How much caffeine is in an espresso?
How much caffeine is in an espresso?

It’s commonly known that a morning espresso is basically an alarm clock in a cup.  

If it’s freshly made from really good espresso beans, the aroma should wake you up before the drink does – it’s absolutely divine. 

But slamming back a shot of espresso (or calmly sipping it and savouring the flavour) will lead to a pleasant and useful buzz that puts a spring in your step for the rest of the day. The amount of caffeine in your morning coffee can depend on your brewing method, serving size and the type of coffee beans used.

What we really want to know is how many milligrams of caffeine is in a single shot or double espresso and how does that compare to caffeine levels in other popular coffee drinks. So, strap in while we answer your burning questions about caffeine in coffee:

  • How much caffeine is in a shot of espresso?
  • How much caffeine is too much?

How much caffeine is in a shot of espresso?

This powerhouse coffee has been used for a long time as both a recreational refreshment and a tactical breakfast beverage. It was invented in Italy in 1901 by a Milanese engineer and spread throughout Europe through the century alongside Italian café culture. The saloon-style coffee bars, so beloved in Italy, became popular around the continent as patrons could lean on the standing bars while drinking espresso, eating breakfast pastries and catching up on the newspaper, leaving them perked up and ready to tackle the day. 

But how powerful is this delicious drink? How much caffeine does an espresso contain? 

Some brewed coffee is pretty difficult to judge the caffeine content for, simply because the size of the drink differs so much depending on how you make it. Luckily, espresso servings are relatively standardised, so you’ve got a better chance of understanding where you stand. That said, nothing is ever mathematically certain in the world of food and drink, so take everything below as an approximation, as there are multiple variables present

In the UK, espresso-based drinks are the norm, especially in big high-street coffee chains. For a single espresso, a barista would use anywhere from 7 – 11 grams of coffee. This coffee is packed into a circular puck which has hot water forced through it at high pressure, leaving you with a small cup of espresso.

Each small cup contains 1 shot of espresso, which can contain anywhere between 30 - 60mg. If you order ‘a single espresso’ in a coffee shop this is likely what you’ll get, known as a single or solo shot. You could also go for a double shot, or doppio, espresso, which would likely have twice the amount of caffeine from 60 to 120mg.

If that seems like a surprisingly large range, unfortunately, that’s the nature of the drink. Lots of things will affect the caffeine amount in an espresso, such as the coffee beans themselves, the equipment used, the temperature of the water, and the pressure at which it’s forced through the puck. 

Even the global high-street coffee chains, with their highly standardised operations, can’t be any more specific than that. 

These numbers compare to a standard 20-40mg of caffeine in a regular cup of black tea or 80mg in a leading brand of energy drink. However, these tend to make you feel more pumped up due to the high sugar content which makes a ‘crash’ much more likely. More surprising is that an 8oz cup of filter or drip coffee will contain approx 90mg of caffeine. 

How much caffeine is too much?

As an adult, drinking around 400mg of caffeine per day should be cause for a safety concern. In theory, it means you should be able to comfortably drink 3-4 single espresso shots in a day without consuming too much caffeine. However, tea and fizzy drinks also contain caffeine so if monitoring your caffeine intake is key, it might not just be coffee that you could do with cutting down on.

Knocking back multiple espressos is probably not a good idea if you’re looking to avoid the caffeine. For those trying to control their caffeine consumption for medical reasons or pregnancy, decaf is really the only way to do it. Decaf doesn’t remove all of the caffeine, but it will get rid of 97% at a minimum so it’s definitely worth a shot if you’re cutting down. 

So, remember to not overdo things on the espresso, else you might end up a bit jittery and have trouble sleeping. Some people are just lucky with caffeine and don’t seem to be affected by it much (it’s a genetic thing, apparently). But for most of us, avoiding it after 5pm or so is probably a good idea if you want a decent sleep.

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