“Without my morning coffee, I’m just like a dried-up piece of goat.”
-Johann Sebastian Bach
That caffeine rush! What would strong coffee be without caffeine? That caffeine rush is what people look for in their search (and need!) for strong coffee.
But what exactly defines strong coffee? For some, strong coffee means that dark roast with that robust flavor. That combination, for many, also means a caffeine boost. Is this, however, always the case Does coffee flavor and quality really have anything to do with caffeine content? How does one really define what strong coffee is?
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WHAT MAKE STRONG COFFEE?
The adjective “strong” is often equated with coffee. For regular drinkers — especially for those who feel the need to be alert and on their toes—“strong” means a much needed caffeine boost from the moment they wake up.
Research show that there are actually two metrics used to define the phrase “strong coffee”. These are the caffeine content and the total amount of dissolved solids.
The total amount of dissolved solids is further defined as everything that is in a cup of coffee, excluding the water. More dissolved solids in a cup of coffee result in coffee that is more full-bodied and intense in flavor. This does not, however, necessarily mean coffee with a high caffeine concentration.
A strong cup of coffee, for many coffee drinkers, usually pertains to coffee with high caffeine concentration. Many though confuse the two metrics, equating intense flavor with high caffeine content. This, however, isn’t always the case. Take the case of espresso. People usually order single or double shots of espresso in the belief that a shot contains high concentrations of caffeine. On the contrary, a shot of espresso actually contains the smallest amount of caffeine per serving.
Hence, for clarity’s sake, the use of the adjective “strong” in this article will pertain to caffeine content rather than intensity of flavor and fullness of body.
Read on to further understand what factors affect caffeine content and coffee strength.
THE TYPE OF COFFEE
There are different types of coffee beans grown around the world. The two more common ones usually used by manufacturer though are the Coffea Arabica and the Coffea Conephora, more commonly known as robusta.
Comparing the two, robusta is known to be a cheaper alternative to arabica. Besides the fact that robusta is cheaper to grow, the flavor profile of robusta tends to be on the bitter side as compare to arabica which has more mellow flavor notes.
High concentrations of caffeine in coffee result in an increase in the bitter flavor of coffee. This explains the more bitter flavor of robusta beans. This kind of flavor profile is mostly caused by the higher concentration of caffeine in robusta as compared to arabica. Robusta has approximately 2.1% caffeine content, twice that of arabica which is only at approximately 1.2%.
HOW COFFEE BEANS ARE CULTIVATED
Coffee beans are quite difficult to cultivate since there are many factors that may affect their quality, including their caffeine content.
Factors such as the soil in which they are planted, the altitude of the area in which they are grown, amongst many other things, can affect the chemical composition of the coffee bean.
Event he same variety of coffee bean will have different chemical compositions and caffeine concentration depending on the environment in which they are grown. Some types of arabica for example, will contain higher concentrations of caffeine as compared to other types of arabica. In fact, because of these conditions, coffee manufacturers around the world test different kinds of coffee beans to check for caffeine content. Manufacturers for high-caffeine coffee are especially particular about this.
ROAST LEVELS AND CAFFEINE CONCENTRATION
One misconception that people have about strong coffee is that they equate dark roasts to high caffeine concentrations. The opposite, however, holds true.
Darker roasts mean that the coffee beans have been exposed to heat for longer periods of time. Long exposure to heat, however, changes the chemical composition of coffee ad decreases the concentration of caffeine.
Light roasts, on the other hand, keep the chemical composition of the beans as close as possible to their natural state. This is the very reason why light roasts maintain their floral notes. It is also for this reason that caffeine concentrations are not as diminished as compared to beans which have been exposed to heat for a longer time.
Therefore, if you are in need for a caffeine boost, ask for light roast coffee rather than dark roast.
THE BREWING METHOD AND THE BARISTA
The barista ultimately holds the key to everything coffee, including the caffeine content.
The barista has in his hands control over caffeine concentrations by controlling the amount of coffee grounds per serving. The barista cannot, however, just add coffee grounds according to whim just for the sake of a caffeine boost. The dosage really depends on the brewing method the barista is to use. Increasing the amount of grounds and changing the coarseness without considering the type of brewing method to be used will not only result in awful tasting coffee, but it may also may produce coffee that won’t be quite safe for consumption.
Some methods like cold brewing, for example, will use coarse coffee grounds which are greater in quantity as compared to portafilters which use lesser amounts of finely ground coffee. Cold brewing, however, is a method that is not as reliable as methods using portafilters owing to the fact that the coffee grounds are not exposed to heated water. Coffee, including its caffeine content, is not as efficiently extracted in cold brewing. Hence, even if portafilters use lesser amounts of grounds, they are still said to extract coffee with higher caffeine concentrations.
As much as you may like having that caffeine fix at different hours of the day, keep in mind that caffeine is a drug. It is one of the world’s most widely used psychoactive drug being a stimulant of the central nervous system. Caffeine can also be addicting. Some individuals may have developed tolerance towards caffeine. Some may have not be as sensitive to caffeine as others are, hence their need for high-caffeine coffee. Nevertheless, caffeine can lead to an overdose if one consumes it beyond the recommended daily dosage. Caffeine overdose can be fatal.
Individuals experiencing mild signs of caffeine overdose may experience increased thirst, dizziness, headaches, insomnia and irritability.More severe symptoms include hallucinations, uncontrollable muscle movements, chest pain, vomiting, confusion, rapid breathing and even shock.
Any individual experiencing a combination of any of those symptoms must consult a medical professional as soon as possible.
The need to feel alert and awake, especially in today’s demanding lifestyle, make one constantly look for that caffeine boost that coffee offers. It is important, however, to remember that like all other things, moderation is the key. The same will apply to coffee and caffeine. Always drink in moderation.
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