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The Honest Truth about Caffeine in Coffee

Truth about Caffeine in Coffee

Everybody knows that coffee has caffeine, but how much do you really know about the caffeine content in coffee and how caffeine affects your body? Most people simply have no idea outside of the feelings of being tired and headaches regular caffeine drinkers experience if they go without it for a few hours. It is important to learn the truth about caffeine in coffee and how caffeine affects your system especially if you enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee on a daily basis.

There is more to caffeine that you might think, too. To understand how caffeine impacts your body and the amount of caffeine you are getting when you drink coffee, we must first learn and understand what caffeine actually is and how it can provide both positive and negative effects on your body.

What Is Caffeine?

At its most basic, caffeine is a drug. This drug can be found in a variety of beverages and is naturally found in coffee as well. However, unlike many drugs, there is no stigma associated with consuming caffeine on a regular basis. In fact, it is estimated that about 90% of the American population consumes caffeine in some form each and every day.

How Caffeine Affects the Body

Every process in our body is governed by a complex network of chemical signals. Two of the most important of these signals are hormones and neurotransmitters. Caffeine produces its effects on the body by altering the actions of just a few of these hormones and neurotransmitters used by our bodies.

First, caffeine binds itself to the adenosine receptors throughout the brain and nervous system. These receptors are used as an inhibitory neurotransmitter that suppresses the level of activity of the neurons that interact with it. Adenosine has been associated with promoting sleep and relaxation while also suppressing arousal. Since caffeine binds itself to these receptors, it prevents them from performing the action they are designed to do.

Once it has suppressed adenosine function, it then starts a cascading affect within the body that alters the function of other hormones and neurotransmitters. The most significant impact is its affect on our adrenals that produce and secrete the hormones epinephrine and cortisol. These are known as the “flight” or “fight” hormones that are used to increase your heart and respiration rates while also causing smooth muscle to relax. Caffeine has been shown to increase the amount of epinephrine in the body by as much as 250%, which means that caffeine is basically stimulating our bodies by producing a stress response. On top of that, caffeine also increases the circulation of serotonin in parts of the nervous system. This is why when you drink something with caffeine, your mood is elevated while at the same time your energy levels increase.

Caffeine in Coffee

While everyone knows that caffeine is present in coffee, most people have absolutely no idea exactly how much caffeine that are putting into their bodies every time they pour their favorite cup of coffee. Brewed coffee is by far the most popular preparation method used, which simply means any process where hot water comes in contact with coffee in order to make a liquid that will then be consumed.

What Affects Caffeine Levels in Coffee

Each cup of coffee you pour will, more than likely, contain a different amount of caffeine each time. This is due to several factors. The most common factors that impact how much caffeine your body is getting when you drink coffee are:

  1. Variations in coffee blend.
  2. Amount of ground coffee used.
  3. The brewing technique.

Coffee Brewing Techniques

There are several different types of brewing techniques that people use to prepare their coffee, and each of these methods can impact exactly how much caffeine is in your favorite cup of joe. The most commonly used methods are:

  • Drip or filter brewing
  • Percolating
  • French press
  • Boiling (Turkish or Greek)

Caffeine Content By Type

The amount of caffeine that you will find in your cup of coffee varies between brewing methods.

Drip or Filter 115-175mg with an average of 145mg
French press or plunger 80-135mg with an average of 107.5mg
Percolated 64-272mg with an average of 200mg
Boiled (Turkish or Greek) 160-240mg with an average of 200mg

Remember, the amount of caffeine will still vary based on a variety of factors, meaning each up of coffee will be different. Although the table above will give you a good idea on exactly what you can expect in the way of caffeine intake per cup of coffee you drink.

