Coffee and Caffeine 101

When coffee first entered the history books, the first thing people noticed was the energy boost. According to some tales, a ninth-century Ethiopian farmer first noticed it when he saw his goats buzzing with energy after eating a few wild coffee berries. 


These days, it’s still the first thing we notice (and let’s be honest—the thing we love most). 


Coffee (and caffeine) have grown to be our favorite morning boosters. About 90% of all Americans consume some form of caffeine every single day. But many of us don’t understand its effects any more than that farmer. All we know is, “consume coffee, feel a buzz.” But what’s going on that gives coffee its pep?

 

WHAT IS CAFFEINE, ANYWAY? 

It’s a psychoactive drug. No, really—science even says so: “Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world.” But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. 


Caffeine itself is technically a bitter, water-soluble, crystalline substance known as a purine. When humans consume it, caffeine goes into the stomach, quickly absorbing into the bloodstream. There, its solubility properties allow it to cross the blood-brain barrier, where it can block adenosine receptors, which are what makes us sleepy throughout the day. 


It sounds like a lot of complicated chemistry. But in short, caffeine perks you up.

 

HOW MUCH CAFFEINE DOES COFFEE HAVE?

Here’s the thing about caffeine: it’s hard to get it from plants. Only about thirty plant species in the entire world are known to possess it. 


But caffeine is present in coffee in abundance, a simple fact that changed the world of morning beverages. A roasting and brewing process meant people could consume a peppy amount of caffeine every day.


A typical cup of coffee has about 95 mg of caffeine. But that doesn’t make much sense without context, so here are some handy comparisons, with some stats from the Mayo Clinic:


  • An 8-oz glass of cola: 22 mg
  • Brewed black tea: 46 mg
  • A shot of espresso: 64 mg
  • Wandering Bear Extra Strong coffee pods: 250mg of caffeine
  • Coffee with highest caffeine content: as high as 1,500 mg per cup

According to the Mayo Clinic, up to about 400 mg per day of caffeine is “safe for most adults.” 

 

SO...WHAT IS DECAF?

Peas and carrots, peanut butter and jelly, coffee and caffeine. If one of those doesn’t belong in the list of famous pairings, it’s actually coffee and caffeine. That’s because decaffeinated coffee is extremely popular. On average, every American will drink about a quarter cup of it every day.


What is it? Decaf is coffee with as much caffeine removed as possible. The oldest technique is to use the water-soluble feature of caffeine against it. The “Swiss water” method soaks the beans in water until the caffeine comes out. Strain the coffee beans and voila: decaf.


This happens before the beans are roasted, which means you can still have the same flavor of coffee without the caffeine effects. The Mayo Clinic notes that this doesn’t completely remove caffeine—there may still be about 2 mg in it per cup. But it’s a negligible amount.

 

PUT YOUR COFFEE EDUCATION TO WORK

Ever since a few Ethiopian goats ate those east African coffee berries, the world has been enjoying the energy-boosting benefits of coffee. 


Fortunately, we’ve improved on the recipe since then, as with our Drip Grind Organic Coffee. It’s a strong, bold flavor for people who know about caffeine—and want some more of it.