Espresso Benefits and Side Effects: A Balanced Overview


We, coffee lovers, love the jolt of energy and the deep and delicious flavors that a fine cup of espresso delivers. With an average of 63 milligrams of caffeine per serving, espresso offers a concentrated burst of vigor, often more intense per ounce than its brewed counterpart. In this article, we’ll dive into the dual-edged sword of espresso consumption: the mental clarity, improved focus, and antioxidant benefits that attract so many, alongside an exploration of the potential side effects that come with its potent caffeine punch. Let’s unpack the complexities of espresso’s impact on your well-being.

As much as I love coffee and would love to highlight its benefits, I hope to achieve a balanced overview in this post and raise awareness of its potential side effects. While moderate consumption can fit into a healthy diet, excessive intake may lead to detrimental health effects due to its caffeine content, such as insomnia, nervousness, or increased heart rate. Understanding the nutritional profile of espresso and contextualizing it within a dietary framework can help us make informed choices.

Nutritional Profile of Espresso

Espresso, a concentrated coffee beverage, has a unique nutritional makeup that is influenced by its preparation method. This section provides an insight into the caffeine content, caloric value, and other significant compounds found in a typical shot of espresso.

Caffeine and Espresso

A single espresso shot contains approximately 63 milligrams of caffeine, which is less than what is typically found in an 8-ounce serving of regular coffee. The caffeine content in espresso is significant, giving this small serving a strong energy boost. You can read more about the average amounts of caffeine found in typical drinks.

Calories and Macronutrients

Espresso is relatively low in calories, with a single shot containing about 1 calorie if consumed without any added sugar, milk, or cream. The macronutrient profile of espresso is minimal, as it primarily consists of water and a small amount of oils extracted from coffee beans. Therefore, espresso can be consumed even when you’re doing intermittent fasting without breaking the fast.

Other Compounds in Espresso

Espresso is rich in various antioxidants, including compounds such as chlorogenic acids, which can have beneficial effects on health. It does not contain sugars unless added, and the oils within espresso contribute to its bold flavor and are a source of minor nutrients. Espresso may not provide substantial energy like energy drinks (they contain much more caffeine), but its caffeine can offer a quick increase in alertness. Here is the chemical characterization of coffee.

Health Benefits of Espresso

Diving into the health benefits of espresso, we’ll explore how caffeine can enhance mental acuity and physical stamina when consumed responsibly. Beyond the immediate boost to alertness, espresso also harbors compounds that may play a role in safeguarding against certain diseases. Keep reading for a detailed view of how your daily shot could contribute to your overall health.

Mental Performance and Alertness

  • Mood and Concentration: The claim that caffeine can enhance mental alertness and concentration is supported by research. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors, thereby reducing tiredness. A study in the journal ‘Psychopharmacology’ supports this effect of caffeine on cognitive performance (
  • Memory Consolidation: There is evidence suggesting that caffeine may enhance certain types of memory consolidation. A study published in ‘Nature Neuroscience’ found that caffeine intake after a learning task improved memory consolidation (

Physical Performance and Endurance

Disease Prevention and Longevity

Potential Risks and Side Effects

While espresso offers various benefits, certain individuals may experience adverse effects primarily due to its caffeine content. Understanding these risks can help individuals make informed decisions about their espresso consumption.


For mostly healthy people, caffeine’s negative effects on sleep is perhaps one of the major points to bear with extreme caution. I described in more detail the link between caffeine and sleep, but Dr Andrew Huberman does that in a way only he’s capable of…

Slightly off-topic, but I highly recommend following Huberman’s podcast, he has a whole episode on caffeine as well as other enlightening episodes.

