Know your Coffee - Caffeine Content

Unrelated to Personal Finance but it's an issue that I need to clear up.

UPDATE: April 19, 2014 - Tim Hortons has updated their caffeine content guide since this post was written. See the new numbers for Tim Hortons coffee below.
Tim Hortons increases caffeine content in coffee by 35% - or do they?

My goal here is to dispel a number of popular myths that I regularly hear repeated about coffee and its caffeine content.

Myth #1
Espresso has a lot more caffeine than a regular cup of coffee

Answer: False. In fact, using Starbucks as an example, a Grande cup of brewed coffee contains almost 4.5 times the amount of caffeine as a single shot of espresso.

Grande brewed coffee = 330mg
Single shot espresso = 75mg

Even if you had a double shot of espresso you would only be close to half the amount of caffeine as a Grande.
Double shot espresso = 150mg

The confusion for many people arises because they are not taking into account the difference in volume. Per ml it is true that espresso contains more caffeine, but a Grande from Starbucks is 473ml and so dwarfs the tiny espresso at 30ml. An equivalent 30ml of brewed coffee would contain only 20mg of caffeine. Because the caffeine is in a more concentrated form in the espresso it is believed to be absorbed faster into the body, but that is not to say that it has anywhere near as much caffeine in total.

Myth #2
Tim Hortons coffee is stronger (ie has more caffeine) or is the same as Starbucks.

Answer: False. Starbucks coffee actually contains more than twice the caffeine of a comparable size at Tim Hortons.

Starbucks Venti brewed coffee(20oz) = 410mg
Tim Hortons (Old) Extra Large (20oz) = 200mg

To get to an equivalent amount of caffeine you would have to consume a Tim Hortons Small coffee, Medium coffee, and an Extra Large coffee all at the same time. Even that only equals 380mg, falling 30mg short of a single Starbucks Venti. You would have had to consume 44oz of Tim Hortons' coffee as well, compared to the Venti's 20oz.

Myth #3
Red Bull and Coca Cola/Pepsi have a lot of caffeine

Answer: False, when compared to coffee. A single can(355ml) of Pepsi contains only 38mg of caffeine. To reach the equivalent of a single Venti coffee you would have to drink more than 10 cans of Pepsi.

Pepsi (355ml) - 38mg

Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine per 250ml can. You would have to drink more than 5 cans of Red Bull to reach the equivalent of a single Venti coffee.

Red Bull (250ml) - 80mg 

I have provided an easy to read table below showing the differences in caffeine content. Please inform people next time you hear them repeat these same myths.

On a side note, Health Canada recommends an intake of no more than 400mg of caffeine per day for a healthy adult.  I just had a refill of my Tall coffee so I'm now up to a total of 520mg today and I'm only half way through the day.
Read more from Health Canada here.

All of the information I've posted here is readily available on the net from each company.
Below are the links I've taken the information from if you would like to check for yourself.

Starbucks Nutritional Information

Tim Hortons Caffeine Content Guide

Pepsi Nutritional Information

Red Bull Nutritional Information


  1. I always tell people about the lack of caffeine in Tim's coffee. I find it extremely expensive considering that you don't get the same "buzz" as you would at Second Cup or Van Houtte

  2. Interesting information! I have always felt like Starbucks had a little different effect (caffeine wise) on me than Tim's.

  3. I'll have to do an updated list later with Second Cup, Waves, Van Houtte, Blenz and some others. I expect most of the coffee shops will be similar to Starbucks and not to Tim Hortons.

  4. I knew I liked Starbucks coffee for a reason! We don't have Tim Horton's coffee here in Florida but we do have Dunkin Donuts. I still prefer Starbucks :)

  5. You need to account for volume as well. Red Bull is 250 ml. E.g. a tall is 450 ml vs two red bulls.

    Actually a medium Tims is 205 mg. Small Tims is 140 mg. So get ur numbers right. Got these caffeine figures from Tim Hortons.

  6. Anonymous, I did mention the volume of the Red Bull, not sure what your problem is there. In regards to the Tim's caffeine amount, the numbers were correct as of two years ago and only recently have they updated their caffeine content guide(Nov2013). I'll update the numbers when I have a chance. You can see the differences in the new guide if you'd like below as the old link is still active.


    New - Nov 2013:

  7. Tim hortons re updated the content charts again. Google "tim hortons caffeine content" and youll see it in PDF format. A medium coffee regular roast now has over 200mg of caffeine in it.


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