I’m at the stage in life where I literally can’t function in the morning without my daily caffeine hit. But is the caffeine in my coffee a naturally occurring stimulant?
Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical stimulant in all coffee beans, so all types of coffee have natural caffeine in them (including decaf to a lesser degree). Coffee beans have evolved to contain caffeine as a deterrent against insects.
Join me as I explore the topic of caffeine in coffee in more detail, find out why coffee beans need caffeine in them in the first place – and discover the differences between natural and synthetic caffeine…
What Coffee Has Natural Caffeine?
Because caffeine is found in the coffee bean, all types of coffee contain natural caffeine. Even decaf coffee has a trace of caffeine, because the decaffeination process removes around 97% of the bean’s natural caffeine.
Ever wondered how they manage to remove the caffeine from a small bean? Here’s a short and entertaining film that explains how coffee is decaffeinated.
Which Coffee Type Has More Caffeine?
Different types of coffee have different amounts of caffeine, and there’s a reason why that shot of espresso gives you that sudden hit.
Espresso does have the most caffeine per volume of coffee; however, unless you go for a doppio (double shot), there isn’t an awful lot of space in an espresso cup for a lot of caffeine. If you want a lot of coffee, you might be better off with a large Americano or cappuccino.
In terms of the beans themselves, Robusta has more caffeine than Arabica. The latter tends to be viewed as the better quality of the two beans, so don’t assume that a more expensive coffee has more caffeine.
Another myth is that a darker roast has more caffeine. Not so. This is simply based on the fact that a roasty brew has a stronger flavor. A lightly roasted brew actually retains more caffeine.
Do All Types of Coffee Have Caffeine?
All types of coffee contain caffeine, simply because it’s a naturally occurring chemical in the coffee bean. You can try a decaf to cut down on the caffeine; however, you’ll still be consuming a small amount of caffeine.
Some folks switch to tea to try and keep down their caffeine intake: no good, we’re afraid, because tea also contains caffeine. In fact, an 8-ounce cup of black tea has about 47 mg of caffeine in it, while the same size cup of coffee has around 95 mg.
Switching to tea can therefore halve your caffeine intake, but it’s hardly what you’d call a low-caf drink.
Is There a Difference Between Caffeine and Natural Caffeine? (Is All Caffeine Natural?)
Natural caffeine is found in about 60 varieties of plant, while artificial caffeine is made in a lab. Both have the same effect on your body in terms of being a stimulant.
When it comes to keeping you awake, real and synthetic caffeine both work in the same way.
Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors in your brain. These are the neurotransmitters that tell your brain when it’s tired. If this message doesn’t get through, your brain stays awake and alert. Both forms of caffeine will achieve this.
However, natural caffeine has additional health benefits that fake caffeine hasn’t (we’ll look into those shortly).
Caffeine occurs naturally in the seeds of coffee beans, cacao beans, and kola nuts. It’s also found in tea leaves and buds and guarana berries. If you drink coffee and tea, and eat chocolate, you’ll be consuming some natural caffeine every single day.
What about synthetic caffeine? It’s made from chloroacetic acid and urea, and its use is regulated by the FDA. It’s added to a range of food and over-the-counter drugs, and we most often encounter it in energy drinks and dietary supplements.
Why is caffeine manufactured synthetically when it’s found in so many plants around the world? Cost, basically. It’s cheaper to make caffeine than to extract it from plants.
Is Natural Caffeine Good for You? (What is the Healthiest Form of Caffeine?)
Natural caffeine can actually be good for you! If you’re trying to stay alert, both types of caffeine will do this; however, the natural variety has other benefits, too.
Foods that contain natural caffeine such as coffee often have other nutritional benefits. Coffee contains antioxidants. These compounds help to protect our bodies from disease, although the quantities of antioxidants in a brew depend on how long it’s been roasted for.
Coffee also contains magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and some of the B vitamins. Synthetic caffeine can’t replicate this natural good stuff; so while you’re still taking in the caffeine, you’re missing out on the benefits you get with the real deal.
Does Natural Caffeine Raise Blood Pressure (And Cause Anxiety?)
You may have heard that caffeine raises blood pressure, and yes, it does for a small number of people. However, it’s also good for your heart, and in fact, moderate coffee consumption can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in women.
If you have high blood pressure and a caffeine habit, speak with your doctor to find out how much coffee you can safely drink.
Anxiety is another matter. Now, drinking coffee won’t actually give you anxiety, but if you already have some sort of panic disorder, caffeine can make the symptoms worse. If you’re already feeling anxious, introducing the caffeine shakes certainly won’t help you.
Quite often, people experiencing anxiety struggle with sleep and overthinking, so switching to a decaf coffee or a caffeine-free drink could be a benefit in this case.
If you still want a hot beverage, chamomile tea has a mild sedative effect. Warm milk is a popular alternative to tea or coffee at bedtime, but it’s likely that it works because of an association with comfort, rather than any actual physical benefit.
How Do Coffee Beans Get Their Caffeine?
Coffee beans have evolved to contain caffeine as a deterrent against insects. Yes, you’re drinking Nature’s own bug repellent. Because caffeine is toxic to many species, pests stay away from those dangerous seeds.
We mentioned earlier that the Arabica bean contains less natural caffeine than the Robusta bean. This is because Arabica is grown at higher altitudes where there are fewer bugs. Robusta is at risk from more pests, so has evolved to be more toxic.
What is Coffee Without Caffeine Called?
Coffee without caffeine is commonly called “decaf coffee”, short for “decaffeinated”.
This is because the beans go through a process that removes most of the natural caffeine. However, it can’t remove all the caffeine, and about 2 or 3% remains.
So technically, coffee without caffeine is best described as “non-existent”. 🙂