I know I am not alone when I say I am reliant on coffee. Caffeine for college students is just as important as the air we breathe…well, that may be an over-dramatization, but it’s still very important. Recently, I have increased my coffee consumption by an extra cup or two a day, and while at first it seemed to improve my productivity, I came to realize some unpleasant side effects. After doing some research on safe daily caffeine intake, I discovered it is possible to overdo the coffee. So, how much is too much coffee?

Quick Coffee 101

coffee, espresso, cappuccino, mocha
Jocelyn Hsu

The coffee beverage that we are familiar with today, brewed from roasted beans, has been around since the 13th century originating in Arabia; earlier forms used the whole fruit and were around as early as 1000 A.D.

Coffee is no new trend, but boy is it still trendy. With the creation of Starbucks in 1971, artisanal coffee became a sensation and burrowed itself within American pop culture. This infatuation with coffee was, and still is, greatly facilitated by millennials. Due to the rapid growth of coffee shops around the birth of this generation, millennials started drinking the Kool-Aid at a young age. Today millennials account for 44% of our country’s coffee consumption. Reported in 2016, 48% of people ages 18-24 are daily consumers, up from 34% just eight years prior. You could safely say we are addicted.

Safe Daily Limit

coffee, chocolate, cereal, espresso, cappuccino, mocha, sweet, black beans
Abby Reisinger

The recommended maximum daily intake of caffeine is around 400mg. Depending on how strong you brew your coffee, one 8-ounce cup could be anywhere from about 80-150mg of caffeine. This gives you an allowance of 3-4 cups of brewed coffee a day. However, if you are a Starbucks lover, just one of your favorite 20-ounce venti concoctions could put you over the safe limit. A single venti blonde roast coffee contains 475mg of caffeine! Contrary to popular belief, blonde roasts are stronger than dark roasts in terms of caffeine content. The lighter the roast, the higher the caffeine content.

If you get your caffeine fix in other forms, the safe 400mg allotment is equivalent to about 2 ½ shots of espresso, 2 5-Hour Energy drinks, 10 cans of soda or 5 Red Bulls. I personally don’t know anyone who drinks nearly half a dozen Red Bulls a day, nor would I recommend doing so, but overdosing on caffeine is usually due to a combination of multiple forms throughout the day. That’s right, overdose–you heard me correctly. Caffeine is a drug to the body and you can experience some unpleasant side effects from overindulging.

Side Effects

Nadia Doris

A study done on the safety of caffeine intake states some of the side effects include jitters, headache, insomnia, temporary high blood pressure, fatigue following a caffeine crash and gastrointestinal issues-- none of which are ideal when searching for an afternoon pick-me-up.

Cracking the code to the perfect amount of caffeine is tricky because everyone reacts differently. Caffeine is considered a drug, so you can develop a tolerance which affects how much your body can tolerate. Certain medications, health conditions and biological factors can contribute to this sensitivity, too. If you are experiencing any of these side effects, monitoring your intake can be helpful.

genmai cha, loose leaf tea, green tea, tea, tea pot
Jocelyn Hsu

If you find you are one of those more sensitive to caffeine, tea is a great alternative because it has considerably less caffeine than a cup of joe. Black tea, green tea and kombucha (fermented tea) all come in around 40-50mg of caffeine per 8-ounces. Or, if you're like me and enjoy the taste of coffee, opt for a mug of decaf instead.

Next time you reach for your fifth mug of joe, consider whether you’ve passed your daily limit. Listen to your body, sip in moderation and study on, my friends.