Does strong coffee contain more caffeine?
For some people, the strength of their coffee is the yardstick by which they measure how good it is – the stronger, the better. But when we ask for a 'strong' coffee, what exactly do we mean, are we talking about strong flavours or a high caffeine content?
This might be the first time you've stopped to consider the difference, and you might be surprised to learn that the two aren't always related. In this blog, we look at whether strong coffee contains more caffeine, and how to make stronger coffee at home.
Strong flavours vs. caffeine content
For a long time, people have assumed that strong-tasting coffee must have more caffeine, and so, when they need to get going in the morning, they make themselves a 'strong' cup of coffee or treat themselves to a mid-afternoon espresso.
In reality though, a strong coffee doesn't necessarily contain more caffeine.
How strong your coffee tastes is usually a result of how long the coffee beans have been roasted for, and you can find this information printed on the bag.
As the name suggests, dark roasted beans have been roasted for longer to release their natural oils. This gives them the rich, bold flavours that you would associate with a strong-tasting cup of coffee, but it doesn't mean it contains more caffeine.
If you want the buzz of a caffeine hit, try brewing your coffee for longer or switching to Robusta coffee beans, which have more caffeine than Arabica beans.
How to make stronger tasting coffee
There are three things you can do at home to make stronger tasting coffee:
- Choose a dark roasted coffee
- Experiment with the water to grounds ratio
- Try another brewing method
As we've already mentioned – the darker the roast, the stronger the flavour. At Pumphrey's Coffee, we use a traditional roast method over an open flame, so we can roast our beans at a higher temperature for longer without burning them. This process releases the beans’ natural oils for a deeper, full-bodied flavour.
It's often known as the Italian-roasting style, where they prefer a stronger coffee that has a more dominant, fuller flavour. Our Italian dark roast coffee beans are popular with customers for their slightly bitter taste, which hints at dark chocolate.
It stands to reason that the more coffee you use, the stronger the flavour. So, if you're looking for a rich cup of coffee, then try experimenting with your ratio of ground coffee to water. Always remember only to grind what you need and store the rest for later – the fresher your ground coffee is, the better it will taste.
A French press or an espresso machine make the best-tasting, strong coffee and some would argue this is because of the extraction time. If you're not happy with how your coffee tastes, try changing the brewing method or the size of your ground beans.
Getting the grind size right
Different brewing methods require you to grind your coffee with varying levels of coarseness. For example, an espresso machine requires finely ground coffee but a French press can handle a coarser grind.
A good coffee grinder can help you get the right grind size and achieve uniformity.
It's important to ensure your coffee is ground into similar-sized particles so it all brews at the same time and you get the right balance of flavours.
We like the handheld Bialetti ceramic burr coffee grinder, which is better at grinding to a uniform size, than most blade grinders. We also have a selection of electric coffee grinders for enthusiastic coffee brewers who want to spend more.
As a rule of thumb, if your extraction time is too quick, then try grinding your coffee more finely, and if it's too long then your coffee grind may need to be coarser.
Remember, the longer it takes to brew your coffee, the more caffeine it will contain.
So, while the coffee made by a quick-brewing espresso machine might taste strong, it certainly won't contain more caffeine than the regular cup of coffee you'd get from using a slower method, like a drip coffee maker.
Choosing the right coffee beans
If you're looking for a highly caffeinated coffee, then we recommend using a lighter roast coffee bean, which is less porous and takes longer to brew. But if it's strong-tasting coffee you want, then stick to a dark roast or even double-roasted beans.
- Double roast Santos: these single-origin coffee beans from Brazil make the perfect strong, black coffee but they taste equally good with milk. The addition of milk brings out the coffee’s nutty, caramel undertones.
- Double roast Costa: this darkly roasted, Costa Rican coffee has toasty flavours and more acidity than the Santos – expect a full-bodied cup of coffee.
Our dark-roast range also includes a selection of decaffeinated coffee, alongside Italian espresso blend coffee beans, and Fair Trade espresso beans. All our coffee is available to buy in a range of grind sizes from whole beans to finely-ground.
To make it easy to buy from us we've labelled the options according to the brewing method, so you can choose from cafetière, filter, espresso or Turkish.
Flavour vs. caffeine - the key takeaway
The next time you ask for a 'strong' cup of coffee, remember to distinguish between flavour and caffeine. Just because your coffee tastes strong, doesn't necessarily mean it contains more caffeine. If you need the buzz of a caffeine kick to get you through the day, then use a lighter roast, but if it's strong flavour you're looking for then we recommend you stick to a dark roast.