No surprise that we like caffeinated beverages around here and I never thought much about how much caffeine I’m consuming a day…until recently. After I started the blog, I started drinking more coffee and tea than ever and it started to actually negatively impact my health (gasp! shock! horror!).
That’s when I started researching how much caffeine is in coffee and tea drinks, as well as how much is a healthy amount to consume every day. Turns out, like everything else, you can actually have too much.
But, when it comes to coffee and tea, it can get a little bit more complicated. The caffeine content can change based on how it’s prepared. For example, iced coffee has less caffeine than cold brew coffee, simply because of the extraction method. Or, the specific type of coffee bean you are brewing can have more caffeine, such as the Robusta bean which has 2x the caffeine as Arabica beans. The more I looked at all of the caffeine content, the more the numbers started swimming.
So, I decided to put together a little graphic that would make it super easy for me (and you, too) to track how much caffeine is in each drink, so I can make sure that I don’t drink too much.
How much caffeine is in coffee vs. tea drinks?
I love this image that shows the caffeine levels in different types of coffee and tea drinks. Any surprises for you here? There were a couple for me. For one thing, I wouldn’t think that a frappuccino would have less mg of caffeine than a latte. Plus, black tea is not far off from an espresso – which explains why switching to tea wasn’t really helping my caffeine intake.
Let’s break down each one of these a bit more, though, because there are factors that can impact the caffeine content.
Caffeine in Decaf Coffee:
Decaf coffee can be made a variety of ways, but all of them attempt to remove the caffeine from coffee beans. While about 97% of the caffeine can usually be removed, that still leaves about 2-5mg of caffeine in most cases, but some decaf testes has shown up to 13mg of caffeine in 16 ounces of decaf coffee!
This is really important to know, especially if you are removing caffeine for medical reasons. Sure, a cup of coffee that is decaf will be lower in caffeine than anything else on this list, but it still has caffeine in it.
Caffeine in Green Tea:
I love green tea and you might too, especially if you are a big fan of matcha, which is powdered green tea. Drinking green tea is a great way to get a low kick of caffeine, around 25-28mg for 8 ounces, while also contains many health benefits, such as the amino acid L-theanine, which can improve brain function.
However, brewing a cup of tea with one green tea bag has substantially lower caffeine than drinking matcha, which contains double the amount of caffeine, with 70mg for the same amount. This means matcha has similar caffeine content to an espresso! You also prepare matcha differently, much more like instant coffee, by whisking the powder into a liquid. It has a stronger flavor than green tea as well, with a bit more of a grassy aftertaste.
Caffeine in Black Tea & Chai Tea:
Black tea, also known as Earl Grey tea, is a rich, flavorful tea that is delicious alone or as the base of a drink such as the London Fog Latte, where you add vanilla syrup and frothed milk. I used to think that my black tea lattes were a perfect substitute for coffee when I was trying to wind down for the day, but I was surprised to see that they also have 25-48mg of caffeine in just 8 ounces. If you brew two tea bags for a more flavorful latte, then you can double that amount. Or, if the steeping time is longer than usual, you can also increase the caffeine content.
So, while a cup of black tea or a black tea latte is still one of my top choices, especially when I want a London Fog latte, I know now that the caffeine kick is higher than I used to think. Also, chai tea has a black tea base with spices added, so you’re going to have a different flavor profile, but the same amount of caffeine. This is why my plan to switch to chai in the afternoon kind of backfired on me. Oops.
Caffeine in Instant Coffee:
Did you know that instant coffee has less caffeine than coffee brewed from coffee grounds? I had no idea! But, instant coffee averages about 10-15mg less caffeine per cup than other types of coffee. However, I’ve learned that this amount can vary widely based on the type of instant coffee that you’re using.
The reduction in caffeine is due to the way instant coffee is made. It starts with freshly brewed coffee and then it is dehydrated down to coffee crystals. The process of removing all of the water is what leaves behind the instant coffee that is shelf stable until you add water back in. Based on the type of instant coffee you buy, the caffeine content can be between 30-90mg of caffeine per cup.
