffee using a certain amount of pressure.

The History of Espresso

In 1901, Luigi Bezzera invented the first espresso machine and the only goal he wanted to achieve with his invention was a ‘quick cup of coffee’.

However, in the late 1940s, Achille Gaggia took this concept a step further by adding manual levers to pull those perfect espresso shots.. But wait a minute, an espresso shot? What is that and why is it called a ‘shot’?

The ‘Shot’ of Espresso

A ‘shot’ of espresso is basically the name given to its serving and nothing more than that. One espresso shot usually equals one ounce. Two shots of espresso would mean double the quantity and referred to as ‘doppios’.

Espressos are supposed to be served in a demitasse that has a quantity of 2-3 ounces.

So that is all about the ‘shot’ terminology for an espresso. It has nothing to do with the concept of consuming the drink in a single gulp like those tequila shots.

Espresso VS Coffee

We will talk about the caffeine level difference later, but first let’s try to understand at other factors that differentiate a regular cup of coffee from an espresso.

Roasting

Once harvested, coffee beans have the natural greenish color – quite unfit for coffee brewing. For that, these beans go through the roasting process.

As far as roasting is concerned, espresso beans are usually roasted till they become really dark. This is mainly because of giving them the tendency to go through high brewing pressure.

On the other hand, regular coffee will generally be made using light or medium roasts to get the smooth, flavorful cup of coffee. However, this largely depends on your personal preferences, some people do like bitterness in their regular coffee as well.

Grinding

Espresso is made using a fine coffee grind, somewhere between table salt and flour. As far as regular coffee is concerned, medium grind is preferable to get the aromatic yet balanced flavor in your coffee.

Brewing

One of the major differences between an espresso and a regular coffee is the brewing mechanism. Espressos are generally made using an espresso machine. Most of these machines come with a 9-15 bar pressure that forces heat within a span of 30-40 seconds.

Regular coffee do not necessarily require a fancy equipment. For example, pour over and drip coffee makers do not have such mechanisms for coffee making.

How Much Caffeine is in a Shot of Espresso?

When we talk about the amount of caffeine in a shot of espresso, one of the major factors that plays a vital role is the size of your cup. In most parts of the world, a barista will pull an espresso shot that is usually an ounce. One ounce of espresso contains around 60-65 mg of caffeine.

Comparing it with a regular coffee cup, a single ounce of coffee will have around 12-14 mg of caffeine. So technically speaking, yes caffeine levels are higher in an espresso shot as compared to regular coffee.

Where Does the Confusion Lie?

The fact that is often overlooked is that even someone who is not a huge fan of coffee, will have more than one ounce of coffee. A regular coffee drinker will have around 8 ounces – this means more than 100 mg of caffeine.

Another reason why people assume that an espresso shot is more caffeinated than a regular coffee is it’s overall bitterness. Since espresso is made from a dark roast, it is supposed to be slightly more bitter, yes.

However, bitterness has nothing to do with the amount of caffeine. The bitter taste is because of the Maillard reaction that is vital for coffee flavors.

Quite contrary to this assumption, espressos have lower caffeine levels and this is the reason why Italians usually consume around 8-10 espresso shots a day. Try that with regular coffee and you will know what caffeine overdosing feels like.

In addition to this, there are a lot of other factors that may have an impact on the exact caffeine amount in your beverage. For instance:

  • Preparation Method
  • Type of Coffee
  • Amount of Coffee
  • Coffee Brand

How Much Caffeine in a Double Shot of Espresso?

Since a double shot of espresso generally means double the quantity, so it can have around 120-140 mg of caffeine.

Again, brewing styles, coffee brands or even the coffee shop that you are ordering your espresso from might have a role to play. For example, one coffee shop might use 20 grams of coffee beans for an espresso shot, another shop might be using only 15 grams.

Why Do We Need High Caffeine in the First Place?

Apart from all the health benefits that come with moderate caffeine consumption, a true coffee aficionado will always want to enjoy the ‘caffeine moment’ in his coffee cup. Why, really?

The Energy Boost

One of the major reasons is that caffeine is known to release dopamine – a brain neurotransmitter that activates certain parts of our brain. Due to the blockage of adenosine reception, you tend to feel alert and energetic.

This is why a lot of researchers believe that the mechanism of heroin and coffee is the same, however, the extent to which you feel those effects are different. And this is the reason why coffee addiction is a very real phenomenon.

