Coffee breakdown: How much caffeine is in your daily espresso drink?

By Morgan Wahler | November 14, 2017 12:36pm
Crisp latte art that's perfect for the fall called St. John's Coffee Roasters.
Media Credit: Julia Cramer / The Beacon

It’s 9 a.m., you walk down the steps of Franz to the basement and find a line stretching past the computers and printer all the way to the restrooms. The scent of coffee reaches your nose: It’s caffeine time. 

We all need our daily coffee fix to get us through classes and exams. But do you ever wonder how much caffeine is actually in your cup, or what that sugary mocha really does to your health? 

The average cup of drip coffee has around 80 milligrams of caffeine, according to Tanya Bachman, nutrition professor in the School of Nursing. The Mayo Clinic suggests that adult maximum caffeine consumption per day be around 400 milligrams. That’s about four cups of drip coffee or about four 12-oz. espresso drinks. 

The coffee Starbucks uses contains about 75 milligrams of caffeine in a single shot of espresso. 

“Every 12-oz. espresso drink has one shot of espresso and 16-oz. drinks have two,” said Lauren Alvarez, sophomore barista at the Franz Hall coffee shop. “All iced coffee drinks have two shots, unless someone requests more.”

The coffee in the Franz basement is an Argentinian bean that comes from a local, free-trade company, Nossa Familia. The Pilot House brews Stumptown Coffee, and the Commons serves Starbucks.

Drinking straight black coffee without sugar or cream is hard (that’s for real adults). But Bachman advises against drinking sugary drinks or dumping buckets of sugar into coffee. 

“There are still the effects of the caffeine, but the sugar will add a spike to your blood sugar,” she said. “Make sure not to substitute sweetened coffee for a meal.” 

Sugary coffee drinks, such as mochas and frapuccinos, might be filling, but the empty calories don’t have enough energy to keep you going the whole day. So hours after you’ve finished that 16-oz. mocha, you’ll experience a sugar crash, not a caffeine crash. Americanos and plain black coffee have the most caffeine without the sugar rush.

“Americanos are a more concentrated coffee, same with the drip,” Alvarez said. “Others are diluted by milk and sugar.”

Sophomore Lauren Alvarez recently started working in Franz as a Barista.
by Julia Cramer / The Beacon

According to Alvarez, Americanos consist of espresso shots and hot water. Mochas are chocolate syrup and steamed milk with a shot of espresso. Lattes are made with steamed milk, foam, flavor and espresso shots. Alvarez said lattes are a lower-calorie mocha with not as much sugar. 

Cappuccinos are foam, steamed milk and espresso shots. Macchiatos are vanilla syrup, steamed milk and shots. The London fog is a tea latte with earl grey tea and vanilla. 

Chai lattes contain about 70 milligrams of caffeine in a 12 oz. if you’re ordering at the Commons, and there’s no difference if you prefer hot or iced.  

The caffeine level for frappuccinos depends on what flavor you order. The coffee flavors like mocha, coffee and caramel contain a shot of concentrated espresso. The sweeter flavors like strawberries and cream and vanilla bean contain no shots of espresso. 

“Americanos and drip coffees are the most popular during midterm and finals season,” Alvarez said. “I usually drink Americanos.”

And a benefit of coffee you haven’t thought of? Liver protection.

Studies show that coffee is liver-protective,” Bachman said.

So whether you like straight espresso shots or triple-shot venti iced mochas in the morning, watch your caffeine content and sugar intake.