Strong black coffee, something that many of us need to get us moving in the morning. But ‘strong coffee’ can mean different things to different people — are you looking for a super caffeinated coffee or a coffee that has a more intense flavour? There are a number of companies out there that claim to make the best super-strong coffee but what does that actually mean? Keep reading our ultimate guide to the strongest coffee and, hopefully, all will be revealed...in this guide we’ll cover whether making the strongest coffee is about the roast or beans, which coffee drinks are the strongest, the health benefits of drinking coffee and also how strong coffee can help with your workout. We’ll also tell you (what we can) about the alchemy of our strongest coffee.
How do you define strong coffee?
The Speciality Coffee Association defines the “strength” of coffee as the total amount of coffee in a cup that has been dissolved i.e. more coffee and less water = strong coffee. We could, at this point, talk about how much coffee should be dissolved in a cup etc. but actually, we think how you perceive ‘strong coffee’ is far more important than technical definitions. Generally speaking, and when we have asked the question of our customers, the response is typically the same, strong coffee is robust, full and has a high caffeine content.
But like most things related to coffee, it really is all about which beans you choose. Given the variety of different countries that coffee plants grow in and, much like a French winemakers’ ‘Terroir’ it’s no surprise that different beans will produce such different end results. Anyway, let’s get back to those beans as when you have understood the science behind the beans we’d hope most of your questions around strong coffee will have been answered.
Coffee Bean Types - Robusta vs Arabica
There are many different types of coffee beans in the world but two have really made the growing and harvesting of this crop a duopoly. 75% of the beans grown and sold around the world come from only two varieties of bean, Arabica or Robusta.
What is Robusta coffee?
Robusta beans are generally considered to be a lower grade of bean than Arabica. They tend to be grown at lower elevations, which makes them an easier crop to maintain. Generally, Robusta coffee is more disease resistant and, as such, produce a higher yield. Robusta beans tend to have a more robust and astringent flavour than their Arabica cousins.
What is Arabica coffee?
Arabica, despite being harder to grow and maintain sells almost three times better than Robusta. Often referred to as ‘gourmet coffee’, these beans tend to have much more complex and subtle flavours than Robusta. Many Arabica beans will be named after their place of origin i.e. ‘Single origin Brasilian beans’.
Which is the strongest?
Many people consider Arabica beans to win the taste test but when it comes to caffeine Robusta seriously packs some punch and contain up-to double the amount of caffeine.
Roast Level and coffee strength
We might need to break a few myths here and what we are going to reveal feels a little counterintuitive but how dark you roast your coffee has nothing to do with how strong it is. You see, the more you roast your coffee the more caffeine will be extracted from it. So lighter roasted beans contain more caffeine and more flavour.
So, how is strong coffee roasted? As we have just alluded to strong coffee has nothing to do with roasting and everything to do with making and specifically, the coffee to water ratio of the making of your perfect cup. So once you have got your coffee to water ratios down you can have coffee as strong or as weak as you like!
Which coffee drinks are the strongest?
Espresso, double espresso - those strong, robust shots of coffee must be the strongest right? Well yes, and no. If we are to consider the amount of in a serving of espresso it would be a hands-down winner. But, here’s the thing, you only tend to drink one shot of espresso so, almost counter-intuitively, coffee drinks that are stronger tender to be longer.
A regular cappuccino or macchiato which contain just one shot of espresso, unsurprisingly, will come in at the same strength as espresso (75mg of caffeine per serving).
Flat whites, on the other hand, are made with Ristretto Espresso. Ristretto is made with less water and is more concentrated which means it is more highly caffeinated making the standard flat white come in at around 130mg per serving. Cold-brew coffee packs a serious caffeine punch. Cold brew coffee, as the name suggests is brewed cold, generally overnight and a standard serving comes in at 155mg per serving.
But if you want to deliver a seriously caffeinated punch without any fancy techniques, look no further than the tried and tested drip method. That’s right the old school percolator, by dint of the ‘drip’ method comes in at a whopping 165mg of caffeine per standard serving. Seriously, super strong coffee from a place you wouldn’t expect it.
The answer to the million-dollar strongest coffee question though needs to come with added nitrogen. That’s right, the strongest coffee (caffeine wise) we have come across is the nitro cold brew. This cold brew is infused with nitrogen and can come in at over a whopping 200mg of caffeine per serving. Now that is seriously strong coffee, but in a format, you might not have expected.