The Need to Perform for Longer Duration

In this competitive and fast-paced lifestyle, we all have those demanding days where we need to deliver projects, meet deadlines or achieve exceptional grades in our exams. For that, we need our body and our brain to function at optimum levels.

Due to the aforementioned dopamine and adrenaline effects that come with caffeine in a cup of coffee, people drink it to stay awake for longer hours and eventually, keep functioning at optimum mental and physical efficiency.

When Does Caffeine Becomes Harmful?

Well, just like with most of foods and beverages that we consume, consuming caffeine in moderation is undoubtedly healthy. When we say in moderation, it means staying below the FDA-approved caffeine consumption of 400 mg per day for adults.

This means around 4 regular coffee cups or around 5 double espresso shots. Make sure you are not pushing your body limits over the line, and when your body signals you to stop, pay attention. There could be serious negative health conditions if you are over-consuming caffeine on a regular basis.

What Causes Caffeine Variation during Extraction Process?

At times you might have thought about why the amount of caffeine differs among various coffee shops or coffee brewers – well, the answer is simple – caffeine is extracted forcing hot water into coffee and as a result, different brewing methods have different caffeine extraction.

Other factors that play a significant role in caffeine extraction are:

Saturation

It is imperative that the grind is 100% saturated to ensure thorough caffeine extraction from the ground coffee.

Time

The ideal brewing time for an espresso shot is somewhere between 20 and 30 seconds. This is because all available caffeine is released during the first 60 seconds during the extraction process.

Temperature

Since hot water acts as a solvent in the extraction process, it is important to set the right temperature here. The ideal temperature is 95-105 degree C (near-boiling).

Water temperature makes a huge difference in caffeine extraction process and this is why a cold brew takes around 16-24 hours for the same process.

Grind

The coffee grind will maintain the fine balance between under-extraction and over-extraction. A finer grind means caffeine will be extracted rather quickly as the water reaches the surface easily and saturation begins sooner.

However, it needs to be perfect – if grind is too fine, there will be over-extraction and if the grind is too coarse, there will be under-extraction.

Caffeine Levels VS Coffee Roasts

As we already mentioned above that espressos are generally made with darker roast. Even with their strong flavor, dark roasts have lesser amount caffeine. Due to the longer heating duration for these type of roasts, it breaks down the caffeine molecules.

On the other hand, light roasts need less heat and therefore contain more amounts of caffeine.

Caffeine Levels VS Ground Coffee Beans

Coffee grind will always vary from one coffee type to another. For instance, espresso requires much finer ground coffee as compared to a drip coffee.

Finer coffee grind will always mean that it has more caffeine and vice versa.

Caffeine Levels VS Coffee Bean Types

The amount of caffeine also differs according to the type of coffee bean being used. Robusta coffee beans are known to have a higher amount of caffeine as compared to the Arabica coffee beans.

Instant coffees are usually made up of Robusta coffee beans, thus they tend to have higher caffeine levels.

Caffeine Levels VS Brewing Methodology

The amount of caffeine that you consume in your espresso or regular coffee also largely depends on the brewing method that you are using. The longer the brew duration, the higher the caffeine amount in it.

For example, if you are using a French Press, you will leave the coffee sitting in it for around 4-6 minutes before you press the plunger. This gives you a highly caffeinated drink.

On the other side, the modern-day drip coffee makers come with brew time selection and at any time, you can stop the brew and take out a cup – this cup will usually have lesser amount of caffeine.

Caffeine Levels VS Pre-Made Coffee

Those fast food outlets that do have coffee on their menu, will generally have lesser amount of caffeine as compared to the coffee shop near your place, or your favorite barista that you have been going to since years.

Similarly, the amount of caffeine in a Starbucks espresso shot will be twice as what you will get from a McDonald’s coffee cup.

Espresso with the Least Caffeine

If you are trying to cut down on you caffeine intake, but you can’t eliminate coffee consumption altogether – that is no problem whatsoever. You can go with an espresso that has the least amount of caffeine.

Use 7 grams of dark roast, coarsely ground Robusta beans that is pulled as a single ristretto shot will have lesser caffeine as compared to all the other espresso shots.

If you want to go really low on caffeine intake, you can also try the decaf coffee or mix it up with Excelsa beans.

Espresso with the Highest Caffeine

Considering all the factors, highest caffeine concentration beverage would be the one made from a light roast, finely ground Robusta coffee which has been brewed using a drip coffee maker or a French Press for more than five minutes.

