Does Dark Roast Coffee Have More Caffeine?

Comments 21 by Rebecca Bollwitt

To me, the most satisfying cup of coffee is served in a diner where the waitress fills it up at least 6 times (without asking) before you get your two eggs over medium with bacon and hashbrowns. Other than that, at any specialty coffee shop on any street corner I’m usually a dark roast girl.

Photo Credit: Cosmo on Flickr

The other morning John overheard someone ask for a dark roast coffee because they needed the extra caffeine in their system. The barista replied that dark roasts actually have less caffeine since they’re toasted longer and that drains it out. Of course when he told me this I had to do some internet-sleuthing to confirm or bust this dark roast caffeine myth.

Generally, dark-roast coffee has less caffeine than lighter roasts because the roasting process reduces the bean’s caffeine content. [Caffeine – Wiki]

Drinking a darker roast will decrease your caffeine intake as the higher roasting temperatures eliminate more of the caffeine in the bean. [Sally’s Place]

There are also several forums where others have asked the very same question and the resounding response seems to be that caffeine comes out in the roasting process. However, this lovely Drupal site below suggests the opposite:

It really depends on how you measure the caffeine.
If you measure by weight you actually have more caffeine in dark roast because the water loss is faster than the caffeine loss. If you measure by volume you have less caffeine because the beans expand as they roast. [Coffee and Caffeine FAQ]

It’s also been suggested that if you want a dark roast taste with all the caffeine of a light roast, try ordering an Americano. However, if it’s just the pure caffeine you’re worried about, consult Vancouver Coffee’s post about ingesting specific amounts to increase your hyperactivity.

In the end, I’m not quite sure what the actual answer is without getting into some serious mathematical and scientific molecular breakdown calculations. I’ll just sit back now with my warm beverage of choice until the shakes inevitably arrive by the next coffee run at 3:00pm.

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21 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. phaedraThursday, March 6th, 2008 — 11:29am PST

    the difference in the amounts of caffeine in light vs dark roast are barely measurable. It really just comes down to personal preference on taste. Me, I’m a double shot(organic, fair trade please)soy cappuccino type of gal.

  2. Keira-AnneThursday, March 6th, 2008 — 11:40am PST

    I like americanos in the morning. Tasty, tasty americanos. Lots of cream, three packets of Splenda.

  3. RaulThursday, March 6th, 2008 — 12:35pm PST

    I have frequently tried both approaches with the same size and type of coffee (so, technically, that’s a controlled pair comparison research design). I also try switching up throughout the day (I have dark roast in the morning then light roas in the afternoon, and then reverse it). So my N=1 experiment says – I like light roast and I am buzzed for most of the morning 🙂

  4. GregThursday, March 6th, 2008 — 1:16pm PST

    For the longest time, I though dark roast = more caffeine as well. Imagine the disappointment…

  5. ChrisThursday, March 6th, 2008 — 2:13pm PST

    That Americano theory is bunk. Americanos are watered down espresso. Espresso has WAY less caffeine than most people think. Espresso is an extremely dark roast and is brewed super quick (not allowed to steep like other forms of brewing), which means less caffeine in the beans and less time for the caffeine to come out in brewing.

    People think espresso has a lot of caffeine cause it has such strong flavo(u)r. However, flavo(u)r strength and zoomzoom strength are unrelated.

  6. Miss604Thursday, March 6th, 2008 — 2:15pm PST

    Hehe thanks for translating into Canadian for us Chris 🙂

  7. Michael KwanThursday, March 6th, 2008 — 2:33pm PST

    Realistically, there probably isn’t that much of a difference in caffeine content between a light and dark roast, but I prefer the taste of a dark roast myself. That would probably explain why I’m more likely to get an Americano than a regular drip coffee. Drowning an Americano in plenty of cream and sugar pretty much eliminates the appeal of an Americano in the first place, methinks.

  8. AdelaideThursday, March 6th, 2008 — 2:48pm PST

    Yes, dark roast here too. I think STARBUCKS ruined me. 😆 Theirs are so strong and when they first came out…it was a shock to the system. But you eventually…”adapt” to it

  9. ChrisThursday, March 6th, 2008 — 4:11pm PST

    Being a former in-store training champion at Starbucks (it sounds more official than the Shift Supervisor I was), we were told that the darker the roast, the lower the caffeine content would be. Nonetheless, I’m more interested in a smooth, flavourful cup of liquid gold and was never concerned if the caffeine would get to me or not.

    I also agree with the other Chris about the caffeine content in an Americano as an Espresso Roast is traditionally darker than others and therefore would hold the same theory to begin with, notwithstanding the fact that shot of espresso at Starbucks comes out in standard within 30 seconds and not minutes.

  10. KatThursday, March 6th, 2008 — 9:44pm PST

    Since I drink my coffee black, flavour is of utmost importance! I love my coffee and usually it’s a dark roast and strong. I drink way too much coffee…no wonder I can’t sleep at night! 🙁

  11. JoshFriday, March 7th, 2008 — 2:57pm PST

    There are plenty of lists comparing caffeine quantities in various drinks, such as this list

    To me it is much more important for coffee to taste good, luckily in Vancouver we are blessed with amazing places like 49th parallel in kits, JJ bean, elysian room, wicked cafe and artigiano.

    I’m fully convinced if everyone tried some of the fresh roasted, properly brewed, traditional Italian coffees at these cafes (although they do have the sugary/flavoured stuff too) starbucks and ‘tims’ would be out of business in a week 😉

    my 2 oz

  12. ErikThursday, July 10th, 2008 — 11:27am PDT

    Wow… so much misinformation… not sure where to begin.

