Espresso vs. Coffee – Which Has More Caffeine?

When most people think about beverages with high levels of caffeine they usually think about energy drinks or shots of espresso. But is there really as much caffeine in a shot of espresso as you think there is? Or could it possibly be simpler just to drink a cup of coffee and get the same morning pick-me-up?

How Much Caffeine Is In a Cup?

When you are looking at an eight-ounce cup of coffee, it can have anywhere from 65 mg to 120 mg of caffeine in it. There are many factors that play into the level of caffeine in a cup of drip coffee. These things can include the grind, type, water temperature, and many other variables that can affect the levels.

On the other side of things, espresso has around 60 mg of caffeine in a shot. This means that a cup of drip coffee has around 2.3 times more caffeine than a shot of espresso. We could simply end the question there and say that a cup of drip coffee is the best way to go for a morning pick-me-up, but is it that simple? Not so fast.

To make a fair conclusion as to which has the higher level of caffeine, you would need to compare them at the same volume. When you divide the 120 mg of caffeine by 8 ounces, you get 15 mg per ounce. When this is compared to the 60 mg in a shot of espresso, that is a very small amount.

This means that, yes drip coffee technically does have more caffeine per serving, but the reason for that is the higher serving size. In other words, in 1 ounce of espresso, you will get the amount of caffeine you would get in 4 ounces of drip coffee. When you look at it like this, the winner is clear.

Why Does Everyone Think Espresso Has More Caffeine?

People tend to believe that an ounce of espresso has more caffeine than a regular eight-ounce cup of drip coffee. This is probably because of the fact that espresso is much stronger and more bitter than drip coffee. Most people associate that flavor with a higher caffeine content. While this is common, it is untrue.

The reason that espresso is so bitter is because of the extremely fine grind of the coffee used in brewing espresso. The oils that are drawn out of the coffee bean give the coffee a bitter and woody flavor. This is why and it does not have anything whatsoever to do with the amount of caffeine.

How Much Of Each Type Of Coffee Can You Drink?

The recommended daily caffeine consumption is 300 mg. This means that you can have up to five espresso shots whereas when you are drinking regular drip coffee in an eight-ounce cup you can only drink two and a half. This just goes to further support the conclusion that a cup of drip coffee actually has more caffeine than a shot of espresso.

That means 5 ounces of espresso or 20 ounces of a regular drip coffee. This is, of course, a rough approximation and it is also dependent on quite a few variable some of which are listed above. There are other things such as if there is milk or cream added to the coffee that could dilute the caffeine levels and also lower your consumption level.

Who wins coffee vs. espresso?

In conclusion, which has more caffeine is mostly up to what you use as a defining factor whether that be per serving or by volume. If you are going per serving than a cup of drip coffee has more caffeine than an espresso shot. On the other hand, if you are going by volume, an espresso shot wins by a lot!

Which coffee is better suited for you is highly dependent on your lifestyle. If you are one of those people that drink coffee simply for the energy you get, a shot of espresso might be the best bet for you because it’s a fast and simple way to get a large amount of caffeine. However, if you are a coffee person and you enjoy a couple cups a day, drip coffee could be your new best friend.

Gregory Tumlin

Gregory Tumlin editor of has worked in the coffee industry for 5 years now. He used to work at Coffee and Espresso Bar in Princeton, NJ and have done some side coffee consulting and training through Barista School. He is also a husband and father of a young boy as well as a masters student. In whatever spare time he has left, Gregory enjoys running, cycling and reads just the right amount of trashy romance novels.

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