Caffeine in Frappucinos:
I love a good frappuccino. While Starbucks has popularized this icey coffee drink, the coffee frappe has been a classic coffee beverage for a long time. Now, size matters when it comes to your frappuccino. A small (or tall – read this post to learn more about Starbucks drinks sizes) may have around 65mg of caffeine, unless you’re getting a caffeine-free option.
However, going up in size is going to also increase the caffeine content and if you add an extra shop of espresso, you can add another 75mg to that amount. A grande coffee-based frappuccino is going to have anywhere from 85-105mg of caffeine, while a tea-based frappuccino will have less with 40-70mg of caffeine.
If you’re watching your caffeine, your best bet is to look up your specific frappuccino order to see how much caffeine is going to be in it. Starbucks has a lot of info that can help you figure it out. For 6 delicious caramel frappuccinos you’ve got to try, read this post here.
Caffeine in Espresso:
Those beautiful little cups of gold pack a serious caffeine punch. Just one espresso shot is going to contain 75mg of caffeine! So, if you’re averaging two shots for a medium sized drink, you’re looking at 150mg of caffeine in just one drink. This explains how we can quickly start to head towards the caffeine overload territory.
Back when I was in college, I used to get this drink called the red eye when I pulled all-nighters. It had 4 shots of espresso, caramel and frothed milk. That means I was consuming 300mg of caffeine in ONE DRINK!
Another way you can enjoy espresso is by making the coffee dessert: affogatos. A couple scoops of ice cream and one espresso shot poured over makes a delicious dessert that tastes like a coffee milkshake.
Caffeine in Cappuccinos:
The cappuccino is one of the most beloved coffee drinks of all time, served literally around the world. Coffee and milk make a perfect pairing and the cappuccino gets the ratio just right. Even though the inclusion of milk will make the espresso shot go down more smoothly, you’re still consuming 75mg of caffeine per espresso shot.
Caffeine in Macchiatos:
A fan of the caramel macchiato? Who isn’t! If you’re ordering them at Starbucks, know that they have made their own version of this classic coffee drink and it’ll taste differently at other coffee houses. Still, it’s delicious, because coffee + caramel + milk is a happy marriage. Your caffeine content will depend on the number of shots, with 75mg of caffeine per espresso shot. If you’re ordering a medium, that will likely mean at least 2 espresso shots for 150mg of caffeine. That’ll wake you up!
Caffeine in Lattes:
The vanilla latte is the best-selling coffee drink. I joke that the vanilla latte is the gateway drug that gets you hooked on coffee, lol. Once you have that creamy, sweet coffee drink, you’re done. You’ll also get a little pep in your step thanks to the 63-126mg of caffeine included. The range is due to how much coffee is included. Many iced lattes are made with strongly brewed iced coffee instead of espresso shots, because it doesn’t melt the ice. If they are made with espresso shots, you can go back to the 75mg of caffeine per shot to calculate your caffeine.
Caffeine in Iced Coffee:
Oh, I love me some iced coffee. We enjoy almost 300 sunny days a year here in California, so I may only order a hot coffee drink a few times a year. Iced coffee is coffee brewed hot and then cooled down. It has the same caffeine content as the same coffee brewed hot, so it will depend on the specific roast and how much coffee to water is being used. Typically, though, iced coffee will have around 120mg of caffeine. This is less than you’ll see in cold brew, which uses a different extraction process.
Caffeine in Flat Whites:
I’ve been seeing tons of flat white secret menu drinks at Starbucks lately. People are going crazy for this classic coffee beverage that’s making a huge comeback. Why is it so popular? Well, for starters, the flat white uses ristretto espresso shots, were are pulled short to be smoother and sweeter, combined with steamed milk to be creamy and velvetty. It also packs 130mg of caffeine per 8oz. Wowza!
Here’s a great visual from Starbucks on the difference between a flat white and a macchiato. When a flat white is used as the base for an iced drink, it’s going to be smoother, less acidic, and well-balanced with any add-ins.
Caffeine in Cold Brew:
Cold brew is my favorite kind of coffee. I just wrote a post where we compared 6 popular store-bought cold brews and it was so much fun to test them all. Cold brew drinks are everywhere at coffee houses, too, and for good reason. They are smooth, less acidic, and delicious. Cold brew is made by steeping coffee grounds in cool water for at least 10-12 hours, with some steeping for up to 24 hours!
