Did you know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests a limit of no more than 400 mg of caffeine to be the recommended threshold for the most you should consume per day?
When I wake up in the morning, coffee is the first thing that comes to mind before anything else. Sometimes, like after a long night or some other bender, I need something a little stronger to perk me up.
If you are anything like me, you may feel like your coffee isn't giving you enough energy? There are a few ways to tackle this problem. One involves weening oneself of caffeine for a few days, and the other method is to go for the strong stuff!
Ever wondered what gives coffee its energizing kick? Perhaps you are looking for the best coffee for energy. In this article, we will cover this and review 14 of our favorite strong coffee brands.
Note: I don't recommend using any of these coffees for your cold brew concentrate.
What Causes the Energizing Effect of Coffee?
There is a not-so-secret ingredient present in coffee that classifies it as an energy drink—caffeine. Caffeine is a brain stimulant. It is a fat-soluble compound that can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and stimulate brain cells.
It temporarily blocks the areas of the brain that make you feel lethargic or sleepy, stimulating the brain to work faster, while making you feel more active and awake.
So, when we describe coffee's effects on the body, the appropriate word would be "kick" and not necessarily "energy," as coffee tends to kick us into our work, especially after long periods without caffeine.
Caffeine can be found in green tea and black teas, but also in soda and a myriad of energy drinks. Teas are great, but the downside to sodas and other energy drinks is that they contain sugar and other harmful additives that have been shown to harm your body more than the caffeine benefits it.
When consumed in moderation, coffee or tea can be a part of a healthy diet. One to two cups of brewed coffee daily may actually benefit your health.
The stimulating effect of coffee starts to show 5-30 minutes after drinking it and can last up to 12 hours. The effects, however, vary from person to person, and can depend on body mass index, metabolism, and their caffeine tolerance.
But you want to know how to get the most caffeine per cup, right? Let's go over some factors to consider to maximize the energizing throughput of your brewed coffee.
The Criteria for Choosing Coffee Beans for Maximum Energy
To maximize your caffeine-fueled efforts, we need to choose the right coffee beans to work with, which will vary depending on a few criteria. Before we choose our beans, let's consider the factors that make the coffee beans energizing:
Type of Coffee Bean
The type of coffee beans you purchase will determine the initial caffeine content. Arabica plants are more widely used and produce coffee beans of high quality. However, Robusta coffee has about twice as much caffeine as Arabica coffee in the brewed cup, making it substantially more caffeinated. The drawback is that Robusta coffee can taste bitter and overpowering when compared to Arabica.
On average, Arabica beans contain around 0.9% to 1.5% caffeine, while Robusta beans contain nearly twice as much, at 1.2% to 2.4% caffeine.
Roasted coffee contains over 1,000 bioactive substances. The roast level of the coffee beans also affects the caffeine content by about 1%. Light roasts contain more caffeine compared to dark roasts, as the roasting process causes caffeine to break down. A dark roast will have less caffeine than a light roast of the same variety.
The brewing method used to make coffee can also affect the taste, aroma, and biochemical composition. As we will go over later in this article, specific coffee beverages differ in their caffeine content. The best way to think about this is the brewing methods that extract more coffee from the beans, such as espresso or French press, will result in a higher caffeine content compared to methods that extract less, such as drip coffee. What's more, the length of brew time can also impact the caffeine content, as longer brew times result in higher caffeine extraction.
Finally, the serving size of the coffee also affects the caffeine content. Obviously, a smaller serving of coffee will contain less caffeine compared to a larger serving of the same beverage. This is why the way you drink coffee will affect how much caffeine you consume. We'll go over the most common coffee beverages below for your reference.
You may not consider additives when you think about your coffee beverages, but with the advent of hybrid energy drinks containing coffee, it is essential to take additives into consideration for how they affect your energy levels. These ingredients can enhance the effects of caffeine and provide an additional boost of energy. Here are some of the energy-boosting ingredients found in energy drinks:
Guarana is a popular natural ingredient found in energy drinks that comes from the seeds of a South American plant. It contains both caffeine and theophylline, stimulants that increase energy levels and may help increase metabolism when consumed in moderation. Guarana is often added to energy drinks and high caffeine coffee products to enhance their energizing effects.
Taurine is a naturally occurring sulfonic amino acid that is often added to energy drinks and high caffeine coffee products to help to improve focus and concentration, as well as enhance the effects of caffeine. It also assists in supporting nerve growth and regulating blood pressure when consumed in moderation.
