What The Waitress Said About Coffee vs. Espresso After Dinner

In the below post on Le Quinze, I mention that our waitress told us something interesting about coffee vs. espresso after dinner.

So Lauren was debating a coffee vs. a cappucino. “I don’t want to be up all night, though,” she said, leaning towards the coffee.

“Well,” the waitress explained, “you have to understand” (she had a French accent) “caffeine dissolves in water—so the less water there is, the less caffeinated something is. So coffee is actually more caffeinated than espresso and therefore cappucino. Because there’s more water in coffee for the caffeine to dissolve in.”

We were all startled and thrilled by this revelation. We all ordered cappucinos. We felt that we were not as caffeinated as we would have been with cofffee. How do you feel about this, dear readers? Does this theory make sense? Or are the French dirty freedom/caffeine-hating bastards?

12 comments

  1. Yes, we try to drink more espresso at home because it has less caffeine than our normal coffee. The waitress was indeed right. Normal brewed coffee has about 115 mg of caffeine and espresso about 80mg. And since Cappuccino is based on a dose of espresso, it has indeed less caffeine.

  2. Correct information, bad science to get to it. The amount of water has nothing to do with the amount of caffeine (note dissolve doesn’t mean dissappear – the same amount of caffeine is present no matter how much water you add) – caffeine level is determined by the kind of coffee, amount of coffee, the grind, and how long the water is in contact with the coffee.

    Drip coffee uses a lot more coffee per cup than espresso, and also the cheaper coffee beans have a higher caffeine content that arabica beans. Water is also in contact with the coffee for much longer, giving higher caffeine extraction. All of which means that a cup of drip coffee can have up to 10 times the caffeine of an espresso.

    A glass of grapefruit juice (which contains chemicals that stop the liver from processing caffeine out of your bloodstream) and a big cup of drip coffee is a real eyeopener.

  3. Cappuccino in the evening, I tell you, don’t try that in Italy you might get seriously insulted, maybe even injured. The laws of the land say yes only to espresso after dinner, for those whose sleep bears with it.

  4. ‘Cappuccino in the evening, I tell you, don’t try that in Italy you might get seriously insulted, maybe even injured. The laws of the land say yes only to espresso after dinner, for those whose sleep bears with it.’

    and he’s a big fan of ‘cooking for mr. latte’ and everything!

  5. Your waitress was probably correct in saying that a serving of espresso had less caffeine than a serving of coffee at that restaurant, but her science was a little fanciful. (As is the reasoning of some of the other commenters here)

    The reason a serving of espresso has less caffeine than a serving of coffee is ONLY due to the fact that the serving size is so much smaller. Per milliliter espresso has a vastly higher caffeine content than does regular coffee.

    “Drip coffee uses a lot more coffee per cup than espresso…All of which means that a cup of drip coffee can have up to 10 times the caffeine of an espresso.”

    Uhm, not true and also not true.

  6. Also, roasting times affect the level of caffeine. The longer the beans are roasted, the less caffeine they have in them. So, if you do a direct comparison between, say, a full-city roast and an espresso roast (assuming identical volumes and identical grinds), the full city roast will give you the bigger buzz. But, that’s not too useful a comparison because in actual practice, they wouldn’t have identical grinds. Espresso is more finely ground, so there will be a higher concentration of it in your cup than there would be if you ordered drip coffee. But back on the other hand, espresso is served in smaller amounts, so you’ll drink less of it. Ergo, espresso drinks likely have less caffeine than coffee, but it all depends. Damn; I am one nerdy girl when it comes to coffee.

  7. Speaking of nerds… I AM the coffee lady :). I too have wondered which has more caffeine, and this is what I have come to know and what I pass on to my customers. The grind doesn’t matter so much in the ammount of caffeine to be extracted, you wouldn’t use a finer grind for drip to get more caffeine or a larger grind in espresso. . . this will only cause bad tastes and inconsistancy. Drip has a courase grind and espresso fine. Now on to the question at hand. . .

    Drip does indeed have a higher amound of caffeine, this is because the darker the roast the less it has. Espresso is roasted slightly longer than regular coffee beans inorder to bring the rich oils in the bean to the surface, I believe this has part to do with the beautiful crema. When the water quickly passes through the espresso grounds, they act like a net and catch some of the caffeine, so less makes it to your cup. Water in a coffee maker passes through the grounds slower, the grind is more courase and so more caffiene passes through ending up in your cup.

  8. The Bar Man in Bicerine told me to read the book by Illy if I wanted to fully understand the effects of caffiene and roasting and brewing. It took my library 4 weeks to find the book for me and I did TRY to read it. It is FULL of chemistry but I did manage to understand that expresso drinks in general have less caffiene than brewed drinks since the roast time is longer and caffiene is extracted during the roasting process. I further understand that brewed coffee has more caffiene due to the brew time and the fact that people do not usually pull their basket after the brew process to dispose of the spent grounds. So if your coffee maker keeps your coffee hot the inherent collection of steam that collects from the heating process allows for some rather pungent drippings into the pot.

    My personal experience is that espresso does not make my foot tingle but brewed coffee does. (I have a nerve problem) so I can definately feel the impact of brewed coffee whereas espresso does not bother my foot.

    I wonder if many people actually get more of a kick from the SUGAR they pile into these espresso based drinks and then think it is the caffiene rather than the sweetners and whipped toppings.

  9. Yep, espresso has less caffeine than brewed coffee because espresso simply is “fast” coffee. It is a richer, oiler bean for the flavor. The coffee brewing process extracts more caffeine because it has more time since it is a lengthier process. The water saturates the grind thus extracting more caffeine. So many people used to do the same (order coffee instead espresso based drinks) thinking they were getting less caffeine. That is pretty much it. There is a lot of long explanations that sound great but that is pretty the jist. Even think about it, so many people wrongly call it “expresso” for a reason. Which by the way is completely grating on the nerves of baristas. Along with those who come back and tell us that their capps are mostly just foam. :p

  10. Yep, espresso has less caffeine than brewed coffee because espresso simply is “fast” coffee. It is a richer, oiler bean for the flavor. The coffee brewing process extracts more caffeine because it has more time since it is a lengthier process. The water saturates the grind thus extracting more caffeine. So many people used to do the same (order coffee instead espresso based drinks) thinking they were getting less caffeine. That is pretty much it. There is a lot of long explanations that sound great but that is pretty the jist. Even think about it, so many people wrongly call it “expresso” for a reason. Which by the way is completely grating on the nerves of baristas. Along with those who come back and tell us that their capps are mostly just foam. :p

  11. Hey for these years i am worried and thinking that coffee has more caffeine but after seeing your comments i’m very eager to drink the espresso coffee. Thank you for the info dudes.

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