Due to this elongated extraction process, the caffeine content skyrockets to 155mg for 8 ounces! That’s more than 2 shots of espresso! Imagine if you were getting a venti sized cold-brew based drink!
For some delicious cold brew recipes, check these out:
- Starbucks chocolate cream cold brew copycat
- The vanilla coffee cream soda you need in your life this summer
- Easy brown sugar shaken espresso – like Starbucks
- Delicious sweet cinnamon iced coffee recipe
Caffeine in Drip Coffee:
Here’s another one that surprised me: drip coffee has MORE caffeine than cold brew! Of course, this is going to depend on how much coffee to water is being used, but assuming a typical ratio, it will have about 15mg. more caffeine than cold brew, to the tune of 165mg of caffeine per cup!
The reason why cold brew is often cited as having more caffeine than drip coffee is because cold brew concentrates can have up to 500mg of caffeine, but are meant to be highly diluted. Consider Jot coffee, which has to be diluted at a ratio of one tablespoon of Jot to 8 ounces of water. Read more about coffee concentrates in this post.
Also, many people add more cold brew to their cup than drip coffee, because it’s smoother and easier to drink higher quantities, which is going to quickly increase the amount of caffeine, compared to sipping a hot drip coffee.
Our favorite method of making hot coffee is pour over. Check out our super easy guide here.
Caffeine in Nitro Coffee:
Winner winner, chicken dinner! Ready for the ultimate caffeine kick? Step it up to nitro cold brew and you’ll be jittering after 215mg of caffeine! Nitro coffee is cold brew infused with nitrogen for a super smooth, velvetty coffee that barely needs anything (or can be sipped black). You can now buy canned nitro coffee, such as this kind by Starbucks, and Dutch Bros has their own canned nitro cold brew as well that is so delicious.
I even had a nitro coffee float once, with vanilla ice cream, and it was seriously mind-blowing. I’ll take that over a root beer float any day. But, count your caffeine, because you can imagine how much caffeine you’re consuming with a few of those a day!
Caffeine Overload: Can you drink too much caffeine?
Sadly, I have discovered the answer to this question and the answer, “Yes!” The amount might vary from person to person, but there are signs that you are drinking too much caffeine. Also, some sources say that no person should consume more than 400mg of caffeine per day, but that amount is going to be even lower for many people.
Caffeine causes your body to release more cortisol, the same thing released when we were cavemen and needed to run away from a wild animal. It triggers our fight or flight reflex and our adrenaline starts pumping. This is great when we’re exhausted from being up all night and need a pick-me-up, but if we are constantly pouring cortisol into our bodies, our adrenal glands can get tired and confused, which can affect our hormone balance as well. This can result in side effects of caffeine like increased anxiety, insomnia, hormonal imbalances, weight gain, getting “the jitters”, and much more.
So, if you’re struggling with any of these things and can’t figure out why you can’t make it stop – look at your caffeine consumption and consider making some hard choices, such as only drinking caffeine mid-morning, after you’ve eating something and had some water. Then, cut off caffeine by lunch and switch to only caffeine-free drinks for the rest of the day.
Or, consider a caffeine fast for a couple of weeks and see if you notice any difference in these areas. If you’re a serious coffee drinker, wean yourself off by reducing it a little each day, or the headache will be terrible (take it from me – not fun).
There are benefits of coffee and tea, too, so the goal is to find how much caffeine YOU can safely consume without triggering so much cortisol that your body starts compensating in really healthy ways. Some people that have reduced or cut caffeine have reported significant weight loss or mental health improvements while making no other changes! I can say that since reducing my intake, I am less anxious, I’m sleeping better, and I’m seeing a reduction in the effects of too much cortisol.
More Interesting Coffee Facts:
I love learning more about coffee. If you do, too, you may also like these posts:
- 20 hot facts on the history of Starbucks
- All about “cat poop coffee” – the most expensive coffee in the world
- 30 types of coffee in pictures from A-V!
- 21 crazy coffee facts you won’t believe
Hope this gives you a lot of reading material while you’re sipping your fave coffee drink. For my tea drinkers, I hope this gave you some ideas for how to adjust your tea intake to match your own personal needs.