• QA 095
    What are the caffeine levels in soluble coffee?
    Can you tell me what the caffeine levels are in soluble coffee and if there are any limits?
    Asked by:
    Researcher - United Kingdom

    As far as is known no maximum limits are set for caffeine levels in 'normal' (i.e. not decaffeinated) coffee in any major country food legislation.  However, depending on the country concerned, such limits do exist for decaffeinated coffee.

    Caffeine is a natural substance found in the leaves, seeds or fruits of more than sixty plants species worldwide. The level of its presence in non-decaffeinated coffee depends on a number of factors: different types of coffee contain varying levels of caffeine. Factors determining this include

    1. The variety of the coffee tree itself and, where grown, soil, altitude, climate etc;
    2. The manufacturing process;
    3. The preparation method and the ratio of coffee to water in the final brew;

    1. These factors apply equally to both soluble and roasted coffee: caffeine content varies naturally with the most widely known difference being between arabica (less caffeine) and robusta (more caffeine). Thus blends containing more robusta usually also have a higher caffeine content than products using arabica only. See topics 02.10.04 through 06 for more on all this.

    2. Depending on the extraction process soluble coffee can contain significantly less caffeine than found in roasted coffee, partly because of processing losses but also due to methodology: in the soluble coffee manufacturing process the caffeine content is diluted back into the other extracted solids. This is probably one reason why some major end users specify the caffeine content they require in soluble coffee. Indeed, there are also countries where food legislation stipulates a minimum for caffeine content in soluble coffee, probably to differentiate 'coffee beverages' from real coffee products…

    3. For both roasted and soluble coffee the caffeine content in the final brew depends on the variety of coffee that is used, and on the ratio coffee to water. As a result it is impossible to be exact but the generally accepted international range is as follows: 

    Amount of caffeine in a 150 ml cup

    Drip filter coffee average 115 mg range 60 - 180 mg
    Percolated coffee average 100 mg range 40 - 170 mg
    Soluble coffee  average   65 mg range 40 - 120 mg

    For more information on this and related subjects please visit www.coffee-science@asic-cafe.org; www.coffeescience.org; www.cosic.org; www.demus.it; www.coffein-compagnie.de .

    Posted 21 May 2006

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