How to maximise caffeine from coffee
A major player in coffees popularity is the caffeine content. Caffeine is regularly used in many food and drink products to increase their repeat use. Who wouldn't want to feel and perform better?
Coffee is natural which does mean that the caffeine content within it may vary. This hasn’t discouraged athletes as it is still the number 1 choice in the morning and before workouts. Fortunately you can influence how much caffeine is extracted in your morning brew.
Here is how:
These are factors that you have no control over aside from the choice of whether to buy that particular bag of coffee.
There are two over arching bean types Robusta and Arabica. In 2020 it is unlikely that you have ever tasted a Robusta bean coffee unless you have been specifically searching for it. The smoother, fruitier and richer taste of Arabica is the main stay of baristas all over the world.
Robusta is named because of its robust nature when growing and it has higher caffeine levels. Almost double that of its Arabica counterpart - 2.7% vs 1.5%. This can result in upwards of 400mg per cup of coffee, which is absolutely enough to give you the jitters and a crash unless you weigh north of 120kgs. For context a can of red bull has 77mg.
On top of that, if consumed without blending with Arabica, it tastes like what I imagine eating gravel would taste like. Rough.
The third wave of coffee has drilled down to the finer techniques of coffee roasting. Small batches and more intricate monitoring of roasting metrics has meant that the dark bitter roasts that were common in 1980s Italian restaurants are dying out.
A common misconception is that a strong tasting coffee equates to a highly caffeinated coffee. This is not the case as a dark roast involves a longer roast and therefore decreases many of the assets of the bean, including caffeine content and flavour.
Now, this is not a dramatic amount but enough for it to be statistically significant.
These are factors that you do have a choice over throughout the brewing process.
Prior to reading this be aware that if you are to deviate from recommended brew methods to increase or decrease caffeine content then there is a chance you will sacrifice flavour.
A cup of coffee is made when the water and coffee granules meet and water acts as a solvent, breaking apart the molecules of coffee and dissolving the various flavour compounds. Every brew method employs this method in some form or another. If you have a finer grind then you have more surface area readily available for extraction and therefore more caffeine.
Espresso is designed to be fast so that consumers can buy a coffee quickly. A fine grind means that a coffee can be created in under 30seconds. It doesn’t mean that you should use a sawdust-like-grind for your French Press.
It is very common for skilled baristas to tweak the grind type depending on how the coffee is pouring. If you are wanting to do a similar thing but for caffeine content we would recommend you make small adjustments to increase or decrease caffeine content. You can test and retest and ensure that you are not obliterating the taste of your drink.
Everybody has a favourite brew method. Personally I am an Aeropress fan. I think that it captures the best of both worlds, providing a strong and also flavourful cup of coffee. Aside from taste each brew method elicits a different caffeine content, primarily due to the amount of time that the grounds are left to extract with water.
From our research we found that the French Press extracts the most caffeine, which coincides with a longer brew time. It consistently extracted approximately 50% more caffeine than the Aeropress or Chemex with 273mg vs 182mg & 156mg respectively.
Therefore a good rule of thumb is that the longer the brew time the more caffeine you will get.
For athletes who complete a variety of training types (nearly everybody) we recommend that you alter your brew method depending on the desired caffeine content. If you want to find out how caffeine affects varying training types read this.
If you enjoyed this we recommend you download our guide on how to maximise your caffeine. It has 6 steps to understanding it better and actionable items to ensure you get the most out of it in your training.