Most Popular Method

Brewing coffee by using the drip or filter method is by far the most popular method, at least in the United States. While not the highest caffeine content of all the popular methods, it still ranks pretty high on the list meaning each cup of coffee could be giving you a pretty sizable dose of caffeine. Many Americans drink more than one cup of coffee prepared by using the drip or filter method as well, greatly increasing the amount of caffeine they consume each day.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

While caffeine may be classified as a drug, that doesn’t mean that it is all bad. Yes caffeine does pose potential problems when used regularly just like any drug, but the side effects are nothing compared to many of the illegal substances and even legal substances such as nicotine or alcohol that people consume on a regular basis.

Benefits of Caffeine

Caffeine can provide many beneficial effects on the human body if it used properly.

  • Morning Wake Up – Sometimes it is hard to get yourself going in the morning without a cup of coffee to start your day. That little jolt of caffeine can help jump start your system preparing you for the day ahead.
  • Athletic Performance – Studies have found that caffeine can help athletes improve both their endurance and muscular power. This equates to better training sessions and greater gains in strength, fitness and performance in athletes.
  • Improved Cognitive Performance – In addition to making your body more prepared for physical endurance, it can also help your mind think more clearly. Short term memory and systems processing have both shown improvements with individuals using low to moderate caffeine.

Problems with Caffeine

While there are scientifically proven benefits, there are many negatives as well and it is important to be aware of these facts before you begin to consume more than your fair share of caffeine.

Caffeine is addictive and over time your body will be accustomed to the levels of caffeine that you ingest. If you suddenly stop drinking caffeine, your body will be thrown off of its normal balance. Essentially, you body will be forced into a continuous replacement of hormones broken down by the continuous binding of caffeine to them. This leads to many of the withdrawal symptoms that you experience when you stop drinking caffeine including fatigue and even headaches.

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Regularly using caffeine can also suppress iron absorption in your body as well as decrease the level of B-vitamins. In extreme cases and in people with already low iron levels, this can lead to anemia while at the same time reducing your body’s ability to continue to produce the hormones and neurotransmitters that caffeine binds with when it enters the body.

Maximize Benefits While Minimizing Harm

If you want to receive the most from caffeine while at the same time trying to minimize much of the harm that caffeine can bring you, there are several steps you can take when it comes to consuming caffeinated products.

1. Don’t use caffeine every day.

Every daily coffee drinker will hate this one. While it is best to not drink beverages that contain caffeine every day, if you must, limit yourself to only one cup a day.

2. Find the right dose.

When consuming coffee or other drinks with caffeine, it is important to find the right amount to drink. If you drink so much that you feel jittery, you have definitely exceeded your limit. If you don’t feel any affects from drinking coffee or other beverages, you aren’t drinking enough.

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3. Try alternatives to caffeine.

Cacao, or unprocessed chocolate, contains a compound that is related to caffeine, but doesn’t interact with the nervous system. Instead, it stimulates blood flow throughout the body. Because your circulatory system is able to bring more nutrients to your brain, you will feel more alert and feel like you have more energy.

Caffeine is a natural part of many of the most popular drinks in the United States such as coffee and tea. While there is no stigma attached to it, it is still an addictive drug. However, it doesn’t come with many of the worst side effects found in many other drugs and, if used correctly, can actually be beneficial to the human body. It is important to understand how caffeine interacts with your body and how much caffeine you are getting with each cup of coffee so you can monitor your caffeine intake each day so you can benefit from all the positive effects of caffeine while minimizing your risk of developing any of the negative side effects as well. Remember, too much of anything is bad. So go ahead and enjoy your cup or coffee every day, but try to avoid over doing it. Otherwise you could become one of the millions that are already addicted to this very legal drug.

Truth about Caffeine in Coffee

  • Great info Matt! I use a Chemex pour over so my caffeine intake is in the middle ground. I have never tried Turkish coffee but remember my grand parents clear glass “percolator” on the stove morning, noon and night! I wonder how they ever went to sleep!
    Thanks for the info as always!

    • Matt Giovanisci

      You’re welcome! I’m a Chemex man myself 🙂