How Many Shots of Espresso Is Too Much?

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Drinking coffee is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but only when done within reasonable limits. Like most stimulants, downing too many cups of espresso can have adverse effects on your life and health.

The benefits of espresso such as alertness and better heart rate regulation typically kick in at around the fourth shot. More than eight shots in a day can be too much and may cause rapid heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, and other health issues. 

A double shot of espresso (which is nowadays the standard shot) uses 14g of ground coffee to brew 60ml of espresso. Though death by espresso is practically unheard of, overdosing is still possible. This guide will help you identify your limits and learn what signs of an overdose you should watch out for. 

What Makes Espresso Different Than Regular Coffee?

People often think espresso comes from a different coffee bean than regular coffee. They’re wrong. The difference between espresso and other coffees is due to how you roast and brew the bean. 

The espresso bean is roasted longer, at higher temperatures and pressure. The bean is also ground finer and the brew is pressed through an aeropress (espresso machine) to produce a concentrated drink. The aeropress works by forcing scalding hot water at extremely high pressure through finely-ground beans. 

What Makes Espresso Good for You?

Espresso beans are typically roasted past the second crack. That leads to a deeper flavor. The longer roast also releases much of the acidity while bringing out more of the oils that enrich the flavor.

The caffeine in espresso can boost your mood, metabolism, mental acuity, and physical performance. Studies show espresso is safe for most people when consumed in moderate quantities.   

In a study by two German scientists published in Eurekalert, it’s evident that caffeine in espressos can be good for you. Dark roasted caffeine such as espresso can lower your risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Dark roasted espresso promotes activity of a regulatory protein, p27, which acts inside the mitochondria of our body cells. The protein activity enhances mitochondrial function, making us less susceptible to cardiovascular cell damage. 

The two scientists found that the positive benefits to cardiovascular health activates at four cups of espresso coffee. Caffeine levels after four cups show improved capacity of interior blood vessels. The improved cellular activity also resulted in faster repair of heart muscle after myocardial infarction (MI), also known as a heart attack.

The p27 protein could result in improving healthspan and lifespan. Meaning you will live longer and feel younger. Because of the mitochondrial action, drinking coffee could serve as a potential therapeutic strategy. 

Coffee drinkers are also less at risk of conditions such as:

  • Cirrhosis
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Depression. 
  • Certain types of cancers.   

What Are The Harmful Ingredients In Espresso?

The ingredients with potential risk factors in the roasted coffee beans of espressos are:

Caffeine

Four shots of espresso will generally contain between 240 mg and 720 mg of caffeine. Moderate consumption is generally safe though it can be habit forming. Excessive and continuous use (more than eight shots in a day) may cause restlessness, anxiety, irregular heartbeat, and insomnia. 

Tannin

Tannins have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and are generally safe to consume in moderation. However, when you take too much too fast, like gulping down eight shots in a span of six hours on an empty stomach it can get dangerous. You might experience nausea and liver damage.  

Xanthine

For most people, xanthine is safe to consume. However, some people lack the enzyme xanthine dehydrogenase, which breaks down xanthine in the body. Such people could suffer from kidney stones, muscle disease, and urinary tract disease if they take even as few as two shots of espresso per day. 

What Are The Side Effects Of Too Much Expresso? 

Taking too much coffee can lead to:

Anxiety Attacks

Caffeine in espresso triggers the release of adrenaline, which is also known as the fight-or-flight hormone. A caffeine intake of more than 1,000mg in a day (about 15 shots) can lead to nervousness, jitteriness, and an increase in stress levels. 

Gastrointestinal Issues

Espresso acts as a laxative by prompting the release of gastrin. This is the stomach hormone that promotes colon activity and hastens bowel movements. Espresso shots also stimulate the release of bile and pancreatic juice. 

Taking more than 10 espresso shots (approximately 650mg) in a day can lead to gastric complaints such as Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), duodenal ulcers, and heartburn. 

Insomnia

Caffeine helps our minds to stay alert and focused. However, too much caffeine can inhibit your ability to get adequate restorative sleep. Caffeine can last in your body and affect your sleep patterns for an average of 5 hours. If you drink too many shots of espressos especially later in the day, the effects can last up to nine hours. 

Muscle Breakdown

Caffeine is a recognized risk factor for Rhabdomyolysis, which is a condition that leads to muscle breakdown. . 

Up to four shots of espresso can stimulate muscle action and help you feel stronger and more active. More than eight shots (500mg) can lead to muscle proteins breaking down and entering the bloodstream, ultimately causing kidney failure.  

What to Do In Case Of an Espresso Overdose

The Mayo Clinic recommends not exceeding a caffeine intake of 400mg per day (or 28 shots of espresso in 24 hours). In most cases, taking lots of water and lying down to rest could ease any symptoms of too much use. 

However, for a more severe overdose, you might experience vomiting, trouble breathing, hallucinations, and other adverse effects. To treat severe overdose:

  • Use activated charcoal to prevent caffeine from entering your gastrointestinal tract. 
  • Use a laxative or gastric lavage. 
  • Give lots of water and make as many toilet trips as possible.    

Conclusion

Espressos are generally safe to consume. However, taking more than eight shots within a few hours can lead to an overdose. 

You may experience dizziness, nausea, a racing heartbeat and other symptoms when you drink too many espresso shots. Slow down on the coffee and take some water if you feel you’ve taken too many shots.  

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