Which has more of a kick in the cup: espresso or brewed?

Caffeine content.  The winner may surprise you!

Caffeine content winner: You'll be surprised!

Well this may surprise you.  Truth is neither actually wins.  They are about the same.  Let me explain.

The traditional American espresso based drinks, cappuccino or latte, are made from one to several “shots” of espresso and steamed milk.  One shot of espresso is approximately 1 1/2 ounces, two shots 3 ounces and so on.

Espresso is prepared by grinding beans to a finer consistency than for traditional brewed coffee.  The water is passed through the coffee rather quickly and under high pressure (20 seconds +/-) and the result is a bold, concentrated dose of coffee.  We call this espresso.

By the way, espresso is not a specific bean or roast level it is a method of making coffee.

Any bean or roasting level can be used to produce authentic espresso.  In Italy, the birth country of espresso, roast levels can vary quite a bit. In Southern Italy, a darker roast is often preferred, but the further north one goes in the country, the trend moves towards lighter roasts.

An espresso shot has about the same caffeine content as a cup of brewed coffee

An espresso shot has about the same caffeine content as a cup of brewed coffee

Brewed coffee on the other hand is made with much less coffee generally (as a ratio of dry coffee to finished beverage), more coarsely ground and then allowed to float in a bath of hot water (as in a paper filter basket type) then draining through a calibrated orifice (hole) in the bottom or in a percolator where water is continually passed over the coffee for several minutes.  The result generally is coffee with a distinctly milder body. Drip or percolator brewed coffee strength is varied by the amount of coffee used.

There are other ways to  process roasted coffee like a french press for example, but the point here is not process but end result.

Caffeine comparison chart (click to enlarge)

Caffeine comparison chart (click to enlarge)

Conclusions

Here it is: by the drink, a 12 ounce latte made with one shot of espresso has no more and possibly less caffeine that 12 ounces of brewed coffee.  Each shot of espresso adds approximately the equivalent caffeine of one 12 ounce cup of brewed coffee. Ounce for prepared ounce they are all about the same.

Our preferences for espresso based drinks, brewed coffee and even french pressed coffee should really be defined more by their unique characteristics of flavor and not misconceptions about caffeine potency.

In other words, a triple shot  latte will produce about the same results as three cups of regular brewed coffee.

“So how do I add  a little more kick to my coffee?”

-If you want more caffeine in your cup of brewed coffee or french press add more coffee not more time.  Remember this: steeping coffee longer, in a french press or percolator for example, will just make it bitter.

FYI, real hard-core-caffers often add shots of espresso to regular brewed coffee.  This is called a “Shot in the Dark”.

-In the case of espresso based drinks, add more shots.

“What if I don’t like coffee all that well but need a boost some mornings?”

One popular alternative is to add a shot of espresso to hot chocolate or to a chai tea.  The intense richness of these drinks masks a lot of the coffee flavor, still providing the caffeine.

Another popular alternative for energy seekers not wanting a lot of caffeine is white and green tea, both of whom have a component called ECGC (not available in black teas), which some studies show to increase metabolism and fat burning as well having other potential anti-oxidative effects.  This is largely unsupported through extensive scientific testing, but results so far are at least promising.

At Toomer’s coffee we serve a wide variety of loose teas which we brew by the cup.  Good stuff!