Not all coffees are created equal. You already know this if you’ve been brewing your own for more than a few cups’ time: Coffee beans vary wildly in taste, strength, and even caffeine content. But even how you brew your coffee changes its strength.
I don’t just mean the flavour. If you’re drinking coffee for the caffeine boost, your brewing method can affect how much of a jolt each serving will give you. You might thing an espresso shot is the best way to get moving in the morning, but an espresso — even a full or double shot from a specialty coffee shop — actually doesn’t have the most amount of caffeine per cup — at least according to tests conducted by popular Coffee Youtuber James Hoffmann. Hoffmann is the author of The World Atlas of Coffee, runs Square Mile Coffee Roasters, and won the 2007 Barista championship, so you can count on his brewing expertise.
Hoffmann got his hands on a $US2,500 ($3,471) Lighttells caffeine analyser and went to town with it. This is a simple (but pricey) piece of tech reveals the caffeine content of a brew by scanning a couple of drops of coffee.
The caffeine content in a cup of coffee is measured in milligrams (mg). According to Health Direct, 400 mg/day is the recommended daily intake for adults (but of course, how much caffeine you actually “need” to feel the effects will vary from person to person). Unfortunately, there isn’t exactly a wealth of data out there of coffee’s wildly varying caffeine content, but if you Google, you’ll find that on average, a cup of coffee has 63-125 mg of caffeine in it.
What coffee brewing method delivers the most caffeine?
Hoffmann tested different kinds of coffees, ranging from instant coffee, espressos, and brewed coffees like pour-overs. And what he found was very interesting. It turns out if you want a big kick of caffeine to get you through a couple of hours of intense work, the brewing method that will serve you best is a pour over. According to hHoffman’s tests, 18 grams of his test sample of coffee beans (around 2 to 2-1/2 tablespoons of ground coffee), brewed as an espresso, had 110 mg of caffeine. But brewed as a pour over, they delivered 180 mg of caffeine. That’s close to a 50% jump!
That means if you need the biggest boost, you should skip that double-shot latte from Starbucks and order a pour over. (Or better yet, start brewing pour overs at home.)
Another big takeaway from Hoffmann’s study — if an unsurprising one — is that instant coffee is, on average, quite weak when it comes to getting you caffeinated. A full cup made with 2 grams of instant coffee (the recommended serving size) will only get you around 80 mg of caffeine.
Check out Hoffmann’s complete 20-minute video for more fascinating caffeine data.