A coffee cup at Terra Vista.  Detail of photo by B. D. Hilling, 2013.

And then there is coffee.

Adda Bjarnadóttir considers the obvious question, and, yes, those of us who count coffee among staples ought to check in every once in a while:

You can expect to get around 95 mg of caffeine from an average cup of coffee.

However, this amount varies between different coffee drinks, and can range from almost zero to over 500 mg.

In other words, don’t just count ninety-five milligrams. Consider a routine checkup, and your doctor asks the routine questions. Do you smoke? How much? Do you drink? How much? And of course we all tend to estimate just a bit low, but when it comes to coffee? When your doctor asks how many cups of coffee you drink each day, do you pause to wonder whether you should answer by actual volume measured in cups or count up the number of times you empty and refill that gigantic mug? It really can make a difference.

Try it next time your doctor asks. And then say something that sounds insane: “Uh, I’m not certain. Twenty, thirty cups?”

For some of us, that might still be a lowball figure.

No, really. Try it. This or that mug is a two-cup mug, and for some of us it should simply never be empty. Still, two cups … and how many times refilled? Uh … right.

Okay, try it this way: How many pots of coffee? Three or four. How much does anyone else in the house drink? Not much. The rough math suggests, actually, between twenty-five and forty cups of coffee a day? Can that possibly be right?

Three and a half grams of caffeine? Per diem?

And that’s just baseline; Bjarnadóttir’s article, via AlterNet, only gets more complicated from there. Fast food versus donut shops versus ostensible coffee specialists can only make your head spin; still, it’s enough of a start to remind that maybe some of us just don’t want to know.


Image note: A coffee cup at Terra Vista. Detail of photo by B. D. Hilling, 2013.

Bjarnadóttir, Adda. “How Much Caffeine in a Cup of Coffee? A Detailed Guide”. AlterNet. 14 January 2016.

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