    Josh you are totally right that if people were to try a coffee from Elyian room, or Bulldog in toronto, they would never bother with starbucks or tims again. Though i must say, traditional european coffee is not fresh roasted… they are left to sit. I much prefer the fresh roast.

    The short brew on an espresso is a much better brew than drip. The oils in coffee and the CO2 arent disolved nor extracted by sitting in water. It takes the pressure from the espresso machine. It has nothing to do with the time.

    I cant even be bothered to address the horrid over roasting that has become so prevellant in the uncultured american society. Starbucks = Charbucks. You shouldnt taste the roast. The roast should be optimized to compliment the flavour of the bean. You should taste the bean, not the roast.

  13. Coffee-GODWednesday, August 27th, 2008 — 11:28am PDT

    Heres how it is: Everyone likes their own thing. If you like Starbucks, Hey! its America, drink it.(just know you are ethically inferior). Caffine is much higher by volume in espresso, however most people don’t down 16oz of pure esspresso shots every morning without ending up in the hospital. Generally speaking, a 12oz cup of drip = a double shot of full pour esspresso. This does vary by roast. As a general tasting rule, lighter roasts like Breakfast Blends are higher in Caffine, due to less oil loss durring the roasting process. Likewise darker roasts such as French or Italian are somewhat ligher in caffine content. These coffees are traditionally referred to as desert coffees, to be enjoyed in the evening. Really its more about taste and preference. However,and i’m suprised this is not more common, if I’m really really hungover, I order up a quad 16oz “shot in the dark” (sometimes called a ‘redeye’). This is a nearly full cup of drip coffee, topped-off with 4 shots of espresso. You may want a little room for cream on this one. AHHHH….coffee.

  14. RobbThursday, October 30th, 2008 — 1:21pm PDT

    Dark Roasted coffee if bought by the pound has more caffine due to less water content.
    Starbucks is incorrect in asserting that the darker the roast the least caffine.

  15. RobbThursday, October 30th, 2008 — 2:01pm PDT

    I just saw the espresso comment.
    Espresso has more caffine per fluid ounce than coffee.
    If you are comparing a 1 oz shot to a full cup of coffee, sure there is more caffine in the cup of coffee. However if you fill that same cup with espresso you have more than twice the caffine.

    Also due to the higher temperature, and finer coffee grinds there is more caffine released in espresso, a darker roasted bean that contains more caffine by weight.

    So what have we learned?

    A 1lb bag of dark roast coffee has more caffine than a 1lb bag of light roast because coffee expands as is it roasted, but loses weight due to baking out moisture.
    Espresso has more caffine than coffee if comparing similar volume.
    Starbucks employees get paid $6.00 an hour for a reason.

  16. oggySaturday, January 17th, 2009 — 4:26pm PST

    “Starbucks employees get paid $6.00 an hour for a reason.”

    What a rude Tw*t.

  17. MatSaturday, March 14th, 2009 — 7:20am PDT

    The difference of caffeine between roasts is minimal, I do find it interesting watching people choose there coffee’s, I find caffeine content is mostly in the coffee drinkers head. It really is fun to watch. As for Phaedra The Fair Trade Organic is great but be aware most coffee already is organic (caffeine is a natural pesticide) and don’t take the Fair Trade logo at face value. Unfortunately places like Indonesia are still very corrupt and most of that “FAIR TRADE” money never makes it back to the farmer. Just thought I’d let you know.

    Enjoy your coffee y’all any way you like it.

  18. T.Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 — 8:04pm PDT

    I used to work for Second Cup and was taught that darker roast coffee contains less caffeine than lighter roasts. If this information is not correct then it should not be taught, or it should be modified as necessary. Perhaps we can challenge Starbucks and Second Cup if they are teaching inaccurate information, to their employees but I don’t think that the wage a person receives is relevant. Nor should we assume that the wage that a person receives is synonymous with their ability to retain and share information that they have learned and therefore believe to be correct.

    I have been operating under the learned knowledge that a darker roast contains less caffeine, however I would be interested to learn the definitive truth!

  19. YesbutThursday, June 11th, 2009 — 6:59am PDT

    “So what have we learned?

    A 1lb bag of dark roast coffee has more caffine than a 1lb bag of light roast because coffee expands as is it roasted, but loses weight due to baking out moisture.”

    — Which is all well and good if you brew by the pound or by weight, but you don’t ( unless you are unique in your brewing practice ). We brew by volume measure (scoop, tablespoon, etc) at which point the lighter roasted coffee has the higher caffeine content.

  20. eggomaniacSunday, December 5th, 2010 — 8:26am PST

    Robusta, which is used for instant coffee, has twice as much caffeine as Arabica.
    Not much difference by weight OR volume between Arabicas of light to dark roast.
    It ‘boils’ down to taste and do NOT believe dark roast tastes better, unless you’re the type that likes burnt toast.
    If you want to know what coffee really tastes like, get light roast taken off the heat in time with second pop. Off gas for a day and hand grind. Brew in a French press and drink with NO cream or sugar. Forget the burnt and bitter taste you love and look for the sweet, delicate and acidic flavour in the upper pallette.
    Warning, after savouring REAL coffee taste for a week, you mind find the taste of burnt coffee to be mildly disgusting.
    Light roast has a superior, real, coffee taste to dark brewed charcoal.

  21. eggomaniacSunday, December 5th, 2010 — 8:32am PST

    clarify above,,, the robusta /bean/ has twice the cafeeine. I have no idea about the final product. My interest and experience with instant coffess is severley limited.

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