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How Your Coffee Brewing Methods Affect Caffeine Extraction

5 August 2020
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For most of us, coffee is fundamental to starting the day on a good note. Some prefer it with a strong caffeine kick, whereas others prefer a milder, decaffeinated version. 

We already know how various elements such as grind size and the coffee’s roasting date can affect the flavour and perceived “strength” of a coffee. In this article, we explore how different types of brewing methods affect caffeine extraction.

The Science Behind It

First things first, what is caffeine and how is it produced? Caffeine is a natural stimulant that is most commonly found in coffee beans, tea leaves, and cocoa plants. These plants produce caffeine as a natural pesticide – that is why coffee beans that are grown in higher altitudes have lower caffeine content. 

Find out more about Arabica, Liberica, and Robusta beans and their caffeine content.

The roasting process doesn’t affect a bean’s caffeine content; however, its density increases as it is being roasted. Beans that are roasted longer are less dense. This means for the same amount of coffee grounds, dark roasts are greater in mass than light roasts. This is why dark roasts tend to taste richer and toastier.

Curious about the differences between dark, medium, and light roasts? Here’s a guide.

French Press – 80 to 100 milligrams

a close up shot of coffee in a french press
The French Press results in a full-flavoured brew with intense flavours and high caffeine content. Photo from Ivan Calderon.

If you are looking for a simple way to make a strong cup of coffee, the French Press is ideal as a typical 4oz cup of coffee contains 80-100 milligrams of caffeine. That’s the highest caffeine level in this list.

For this brewing method, the flavours and compounds of the coffee grounds are extracted aggressively due to its constant infusion in hot water. Moreover, the longer the grounds are steeped, the higher the concentration of caffeine.

But be careful not to steep the grounds for too long as it will result in bitter-tasting coffee. Here’s more tips on preventing bitter coffee and how to fix it.

Aeropress – 50 to 70 milligrams

a lady pouring hot water into an aeropress
The amount of caffeine in coffee produced by an Aeropress falls in the mid-range. Photo from Alex Chernenko.

The Aeropress is a favourite amongst those who are constantly on the go. Using air pressure to push brewed coffee through the sieve, it produces approximately 50 to 70 milligrams of caffeine for every 4oz of coffee.

The resulting brew is smooth and rich, yet not overly strong due to its lower levels of caffeine. However, if you steep the grounds longer than its recommended 30 seconds brewing time, you will get a more concentrated cup of coffee.

Filter Coffee – 60 to 100 milligrams

pouring hot water into a filter coffee
The filter coffee brewing method is perfect for those who prefer a rich and smooth brew. Photo from Emma Smith.

Often, filter coffee comes in two forms – the pour-over method or the drip coffee method. These methods require a medium to fine ground so that coffee flavours are slowly extracted as water flows through the grounds.

A typical cup of coffee brewed using the filter coffee method contains 60 to 100 milligrams of caffeine. Remember, finer grounds and higher water temperature will result in more caffeine extraction.

Looking for an easy-to-use filter coffee machine that has precision brewing technology features? Here’s two of them.

Coffee Machine – 30 to 50 milligrams

a shot of espresso in a white cup
By concentration, a single shot of espresso contains the most caffeine levels compared to other brewing methods. Photo from Nathan Dumlao.

An espresso shot is often a go-to drink for those who need a caffeine hit to get through the day. But due to the difference in serving size, it actually has a lower caffeine level than the brewing methods mentioned previously.

A single 1oz shot of espresso extracted from a coffee machine contains 30 to 50 milligrams of caffeine. So if you need a caffeine hit, a double espresso shot might do the trick.

Decaffeinated Coffee – 2 to 4 milligrams

an aerial view of a donut placed on a pregnant lady's stomach while she holds a cup of coffee
Pregnant ladies often switch to decaffeinated coffee due to its minute caffeine levels. Photo from Fallon Michael.

Surprise, surprise! Although most people assume that decaffeinated coffee is completely free from caffeine, a standard cup of coffee still contains 2 to 4 milligrams of caffeine.

For those who need to abstain from drinking coffee due to health reasons or to avoid the side-effects of caffeine, fear not, because the caffeine content in decaffeinated coffee is almost negligible.

Just like every other coffee, decaffeinated coffee brews just as well regardless of the brewing method. Learn more surprising facts about decaffeinated coffee here.

For easy and intuitive ways to customise a variety of recipes with your preferred coffee strength, these high-technology coffee machines will do the magic.