As a coffee roaster, I’m often asked, “Does dark roast have more caffeine?” or “Does light roast have more caffeine?” I often return the question with, “Why are you asking?” I ask this because there are a lot of variables when it comes to coffee and caffeine.
- Bean origin (which country/region)?
- Dark, Medium, or Light roasted?
- How fresh is the roasted coffee bean?
- How are you brewing your coffee?
- Why do you care how much caffeine is in your coffee?
- Are you looking for more caffeine or less?
- Do you think the caffeine is upsetting your stomach?
- Do you think that the caffeine is not healthy for you?
The Simple Answer
The simple answer is this; generally speaking, the darker the roast the less caffeine. 8 ounces of dark roast coffee has roughly 90mg of caffeine. White roasted coffee has almost double that. And medium roast is somewhere in between.
So what? Again, I ask, why do you want to know? Let’s cover some important issues about caffeine and roasting.
Health Benefits of Coffee
The health benefits of coffee have been widely studied for decades. The benefits are far to numerous to list here. Suffice it to say, the health benefits of coffee, far out weight the detractors.
That being said, the number one complaint I hear about caffeine is that it upsets people’s stomach. I hate to break this news to you, but it’s not the caffeine that’s giving you an upset stomach.
So, what’s upsetting your stomach? All large industrial coffee companies as well as most local small specialty roasters, burn the snot out of their beans. In essence, you’re drinking charcoal. Italian roast, French roast, Espresso roast, etc. are all just different shades of burnt. That’s what’s upsetting your stomach.
Two Types of Coffee Beans
There are two kinds of coffee beans in the world; Arabica (that would be the expensive good beans) and Robusta (that would be the cheap bitter nasty beans). An important note here is that Robusta beans can have as much as 25-50% more caffeine than Arabica.
The big industrial coffee companies mostly use Robusta beans. Yes, nearly every big industrial coffee company has “Arabica Beans” on their bags, but I’ll promise you this, most of what you’re drinking is Robusta. That’s one reason their coffee is so bitter.
On the other hand, your small local specialty coffee roasters would be mostly using Arabica beans. But then again, not all Arabica beans are created equal. There’s definitely a quality spectrum when it comes to Arabica beans.
Coffee Bean Origin
There are dozens of variables involved with growing coffee beans, including altitude, latitude, soil, direction of the sun, heat, shade, humidity, etc. With all these variables interacting, each region of the world produces different tasting coffee, with varying amounts of caffeine.
In fact, the difference in taste and caffeine changes from country to country; from county to county; from farmer to farmer; from field to field, and from picking to picking. It’s pretty hard to predict what you’re going to get until you taste the bean.
Does Dark Roast Have More Caffeine
As I said earlier, generally speaking dark roast coffee has less caffeine as compared to lighter roasts. Then again, it depends on how the roast was done.
Nearly all, large industrial coffee companies intentionally over roast their beans. Secondly, they roast their beans hot-n-fast. They do this for two reasons. First to hide the fact that they’re buying inferior beans and secondly to increase the shelf-life of their coffee.
Here’s a fact that few people know. There is zero space age technology that can keep roasted coffee fresh. After 30 days, all coffee, regardless of the packaging, will start to taste bitter.
I tell everyone to measure freshness in hours not months. The difference between fresh roasted and old stale coffee is nothing short of amazing.
Does Light Roast Have More Caffeine
Generally speaking, lighter roasted coffee beans have more caffeine than darker roasted beans. Why, because the lighter roasted beans haven’t had the caffeine burned out of them. Lighter roast, means more oils. More oils mean more bioflavonoids, antioxidants, caffeine, and flavor.
Here’s another fact that few people know. There are only 5 different kinds of coffee roasts; Burnt, Dark, Medium, Light, White. High temperature roasts that are done quickly will burn off most of the caffeine and the taste.
Fresh Roasted Coffee Beans
Fresh roasted, i.e., roasted a few days or weeks ago, will always have more caffeine and flavor than old coffee. Unfortunately, most coffee sold in the United States has been sitting in warehouses or store shelves for months if not years, thus the bitter taste and the less caffeine.
If you’re still wondering “Does light roast have more caffeine?” or “Does dark roast have more caffeine?”
Trust me, you won’t care if you’re drinking coffee that was roasted yesterday. Fresh roasted coffee is the best thing this side of heaven.
Coffee Brewing Techniques
How much caffeine within a cup of coffee depends in large part to how long the water is in contact with the coffee grounds. The longer the water is in contact with the grounds, the more caffeine and flavor will be infused into the water.
Additionally, how you grind your beans will also determine how much infusion is taking place. Course ground coffee will be smoother, but it’ll have much less caffeine. Fine ground coffee, will give the coffee more surface area for the water to interact with and thus more caffeine.
Now let’s cover the major types of brewing techniques. Each has its benefits and detractors. For more details on brewing techniques (Click Here)
Pressure brewing techniques like Espresso machines or Moka Pots forces water or steam through very finely ground coffee for only a few seconds.
The word “espresso” literally translates as “fast or quick”. It’s intention was never to make better coffee, just faster coffee. In my humble opinion that’s still true. Please let me qualify that statement. I always tell people, “Drink what you like.” So if you’re an espresso or Moka Pot fanatic, that go for it.
Personally, I think these “quick” methods produce very bitter coffee with considerably less caffeine.
Drip machines, though cheap and ubiquitous (they’re everywhere) aren’t much better. In my humble opinion, you can spend $25 or $1,250 for a drip machine and the coffee is still going to be mediocre at best.
This is also true of manual “Slow Pour Over” techniques or any system, which just like the machines, allows the water to drip through the coffee grounds, thus limiting the water to come in contact with the grounds for only a few seconds.
Forgive me, once again I have to qualify my opinion here. Drink what you like. If you like your $25 drip coffee machine, then by God go for it. My opinion doesn’t count. Drink what you like. BUT on the other hand, if you’ve been drinking from a drip machine for years and you’re just thinking, “Coffee should taste better than this.” Guess what. You’re right. Keep reading.
Steeping techniques, like a French Press, Cold Brew, or my personal favorite the AeroPress, allow the water and grounds to mix for longer periods of time, thus giving you more flavor and more caffeine.
With the Cold Brew, I’ll let it steep from a few hours to a few days. Regardless of how long you allow the cold brew to steep, the results are amazingly smooth and with more flavor and caffeine. Additionally, Cold Brew produces, by far, the smoothest tasting coffee that you’re likely to find anywhere. Click this link to watch my video review.
The French Press is well known for honesty. If you start with bad or over roasted beans, then you’re going to get a really nasty cup of coffee. On the other hand, if you start with high quality beans that have been roasted perfectly, you’re going to get one amazingly strong and high caffeinated cup of coffee.
The AeroPress is my personal favorite. Click the previous link to watch my video review. This is one very forgiving brewing technique. Its process is much like the French Press, but produces a much smoother cup of coffee. Just imagine a 12-ounce syringe with a paper filter. Put the filter in, dump in the grounds, add water, mix for 1-2 minutes, put the plunger in, press down. Done. Best coffee ever.
Super Smooth Coffee
My wife Alisha and I own and run Lake City Coffee. We don’t have a store. We’re 100% online. Our purpose is to provide to our online customers the smoothest tasting, whole bean, home brewed coffee experience on the planet. And we’re damn good at it. No brag – Just fact. You want to test that bodacious statement; then just check out our “Review” tab.
We look forward to serving you and getting to know you.
Russell & Alisha Volz