How Long Does Espresso Last (To Keep You Awake)

Have you ever drunk espresso to stay active, but the effects ended up lasting longer than you expected? To avoid such a predicament in the future, you should know how long espresso lasts in the human body and how you can minimize its effects. You should also know how long a shot of espresso maintains its stimulating strength and flavor nuances in the fridge and at room temperature.

How long does espresso last in your system?

The active stimulant in espresso is caffeine, and the half-life of caffeine in the average adult is 5-6 hours. The half-life is the time taken for your body breaks down half of your caffeine intake into caffeine metabolites. For instance, if you take 100mg of caffeine, you’ll still have about 50mg left in your system 6 hours later. On average, caffeine takes about 10 hours to leave your system completely.

The duration for which one feels the effects of espresso varies from one individual to the next and is dependent on factors like potency, age, body weight, and caffeine sensitivity. Once consumed, caffeine is quickly absorbed into the system, with some feeling the stimulating effects immediately and others within 30-60 minutes.

After 1 hour, the pick-me-up effect of caffeine reaches its peak before finally wearing off in at least 2 hours. However, even after the stimulating effect wears out, you’ll still have a substantial amount of espresso/caffeine in your system.

You may be mistaken to believe that espresso lasts in the system longer than regular-brewed coffee since the former contains a higher amount of caffeine. However, the half-life of caffeine is constant regardless of the quantity. The only difference is that the jittery feeling will be more intense when you take espresso than when you drink regular-brew coffee.

Note: If you feel like you’ve drunk too much espresso and wish to reduce the negative effects, such as sleeplessness and anxiety, consider drinking more water, practicing deep breathing strategies, and doing light exercises.

How long does espresso last in the fridge?

You can keep a shot of espresso fresher for longer by storing it in the fridge inside an airtight container. However, even then, coffee aficionados are likely to notice the difference in taste between refrigerated espresso and hot, freshly-brewed espresso. For casual coffee drinkers, the subtle changes in flavor notes may not be noticeable.

Refrigerated espresso shots are best used for making specialty coffee drinks like cappuccinos and lattes, where adding milk helps mask the loss of freshness. However, if you prefer pure espresso drinks, refrigerated espresso may not be the best for you as you’ll likely feel the loss of the flavor nuances.

How long does a shot of espresso last?

An espresso shot lasts only as long as the crema is visible. Once the crema disappears, the shot is considered ‘dead’. A dead shot of espresso occurs when the compounds in the caffeine disintegrate, and the espresso loses its pure taste.

When you leave your espresso shot on the table after brewing, the caffeine compounds start reacting with atmospheric oxygen. Oxidizing is a process that causes the coffee to go rancid and develop a putrid odor.

The oxidizing process starts about 30-seconds after the shot of espresso is brewed. However, even for true coffee connoisseurs, it takes up to 5 minutes for espresso to be considered ‘dead. Moreover, it’s not practical to expect a barista to serve a cup of espresso within 30 seconds of brewing it.

However, after 1 hour, a shot of espresso can be said to be completely dead. The change of taste to a bitter flavor will be obvious, the crema will have completely dissipated, and the espresso color will have changed from dark brown to blackish.

Note: For all intents and purposes, we can conclude that a shot of espresso should only be considered dead if you don’t find it to be drinkable due to changes in odor and flavor.

Does the amount of crema determine the lifespan of an espresso shot?

While the amount of crema in espresso is used as one of the ways of gauging the freshness of espresso, it should never be used as an exclusive measure of whether the shot is dead or alive. That’s because the amount of crema is determined by the time the coffee beans stay unused after roasting.

Crema comes from carbon dioxide produced during roasting and is slowly released from the beans afterward. Therefore, the longer coffee beans stay unused after roasting; the less crema will be formed during the brewing process.

The amount of crema is also determined by the roast level. The longer roast time in dark-roast coffee results in more carbon dioxide trapped inside the coffee beans than in medium or light-roast coffee beans. Therefore, when making a shot of espresso, dark roast coffee beans/grounds create more crema than medium/light roast coffee beans/grounds. As a result, it would be inaccurate to say that a shot of light roast espresso is dead since it has lesser crema than a comparable shot of dark-roast espresso.

Can espresso keep you awake?

Espresso keeps people awake due to the stimulating effects of caffeine. If you wish to stay active during the day or late at night, drinking some espresso helps. However, you should only consume caffeine in limited quantities; otherwise, the stimulating effect will linger for too long, and you may be unable to fall asleep.

Excessive caffeine consumption also has negative side effects, such as insomnia, anxiety, jittery feelings, dehydration, and digestive issues. According to the FDA, if you wish to prevent these side effects, you should limit your daily consumption of caffeine to 400mg and below.


i. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Agency: Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much?

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