Caffeine Sensitivity and Sleep Disturbances

Caffeine can interfere with sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or restlessness, particularly in those with a lower tolerance or increased sensitivity. The American Psychiatric Association includes caffeine-related disorders, such as caffeine-induced sleep disorder, in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Cardiovascular Risks

High caffeine intake through espresso may lead to elevated heart rate and blood pressure. In some cases, excessive consumption might contribute to the development of heart conditions such as heart attack or atherosclerosis. Individuals with existing cardiovascular issues or high cholesterol should be cautious.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Drinking espresso can cause increased production of gastrin, a hormone that stimulates acid secretion, potentially exacerbating GERD or causing digestion problems. Over time, heavy consumption might be associated with liver disease or cirrhosis.

So, whether espresso is good for your liver is a dangerous question to say yes to, because in some cases, liver disease’s progression is slowed down due to coffee drinking. However, you should consult a physician prior to making an assumption especially if you’re dealing with a liver disease.

Other Health Considerations

Excessive caffeine consumption from espresso and energy drinks may lead to dehydration. The stimulating effects can also cause jitters, and nervousness, and exacerbate anxiety. Pregnant individuals are advised to limit caffeine intake due to potential risks. Additionally, constant exposure to caffeine can affect the body’s response to adenosine, possibly influencing one’s nervous system and overall health condition.

Espresso in a Healthy Diet

Espresso, a concentrated form of coffee, is both praised and scrutinized for its effects on health. Its place in a balanced diet hinges on understanding espresso’s properties, recommended intake, and how it compares to other beverages. Unlike caffeinated soft drinks which may contain high levels of sugar and can contribute to dehydration, espresso offers the benefits of caffeine without added sugars.

Daily Intake Recommendations

Experts often recommend a daily caffeine intake of no more than 400 milligrams for a healthy adult. Typically, a single espresso shot contains about 63 milligrams of caffeine, which suggests that consumption should be limited to no more than six shots daily to remain within safe boundaries. However, factors such as pregnancy, existing health conditions, and sensitivity to caffeine can necessitate stricter limits.

Comparing Espresso to Other Beverages

When considering its role in a healthy diet, espresso is often contrasted with other caffeinated drinks:

  • Drip Coffee: A standard cup contains approximately 95 milligrams of caffeine, making espresso a more concentrated choice.
  • Sugary Drinks: Espresso has much less sugar than many sodas or commercial coffee beverages.

Furthermore, espresso may have certain health benefits, such as improved physical performance and metabolism, which can complement a diet aimed at weight loss or improved exercise outcomes when consumed in moderation.

Espresso in Special Populations

Certain populations should approach espresso consumption with caution:

  • Pregnant Women: The American Psychiatric Association advises against high intake due to risks associated with pregnancy.
  • Individuals with Cholesterol Issues: Some studies link espresso consumption to increased cholesterol levels, and those with concerns may opt for filtered coffee instead.
  • People with Sleep Disturbances: Caffeine can interfere with adenosine, a neurotransmitter important for sleep, leading to restless sleep if consumed late in the day.

In summary, espresso can fit into a healthy diet when consumed in moderation, taking into account individual health circumstances and its more intense caffeine content compared to other caffeinated beverages.


Espresso, a highly concentrated coffee beverage, has been linked with various health benefits. Research suggests that moderate espresso consumption may enhance alertness and improve concentration. Additionally, the antioxidants found in espresso can offer protective effects against inflammatory diseases.

However, one must be mindful of the potential side effects. Excessive intake may lead to increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. It is generally advised for individuals to consume espresso in moderation and be aware of their own caffeine sensitivity.

  • Benefits:
    • Enhanced mental alertness
    • Improved concentration
    • Antioxidant properties
  • Side Effects:
    • Increased heart rate
    • Elevated blood pressure
    • Sleep disturbances

Individual preferences and health conditions vary, making it crucial to tailor espresso intake accordingly. Registered dietitians and nutritionists provide guidance on healthy beverage choices, including espresso consumption, based on up-to-date research. In the context of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, espresso’s relation demonstrates nuanced outcomes that demand further exploration, as indicated by studies on espresso consumption and heart health. Most important is adopting a balanced approach towards espresso, which aligns with overall dietary and lifestyle choices to support health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

Espresso, a concentrated form of coffee, has garnered attention for its potential health implications. This section addresses common inquiries about its benefits and side effects.

