Coffee Expert Breaks Down The Biggest Mistake You Make When You Order Your Coffee

What is it you're looking for in a great cup of coffee? Do you put flavor first, or are you all about the caffeine jolt? If you belong in the latter camp and are looking for the most buzz for your buck, you may have already read up on just which chains are offering the strongest cups of coffee (spoiler alert: Starbucks is a respectable second, but Mickey D's brew comes in dead last). What you may not have known, though, is that your go-to order may be sabotaging your caffeine buzz.

We spoke with Jackie Newman, Vice President at World of Coffee, and she had some surprising news. "If you are solely looking for an energy boost, ordering a dark roasted coffee is the biggest mistake you can make," she told us. So wait; darker coffee is really weaker? How can that be?

Why a darker roast makes for a weaker brew

Newman explained this conundrum as follows: "While it may seem counter-intuitive, the lighter the roast, the higher the caffeine content, and the darker the roast, the lower the caffeine content." The reason being, the longer you roast the beans, the more of the caffeine content cooks out of them. You may get a stronger flavor, but you'll get less of a jolt with a darker roast. As Newman says, "Oftentimes people confuse taste with caffeine, though the two are unrelated."

Roast isn't the only thing that can affect coffee's caffeine content. Newman also lists coffee species and varietal, grind, brew time, water concentration, and saturation as factors that can all vary the caffeine levels, as can other variables such as whether you add milk or sugar, or eat anything along with your coffee, and the speed at which you suck it down. She also adds the somewhat surprising fact that espresso isn't your best bet, caffeine-wise either. While Newman admits that "per volume of fluid, espresso does have more caffeine than drip coffee, as it is a much more concentrated brew," she explains that "a cup of drip coffee is brewed with more coffee grounds, has a longer extraction period, and provides a higher volume of coffee, hence more caffeine." 

Her takeaway advice? "If you only want to order one drink to get the most bang for your buck, ordering a regular light roasted drip coffee will deliver more caffeine."