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How Much Espresso Is Too Much Espresso?

A modern espresso machine

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was behind a young teenager, maybe 15, at Starbucks the other day who ordered a drink with 12 shots of espresso. The barista, who told him she’d worked at Starbucks for many years, and the other baristas as well, said that no one has ever ordered that many shots, and did he really think that was a good idea?

While I was waiting with him at the counter for our drinks, I tried subtly to talk him out of it too. But he said that he and his friends are “into pushing the limits on things” and that (if I understood right), he had fun memories of once drinking that many shots with friends a few years back. I’m not clear on whether he drank 12 shots himself, or the group shared them. I suggested that was a shitload of caffeine and he might want to monitor his pulse as he was drinking it, just as a little scientific experiment (meaning that he should stop if his heart started racing!).

English: Chemical structure of Caffeine. Franç...

Chemical structure of Caffeine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then he took his drink and left.

I got on my phone and looked up Caffeine Intoxication (yes, it’s in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV, or DSM). [See this link for more info: http://behavenet.com/caffeine-intoxication.] The DSM says that 250 mgs., approximately 2-3 cups of brewed coffee, is enough to cause unpleasant anxiety-like side effects such as flushing and heart palpitations.

My wife reading in bed. And it wasn't because ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the figures for average amount of caffeine in a Starbucks solo espresso (75mg.), 12 shots would deliver roughly 900 mgs. of caffeine. Here’s a chart showing the amounts of caffeine in Starbucks drinks: http://www.energyfiend.com/the-complete-guide-to-starbucks-caffeine.

And here’s a post by someone who decided to see what was the most expensive drink he could concoct (it had 1,400 mgs. of caffeine!), but he had sense not to drink it! http://nacgeek.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/23-60-the-most-expensive-starbucks-drink-possible-in-the-world/

I talked to the shift supervisor after I found this info and asked her if Starbucks has any guidelines around how much caffeine can be sold (and to a minor), and they don’t, really. She had it hadn’t ever come up as an issue. She said the teens from the nearby middle school who come in usually order something like a Frappuccino, so I assume they’re more into the sugar than the caffeine.

As the blog Grub With Us notes about Frappuccinos in a funny post, “What Your Starbucks Drink Says About You”:


Coffee gurus don’t order these unless hell froze over and Starbucks ran out of iced lattes. The customer who orders this is probably young, goes to Sweet Valley High School, and is “shopping” at the mall with all of her teenage friends with a phone more expensive than mine and a $20 bill they got in a birthday card. You order a frappuccino because it sounds pretty and reminds you of something you might drink in Paris one day, or to impress your friends with your extensive, worldly knowledge. http://blog.grubwithus.com/what-your-starbucks-drink-says-about-you/

I suggested she might raise the issue with management, because it’s come up now. Not that I think cafes should have to regulate espresso shots, or that there should be a legal drinking age for coffee, but . . . on the other hand, 12 shots for one person–especially a teen–just seems wrong somehow!

Any thoughts?