What are the potential health benefits of drinking espresso?

Drinking espresso in moderation can provide antioxidants, which are beneficial for reducing oxidative stress in the body. Espresso is also known to enhance mental alertness and concentration due to its caffeine content.

Is caffeine good for fatty liver

There is some evidence that supports that caffeine from coffee reduces the risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), however, the validity of this research isn’t unanimous. According to this article by Cleveland Clinic, coffee not only reduces the risk of developing NAFLD but also mitigates damage for those who already have the condition. However, some studies point out that some of the evidence is limited in quality:

Low-quality evidence from 1 case-control study (n=310) suggested a clinical benefit of drinking coffee for reduced liver fat content (based on the presence or absence of fatty liver on ultrasound) with an OR of 0.74 (95% CI 0.61-0.89) when adjusted for age, BMI, exercise level and alcohol intake. However, very low quality evidence from 2 case-control studies (n=802) suggested no difference in the amount of coffee consumed between those who have NAFLD and those who do not.

Here’s the source for that quote.

However, coffee alone isn’t enough to keep the liver healthy. Proper diet, drinking water, reducing the amount of alcohol and regular exercise are key for a healthy liver.

How might espresso consumption affect heart health?

In other words, is espresso bad for your heart? Moderate espresso consumption may be linked to a lower risk of heart disease in some cases. However, excessive intake could lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure. If you’re suffering from some heart related condition, if you have a blood pressure condition, you should consult your physician.

What are the known side effects associated with drinking espresso?

Espresso can cause jitteriness, anxiety, or sleep disturbances, especially in individuals sensitive to caffeine. Some people may also experience digestive issues.

Can espresso have an impact on cholesterol levels?

Research indicates that certain compounds in espresso can elevate cholesterol levels, particularly in unfiltered espresso such as ristretto, which contains higher amounts of cafestol and kahweol.

I can recommend further reading on the subject from various sources, like webmd, and old research from 1994 and perhaps you can find more material on the topic.

In what ways can espresso be either beneficial or detrimental to weight management?

Espresso can temporarily boost metabolic rate, potentially supporting weight management. However, adding sugar and high-calorie additives can offset these benefits.

A paper from 2019 in Brazil showed long-term positive effects on improvement of glucose metabolism. Another paper from 2023, also from Brazil strengthens the claim of metabolic improvement with coffee consumption, as well as other benefits such as improvements for those who suffer from type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Personally, as someone who’s doing intermittent fasting daily for a couple of years, with some on-and-off periods, I like how espresso and americanos fit into my daily diet and complement my weight management.

Does espresso break your intermittent fasting?

No, drinking espresso doesn’t break your fast. Espresso barely contains any calories and as such is intermittent fast safe. Moreover, espresso is known for its positive effects on metabolism which in turn enhances the benefits of intermittent fasting

How does espresso influence cognitive function and brain health?

People love coffee for various reasons, taste, buzz, alertness, combatting fatigue on bad days, and more. One benefit that stands out for many, however, is the improved focus. Caffeine can improve aspects of cognitive function, including memory, mood, and reaction times. However, this effect varies among individuals, and over-consumption may lead to negative outcomes.


Espresso and caffeine in general can have very positive and beneficial effects on your daily life when consumed responsibly. We have gone through some potential risks and side effects that over-consumption and consumption by groups at risk, like children, pregnant women and people with heart conditions.

I hope you found some utility in obtaining this knowledge about coffee and how it actually affects your physiology and daily function. To be honest, I’m super fascinated with how everything is backed by science, despite many fields and directions still need further research.

Please, if you find anything that is incorrect, let me know and link me to some credible sources so that I can edit and make the information more accurate for everyone else. Thanks!

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