strong arm man holding coffee

What is the Strongest Coffee? Best Top Strongest Coffees in the World

August 23, 2021

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For some people, a regular cup of joe is enough to help them wake up and start their day. Others, however, find it difficult to know their own name when they wake up and therefore need an extra kickstart to go about their daily routine. These people may find that drinking the strongest coffee they can find does the trick for them.

In this article, we have gathered all the information you need to know on the strongest coffee brands in terms of caffeine content on the market today. We have only reviewed those coffees that have greater than 1000 mg of caffeine per 12 fl oz (355 ml).

A cup of coffee may be usually 12 fl oz but the amount of caffeine that these coffees deliver to your cup is certainly not usual!

What is a Strong Coffee?

Does a strong coffee have more caffeine? When we talk about a strong coffee, most people imagine a powerful and bitter taste. You may also think that a strong coffee is a coffee high in caffeine. But it isn’t necessarily so.

Coffee specialists consider a strong coffee as one that has high total dissolved solids (TDS). Total dissolved solids are all the components of coffee that are extracted and dissolved in water during the brewing process. It is all the ‘stuff’ extracted from coffee that ends up in your cup of coffee!

TDS may also contain very small particles of the coffee bean and fibers that are not technically dissolved but suspended in water. However, they are small enough to be considered dissolved.

TDS indicates the concentration of dissolved solids in a certain volume of coffee and is often written as a ratio such as parts per million (ppm), mg/L, or a percentage. Usually, coffee TDS is measured as a percentage or mg/L.  TDS is commonly measured by a refractometer.

We won’t go into how this instrument works in this article suffice to say it essentially measures how light is bent (refracted) through a solution. This measurement is converted to an index which is correlated to the concentration or density of the solution measured.

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A high TDS in coffee usually results in a strong intense drink and a low TDS results in a weak or ‘watery’ drink. The range of TDS is quite broad from about 1.15% (filter coffee) to 20% (ristretto). This is a result of a whole host of factors listed below but particularly the extraction method used to prepare the coffee.

In short, a high TDS for a coffee may be considered a ‘strong coffee’ and a low TDS may be considered a ‘weak coffee’.

The composition of a coffee depends on many factors from the farm to your final coffee drink. These factors include the following.

  • Coffee bean farm location (geography, altitude, climate)
  • Type of coffee bean (e.g. arabica and robusta)
  • Green Coffee bean processing (e.g. wet or dry processing)
  • Age of green coffee bean
  • Length and type of storage for the green coffee bean
  • Coffee bean roasting
  • Storage of roasted coffee bean
  • Coffee bean grinding
  • Coffee bean extraction (time, temperature)
  • Coffee brewing technique (this also determines the extraction)
  • Water quality
  • Coffee to water brew ratio

As you can see coffee making is a multistep process. All of the factors above contribute, in one way or another, to the TDS, caffeine, and other components (such as antioxidants) that finally end up in your cup of coffee. We will discuss only a few of these factors in this post.

Is Dark Roast Coffee Stronger Than Light Roast Coffee?

Does roast affect the strength of your coffee? Is dark roast coffee the ‘strongest’ coffee?

If we use our definition of strength as TDS then dark roast coffee isn’t necessarily any ‘stronger’ than light roast coffee. The strength of a coffee in terms of TDS depends upon many of the factors previously discussed. The TDS is roughly the same for all roasts.

If we consider the strength of a coffee as the caffeine content then there isn’t necessarily any difference in caffeine content between a dark roast and a light roast of Arabica coffee beans.

The misconception or misunderstanding on whether a dark or light roast coffee contains different caffeine content comes from not appreciating how things are measured.

A difference in caffeine, or any other component in coffee, arises when you measure by weight or volume.

When raw coffee beans are roasted at high temperatures the coffee beans lose water and gas (mainly carbon dioxide). This leads to a loss of mass.

