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. 

This powerhouse of a 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, 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 drinks are 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 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.

One standard serving of espresso (a shot) is made from 7 grams of ground 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 a shot, which can contain anywhere between 40 - 120mg (milligrams). If you order ‘an espresso’ this is likely what you’ll get - known as a single (or solo). You could also go for a double (or doppio) espresso, which would likely have twice the amount: anywhere from 80 to 240mg.

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 espresso, such as the beans themselves, the equipment used, the temperature of the water, and the pressure at which it’s forced through the grind. 

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 20mg in a regular cup of black tea, or 80mg in a leading brand of energy drink (which tend to make you feel more pumped up due to the high sugar content, but this does make a ‘crash’ much more likely). 

An espresso, then, is not to be trifled with 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 – 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.

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