Too Much Coffee…Why You Need to Panic

Too Much Coffee…Why You Need to Panic


By: Kennedy Shelley

There is often a fine line between the positive boost you get from a cup of coffee and double espresso jitters.

While there is no known level of toxicity of coffee (in other words, you can’t overdose on coffee), many coffee drinkers know there is a certain spot where too much of a good thing becomes a problem.

Understanding what these effects are, as well as a basic understanding of how coffee is digested can help keep you from the Coffee Grim Reaper.

Let’s face it, what we want is to sharpen our senses, pay more attention to our work, or simply feel more awake…that’s why we drink coffee.  But if you do five shots of espresso, you feel a tightness in your chest, you can’t concentrate, and your leg won’t stop shaking.

The key is only taking a moderate amount of caffeine.  The problem is we don’t know what a moderate amount is, or our general lack of satisfaction with the results of a moderate amount.

All good java junkies seem to think that if a little is good, more is better, and that is not always the case.


In the US, our average cup of coffee is a relative lightweight as far as caffeine goes.  It averages 1-200 mg of caffeine.  In Europe, their cups contain 800 mg.  Even a Grande Pike Place blend at Starbucks is 310 mg.

Studies show that the average American’s sweet spot for caffeine is no more than 400 mg.  After that the jitters creep in.


Once you drink your coffee, the waiting begins.

The liver starts working on digesting coffee 15 minutes after you begin to drink it.  The process can take approximately thirty minutes.

So, if you don’t wait thirty minutes between cups, you may not know how your next cup is going to hit you.  Our impatience is what often leads to caffeine overload.

Your liver converts caffeine into methylxanthine which goes to the brain to begin the process of waking you up.

‘. . . coffee sets the blood in motion and stimulates the muscles; it accelerates the digestive processes, chases away sleep, and gives us the capacity to engage a little longer in the exercise of our intellects.’ Honoré de Balzac (paraphrasing Brillat-Savarin) Traité des Excitants Modernes (1838), (translated from the French by Robert Onopa)

Caffeine keeps us awake by blocking adenosine which is what stops arousal and shuts us down for sleep.

Adenosine accumulates during the day and is what finally convinces us to go to bed even when we want to watch the game on TV.

When this is blocked, we get aroused.  Basically, what caffeine does is it takes the foot off the brakes of arousal.

And this is why too much of a good thing is a problem.  Too much arousal is what creates the jitters and nervousness.

These jitters are technically called caffeinism.  There are several studies on mental patients that show that caffeinism produces symptoms that closely mimic schizophrenia.

Getting the right coffee buzz without going one cup over the line is tough, so better to give yourself at least 30 minutes between cups.

If you don’t, you can feel panicked and have the sudden need to find a restroom as your arousal blockers are shut down and you become open to all the inputs flooding into your awareness.

You can’t die from too much coffee, but the effects of too much aren’t pleasant.