High street coffee chains with most caffeine in drinks unveiled - how Costa, Starbucks and Caffè Nero rank

A medium cappuccino at one chain has almost five times more caffeine than competitors

High street cafe chains offer "huge" differences in the amount of caffeine leaving customers unaware of how much they are consuming.

A medium cappuccino at Costa contains a “massive” 325mg of caffeine – around the amount contained in four cups of tea. This is almost five times the strength of a cappuccino from Starbucks which contains the least at 66mg, according to Which?.

Cappuccinos from Greggs and Pret a Manger were also found to contain significantly less caffeine than Costa, at 197mg and 180mg respectively. By comparison, a 250ml can of Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine.

The consumer champion compared caffeine content for espresso, cappuccino and filter coffee options from five high street chains, including Costa, Pret, Caffè Nero and Starbucks.

A single espresso from Pret a Manger contains 180mg of caffeine, six times as much as one from Starbucks which had a “meagre” 33mg by comparison, according to the watchdog’s findings.

Pret a Manger’s filter coffee also contained the most caffeine at 271mg, two and a half times as much as the Starbucks version, which contained 102mg.

Greggs was a close second to Pret for its caffeine levels, containing 225mg in a cup of filter coffee.

Caffè Nero had the second lowest levels of caffeine after Starbucks in both its cappuccinos – containing between 110mg and 115mg – and its espresso, with 45mg.

Why are the differences so vast?

The variations between chains are not only due to the number of caffeine shots used but also due to the type of coffee bean, of which there are two main types – Arabica and Robusta.

Arabica beans contain around half the caffeine of Robusta beans and there are variations in taste between the two.

Which? warned that its findings show buying coffee on the high street could be potentially problematic for consumers who are sensitive to caffeine, or are pregnant.

The NHS says pregnant women should consume no more than 200mg of caffeine per day, advising that a mug of instant coffee contains 100mg and a mug of filter coffee contains 140mg.

Which? nutritionist Shefalee Loth said: “Many of us rely on coffee to get us through the dark winter mornings, but our research shows you may be consuming significantly more, or less, caffeine than you bargained for.

“Our analysis has shown that there are big variations in caffeine content between drinks from different high-street coffee shops.

“Most of the time this shouldn’t be an issue but if you drink a lot of coffee or need to limit your caffeine intake you might want to consider what you’re ordering and where from.”

A Costa Coffee spokeswoman said: “The amount of caffeine included within each coffee varies, depending on both the coffee and size of drink ordered by a customer.

“All Costa coffees can be enjoyed with decaf coffee and we offer a wide range of non-caffeinated drinks including the FuzeTea Superfuzions range.

“All caffeine information is available both in our store or via our website and we would encourage customers to be aware of the caffeine content in their favourite Costa coffee to ensure it is right for their dietary requirements or lifestyle choice.”

How do coffee chains compare?

The consumer champion found "huge" differences in caffeine content among popular menu items across the five chains.

Listed are the chains which offer the highest caffeine content, ranked from most to least:


Single Shot espresso: 180mg in 30ml

Cappuccino: 180mg in 350ml

Filtered coffee: 271mg in 230ml


Single shot espresso (signature blend): 100mg in 30ml

Cappuccino: 325mg in 362ml


Single shot espresso: 75mg in 28ml

Cappuccino: 197mg in 341ml

Filter/brewed coffee: 225mg in 341ml

Caffè Nero

Single shot espresso: 45mg in 30ml

Cappuccino: 110-115mg in 355ml


Single shot espresso 33mg in 25ml Cappuccino: 66mg in 350ml

Filter/Brewed coffee: 102mg in 350ml