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How Long Does it Take for Caffeine from Coffee to Kick In?

woman drinking coffee

Coffee is a must-have for many people to start their day, relying on the caffeine to wake them up and keep them going throughout the day. Coffee naturally contains caffeine, a stimulant that gives most people a feeling of alertness and wakefulness. There are over a million coffee drinkers in the US, whether brewing at home or going to their favorite chain for their daily caffeine fix.

But how long does it really take for the caffeine in coffee to kick in? The short answer is that it takes around 20 minutes to 1 hour, but there are quite a few variables to that time frame. Things like coffee roasts, how much you drink, how fast you drink, and even body type can speed up or delay the effects of caffeine.

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Caffeine Kick-in & Peak

Generally, coffee will take anywhere between 20 to 60 minutes, as we mentioned before. Coffee also has a half-life of around 4 to 5 hours. Around 1 hour is when caffeine peaks to its highest effects, which can make some people jittery, anxious, or excessively energetic. After the peak level of effects, the caffeine in coffee doesn’t wear off quickly and will remain in your system for a while.

Coffee Half-Life

Caffeine doesn’t just hit and peak within an hour; it also has quite a long half-life of around 4 to 5. A half-life in caffeine, medication, and other substances is simply the time it takes to reduce the amount of caffeine by half. If you drink coffee at 5 pm and you have around 80mg of caffeine in your system, it will take 4 to 5 hours to reduce down to 40mg. That’s why it can keep you awake if you drink coffee earlier in the evening, even if you feel tired and ready for bed. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you may want to skip that after-supper coffee to prevent insomnia.

various coffee
Image Credit:, Shutterstock

Coffee Roasts and Caffeine

Coffee roasts vary slightly in caffeine strength, which can feel like it takes longer or much shorter to kick in. While the time to kick in might be the same, the amount of caffeine can also matter. However, the difference in caffeine amounts is almost negligible, but it is still something to take note of. It’s also important to note that caffeine levels per scoop will be higher, but they’ll have the same amount of caffeine by weight.

Light roast coffee has the most caffeine out of all the roasts if you measure coffee by scoops and not weight, which can be a shock to some people. The reason is that per scoop, the light roast will technically have more caffeine.  Light roast got its name because it is quite literally lightly roasted, retaining the most caffeine throughout the roasting process.

Medium roast coffee is a true in-betweener, having less caffeine per scoop than light roast and more caffeine than dark roast. Medium roast is the most popular roast in the US, especially at coffee shops and chain stores. It’s also considered the best roast for drip coffee, having both acidity and body for a balanced taste.

Dark roast coffee may look potent with caffeine, but it’s got the least amount of coffee by the scoop. Dark roast coffee is best for iced coffee, but a large iced coffee will easily have more caffeine compared to a small blonde roast. Dark roast coffee is popular for its bold taste and lack of acidity, especially for cold brewing and French press brewing methods.

Barista making non traditional coffee in french press
Image Credit: Alexander Ishchenko, Shutterstock

Other Factors that Influence Caffeine Effects

How much coffee you drank: Caffeine is only as effective as its dose, meaning it can take longer to kick in levels if you’re only sipping on a 4oz cup of coffee compared to an extra-large iced coffee. If you’re not really feeling the effects, either drink a little bit more or drink it faster.

How fast you drank your coffee: If you’re looking to speed up the effects of coffee by a few minutes, drink your coffee faster! Just like if you’re only drinking a small amount of coffee, drinking a big cup slowly may not give you the caffeine buzz you’re looking for.

Metabolism: If your coffee kicks in slower or faster than usual, it may have to do with metabolism. If your liver metabolizes coffee at a slower rate, you may not feel it until 1 or even 2 hours later. On the flip side, if it metabolizes faster, you might feel it within 15 to 20 minutes.

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How Long Does Caffeine Take? Final Thoughts

Caffeine from coffee usually kicks in within an hour, but there are some variables that could change that time frame. Many people rely on coffee for a quick pick-me-up but are sometimes disappointed when it doesn’t quite give them that caffeine buzz right away. Instead of reaching for a second or third cup, wait a bit longer before guzzling down more. There can be a delay when it comes to caffeine kicking in, so make sure you’re not taking too much and causing anxiety or coffee jitters.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay


Jaimie Wisniowski

Jaimie is a freelance writer fueled by coffee, whether it’s hot, iced, or made from a local coffee shop. She enjoys writing all things coffee, especially if it means trying the latest coffee shop trends (hello cold foam!). After spending years writing poems, college essays, and short stories, it only a matter of time to turn writing into a career. Writing about coffee simply combined two of her favorite things! When she’s not drinking coffee by the minute and writing at her laptop, Jaimie spends time hiking, exercising, and living an active life. She also loves to snuggle up with a good book and her dog, Margo. If you catch her without a cup of coffee, she’s probably on her way to the coffee maker now.

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