Brewed to perfect caffeine levels

With 83 percent of adults in the United States drinking an average of three cups of coffee per person in 2013, according to the National Coffee Association, that equals out to 587 million cups. For the students at the University of Kansas, the beginning of November brings the last six weeks of class and hundreds of cups of coffee.

Just a few of the places that sell coffee in Lawrence include Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and McDonalds. Each company though has its own way of brewing. And because of that, the caffeine content varies exponentially. According to the Mayo Clinic, actual caffeine content of any given drink that has caffeine in it can vary from day to day, even hour to hour. Factors like where the beans are from, the roasting and grinding of the beans, brewing time, and the way the coffee is actually brewed can affect this number.

“We brew new pots of coffee and replace the old coffee every 30 minutes,” Korbin Painter said, a barista at Starbucks within Dillion’s.

Dunkin’ Donuts recently changed its brewing formula, according to, and now uses more ground coffee while brewing. This has increased its caffeine content from 178 milligrams to 302 milligrams for a 16 fluid ounce cup, according to

One 16 fluid ounce cup of brewed coffee from Starbucks contains 330 milligrams of caffeine, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

McDonalds will brew its coffee no more than 30 minutes before it is purchased, according to Marc Wortman on It has lower caffeine levels due to that and other factors, at 145 milligrams for a 16 fluid ounce cup, also according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 2.13.31 PM“I would drink Starbucks every day over anything else,” said Christian Munzner, a local  community member. “Especially now that I know that it has more caffeine. The taste is just so much better and I use coffee to keep me awake, which is the whole point of caffeine.”

The beans themselves are the starting place for caffeine content. Starbucks, McDonalds, and Dunkin’ Donuts all use what is called arabica coffee beans. A typical one ounce of this coffee contains approximately 40 milligrams of caffeine, according to It has been shown though that even beans from the same bush can have different amounts of caffeine within them.

Location has an extreme effect on the quality and flavor of coffee. Starbucks sources its arabica coffee from Latin America, Africa, and Asia-Pacific. Dunkin’ Donuts sources from Latin America. McDonalds gets its from Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. The National Coffee Association USA states on its website that “everything from the variety of the plant, the chemistry of the soil, the weather, the amount of rainfall and sunshine, and even the precise altitude at which the coffee grows can affect the taste of the final product.”

This too will have an effect on caffeine content, however roasting and brewing methods have been seen to have a bigger impact.

When it comes to light versus medium versus dark roast, Cafe Altura says that light roast will have higher concentrations of caffeine because the longer the roast, the more lost caffeine.

“Of course, the medium roast’s the most popular. Darker roasts are also popular, even though there is technically less caffeine in the dark roasts,” said Painter. “Most Starbucks’ actually don’t even have light roasts brewed all the time because they’re not as popular.”

As for the brewing process, there are many ways to accomplish the desired cup. Cafe Altura says on its website that just a few of the ways include regular brewing, French press, drip coffee, and espresso. Unlike roasting, the longer the coffee is brewed, the more caffeine there will be.

Caffeine isn’t the only reason that people will drink coffee. People enjoy the taste, the smell, the warmth. Caffeine is also found in many other drinks, such as teas and soft drinks, and even snacks, two examples being ice cream and chocolate. Caffeine is also mildly addictive, yet there are many health benefits to drinking a cup or two per day.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest states that coffee has been seen to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, gallstones, Parkinson’s, and perhaps even suicide. It may also help relieve headache pain and improve alertness.

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