At high temperatures, water vapor and gas expands within the coffee bean increasing its volume and porosity.

The loss of mass and gain in volume of a coffee bean increases with roast time. A light roast and a dark roast have a shorter and longer roast time respectively.

different grades of roasted coffee bean

Do you remember the formula for density from high-school chemistry?

Density = Mass/Volume

If the mass of a coffee bean is decreased, and volume is increased, during roasting then the density of the coffee bean decreases.

A dark roast will have slightly less mass (up to 20% less), slightly greater volume, and be less dense than a light roast.

If you measure your coffee by weight then you’ll measure out a few more beans of dark roast than light roast. Consequently, your cup of coffee will contain slightly more caffeine – all other factors being equal – which is difficult!

However, if you measure your coffee by volume then you’ll measure a few more beans of light roast compared with dark roast. Consequently, your coffee will contain slightly less caffeine – all other factors being equal.

Coffee Type

Arabica and Robusta are the two types of beans containing the highest levels of caffeine.

The Arabica coffee bean (Coffea arabica also written as C.arabica) makes the most well-known coffee in the world. This coffee bean usually has fruity aromas and a light flavor. The range of caffeine content reported for green C. arabica varies between 0.7 and 1.7 g/100 g (dry matter).

The Robusta (Coffea robusta or C.robusta) is the main variant of the Coffea canephora coffee bean species. Robusta coffee bean is the second most commercial coffee bean in the world. This coffee bean is usually a little more bitter than the arabica coffee bean. The range of caffeine reported for green C.canephora varies between 1.4 and 3.3 g/100 g (dry matter).

The robusta coffee bean coffee is cheaper and has about double the amount of caffeine compared to arabica. Thus, if you want to make a coffee with high caffeine content then using robusta coffee would be a good start.

Grind

The size of the grind is also a determining factor in knowing how much caffeine a cup contains. The finer the coffee base, the more contact surface you will obtain. In other words, the finer the coffee grind, the easier it is for the water to absorb the flavor compounds and the caffeine.

Espresso and Turkish coffee are examples prepared with a very fine grind. The French press or a pour-over coffee maker needs coarse grinds to obtain the best coffee flavor.

Coffee Brew Method

How the coffee is brewed is an important factor that determines the amount of caffeine in your final cup of coffee. The proportion of water to coffee is important when preparing a cup of coffee. Usually, an espresso extracts the most caffeine per volume of water this is followed by Turkish coffee and other brewing techniques as shown in the diagram.

coffee brew methods and caffeine content
Source: de Paula & Farah 2019

Can you see the ‘T’ shape stick at the top of each column? This is an error bar and shows the variability of caffeine content for each of the brew methods. Espresso seems to have the highest caffeine content followed by Turkish coffee. However, the error bars for Espresso and Turkish coffee overlap which means that it is possible for Turkish coffee to have a higher caffeine content than espresso coffee.

This shouldn’t be surprising. We have already seen how many different factors contribute to making coffee. You can also have considerable variability when making coffee with a particular brewing method even if you use the same batch of coffee!

How We Define a Strong Coffee

For the purpose of this article, we will say that a strong coffee is a coffee with high caffeine content. Why? Two reasons…

  1. Most people think that a ‘strong’ coffee is one with a high caffeine content
  2. It is relatively easier to find reported data on the caffeine content of a specialty coffee rather than the TDS

The reported caffeine content of a coffee we use in writing this article is the amount of caffeine in the final solution (i.e. your coffee drink). As we have previously noted the amount of caffeine in your final cup of coffee depends upon many factors.

The reported caffeine content of the coffees we review in this article is taken from information provided by the Caffeine Informer database.

Caffeine Informer says that they confirm the caffeine content of the ‘strong’ coffees with the roasters, by accessing databases and references, or with a testing service.

