Coffee is known to have stimulating effects that can increase alertness rapidly, but how fast can it really?
In this article, find out how long does it take for coffee to kick in.
When we look at the stimulating effects of a cup of coffee, it’s useful to know the opposite – how we feel drowsy, and how we fall off to sleep.
It all comes down to a molecule in our brain called adenosine. This builds up during the day and eventually gets to the point where it sort of overwhelms active brain functions, and our brain decides it’s time to rest for a while.
However, caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine, so it is a scientific fact that coffee can keep you awake.
The process of caffeine blocking the amount of adenosine in the brain takes about ten minutes to start working, with a peak at around 45 minutes.
After that, the effects start to wear off and the adenosine comes back with a rush, so you can go from being alert to being drowsy very quickly. The answer is of course keep drinking coffee.
What is caffeine?
It has been reported that 80% of the world’s population consumes some caffeine every day.
Obviously, they are not all just drinking coffee. Caffeine, an alkaloid compound, is found in about sixty different plants. It is in tea, coffee, cocoa, and a variety of nuts and seeds, even tree bark. It is also artificially manufactured for the huge volume of soft drinks consumed daily around the world.
It is classed as a psychoactive drug, which means it stimulates the nervous system and brain and is about the only similar substance to be fully legal (so far!)
What is the “Caffeine kick”?
Some research into caffeine seems to conclude that the reason it is found in so many plants is to act as a defense mechanism against insects. Caffeine is actually a toxic substance, although fortunately for humans we would have to consume a huge amount of pure caffeine for it to have a really deadly effect.
So it’s likely that our “caffeine kick” is actually the onset of what to small insects would be certain death. To us, it’s just a stimulating “buzz”.
This can become much more noticeable if we drink a lot of coffee – we can get headaches, tremors, dizziness, even heart palpitations. If that happens, we should be glad we are not insects.
How long do the effects of coffee last?
We are all different, and the effects of coffee (in fact of anything), are dependent on our weight, height, physical fitness, even our genetics.
But if we can find an average person, one cup of normal strength brewed coffee would start to take effect in about ten to fifteen minutes.
The effect would be at its greatest after about an hour, and the caffeine would have some effect in the system for about six hours.
How long does it take for caffeine to leave your bloodstream?
Although the effects of caffeine become less noticeable, almost negligible, after about six hours, it can stay in our system for anything up to 12 hours.
There is not much we can do about that, except not drink coffee in the first place – a drastic solution.
Caffeine is flushed out through the liver, and although drinking a lot of water will help, it still takes as long as it takes.
The good news is that it does eventually all leave the bloodstream, so we don’t get a build-up of caffeine in our system, keeping us awake all night.
The bad news is that the longer it stays around, the more chance we have of getting heartburn or acid reflux, due to caffeine making the stomach produce more gastric acids. Some people are very sensitive to this, others don’t even notice.
As always, the more you drink, the stronger the effects will be, and you will soon find out if you are one of the lucky ones who manage to avoid stomach problems.
How long do caffeine pills take to kick in
When we drink coffee, it is immediately absorbed through the cells lining our mouths and throats, long before it even hits the stomach. This is why the stimulating effects are felt very quickly, within ten minutes or less.
Some people however chose to take caffeine in pill form. Maybe on a long journey when they don’t want to keep stopping for coffee and want to avoid its diuretic effect. Some use them as diet pills since caffeine is an appetite suppressor.
Because the pills don’t start to get absorbed into the bloodstream and the nervous system until they dissolve in the stomach, they can take up to 70 minutes to really kick in, so it’s not quite the “instant hit” we would expect.
While there may be a demand for caffeine in pill form and even a rationale for their use, it is still unfortunate that the pill-takers miss out on the wonderful aroma and flavor of a good cup of coffee.
It’s like the astronauts who get a three-course meal in a single tablet – it is just not the same.
Final thoughts on how long it takes for coffee to kick in
As you can see, coffee is a complex drink with many effects.
The caffeine in it can cause some pretty serious side effects for people who are sensitive to it, but the good news is that these symptoms pass after about six hours.
Caffeine’s stimulating effect kicks in within ten minutes of drinking coffee and lasts up to 6 hours.
If you are taking caffeine pills instead of brewing your own cup, they may take as much as 70 minutes before they kick in.
Hopefully, this article has answered any questions you might have had on how long it takes for coffee to kick in, and you can enjoy your next hot brew with peace of mind.