If you’re the owner of a Nespresso machine, you know by now how delicious their coffee pods are and you’ve probably been asking yourself, “If so much isn’t enough, how much is too much?”
Of all the neuro stimulants we employ to make life worth living, caffeine is by far the most popular – to the tune of 2 billion cups a day – and by far the safest.
In this article, we will take a closer look at Nespresso caffeine content as well as answer many questions one might have about how much is too much caffeine.
How Safe is Caffeine?
The good news is that no one has yet managed to die from drinking too much coffee. Not that they haven’t tried.
All of the caffeine-related deaths on the FDA’s books over a span of decades have involved drug interactions or the deliberate abuse of caffeine tablets and powdered caffeine, one teaspoon of which is equivalent to 28 cups of filter coffee.
A classic example of death by misadventure is personal trainer and father of two, 29-year-old Tom Mansfield from Colwyn Bay in the UK, who weighed a dose measured in milligrams on a scale calibrated in grams.
In the space of two seconds, he imbibed the caffeine equivalent of a couple of hundred espressos. He said he ‘felt a bit ill’ and went to lie down.
At this point it should be noted that caffeine isn’t digested: like alcohol, it is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract straight into the bloodstream. Half an hour later, he was dead.
They are manifold, including:
- A longer life: Coffee drinkers – particularly women – are less prone to stroke, coronary heart disease, and kidney disease.
- A hedge against diabetes: Studies have found that coffee drinkers are less prone to diabetes. The theory is that their bodies are better at processing sugar.
- Liver protection: Coffee drinkers’ liver enzyme levels are healthier than the enzyme levels of those who don’t drink coffee. This is true if you drink regular or decaf.
- Parkinson’s Disease: It not only lowers your chances of getting the disease, but it also helps sufferers control their movements.
- A lower risk of colorectal cancer: A 26% decrease, no less! Especially in women.
- Dementia and Alzheimers: 2 or 3 cups a day in women over 65 was enough to significantly dial back the risk.
The FDA and the DoH recommend a maximum of 400mg of caffeine a day, roughly equivalent to 4 cups of coffee, but this has to be understood in context.
The reason that it’s so low is that this is the safe limit for everyone, regardless of whether they’re pregnant, on medication for high blood pressure, or suffering from impaired liver function.
Most people can breeze past the 400mg mark without turning a hair.
I fancy myself a fairly typical coffee drinker. On an average day, be it the weekend or workweek, I drink my first cup at 7 am, my second cup around 8.30, a third cup at 11-11.30, the fourth at 3 pm, and a fifth after dinner at, say 8.30.
That’s an average day. On 14-hour days when I have multiple deadlines, revisions, and admin, it goes up to 9. Two 14-hour days a week and my daily average are 5×5 plus 9×2 divided by 7 equals 6 cups a day or 600mg.
Keep my daily intake under 400mg, I can tell you right now, that’s never going to happen.
Just like gluten intolerance, caffeine sensitivity is hereditary. And it gets worse as you get older.
Here are some of the symptoms:
- Tachycardia: An accelerated heartbeat
- Diarrhea: Anytime your body is desperate to purge itself of something, that’s a red flag
- Insomnia: Sleeplessness
- Headaches: Especially true when caffeine is wearing off
- Tremors: Trembling hands are a sure sign that your central nervous system is overstimulated
- Anxiety: Depression is often accompanied by a pervasive sense of dread. Fear not: these feelings will fade as your caffeine level normalizes
The best way to calculate your caffeine limit is by body mass. 3–6mg per kilogram is considered safe. So a 60kg man is looking at 180-360mg a day; a 70kg man, 210-420mg a day.
Part of the problem is that, because caffeine is relatively safe, it has not been thoroughly studied. In 1987, a study by Balogh et al concluded that women in the luteal phase of menstruation eliminated caffeine at a rate 25% slower than they would otherwise, a finding completely contradicted in 1999 by Kamamori et al who found no difference in clearance.
At the same time, it’s an established fact that the caffeine half-life in women on oral contraception is twice as long, the only problem being that those studies were conducted in 1980 and 1985. No studies have been done on the newer oral contraceptives.
The Bottom Line
You have to decide your own safe limit. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of caffeine sensitivity, you’ve already exceeded it and it’s time to dial it back, either by drinking coffee with less caffeine or adopting the strategies outlined below.
Bear in mind that caffeine also interacts with some psychiatric drugs and chronic medications. These include anti-diabetics, anticoagulants, anti-asthmatics, tricyclic antidepressants, and, of course, contraceptives.
