The Caffeine Content Of A Classic Cappuccino

I tend to make coffee at home, but once in a while if I’m up early and don’t have any work calls, I’ll go out to a coffee shop for my cup of morning joe. Now personally, I love the taste of coffee, but I also rely on the caffeine to fully wake me up in the morning. When I’m out, I want to make sure I’m getting the same amount of caffeine as I do when I brew at home.

This raises some questions. For example, does cappuccino have caffeine? Does it have the same amount as a cup of brewed coffee?

A cappuccino sitting on a table
It doesn’t taste as strong as a regular coffee. Does it still give you the same kick?

A while back, I decided to look into the caffeine levels of different coffee drinks so I would know which drinks to turn to on those mornings when I’m too lazy to make coffee. Today, we’ll be looking at the classic cappuccino and its caffeine content. 

Do cappuccinos have caffeine?

Cappuccinos contain caffeine. The caffeine comes from an espresso shot or two that form the base layer of a cappuccino. Layering steamed and foamed milk on top doesn’t change the amount of caffeine in your cup, it just distributes the caffeine through a greater volume of liquid. The concentration is less than it would be in straight espresso.

Components of a cappuccino

Cappuccinos are Italian drinks that are typically regarded as morning or breakfast drinks, because of their milk content.

What makes a cappuccino a cappuccino? There are three main components: espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. The cappuccino is a very structured drink, in the sense that it is evenly divided among these three ingredients. To make a cup of cappuccino, you start with a base of espresso, either one shot of espresso (or two), followed by a layer of steamed milk, and finally topped with a dollop of frothy milk foam. 

Barista pouring milk into a cappuccino
Those even layers of milk on top of the espresso are what makes it a cappuccino.

While this sounds pretty straightforward, making a perfect cappuccino is aspirational for baristas. Experts will test cappuccinos based on the ratio of liquid to foam, since it should be perfectly balanced (experts can even gauge this based on the weight of the drink). As such, although cappuccinos are on most people’s list of favorite coffee drinks, they are actually very complex to make and are a real test of a barista’s skills. 

How much caffeine is in a cup of cappuccino? 

The amount of caffeine in a cup of cappuccino depends on how it’s made. On average, if you use a single (1 oz) shot of espresso, then your cappuccino will have about 40 mg of caffeine per serving (80 mg for a double). Remember that even though cappuccinos sometime come in large mugs, everything besides the espresso is just steamed and foamed milk. 

For comparison, a regular eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee usually contains about 100 mg of caffeine. This is what I make at home. This means when I go out, I need to make sure my cappuccino has at least two shots of espresso to get me close to the same caffeine kick I get at home. (Some coffee shops use a 1.5-ounce measure for each espresso shot. It varies.)

Cappuccino next to a brewed coffee on a table
A regular coffee of similar volume will typically have more caffeine than a cappuccino made with a single shot of espresso. Make it a double if you want to equal your coffee from home.

It’s important to note that the volume of the drink doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with its caffeine content. An eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee will have 100 mg of caffeine, but a double shot of espresso in your cappuccino will carry similar strength even though it may only yield a six-ounce cup. Similarly, a latte might be eight ounces but only have one shot of espresso, making it weaker in content than eight ounces of brewed coffee or a double cappuccino. 

What is caffeine and why is it in coffee?

Without getting too deep into how caffeine affects your body on a chemical level, let’s just say that caffeine is a stimulant that affects your central nervous system. It is widely considered a psychoactive drug, although it’s legal in most parts of the world and can be found in many different forms. It’s most commonly found in the seeds, leaves, and nuts of plants, the most popular of which is the coffee bean. 

When you consume caffeine in any form, it causes a couple of reactions in particular that have helped make coffee famous:

  • It can prevent drowsiness induced by adenosine, because caffeine blocks the action of adenosine on its receptors  
  • The improved alertness can impact cognitive performance

On my end, I know both of these benefits affect me. If I drink coffee too late in the day, I tend not to be able to fall asleep at night. But if I drink it before noon, it will not only wake me up in the morning but also give me a boost of energy I need to get started with my day.

Man yawning on a balcony
Somebody get that guy a double cappuccino!

Some people say that drinking coffee can elicit a mild form of dependence, since going without it can induce headaches, irritability, and general drowsiness. I don’t know if I want to call it a dependence—maybe we all just have a healthy obsession with the taste of coffee. 

Do the beans matter?

The type of coffee beans used to make your coffee can influence the caffeine content. The numbers I’ve discussed above tend to be fairly typical, but the exact amount will vary depending on which beans you use. Arabica beans, for example, have less caffeine that Robusta beans, but even within each of these categories you’ll find a range of caffeine content. And some coffee roasters create blends that will yield more caffeine per serving. 

What about decaf?

Finally, if you love the taste of coffee but don’t want to stay up or become dependent on caffeine, there’s always decaf! If you use decaf as the base for your coffee drinks then your cappuccinos will have no caffeine, or at most only small traces.

So there you have it, a quick primer on caffeine in cappuccinos. It’s less about the volume of the drink and more about how many shots of espresso are in it. The espresso-to-milk ratio doesn’t matter, since caffeine is an absolute value and will affect you no matter how much milk you add to the espresso already in your drink.

Hopefully this will serve as a helpful guide the next time you’re looking for a caffeine kick and aren’t sure how much or what to get.