Caffeine in Espresso vs Coffee – It will surprise you

Caffeine in an espresso vs a regular cup of coffee may not be what you might expect.

Would it surprise you to learn that your daily latte with a double espresso shot has less caffeine than 2 small cups of regular coffee?

Most people assume that espresso has way more caffeine than the normal cup of coffee – but they would be wrong.

Let’s see if we can get the straight scoop.


Caffeine in espresso vs coffee – quick answers but many questions

A single shot of espresso, or 1 fluid ounce, has about 75 mg of caffeine on average vs. a single cup of coffee, or about 8 ounces, has about 110 mg of caffeine on average.

Or maybe this table will help.

Type of coffee Fluid Ounces Caffeine Average Caffeine Range
Espresso Shot 1 fl oz 75 mg 28 – 100 mg
Regular Cup of Coffee 8 fl oz 110 mg 50 -240 mg

But this doesn’t tell the whole story, does it?

In fact, there is conflicting information as to what a shot of espresso is – is it 1 fluid ounce? Some consider a double shot of espresso to be 1.5 fluid ounces, while others specify it as 2 fluid ounces… hmm. (We are going to consider a double shot of espresso as 2 fluid ounces)

Some coffee drinks are made with more than 1 shot of espresso. And then most people drink more than an 8 ounce cup of coffee – sometimes way more. (this writer drinks about 30 fluid ounces of coffee every morning )

And why isn’t there an exact amount of caffeine determined for express or coffee instead of an average? And how can the amount of caffeine range so much?

Oh, and what exactly is a “regular” cup of coffee? Is it an 8 oz cup of French press coffee or drip coffee?

So, how does the caffeine in espresso vs coffee all breakdown?

We hate to say it… but the caffeine you consume will vary by all kinds of factors.

At the end of this, we will try and give you some perspective by comparing a known quantity – a double shot of Starbucks espresso vs an 8 oz cup of Starbucks regular black coffee.

The breakdown….


Caffeine levels for espresso vs regular coffee – coffee bean factors

Caffeine levels of different coffee roasts

Do darker coffee roasts have more caffeine because they have a stronger flavor? Many people believe so. However, darker roasts generally have lower caffeine levels than lighter roasts. The prolonged heat of heavier roasting breaks down the caffeine molecule. Some refer to it as “burning off the caffeine.”

What is your coffee’s roast? Take a look at the color of the roast. A lighter color means a lighter roast and more caffeine.

Caffeine levels of varying coffee grind

Various degrees of coffee grinding can affect caffeine extraction and are used for different brewing methods. Espresso coffee requires a much finer coffee grind compared to the grind for drip-brewed coffee.

All brewing methods being equal, generally speaking, the finer the coffee grind, the higher the coffee’s caffeine level will be. We will visit this again in a minute.

Caffeine in different coffee bean varieties

Not taking into account decaffeinated coffee beans, different coffee bean varieties have naturally occurring and varying levels of caffeine.

For example, as coffee beans go, Robusta coffee has about twice as much caffeine as Arabica coffee. If you’re drinking anything you consider to be a quality cup of coffee, it’s probably from the lower-caffeine Arabica beans.


Caffeine for espresso vs regular coffee – caffeine extraction factors


In order for the most caffeine to be extracted during the coffee brewing process, the ground coffee needs to be 100% saturated with water. This doesn’t fully happen with some coffee brewing methods.

Drip coffee brewing may appear to fully saturate the coffee grounds after brewing is completed, but the saturation of the coffee grounds may only occur during part or at the end of the drip process. This applies to other coffee brewing methods as well.


For coffee and caffeine, heated water acts as a solvent. Water temperature makes a big difference as to how quickly caffeine is withdrawn from the coffee grounds.

Very hot water, near boiling, will extract caffeine from coffee much quicker than say, a cold brew coffee process, which would take hours longer to extract the same amount of caffeine.


Roughly speaking, all available caffeine is extracted during the first minute of hot water extraction.

Consider the brewing time of an espresso shot is from 15-25 seconds – with boiling water, of course. Perhaps not as much caffeine gets extracted with espresso, depending on the espresso brewing method, which we will look at in a minute.

With other brewing methods, especially methods that allow the ground coffee to sit in the hot water, the amount of caffeine extraction will be much greater.


It makes sense that coffee grind can influence how quickly caffeine is extracted. When the coffee grind is finer you have the ability to extract caffeine faster.

Hot water, the solvent, is able to reach more surface area of the coffee grounds with a finer coffee grind compared to a coarser grind. This allows for more hot water penetration and for more caffeine extraction.

Ground coffee compaction can also be a factor. A coarse grind allows for less compaction. A medium or coarse grind loosely placed into a drip coffee maker filter is much different from finely ground espresso coffee compactly pressed when making espresso.


How much caffeine is in an espresso?

A shot of espresso is produced by forcing pressurized boiling water through tightly packed and finely ground dark roast espresso coffee.

Here is why the caffeine in espresso can vary widely…

  • Espresso grind is medium fine compared to very fine.
  • Espresso machines filter holders can be various sizes and hold different amounts of coffee.
  • The amount of boiling water that is allowed to pass through the filter can vary from about 1 fluid ounce to as much as 2 fluid ounces per shot.
  • The pressure of the hot water and the time during which hot water is forced through the filter can vary.