There are other ways of controlling your caffeine uptake, mainly by adopting the same tactics that work for alcohol:
- Eat something: Caffeine is absorbed in the gut. If it’s mixed with solid food, it’s absorbed much less quickly.
- Stand up and walk around: Activity speeds up your metabolism and evenly distributes whatever is in your bloodstream throughout the blood volume. It’s also a good way to gauge how strongly caffeine is affecting you.
- Apple juice, grape juice, and soft drinks: All three are high in fructose, a naturally occurring sugar that speeds up your metabolism and greatly increases the rate at which drugs are eliminated from your bloodstream.
- Pace yourself: Don’t drink that second cup right away. Wait an hour or two. Try to not drink two cups within three hours of each other. The half-life of caffeine is 5-6 hours.
Any combination of these techniques should be enough to allay your symptoms.
Nespresso Caffeine Content by The Pod
There are two ranges of Nespresso coffee pod: OriginalLine and VertuoLine. There are roughly 25 varieties in the OriginalLine range and 13 in the Vertuoline.
To help you decide which pods best suit your needs, here is a comprehensive breakdown of every variation sorted by the highest concentration (mg of caffeine per fluid oz) down to the lowest.
|Variation||Style||Volume (oz)||Caffeine per Oz||Intensity||Caffeine|
|Palermo Kazaar||OriginalLine Ristretto||.85||141.18||12||120|
|Ristretto Italiano||OriginalLine Ristretto||.85||88.24||10||75|
|Firenze Arpeggio||OriginalLine Ristretto||.85||74.12||9||63|
|Peru Organic||VertuoLine Espresso||1.35||62.96||6||85|
|Bianco Leggero||VertuoLine Double Espresso||2.7||55.56||Not rated||150|
|Double Espresso Chiaro||VertuoLine Double Espresso||2.7||55.56||6||150|
|Double Espresso Scuro||VertuoLine Double Espresso||2.7||55.56||8||150|
|Ice Leggero||VertuoLine Double Espresso||2.7||55.56||Not rated||150|
|Freddo Delicato||OriginalLine Espresso||1.35||53.33||7||72|
|Indonesia||OriginalLine Espresso||1.35||53.33||Not rated||72|
|Genova Livanto||OriginalLine Espresso||1.35||47.41||6||64|
|Caramel Creme Brulee||OriginalLine Espresso||1.35||45.93||6||62|
|Cocoa Truffle||OriginalLine Espresso||1.35||45.93||6||62|
|Vanilla Eclair||OriginalLine Espresso||1.35||45.93||6||62|
|Freddo Intenso||OriginalLine Espresso||1.35||41.48||Not rated||56|
|Fortado||VertuoLine Gran Lungo||5.00||40.00||8||200|
|Arondio||VertuoLine Gran Lungo||5.00||32.00||6||160|
|Costa Rica||VertuoLine Gran Lungo||5.00||32.00||7||160|
|Ethiopia||VertuoLine Gran Lungo||5.00||32.00||4||160|
|Cape Town Envivo Lungo||OriginalLine Lungo||3.7||29.73||10||110|
|Buenos Aires Lungo||OriginalLine Lungo||3.7||28.11||4||104|
|Shanghai Lungo||OriginalLine Lungo||3.7||22.16||5||82|
|Tokyo Vivalto Lungo||OriginalLine Lungo||3.7||22.16||6||82|
|Stockholm Fortissio Lungo||OriginalLine Lungo||3.7||21.62||8||80|
|Bianco Forte||VertuoLine Mug||7.8||21.15||Not rated||165|
|Caramel Cookie||VertuoLine Mug||7.8||21.15||6||165|
|Chocolate Fudge||VertuoLine Mug||7.8||21.15||6||165|
|Hazelino Muffin||VertuoLine Mug||7.8||21.15||6||165|
|Vanilla Custard Pie||VertuoLine Mug||7.8||21.15||6||165|
|Vienna Linizio Lungo||OriginalLine Lungo||3.7||20.27||6||75|
|Dolce XL||VertuoLine Alto||14.00||13.57||4||190|
|Intenso XL||VertuoLine Alto||14.00||13.57||7||190|
|Half Caffeinato||VertuoLine Mug||7.8||8.97||5||70|
The intensity rating is a measure of flavor, not caffeine, but they are not unrelated. Higher numbers on the intensity scale indicate more body and more flavonoids.
If it’s caffeine you’re missing, buy a reusable Nespresso pod and fill it with a lighter roast. Dark-roasted Arabicas like the Roma pod has more flavor but they’re low in caffeine. Medium-roasted Robustas like the Kazaar pod delivers huge swathes of caffeine.