The Runner Bean strongest coffee story
We’re passionate about roasting the best coffee and we love strong coffee so we tried all of the ‘strongest coffee’ suspects out there and we were always a little bit disappointed and just knew we could do better. So we did.
First of all, we sort out coffees that had a high caffeine content. We mentioned Arabica and Robusta but in the different varietals of Arabica, there are lots of different species such as Bourbon, Typica, Caturra and Catuai etc. Arabica coffee is known for its taste (gourmet coffee, remember?) but if you dig a little deeper, as we did the notion that Arabica is tastier and Robusta has a higher caffeine content isn’t quite the case. Like most things in life, there are shades of grey in the case of Arabica we think we found the silver, highly caffeinated bullet, without affecting the great taste we pride ourselves on.
The science behind making our super strong coffee
Unfortunately, we can’t tell you exactly what makes up gymBrew - we wouldn’t want people stealing our ideas, would we? What we can reveal is how much caffeine is in it. You see rather than just claiming we make very strong coffee, we thought we’d prove it.
We had six different types of coffee tested for their caffeine content at the lab, he's a few of the results:
Our 100% Arabica came in at 180 mg/100ml (our gymBrew).
- Stacked up against a Monsoon Malabar (a ‘regular’ coffee benchmark). which came in at 115 mg/100ml.
- A Caturra varietal from Colombia 128 mg/100ml
- By using our knowledge of coffee we achieved a coffee that came in at 180 mg/100ml so much stronger than an “average brew”.
- As a side note we had a 100% Robusta come in at 293 mg/100ml - blow your head off coffee strength! But far too bitter to be classed as good coffee.
The net result of our experimenting and testing was a very tasty strong coffee that isn’t going to blow your head off but gives much more of a substantial kick than your average brew. Now Robusta is known for being quite bitter so we added to the brew with a small amount of naturally sweet Arabica.
Health benefits of strong coffee
So, we have defined that strong coffee is not about the dark roast, it’s all about caffeine. So what’s the point of drinking coffee which is stronger than your average cup? Well, the health benefits of caffeine have been well documented so here’s some food for thought.
In 2017 the British Medical Journal (the BMJ) peer-reviewed over 200 studies on the consumption of caffeine and found that any negative effects were far outweighed by the benefits. Clearly drinking too much caffeine can be dangerous (the NHS suggest you shouldn’t regularly consume over 400 mg’s a day), the key outtake from these studies is that regular coffee drinkers were at lower risk of serious cardiovascular disease. That’s right, it looks like drinking strong coffee can help you live longer!
Other benefits we have gleaned from our research are:
Less risk of serious disease (including cancers).
Caffeine raises your blood pressure but a Swedish study pointed to the fact that regular consumption can reduce the risk of stroke.
Caffeine consumption can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (by speeding up your metabolism).
Caffeine consumption can aid weight loss (and why we have called our strongest coffee ‘gymBrew’).
Caffeine can reduce post-workout pain
Caffeine and working out
We’ve mentioned that caffeine consumption can help with your work out, let’s understand a little more why. First of all a caveat — stay hydrated! Caffeine is diarrhetic and can make you dehydrated so whatever you please do please don’t replace your workout water with super-strong coffee. Here are the top four benefits we have found of drinking strong coffee before your workout:
Burn fat better: You’ll probably find caffeine as a key ingredient in many pre-workout drinks. The reason? It’s how caffeine affects your brain. Caffeine helps you train harder, faster, longer and, as such, you will burn more calories. Caffeine can also help you burn more calories at rest thanks to an increase of increase in noradrenaline that ups your metabolic rate.
Recover faster: Consuming caffeine with carbohydrate improves your rate of glycogen replenishment which is great if you want to exercise more than once a day.
Better anaerobic performance: Caffeine consumption may help you run faster or longer or lift more weight, studies have suggested ingesting caffeine prior to a workout increase maximal extension/flexion exercise. However, this effect may fade with continued consumption so be careful not to overdo it.
Increased aerobic capacity: Caffeine consumption helps block A1 pain receptors, so 100-200mgs will improve your aerobic capacity.
We hope you have enjoyed our introduction to everything related to strong coffee. What we would like you to take from this guide is that dark roasting doesn’t mean strength. Arabica and Robusta are not the only beans out there and that we think we have developed the strongest coffee on the market which tastes great, will help with your workout and will definitely help wake you up! If you would like to chat with us about gymBrew or any of the coffees we roast and grind, please feel free to get in touch here.