For drip coffee brewing, if you are using 7-8 grams of coarse ground coffee grinds and a lungo pull – those light roast beans – then you are about to have a caffeine overdose, for sure!

How to Reduce Your Caffeine Intake?

Prolonged caffeine overdose is known to cause health issues, and if you believe that your caffeine intake is above what it should be, there are ways to cut down on it.

Size of Cup

If you have been ordering a large size of coffee cup at your favorite coffee shop, you can change that and instead start ordering the smallest size that they serve.

Brew Fresh Each Time

If you are brewing your own espresso at home, brew what you can consume. Try not to brew ‘extra’ coffee as you will eventually consume that, too. Go with fresh brewing each time, this will naturally decrease your caffeine intake.

Reduce Other Caffeine Beverages

Remember, espresso or regular coffee is not the only beverage through which you are consuming caffeine. Tea, carbonated drinks, chocolate-based drinks and chocolates, etc, also have caffeine. You might want to reduce on such edibles and beverages, too.

Caffeine in Espresso (by Preparation Method)

Now we will have a brief overview of amounts of caffeine in different espresso-based coffee drinks.

Espresso TypeAmount of Caffeine
Single Shot Espresso30-100 mg (usually 60 mg)
Double Shot Espresso
(Doppio)
60-190 mg (usually 120 mg)
Decaf Espresso Single ShotAround 8 mg
Decaf Espresso Double ShotAround 16 mg

Caffeine in Coffee (by Preparation Method)

As far as caffeine level in various coffee drinks is concerned, it generally differs based on a lot of factors. However, to get a basic idea, here is a list of some of the popular coffee drinks in the world and their caffeine levels:

Type of Coffee DrinkAmount of Caffeine
Boiled Coffee (per 8 ounces)160-240 mg (usually 200 mg)
Drip Brewed Arabica Coffee (per 6 ounces)80-130 mg (usually 110 mg)
Drip Brewed Robusta Coffee (per 6 ounces)140-200 mg
Drip Brewed Single Serve Coffee Pods75-150 mg
Drip Brewed Passiona Excelsa (6 ounces)40-60 mg
Drip Brewed Decaf Coffee (per 8 ounces)2-12 mg
French Press (per 8 ounces)80-135 mg
Instant Coffee (per 8 ounces)30-170 mg (usually between 65-90 mg)
Instant Decaf Coffee (per 8 ounces)2-12 mg
Percolated Coffee (per 5 ounces)80-135 mg

Some Espresso-related Facts

Here are some interesting facts regarding espressos that you, as a coffee lover, should be well aware of. It will not only increase your coffee-related knowledge, but also equip you with information that will assist you in getting the best coffee flavor the next time you brew at home or go to a coffee shop.

  • A single serving of Espresso is known as a ‘shot’ while two servings is called a double shot or ‘Espresso Doppio’.
  • A very small size of shot is called the ‘ristretto’.
  • Espresso is usually topped with a golden, creamy layer known as the ‘crema’.
  • Generally, coffee shops will have their own espresso styles, blends, equipment and even the filter basket or puck sizes.
  • The USDA value for Espresso coffee is 64 mg caffeine per one fluid ounce.
  • Espresso that is topped with whipped cream is called ‘Espresso Con Panna‘ or Café Vienne.
  • Instead of the usual 1.5 fluid ounces, if the shot is poured for 2-3 ounces, it is called ‘Espresso Lungo’.
  • If the espresso marked with a dash of foamed milk, it is called the ‘Espresso Macchiato’.
  • Espress-based drinks such as cappuccino, latte and mocha are made using single or double shots of espresso.

Our Final Word on Caffeine Proportion in an Espresso Shot

At the end of the day, what really matters is your personal preferences and what exactly your body can handle. Remember, we are made different from one another. If your best friend or your partner feels absolutely normal even after having 4 espresso shots in a day, it might not be the same for you.

Knowing how much caffeine in a shot of espresso is there, will have very little positive impact if you are not in control of your caffeine intake in general. Moderate caffeine intake is good for you, and that is exactly what you should aim to achieve.

60-65 grams of caffeine in an espresso shot is what you will usually get, whether you pull your espresso shot at home or have it at your favorite coffee shop.

Yes, there will be numerous other factors too that will determine the final caffeine proportions in your coffee beverage – if you have sufficient coffee-related information, you will know your drink even better!