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Caffeine in Espresso vs Coffee: The Differences Explained

Does espresso or coffee have more caffeine?

Caffeine is one of the main reasons we drink coffee—besides the delicious taste, of course. The amount of caffeine in our coffee beverages can vary depending on what beverage it is. If caffeine content matters to you, then you’ve probably wondered if a cup of coffee or an espresso has more caffeine.

The Short Answer
A cup of coffee typically has more caffeine than a shot of espresso.

But how can that be? Keep reading to learn all about the caffeine content of these popular drinks:

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How Much Caffeine is in Espresso?

The level of caffeine in your espresso drink can change depending on two things: the amount of espresso you drink and the type of espresso shot. We will explain how each one of these has a different effect on the caffeine level.

1. Amount of Espresso

A single shot of espresso has 64 mg of caffeine. Naturally, as you add more espresso, the caffeine level climbs. Many espresso drinks, such as lattes and cappuccinos, contain at least two shots of espresso. Therefore, the average caffeine level for an espresso drink is around 128 milligrams.

2. Type of Espresso Shot

This matters because the caffeine level changes depending on how much water is pushed through the grounds and at what rate. Two examples are ristretto and lungo espresso shots. Ristretto shots use half as much water as regular espresso shots, and the extraction is much quicker. This means it has less caffeine than the average espresso shot. A Lungo espresso shot is the opposite. It uses twice the water and takes longer to extract, which means it has a slightly higher caffeine level than regular espresso.

hot espresso shot
Image Credit: Vassamon Anansukkasem, Shutterstock

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How Much Caffeine is in Coffee?

Though the caffeine level depends on your brewing method and coffee-to-water ratio, an average 8 oz cup of black coffee has 95 mg of caffeine. Unsurprisingly, as the size of your cup of coffee increases, so does the caffeine level. If you drink your coffee out of a 16-ounce travel mug, you’ll consume about 190 milligrams of caffeine — quite a bit more than an espresso shot!

cup of coffee and beans on the table
Image Credit: Ruslan Semichev, Shutterstock

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The Bottom Line

So what’s the answer? Although there are variables that can change the caffeine level in both espresso and coffee, coffee usually has more caffeine. You would have to drink three shots of espresso to equal the amount of caffeine that is found in one average eight-ounce cup of coffee. Espresso’s bold, intense flavor and concentrated form lead most to believe it has more caffeine. But coffee is, in fact, the winner. Next time you need an extra boost of caffeine, reach for a cup of black coffee! And if you’re looking for a coffee calculator, try our simple caffeine calculator!

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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