They also say that the highest caffeine content from the coffees we review is from ‘brewed coffee’ which is vague but they give Turkish coffee as an example. We disagree with their statement that ‘…espresso coffee does not contain more caffeine than brewed coffee.’ for the reasons we discussed above in the Coffee Brew Method section.

However, we do not know how the coffee was ground or the brewing technique used to make the coffee.  The reported caffeine content can vary considerably and would be different for each batch of coffee and different for a particular brew method.

The caffeine that ends up in your cup of coffee may not be the exact amount shown for these coffees in this post.

1. Black Label. Devil Mountain Coffee (1555 mg/12 flu oz)

Devil Mountain Coffee Black Label is currently the most caffeinated coffee available.

black label ultra strong coffeeBlack Label has a very high caffeine content of about 1,555 mg caffeine per 12 fluid ounces (355 ml). If you are sensitive to caffeine that you shouldn’t drink this coffee. Devil Mountain is a USA coffee bean roaster and is an official sponsor of the Sonoma Raceway.

The coffee has a smooth, strong, rich flavor that isn’t too bitter.

The roasters say that they use premium high-altitude Organic, Non-GMO beans (GMO = genetically modified organisms) but don’t mention if they use Arabica or Robusta coffee beans. However, given the high caffeine content, we suspect that they use a blend of both robusta and arabica coffee beans.

Black Label Devil Mountain Coffee has over 1300 4 to 5-star ratings on Amazon.

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2. Very Strong Coffee (1350 mg/12 fl oz)

Very Strong Coffee is a UK company and uses robusta coffee beans.

Very Strong Coffee is the second strongest coffee in this list with about 1350 mg of caffeine per 12 fluid ounces (355 ml).

As we have already seen robusta coffee beans have a higher caffeine content than arabica coffee beans. However, robusta coffee beans are noted for their bitterness.

We don’t know how the roasters manage to make this strong coffee from robusta beans without being too bitter.

This coffee currently has eight 4 to 5-star reviews on Amazon.

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3. High Voltage Coffee (1150 mg/12 fl oz)

The tagline for this coffee is “Coffee so strong, it will shock you! I like the claim and the name.

high voltage coffee beans

High-Voltage Coffee is an Australian roaster (my home country). They use a combination of beans ethically and sustainably sourced from rainforest alliance farmers. Of course, the beans are dark-roasted in Australia.

They don’t say if they use robusta or arabica coffee beans. However, we suspect it is a blend of both of these coffee bean types.

High Voltage Coffee is certified to contain 1150mg of caffeine per 12 fl oz (355 ml) cup. They back up this claim by stating that their coffee is lab-tested by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science.

The coffee is smooth, strong, with a good flavor that ‘hits hard’.

There are 199 5-star reviews on its website.

You can’t get this coffee on Amazon but you can probably buy from their website.

4. Black Insomnia (1105 mg/12 fl oz)

Coffee is well-known to keep you awake and alert so labeling a coffee ‘Black Insomnia’ gives you a warning that it is a strong coffee!

In fact, their tagline is ‘Now is not the time to sleep’! With 1105 mg caffeine per 12 fl oz it is easy to see the truth of their statement.

The coffee originated in South Africa but they have handed over the roasting to roasters in Bamberg, Germany, who have been in the business since 1932.

They use a blend of arabica and robusta coffee beans that are roasted Italian style in a small batch drum roaster. They describe their coffee as smooth, with a strong aroma, robust flavor, velvety body, heady crema without any unpleasant bitterness or acidity.

In particular, they say the coffee has nutty aromas, caramel sweetness, and a dark chocolate aftertaste.

You can get this coffee as whole beans or ground coffee. coffee bags, or coffee pods.

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5. Maximum Charge Super Strong Coffee (1101 mg/12 flu oz)

Cannonball Coffee has made a potent blend of coffee which they label as ‘Maximum Charge Super Strong’. And they back it up with 1101 mg of caffeine per 12 flu oz (355 ml).

maximum charge super strong coffee

Cannonball Coffee Company is a roaster in the United Kingdom. It was founded by Duncan who launched the business in 2018 after leaving the British Army. Duncan served in the army for 8 years and was deployed all over the world. He took up coffee roasting as a challenge. Well done Duncan!

