MYTH: Espresso Has More Caffeine Than Drip Coffee

If you’ve been with us on the CREMA blog this week, you know we’re not much for myths. Once, we even confiscated the Mythology textbook of an innocent Belmont student and crammed it in a burr grinder (take that, myths!). For this, our final myth-bust of a three-part series, we dropkick one of our most-heard wives tales. Warning: either way, you’re going to get a buzz.

PART THREE: Espresso has more caffeine than drip coffee.

Offer some people an espresso, and they’ll give you this look like, Do you want me to be awake at 4 a.m., bouncing off the walls like Sonic the Hedgehog, a speed metal band rehearsing in my frontal cortex?

“No thanks,” they’ll say, “I’ll have a drip coffee instead.”

And off they go, unknowingly caffeinating themselves into hair-bending oblivion.

The thing is: espresso does not have more caffeine than drip coffee. In fact, drip coffee is more caffeinating than espresso, in some cases much more. And it all comes down to how much of it we drink.

A typical cup of drip coffee (the National Coffee Association says it’s 8 oz.) contains around 80 milligrams of caffeine (accounting for factors such as roast level, extraction percentage, and others). An espresso--a two- or three-ounce beverage--yields around 70 milligrams of caffeine. Those figures are pretty close, of course, but how often do we just drink eight ounces of drip coffee? The number is around never. More often than not, we'll swill twelve, sixteen, and even twenty four ounces of coffee in a sitting. (You'll need that much caffeine to get your brain through that Mythology textbook.)

So why does espresso have all this buzz surrounding it? Well, the origins of this myth are at least easy to understand. Espresso, since it's such a concentrated beverage, actually does have more caffeine per ounce. But when was the last time you slurped only two ounces of drip coffee? The way we understand drip coffee is that it's like Pringles: once you pop, you can't stop.