How Do Coffee Beans Affect Coffee Buzz?
- The less common Robusta species of coffee bean will typically have around twice the caffeine as the common Arabica you find the grocery store. About 75% of the world’s coffee is a strain of Arabica.
- Roasting a coffee bean can actually burn away a bit of caffeine, make it lighter, and make it bigger. A dark roast will deliver more caffeine than an light roast (or non-roast) ounce-for-ounce due to its decreased weight. A light roast will deliver more caffeine inch-for-inch because the light roast beans are bigger. With a normal roast the caffeine difference per bean is negligible.
- The exact properties of a bean yield depend on the climate where it’s grown and how the coffee tree is cared for.
- Different sub-species of beans, different hybrids, and different mixes of bean types will have different caffeine levels and effects.
- Different preparations of coffee (espresso, drip, cold press, etc.) create the biggest difference in terms of the caffeine buzz created.
- Other bioactives (the other non-caffeine parts of coffee that affect our chemistry) can change with brewing techniques, bean, and roast. This adds complexity to the topic. See this article for example: Roasting process affects differently the bioactive compounds and the antioxidant activity of arabica and robusta coffees.
Below we take a deeper look at how different coffee beans do and don’t give you different buzzes.
What are the differences between coffee beans?
TIP: As one reader pointed out, caffeine isn’t the only thing happening in coffee. Alongside caffeine there is a complex mixture of bioactive chemicals, including but not limited to: theobromine, theophylline, and the lipids cafestol and kahweol that affect our mind and body (there is also L-Theanine, which while only found in tea, apparently pairs well with coffee). And notably for this topic, the amount of these bioactives can differ between beans, preparation, and roast. While studies I can find discuss health benefits more than buzz, for instance Coffee, but not caffeine, has positive effects on cognition and psychomotor behavior in aging and Coffee: Emerging Health Effects and Disease Prevention, we shouldn’t rule out this nuance when discussing beans, roasts, and buzzes.
FACT: Caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug, legal and unregulated in most parts of the world. On that note, caffeine is a drug and you can get help for caffeine addiction here. You can overdose on caffeine and it can be toxic at about 50–100 normal cups of coffee (or the caffeine equivalent).
Is it Just the Amount of Caffeine or is it the Bean Type that Affects Buzz?
Science says caffeine is caffeine, it’s the amount and not which of the 60 plants on earth you get it from that matters. It would seem like a poorly cared for Robusta wouldn’t give the same buzz as the perfect Arabica, or that a caffeine pill would have a different buzz than a chocolate bar, but to science all caffeine is the same.
The molecular formula for caffeine: C8H10N4O2
Arabica V. Robusta
There are two strains of coffee:
- Arabica is a common and preferred strain with less caffeine. Arabica trees require more attention, produce more flavorful beans, and are typically higher proceed. Strains of Arabica are called “cultivars”, each has it’s own flavor and caffeine amounts. Types of Arabica include: Typica, Burbon, Caturra, Catuai, Mundo Novo, Blue Mountain, and more.
- Robusta is a less common strain with more caffeine. The trees are low maintenance and typically it is less expensive than Arabica.
- Strains can be mixed to create a hybrid of Arabica and Robusta, and their subtypes.
Another look at Arabica versus Robusta?
Caffeine beans are grown and cared for in different ways in different parts of the world. This produces a lot of quality, flavor, and caffeine amount differences between beans.
Dark Roast V. Light Roast
When a bean is roasted some caffeine is burned away, but the now lighter beans will deliver more caffeine ounce-for-ounce. Like-wise a lightly roasted bean will deliver more caffeine by the scoop due to smaller beans. Roasting has more to do with flavor than caffeine delivery. Both light and dark roast are roasted at the same temperature for almost the same time. The typically roasting temp is far below what it would take to roast away a meaningful amount of caffeine.
Light Roast versus dark roast.
FACT: According to scribblerscoffee.com “any significant variation would require a roasting temperature above 600°F. Since temperatures rarely exceed 470°F, a bean’s caffeine remains relatively static across all roast levels.”
Preparation of Coffee and Caffeine Strength
One of the biggest differences in regards to caffeine buzz has less to do with the bean and more to do with preparation. Different coffee preparations create different amounts of caffeine by volume.