It can generally go without saying that coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Millions of people drink coffee at least once a day, in the mornings, and many more people drink coffee throughout the day to keep themselves awake.

If you are drinking coffee to keep yourself awake, you might wonder what the best method of doing so is, and how you can get the most for the amount of coffee you are drinking. After all, if you are trying to wake up after a night of not enough sleep, you are going to want the best drink that you can get.

There is no type of coffee that is more famous for its caffeine content than the espresso. Espressos are generally well known for being highly concentrated shots of coffee that contain the caffeine you need to power through the morning. The question is, how true really is this?

Does espresso really wake people up, or is it more of a placebo effect from the fact that espressos are known for waking people up? Are they really all that different than other coffee types, and are there even coffees that have more caffeine than the famed espresso?

The truth is a bit muddled, here, as it depends on what exactly you are looking for from your espresso. Espresso is certainly highly concentrated and has a lot of caffeine, but only in relation to the amount of espresso you consume. There are other coffee types that, in a full serving, have several times more caffeine in them.

To answer this multi-pronged question, you need to understand a few different things. You need to have a good sense of what caffeine does and how much is needed to really “wake someone up”; from there, you need to understand what makes espresso different from other coffee roasts.

Understanding these concepts will give you a good sense of whether or not espresso will wake you up and if it is the best thing that you could have in the mornings to get you out of that just-woken-up haze.

Caffeine and Coffee

There are very few drinks that are as closely associated with caffeine than coffee. Aside from coffee enthusiasts, most people drink coffee solely for the high caffeine content.

Caffeine can wake you up, and it often does for most people because caffeine is a relatively strong stimulant. It is the strongest non-prescription stimulant that you can easily obtain, and because of this, most people rely on it to wake themselves up.

If you are wondering whether or not espressos will wake you up, the answer is that they usually will. There are a few circumstances that would lead them to being ineffective, but these only apply to specific sets of people.

For example, if you have built up a strong tolerance to caffeine because you rely on it so heavily, then there’s a chance that the caffeine content in an espresso will not be enough to wake you up and you might need more than that, or to cut down on the amount of caffeine you regularly consume. This would be a case where an espresso would not wake you up in the morning.

Another example is if you have a condition, such as ADHD, that affects the way your body processes stimulants. While the mechanism behind ADHD is not fully understood, it is generally accepted that the body processes stimulants a fair bit differently in people who have this condition.

Because of this, there’s a good chance that espresso would not wake these people up nearly as effectively due to this process.

And finally, if you have not gotten an adequate amount of sleep for some time, you may accumulate something known as sleep debt. This is a deficit that occurs when people chronically don’t get enough sleep, and it can lead to lasting fatigue that even stimulants can’t get rid of, leading to an espresso being ineffective at waking you up.

For the most part, one can expect that a drink with caffeine is going to be enough to wake you up in the morning, assuming that you live a relatively normal lifestyle and do not have a condition that prevents your body from absorbing stimulants the same way that everyone else does.

So, where does espresso fall into this area?

Caffeine and Espresso

Espresso, itself, has a fairly high amount of caffeine in it. The exact amount of caffeine will vary depending on the exact nature of the espresso, as recipes can vary as can the coffee beans. It is generally accepted that a standard double shot (1.5 ounces) of espresso has between 60 and 100 milligrams of caffeine in it.

For comparison, a 12-ounce can of soda tends to have between 10 and 30 milligrams of caffeine in it and caffeine pills tend to have either 100 or 200 milligrams. An 8-ounce cup of tea can have anywhere from 20 to about 50 milligrams of caffeine in it, while an 8-ounce can of energy drink can have between 30 and 80 milligrams of caffeine.

This goes to show that not only does espresso have a relatively high amount of caffeine in it compared to most other caffeinated drinks but it is incredibly concentrated, meaning that you can get a lot more caffeine for a lot less liquid. Because of this, many people view espressos as one of the fastest ways of ingesting a lot of caffeine at once, setting aside caffeine pills.

However, most people will only have a single serving of espresso as they are expensive and they don’t always taste that good because of their highly concentrated nature. This is where the fault in thinking that espresso has the most caffeine lies, as once you get into higher serving amounts, other types of coffee can have a lot more caffeine in them compared to the same amount of espresso.

Getting the Most Caffeine from Coffee

The amount of caffeine in coffee varies wildly. From decaffeinated coffees (which tend to have no more than one milligram of caffeine in them) to specially brewed coffees that have over 1000 milligrams of caffeine in them per serving, there is a huge range of coffee to find the best alternative to wake you up in the morning.

