There are a few different ways to make coffee: drip machines, French presses, and of course, espresso. So, what exactly is espresso? Is it the jolt of concentrated caffeine that it’s been stereotyped as? Is it better or worse for you than standard brewed coffee? And, if it is, what does drinking that much caffeine do to your health?
Let’s Start with Espresso
Like drip or pressed coffee, espresso is another way of preparing a hot beverage from coffee beans. To make it, you need an espresso machine and finely ground beans. You can get an espresso machine for your home, but it’s likely it won’t have the same results as the large, industrial ones you’ll find at your favorite coffee shop.
Here’s how it works. Espresso machines heat water to just about boiling and then use intense pressure to force it through the finely ground beans. The result is a small, concentrated shot of coffee. How small? Believe it or not, one shot of espresso is only one ounce.
While some people do like to drink it straight in small sips, espresso is also the basis of so many other drinks you love at your favorite coffee shop. For example, a cafe latte is one-third espresso, two-thirds hot milk, and a thin layer of foam. An Americano is a double shot of espresso with a bit of hot water. And a cappuccino is one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third frothed milk. As you can see, espresso is the basis of most coffee shops. There’s actually a historical reason for that.
A Brief History of Espresso
Espresso first came into being in 1901 in Italy when it got its name. “Espresso” literally means express and this kind of coffee was originally designed to be made fast. The first espresso machines didn’t have the heat or the pressure that later versions did, the coffee produced was more like what we get from drip coffee today. Still, it did the job. It was quick, it was good, and it was made just for the customer.
Thanks to advancements in the machines, their popularity spread. By 1920, the term espresso had officially become mainstream in Italy. Its popularity continued to grow and, by 1935, coffee houses were being frequented by workers who needed a caffeine fix—and got it with regular espresso shots.
During the 1930s and ‘40s, consumption declined during wartime but the espresso machine was still being improved upon. In 1947, the next great step was taken when hand-pumped machines were introduced. A hand-pumped machine allows for a greater buildup of pressure, which makes for a strong shot.
By 1961, a cheaper more accessible espresso machine had been developed which made it less of a luxury and more of a drink for the masses. This is the basis of the machines that are still used today.
One important thing this machine did was change the orientation of the internal boiler from vertical to horizontal. This opened up the space between the barista and the customer, turning coffee bars into a social space where people could sit and chat with their neighborhood barista while waiting for their drink. Coffee bars rose in popularity as everyone flocked to them to get a good drink and socialize.
In the span of 60 years, espresso went from being a quick way to make coffee to being deeply ingrained in Italian culture.
What about Caffeine?
A lot of people assume that an espresso has much more caffeine in it than drip coffee. In reality, you get much more caffeine from a cup of drip coffee than a shot of espresso; but keep in mind that espresso is extremely concentrated.
What does that mean exactly? If you had an 8 oz cup of drip coffee and an 8 oz cup of espresso, yes, the espresso would have much, much more caffeine. Most people would never drink 8 oz of espresso, though. Most of the drinks that people get that are made with espresso have 1 to 3 oz at most, though you can always ask for an extra shot!
Exactly how much caffeine is in espresso? There is about 40 mg in a 1 oz shot. For comparison, a 12 oz cup of drip coffee has an estimated 120 mg.
So, that’s good news! Drinking espresso or drinks made with espresso actually gives you less caffeine than drinking regular drip coffee. That said, no matter what kind of coffee you prefer, it’s going to have caffeine in it and your body will experience both the good and bad effects of it.
Wake The Hell Up! Ground Coffee
Pros & Cons of Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is everywhere these days. While workers once clamored into Italian espresso bars to get their fix, today caffeine is readily available just about anywhere. You can find it in soda, energy drinks, pills, and even energy shots.
So, exactly what is all that caffeine doing to your body? First, let’s take a look at the benefits. Here are some of the things caffeine can do:
Caffeine Intake Pros:
1. Improve Memory
Caffeine is like a magic potion which does wonders for your body if it is consumed in a moderate amount. It improves your memory and makes you smarter. Along with this, it is also popularly known for improving energy levels. When you drink coffee, caffeine is absorbed in your bloodstream which travels directly to the brain leading to higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. Along with memory, coffee also improves vigilance, energy levels, mood, reaction times and general mental function.
2. Decrease Fatigue
Among all other benefits, one of the most popular advantages of caffeine is that it decreases fatigue. Whenever people get tired during their busy work schedule, they prefer to have a shot of espresso. This gives them the energy that they require to hustle. Caffeine also helps you improve your physical performance by stimulating your nervous system. All of these help you to get rid of the fatigue and be more productive. There are many people who also drink it as their morning drink.
3. Improve Mental Capacity
Caffeine not only improves your physical performance but it is also popularly known to improve your mental capacity. According to a research published by Harvard, women who consume 4 or more cups of coffee in a day have 20% less chances of becoming depressed. Along with decreasing the chances of depression, caffeine also helps you stay happy.
4. Less Chances of Disease
There are various kinds of diseases that prove to be extremely harmful for your body.These diseases include Cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, Azhiemers, Parkinson's, etc. Some of them have no cure, while others require patients to go through an intense treatment. Studies show that the risk of all of these diseases decrease if you consume caffeine. Even though the chances of having these are not completely mitigated, yet they are decreased to a certain extent.
Caffeine Intake Cons:
1. Increases Stress Response
There are various benefits of consuming caffeine; however, some cons do come with it. One of these drawbacks is that caffeine increases stress response. This may become a huge problem for some people.
2. Exacerbates Anxiety
One of the cons of consuming caffeine is increasing anxiety. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), caffeine-induced anxiety disorder is among the four caffeine-syndromes. High intake of caffeine may lead some people to jitteriness, nervousness, etc.
Even though people use caffeine as a way to help them stay awake, sometimes too much caffeine leads to insomnia. According to different studies, higher caffeine intake causes people to take longer to fall asleep. For some people, it may also decrease the total amount of sleep time. Even though coffee is the most popular source of caffeine, it is also present in energy drinks, cocoa and soda.
Consuming too much caffeine can also cause restlessness. People who get used to consuming caffeine find it difficult to go through their day without it. If they are unable to find coffee, their restlessness starts to set in. This may gradually lead them to caffeine addiction.
Another con of consuming caffeine is that it causes irritability in some people. Even though it has various advantages like boosting energy, feeling, mood, etc, it does cause jitters, irritability, troubled sleep, etc.
6. Stomach Issues
Caffeine stimulates bowel movement by increasing peristalsis. Since it increases bowel movement, some people may face loose stools or even diarrhea if they consume caffeine too much. Caffeine may also worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in some people.
How Much Caffeine is Safe?
Now that you know the pros and cons of drinking caffeine, you might be wondering how to balance the good with the bad. How much caffeine should you drink to get the benefits while avoiding the downsides?
Most healthy adults can safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine a day. That’s 4 cups of drip coffee, 9 standard 1 oz shots of espresso, or 2 energy shots. That said, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. If you find you’re having negative side effects from this much caffeine, cut back or consider limiting your intake.