All the above points will change how much caffeine is extracted during the espresso brewing process.

Less coffee of a medium-fine grind and less compaction with 2 fl oz of hot water pushed through quickly with higher pressure will result in less caffeine.

Compared to more coffee of a very fine grind and highly compacted with only 1 fl oz of water pushed through slowly with lower pressure resulting in more caffeine.

Make sense?

On average, though,

1 shot consisting of 1 fluid ounce of espresso will contain about 70 – 75 mg of caffeine.

A double shot consisting of 2 fluid ounces of espresso will contain about 140 – 150 mg of caffeine.

According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), the standard double splash espresso contains about 60-100 mg of caffeine – that is per 2 fluid ounces.

According to the USDA, an espresso has 64 mg of caffeine per fluid ounce.

Let’s take a look at an everyday large latte with a double shot of espresso. Espresso is made with dark roasted and finely ground beans – this means less caffeine that can be extracted. It is also made with highly compacted, finely ground coffee but in very little time – and less caffeine.

Can it be that espresso has less caffeine than a regular cup of coffee?

caffeine in coffee

How much caffeine is in regular black coffee?

Well, it looks like we need to define a regular cup of black coffee. Probably, most consumers are considering the standard drip coffee method to be a regular cup of coffee.

With the drip coffee brewing method, hot water is dispensed into medium ground coffee over a period of a few minutes. When you take into account there is a lot of hot water used in the process, this can allow a generous amount of caffeine to be extracted.

The National Coffee Association says a typical cup of black coffee can contain between 65 and 120 mg of caffeine. Depending on the grind of the coffee and the roast of the coffee, that number can be as high as 160 mg.

Wait, many coffee enthusiasts appreciate the French Press method of coffee brewing. They consider French press coffee to be the regular cup of coffee.

The French Press method has the coffee sitting in heated water for an extended steeping period – allowing for even more caffeine extraction. About 80 – 135 mg of caffeine to be more specific. And again, if the grind of the coffee is finer and the roast of the coffee is lighter, that can mean even higher amounts of caffeine.

Some coffee varieties, as mentioned, have even more caffeine. Imagine a cup of light roast, high caffeine coffee that is more finely ground prepared using the French Press method. This is why the amount of caffeine in an 8 oz cup of coffee can range as high as 240 mg !


Caffeine intake – How much espresso do you drink vs coffee per serving

Here is another consideration when looking at how much caffeine is in an espresso vs coffee.

Who drinks only 8 oz of coffee anyway? Who? Not me.

Compare a larger 15 oz cup of coffee (or 2 cups at 8 oz each) to a double shot of espresso.
15 ounces of drip coffee will have about 220 mg of caffeine.
A double shot of espresso in a large latte will have about 150 mg of caffeine (or 128 mg according to the USDA).

Compare 2 large lattes with 2 double shots of espresso at 300 mg of caffeine with 2 large 15 oz cups of coffee at 440 mg of caffeine !


Caffeine intake – How quickly espresso is consumed vs coffee per serving

Oh, but this is also another consideration… how fast is espresso consumed vs coffee?

The typical cup of coffee is sipped over a much longer period than an espresso, which is usually consumed more quickly. But this is not the case when espresso is drunk as a latte or espresso drink.

For a quick caffeine buzz, down a couple of double shot espressos. A great deal of caffeine in very little time.

Caffeine in a couple of lattes over the course of a day? no big deal.


Caffeine in Starbucks espresso vs Starbucks coffee

This is where we can compare against a known quantity – at least to some extent.

Most Starbucks espresso drinks (nothing added) have: 75 mg of caffeine for the Tall with 1 espresso shot (Tall Latte) .

For the Grande or Venti with 2 espresso shots (Grande or Venti Latte) it is 150 mg of caffeine.
Yes, a Venti Latte has only 2 espresso shots.

Compare this to a Short Pike’s Place Roast 8 oz cup of drip coffee at 180 mg of caffeine.

Starting to get the picture? The typical cup of coffee has more caffeine than espresso or an espresso drink.


How much caffeine in espresso vs coffee is too much?

The FDA states that most adults need to keep their caffeine intake under 400 mg per day.

That may be different from person to person depending on their size and weight.

Having some idea of how much caffeine we may be consuming with our daily espresso or coffee indulgence, we can see how we measure up against the daily recommended maximum caffeine intake.

A couple of double espresso shots, or a couple of grande lattes with double shots in each latte, would probably be considered near the max for daily consumption. (something like 300 – 350 mg of caffeine)

Regular cups of coffee are a different story. 2 cups of 15 oz of coffee will be over the recommended at 440 mg of caffeine. Ouch! And that is if they are made with the typical drip coffee method. It would be more for the French Press method of coffee brewing.


The take away

Shocking huh? The caffeine in your espresso is really going to be less than in the typical cup of coffee.

And if we are like most coffee consumers, this means we would be drinking way more of the higher caffeinated coffee (like I do) than the less caffeinated espresso. Why? because it is easier to have a simple cup of Joe, of course, especially at home.

Our conclusion: Drink more espresso – a bolder, more flavorful, and more intense cup of coffee with less caffeine. Who would of thunk it?