This is because there is simply just a lot of variation in coffees. The type of bean can make a huge difference, just as the way that you brew the coffee and the temperature that the water is at.

Just about every choice that you make with your coffee will make a difference in its caffeine content.

One of the most important things to think about is that most caffeine servings are rated by an 8- or 12-ounce helping of coffee, when in reality, most people have a fair bit more coffee than this at a time. Many people will have a full 16-ounce mug of coffee, and maybe even two of these in the mornings.

Suddenly, the caffeine measurement of 60 or 70 milligrams of caffeine per helping of coffee increases to 130 milligrams of caffeine, or even double that if you are having more than one mug of coffee. Compared to the standard single helping of espresso, you might begin to realize that it is not the best way to ingest a lot of caffeine at once, unless you are looking for the most caffeine for the smallest amount of coffee.

There are some types of coffee beans that have even been brewed to have absurd amounts of caffeine in them, specifically for people who want to have the most caffeine possible. These are the coffee types that can easily have over 1000 milligrams of coffee in a 12-ounce serving; in these cases, they are light years ahead of how much a helping of espresso can wake you up.

However, these are the extreme ends of things. Most people will have a cup or two of black coffee in the mornings, which totals between 240 and 320 milligrams of caffeine, depending on how the coffee is brewed.

Espressos certainly have their place as being incredibly concentrated coffee drinks, as a single ounce and a half can have as much as a 12-ounce mug of cheap coffee. With that being said, the place of espresso is most certainly not as the most caffeinated form of coffee that you can find, and not by a long shot.

For most people, a single espresso may be more than enough to wake you up in the mornings. For some people, it may even be too much caffeine, and for others, it won’t be enough.

Finding the Drink to Wake You Up

For better or for worse, caffeine is the most widely available psychoactive substance on the general market. Just about anyone and everyone has access to it and it is common in today’s world. With this in mind, what alternatives to espresso are there?

The answer to this question depends on whether you are looking for more caffeine or less, as there are many options to choose from on both sides of the scale. Beginning with lower caffeine alternatives, the closest thing to an espresso is going to be tea.

Tea can be considered a competitor to coffee in many ways, especially in the sense that both are used for waking up in the morning, both have had historical significance, and both have enthusiasts who enjoy working with the caffeine content in them.

The caffeine range of tea is far more limited than that of coffee, though they both start at a minimum of no caffeine found in the decaffeinated versions. The most caffeinated teas tend to cap out at around 100 to 115 milligrams of caffeine in them per serving, with most teas having between 30 and 60 milligrams of caffeine in them per serving, making them a perfect substitute if you find that espressos make you a bit too jittery in the mornings.

Another option to consider if you are a coffee lover is simply low-caffeine coffee. Just as there are enthusiasts who want to get the most caffeine out of their coffee, there are also people who are interested in lowering the amount of caffeine.

Assuming that you want caffeine in your coffee, which keeps decaffeinated coffee off the table, the coffees with the lowest amount of caffeine per serving are usually instant coffee and certain types of blended Arabica coffee, which will have between 40 and 60 milligrams of caffeine in them.

This leaves them at about half of what an espresso would have on the lower end of the scale, meaning that they can be enjoyed in the morning if you want to take things a bit more calmly.

You can also consider energy drinks as an option to having less caffeine in the mornings. Energy drinks are not necessarily healthier for you, but if you need that quick boost of caffeine without overdoing it, most energy drinks will have you covered, considering they come in at about 20 to 40 milligrams of caffeine per serving.

So, what about your options for having more caffeine? There are also more than a few choices for these.

One of the quickest options is to go with a caffeine pill, particularly one that has 200 milligrams of caffeine in it per pill. It is recommended that you only take a pill at a time to see your tolerance for this level of caffeine ingested all at once, but assuming that you can tolerate it, this can make a quick and simple alternative to an energizing drink.

There are also specialized energy drinks out there, designed to have between 200 and 300 milligrams of caffeine in them per serving. Again, when dealing with caffeine in this kind of amount, you need to be slow and steady until you know what your limits are.

And finally, there are the specialized high-caffeine brews of coffee, as mentioned earlier. These can have potentially deadly amounts of caffeine in them, so you should only try them in moderation and in an environment where you can get help if you need it, but they are certainly an option.


I have a bachelor's degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies...I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house.

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