B vitamins, such as B1, B2, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, B6 and B12, are frequently found in the ingredients list for many of the most popular energy drinks. B vitamins are essential for energy metabolism, and can help to increase energy levels.
It is vital to keep in mind that many common ingredients found within energy drinks have side effects. I subscribe to the notion that most anything is ok in moderation, but I also take caution with energy drinks, especially high caffeine coffee products that contain them. I always check the labels to be aware of the amounts of these ingredients included within them.
Similarly, I am careful for how I drink my coffee beverages as they are not created equal with regards to caffeine content.
It's Also How You Drink Coffee
Not all coffee beverages are created equal. Your caffeine content will largely fluctuate based on the coffee beverage style. For example, a straight espresso will contain way more caffeine per ml than any other coffee brew. Likewise, if you consume coffee diluted with almond milk, sugar, or flavorings, your caffeine concentration will dilute further still.
Common Coffee Drinks Caffeine Content per 8oz
Caffeine per 8 oz
Cold Brew Coffee
Nitro Cold Brew Coffee
Pour Over Coffee / Chemex
French Press / Immersion Coffee
Black Iced Coffee
Cafe Au Lait
Drip Black Coffee
Please note that the caffeine content may vary depending on the type of coffee beans used, the roast level, the brewing method, and the serving size.
These figures are an estimate based on average caffeine content in each drink but scaled to an 8oz serving.
What is the Best Coffee for Energy?
When it comes to evaluating the best coffee for energy, it's important to not only consider the various coffee options available, but also to have a deep understanding of what each product offers. As a coffee enthusiast, I have spent years experimenting with different coffee beans on the market and brewing methods to find what works best for me. That said, my reviews are my own, and your experience will vary from mine.
Here are some of my favorite coffee picks that will surely give you caffeine addicts a jolt of energy.
1. Black Label Coffee by Devil Mountain
Despite what the FDA recommends, Black Label Coffee by Devil Mountain leads the pack with nearly 4x the recommended daily dose in a single cup. Let me put it this way, this coffee is not for the faint of heart because it contains more than 1,500 mg of caffeine per 8oz cup.
Given that Black Label contains the highest caffeine of any coffee on this list, you will definitely notice the difference if you are used to standard coffee brands. I certainly feel it.
Fortunately, the flavor is on point. It has a smooth first sip, which cannot easily be said of some of the others in this list, and the smell is fairly neutral when brewing it. The brand prides itself on providing high-caffeine content without sacrificing flavor, and it seems to do that.
When immersed in a French Press, there is only a slight tinge of bitterness, to be expected with any coffee brewed this way. It presents subtle cherry and chocolate flavor profile from hot brew.
2. Kimera Coffee Amber Roast
Kimera Koffee's beans are lightly roasted with energy-maximizing additives aimed at improving cognitive function. Due to the nature of lighter roasts there is more caffeine, but it also contains a combination of L-Theanine, Taurine, Alpha GPC, and DMAE.
The flavor resembles other lights roasts with a sugary and berry-filled aroma that fills the room. It has a bit of a fruity and sour flavor at first, but its bright body balances out. It's quite nice. I found that almost instantly, my brain turned on when brewed in a French Press.
The best way I can describe it is like a light switch turning on to a cluttered room. It was almost like I wasn't ready for it. In any case, after a short while I began to feel the caffeine effects, but the side effects of the additives really got to me after.
I usually don't experience issues with eye-twitching, but I certainly did with this brand. This is just my experience, but I feel like Kimera Koffee would work best for those weening themselves off of energy drinks, back to straight coffee.
I should also mention that I always drink my coffee black. Since I am more of a fan of dark roast coffee for my French Press, I think I will pass on doing this one again.
3. Shock Coffee: The most robust caffeinated coffee that is all-natural.
Shock Coffee products contain around 50% more caffeine than your regular cup of coffee, making it a real contender among energy drink enthusiasts. Personally, I enjoy the deep chocolatey notes without a sour or bitter after taste.
Its blend of medium to dark roast Arabica and Robusta beans helps deliver a punch to your face without the unwanted additives.
This is certainly one you won't be able to sleep on, but you also won't suffer from insomnia with a single serving. I definitely recommend giving this one a try to work your way up to the highest caffeinated options.
4. Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee
If you are a fan of instant coffee with the added cognitive benefits of healthy mushrooms, then this coffee blend is for you. Featuring organic instant coffee made from Arabica beans, organic lion's mane and Chaga mushroom powders, Four Sigmatic delivers a fantastic energy boost without the risk of caffeine overdose.
