Two shots of freshly made espresso.
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When you’re feeling a little bleary-eyed the morning after a late night, you may decide to switch from your usual coffee to a shot of espresso, or even two. The aromatic brew is known for having an extra kick that may help start your day.

But does espresso really have a bigger dose of caffeine than what’s in a cup of regular coffee?

Tallying the Caffeine

The answer depends on how much of each beverage you’re drinking. Espresso has 63 mg of caffeine in 1 ounce (the amount in one shot), according to Department of Agriculture nutrition data. Regular coffee, by contrast, has 12 to 16 mg of caffeine in every ounce, on average.

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That means that ounce for ounce, espresso has more caffeine. But who stops at 1 ounce of coffee? A more common scenario is downing at least eight times that much. If you drink 8 ounces of your home brew, you’re getting 95 to 128 mg of caffeine.

Complicating matters is that a number of variables can affect the caffeine counts for espresso and coffee. These include the brand, the type of bean, the type of roast, the amount of coffee used to make a cup, and the way it’s prepared (brewed, French press, cold brewed, espresso machine, etc.). At Starbucks, for example, a shot of espresso has 75 mg of caffeine and an 8-ounce cup of its Pike Place medium-roast coffee has 155 mg.

So why do some people think that espresso delivers a bigger jolt than a regular cup of coffee?

Stephen Schulman, senior vice president and head of specialty coffee at Lacas/Dallis Bros. Coffee, says it may have to do with how quickly you down each beverage. The small serving size of an espresso means that you drink it faster than you would a cup of coffee, which you typically sip more slowly.

Espresso can actually be a good option if you’re looking to cut down your caffeine intake, as long as you limit the amount to one shot. You can either have the espresso on its own, or if you’re looking to linger over your beverage, order an espresso-based drink such as a cappuccino or latte.


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