The coffee is made from highly caffeinated single-origin Robusta coffee beans from Rwanda. They use a medium roast to give the coffee a smooth and complex taste. They describe the taste as having ‘notes of dark chocolate and toasted malt’.

They have over 300 5-star reviews on their website.

Their fun tagline is ‘Maximum Charge is the perfect coffee to help you get sh*t done.’

I’m sure with the caffeine in their coffee you will get a lot of sh*t done!

Unfortunately, this coffee is currently unavailable on Amazon USA. However, you may be able to buy from their website.

What about Death Wish Coffee?

DEATH WISH COFFEE

Dearth Wish Coffee initially made its name as the ‘World’s Strongest Coffee.’ However, it didn’t make our list because it has less than 1000 mg coffee per 12 flu oz. Its caffeine content is ‘only’ 728 mg of coffee per 12 fl oz (355 ml).

Death Wish is a blend of robusta and arabica beans, is USDA certified organic, and Fair Trade.

The company recommends two and a half tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water when preparing your coffee. This way you get the optimal amount of caffeine without sacrificing the carefully crafted taste of Death Wish Coffee.

Death Wish Coffee may no longer but the ‘World’s Strongest Coffee’ but it is still one of the most popular strong coffee’s in the world. Death Wish Coffee has over 38,000 4 or 5-star reviews on Amazon.

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FAQ

What type of coffee has more caffeine?

An espresso usually contains more caffeine than other types of coffee drinks. There is little difference in caffeine concentration or TDS from light roast to dark roast coffee beans. However, you can still make very strong coffees with other brew methods by using robusta coffee beans, adjusting the coffee to water ratio, and using particular brew techniques.

Is espresso stronger than coffee?

Surprisingly the question as written is asked quite a bit when someone types into a search engine. The question really should be ‘Is espresso stronger than other types of coffee drinks?’ As you can see from the graph above an espresso can contain up to 350 mg of caffeine per 100ml (or about 100 mg/flu oz). The average is about 253 mg/100ml. In contrast, drip coffee contains up to 60 mg of caffeine per 100ml.  This makes espresso about 4 times stronger than regular drip coffee.

How much caffeine could kill you?

If you weigh 70 kg then your potential lethal dose of caffeine would be about 3950 mg or about 4 g (0.14 oz) of caffeine. Please read our post on the lethal dose of caffeine and calculate your coffee intake on our caffeine calculator page.

Can I make my own strong coffee?

Yes, you can! The easiest way to do this is to make Turkish coffee or Moka pot coffee.

First, choose high caffeine robusta, a combination of robusta and arabica coffee beans, or any of the coffees we reviewed in this post.

Very finely grind your coffee beans

Use a high coffee to water ratio. That is a ratio that gives you a concentrated coffee solution. We suggest a coffee to water ratio of about 1:9

Pour 155 g of water into a cezve. This is enough to make 2 cups of coffee. It need not strictly be a cezve you can use a small saucepan if you like.

Grind your strong caffeinated coffee beans to a very fine powder.

Add about 15 g (about 1 Imperial Tablespoon, 0.5 ounces) but do not stir

Heat your coffee until the coffee sinks and then stir.

Continue heating until foam appears.

Do not let your coffee boil.

Conclusion

The list of products presented in this article discusses different types of strong coffee with different amounts of caffeine, but all of them are considered strong and delicious. It is important to note that these products are suitable for people with high caffeine tolerance. Everyone has a different tolerance for caffeine, so remember to drink responsibly!

Sources

dePaula, J., & Farah, A. (2019). Caffeine consumption through coffee: Content in the beverage, metabolism, health benefits and risks. Beverages, 5(2), 37.

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