I've been enjoying this brand for a while now, and I can say without question, this is one I regularly go to when I have important meetings or need to squeeze out a bit more brain power on the fly.
The only downside I found is that the mushroom powders do not fully dissolve in the water, so if you do not drink it fast enough, you'll have sludge at the bottom of your cup, and that sludge is where most of the power comes from. Plus, the longer it takes you to drink it, the more gritty it becomes with less dilution.
Take it from me, drink it quickly and experience the benefits right away. This is not a dig at the flavor. It has a nice earthy flavor that is really enjoyable. This is one of the best instant coffee options out there.
5. Death Wish Medium Roast
I can assume at this point that most people are aware of Death Wish coffee, given its stellar marketing and audacious claims to be the 'strongest coffee in the world.' And while we have already demonstrated that to not be true, at least not any longer, that still does not mean this is one to scoff at.
Death Wish medium roast has caffeine levels twice as much as standard coffee. That is without any additives or supplements. They achieve this by blending Robusta and Arabica coffee beans for a higher dose of the energy-boosting molecule, without the side effects of energy drinks.
However, it does come with some downsides. The aroma isn't that great and the flavor wasn't really there for me either. I found that mixing Death Wish beans with some of my favorite darker roasts resulted in a much more desirable outcome of flavor and aroma, given I have come to expect a certain standard from my brews, I just wanted a slight increase in the caffeine face-kick. Overall, I don't think it lives up to the hype, but I did enjoy the novelty.
6. Black Insomnia Coffee
If you want to stay up the whole night, Black Insomnia Coffee may be your go-to brew. Claiming to be the world's strongest coffee post the Death Wish marketing buzz, each cup contains around 1100 mg of caffeine, ensuring it remains at the top of the list for caffeine concentration. However, it is not the strongest coffee by volume. It contains nearly 3x the caffeine compared to regular coffee with no extras, nootropics, or additives.
Due to the mix of 90% Robusta to 10% Arabica beans and the careful roasting, Black Insomnia has an exceptionally high caffeine content and a surprisingly pleasant flavor that will give you that caffeine kick and is a tremendous energy-boosting drink.
I found the taste to be closer to what a coffee purist would expect from the packaging with dark chocolate flavors with a hint of caramel, hazelnut, and macadamia. If I were needing to stay up all night to write a blog post or needed another reason to remain alert at all hours, Black Insomnia Coffee would be my go-to, strictly for flavor to caffeine content balance.
7. I'm Stamina Mushroom Coffee
Similar to Four Sigmatic, I'm Stamina Coffee aims to provide energy where it counts without relying heavily on caffeine. As an alternative to Four Sigmatic, it is on par, but it is harder to get online. It has lower acidity and contains Reishi mushroom and Cordyceps which improve body function.
Just like other mushroom coffees, I'm Stamina really delivers on an instant cognitive kick without caffeine jitters. It also has similar downsides in that if it's left out, it will create a sludge and becomes grittier with each slow sip.
If you are worried that it will taste like mushrooms, I assure you that it does not. In fact, it's quite a tasty drink!
8. Killer Coffee Dark Roast Coffee
It is made with roasted Arabica coffee beans that are 100% dark. Killer coffee made in Australia has a picture of a skull on the front and is so caffeinated that it might just wake the dead! All kidding aside, this coffee is no joke. It's super strong, known as "Australia's Strongest Coffee," with an exceptionally high caffeine content at 425 mg per 8oz cup—even more than what is generally present in Robusta beans.
The flavor is smooth and surprisingly not bitter for a dark roast. After a cup, I was fully awake, and after 2, I had to call it quits. I started feeling jittery, but that's my fault for overdoing it.
Still, the fact I was willing to brew a second cup says that the flavor is pleasant enough to drink it throughout the day, but the onset of the caffeine is relatively similar to normal coffee brands, so my inclination to drink it like my usual coffee was a bit of a mistake on my end.
They offer ground coffee and whole bean. I went with the whole bean, so I am not sure how well the pre-ground stuff holds up, but I actually finished this bag, which is saying something.
As a self-proclaimed coffee aficionado, drinking coffee every morning, I have personally tried and tested a wide variety of coffee beans and can confidently say that the 15 options listed above are truly some of the best options for boosting energy levels with caffeine.
Remember that the best coffee for you could be different from what appears in this list. For better or worse, the trick is figuring out what suits your body the best. Try any of these highly-caffeinated behemoths at your own risk in moderation and perhaps with a healthcare professional on speed-dial.