Caffeine, Who, What, When and Where?

Erik Sheets

As Coffee drinkers we all know there is an added benefit to drinking our favorite brew. Most of us drink our coffee out of a flavor preference and pure enjoyment of the beverage itself (although there are studies that say it can become an addiction; more on this later). I personally enjoy a full bodied Dark roast and even enjoy my espresso straight, this might not sound appealing to you, but there is one thing we both have in common; caffeine. In the US according to industry statistics only 16% of coffee consumed is decaffeinated (Watch for a post about the pros and cons of decaffeination in the future).

So what is caffeine and why does it do these things to us? It has positive effects; alertness, mood elevation and can increase focus. Caffeine is also a mild diuretic, causing some dehydration, but your body eventually builds up a tolerance to this. For those sensitive to caffeine there can be detrimental effects, like upset stomach, indigestion, headaches and jitters. The reason behind these effects are chemical, yes caffeine is a drug and can have withdrawal like symptoms if the body thinks it isn't getting enough (ever miss your morning cuppa Joe?) Fortunately the effects are short lived and not damaging, limited mostly to headache and irritability. I'll bet you didn't know that the FDA has even classified caffeine as a drug, but before you get too worried, it is classified as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) meaning there are no permanent detrimental health effects and it won't kill you under normal circumstances (watch for another article about caffeine myths ant truths in a future post). There are also claims to the health benefits of caffeine intake and it is believed that in moderation caffeine can have proactive effects against Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.


All in all there is not a lot of caffeine in your daily brew. And there are a lot of factors that impact the actual caffeine content in each roast, the origin of the bean, the extraction, and roasting process all affect the level of caffeine in your cup. First of all the origin of the bean meaning the genus; Robusta or Arabica. Robusta beans are a stronger flavor and generally have more caffeine, these beans are your common utility beans, not a lot of flavor variation, very earthy and similar to one another. Arabica beans are your varietals that have the subtle flavors and nuances of spices, fruit and even chocolate, these beans generally have less caffeine. Robusta beans are a utility bean, used in the average bulk produced coffee and Arabica beans are prized by specialty and artisan roasters for their complex flavor profiles. Roasting affects the level of caffeine as well, lighter roast coffees have more caffeine than dark roasts because the roasting process actually cooks out some of the caffeine, it seems counter intuitive, dark is more flavor but less caffeine.

How you grind and brew your coffee can affect the caffeine content as well, as coffee is 98.5% water the rest being extracted coffee solids from the ground beans, there is only so much you can extract from the grounds. If you do the math it works out to about .0168% caffeine content. This works out to approximately 150 mg of caffeine per 8 oz serving depending the factors I mentioned before. Remember there are lots of reasons to enjoy your brew, and life is too short to drink bad coffee, so make sure you drink what you like and if you are lucky enough to find that roast you like hang on to it.

Until Next time


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