I was once asked on Twitter, “Why does dark-roasted coffee have more caffeine?”
Many think that burnt-tasting, dark-roasted coffee beans have a lot of caffeine. That isn’t exactly the case. For the most part, lighter roasts usually have more caffeine than darker roasts. When coffee beans are roasted, they undergo a series of physical changes including growing in size, becoming lighter in weight, appearing darker in color and they burn off some of their caffeine content. The longer the beans are roasted the less caffeine they will have solely due to them having more and more caffeine being burned off during the roasting process. I wasn’t sure how to explain this in 140 characters on Twitter.
Now, it does get a bit more complicated than that. I mentioned that the longer coffee beans are roasted, the lighter they become. A pound of lightly roasted coffee could potentially have about the same caffeine content as a pound of dark roast (for example, a French roast coffee) simply because it would take more beans of a dark roast, going by weight, to make a pound. I know that seems complicated. Think of it this way. If you have two pounds of coffee and you roast one pound lightly and the other very dark and then you weigh them, the dark-roasted coffee will weigh a lot less than the light-roasted coffee. Roasters have to add more coffee beans to their roaster when they’re roasting on the dark side. Still, even if you used more beans for the dark roast so that in the end both light and dark-roasted beans weighed the same out of the roaster, the light roast would usually have a slightly higher caffeine content. It’s important to note that, although roast level does make a difference, the impact on caffeine content is negligible. The method of brewing coffee matters more than roast level when it comes to caffeine content.
If you’re looking for a coffee high in caffeine content, look for beans marketed as a “Morning Blend”. These blends typically use light-roasted coffee beans and likely a small percentage of robusta beans, resulting in a blend high in caffeine content. Read the packaging to confirm. The next time you want a caffeine buzz, think twice before buying a dark French roast and try a lighter roasted coffee instead.
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