How Many Espresso Shots Are Too Many?

Espresso has a reputation for being the purest coffee, which is largely driven by how it is included in almost every coffee drink served by mass-market coffee shops. People who like to have coffee as an alertness assistant like espresso because it gets to the point quicker. Coffee aficionados love it because of its taste and texture. Regardless of the reason you love it, you should avoid having too much espresso.

Six shots of espresso are too many, and you will start experiencing serious side effects at the seventh shot. Having more caffeine than is advisable is not lethal but can have a negative impact on your gut health, cardiac health, kidneys, and mental well-being. 

In this article, you will learn more about the side effects of having too much espresso, instances where having more espresso is okay, and how you can be more alert without having an extra shot of espresso. Among other things, you will also discover why you should not consume the maximum espresso allowed by doctors. By the end, you will know all you need to know about having a sustainable coffee consumption routing.

The Dehydration-Drowsiness Loop

Before you have even a single shot of espresso over your regular coffee consumption schedule, you must learn about the dehydration and drowsiness loop, which can lead to having more coffee, an ironic lack of alertness, and multiple side effects of ingesting too much caffeine.

The dehydration-drowsiness loop is triggered by the fact that dehydration causes drowsiness. Since some people consume coffee to combat sleepiness, and coffee can further dehydrate the body, a loop is triggered between dehydration and drowsiness facilitated by caffeine. It goes this way:

  1. An individual is sleepy 
  2. He consumes coffee/espresso
  3. The espresso dehydrates the consumer
  4. dehydration results in drowsiness
  5. He consumers espresso to combat drowsiness (the loop restarts from step 3).

Most people who get caught in this loop go through it three times in a day without realizing that they could stay just as alert if they skipped one of the espresso shots and had cold water instead. It isn’t as useful telling them this once they’re already addicted to a higher daily dosage of caffeine. But if you’re looking for the upper limit on espresso consumption, chances are you’re really sleepy and have already had at least one shot of espresso.

Have a cold glass of water and wait fifteen minutes to see if you feel better. This test can keep you from becoming permanently accustomed to higher caffeine dosage, which can result in higher coffee expenses, to say the least. And if you already have two shots regularly, going further into the dehydration drowsiness loop can have health consequences as well.

To avoid having too many espresso shots, you should use water to snap yourself out of drowsiness if you have had espresso in the last two hours. While the ideal spacing of espresso consumption is around 4 hours between shots, you must keep at least a two-hour buffer between espresso shots to avoid compounding their diuretic effect. It is also advisable to sip water throughout the two-hour period, so the next shot doesn’t make you drowsy.

Can You Have Two Shots of Espresso at Once?

Having discussed the need to space espresso shots apart to avoid higher caffeine dependence, let’s look at whether having two shots of espresso is okay from the health consequences standpoint. While it is not advisable to more than one short regularly, it isn’t a serious threshold.

You can have two shots of espresso at once, which is why large coffeeshop chains even offer the double shot option. If there were statistically note-worthy health consequences to having two shots at one time, large businesses like Starbucks would not offer the option in order to avoid liability.

If you have a double shot as your debut coffee intake, you might have an unpleasant experience featuring a dry mouth and frequent trips to the restroom, but it is not going to be medically alarming. If you have built a tolerance for caffeine, then having an occasional or even regular double shot will not have serious side effects.

Effects of Having More Caffeine?

Having more coffee when you’re not used to it can have negative but relatively tame side effects. But if you start having more espresso regularly and eventually cross the six-shot threshold, you’re going to experience the following consequences.

  • Anxiety – Restlessness and nervous energy will interrupt your sleep and even affect your judgment. This is a result of increased metabolic activity because of overstimulation due to caffeine.
  • Dehydration – You might be too dehydrated to restore fluids orally. People have gotten on IV for having dehydrated themselves to the point where their stomach hurls any input. This doesn’t even require six shots of espresso. If you don’t drink enough water and keep having espresso shots, your stomach will reach a point of refusing any solids or fluids.
  • Diarrhea – If you’re not used to having more espresso, getting diarrhea after having more caffeine is almost a guarantee. The odds of this are further increased if you have IBS, poor gut health, or a tendency to get diarrhea.
  • Blurred Vision – This happens when you medicate drowsiness with espresso. Even at four shots, some people might have their vision blurred. You should not have more than two shots of espresso in an hour to avoid blurred vision.
  • Pain in the kidneys – If you cross the 6-shot limit, your kidney will have to work overtime, and depending on their sensitivity, you will feel the pain. Sipping water throughout the day can offset this, and not hydrating enough can trigger this well before the six-shot limit.

Can Having Too Much Espresso Kill You?

Having too much espresso can theoretically kill you, but it takes an impractical dosage for that to happen. In theory, over 76 shots of espresso can kill the average woman, whereas heavier men would die at the 156th shot. There are 92 cases of death from caffeine overdose, identified by a literature review study of multiple sources.

Why You Should Not Have the Maximum Espresso Allowed

Having discussed the side effects of having too much caffeine, it is crucial to recognize that one must not get too accustomed to the upper limit of caffeine usage too early. Your caffeine tolerance increases throughout your life which means you eventually have more coffee than you do in the beginning. 

That’s why you should not regularly have the medically allowed maximum right away because then you’ll end up wanting more later on. That said, the following instances call for an occasional extra shot of espresso:

  • You’re jetlagged – If you take a business trip and are jetlagged, you can treat yourself to an additional espresso shot.
  • You underslept on a big day – If you have a presentation or an interview and you didn’t sleep well, an additional espresso shot can make a difference.
  • You’re sleepy but need to meet a deadline – As long as it doesn’t become a habit, it is okay to use espresso as an alertness assistant when you’re trying to catch up on a deadline.

None of these specifically make having more espresso, okay, but they happen less frequently, and tying your higher espresso consumption to these non-frequent events ensures that you allow yourself to have more caffeine only when you really need it. That said, there are very specific instances where having more caffeine might seem like a good idea, but you should avoid it.

You should avoid having extra espresso shots to:

  • Stay alert when you’re driving – Whether you’re a truck driver or are driving your personal use vehicle across a long route, you should not remedy drowsiness with espresso as this endangers you and everyone else on the road.
  • Extend your waking time past 18 hours – According to CDC, you should not stay awake longer than 17 hours to have “healthy sleep.” There’s still room to stay awake on occasion, but if your body is telling you to go to bed and it has been an hour past the healthy waking limit, espresso will not help you stay awake and will disturb your rest when you do go to bed.
  • Have higher energy during a workout – Pre-workout supplements contain the caffeine equivalent to three cups of coffee. Using them or even a single shot of espresso as a workout energy booster is not advisable because both products dehydrate you when you actually need water in your body. Exercise leads to dehydration, and being dehydrated with espresso before you engage in your workout is not kind to your kidneys.

Who Should Avoid Espresso?

People With IBS

It is no secret that espresso can facilitate bowel movement. Regular coffee consumers even point out how they need coffee before they can use the lavatory. While your gut can get used to regular espresso consumption, it cannot handle sudden peaks in the consumption schedule. 

Having more than one espresso can be problematic, especially for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), as the acidic nature of coffee, alongside its tendency to trigger bowel movement, can result in loose stools.

Pregnant Women

Pregnancy shows the resilience of the human body while simultaneously making the overall situation quite vulnerable. A pregnant woman can have coffee, but if she has more than one shot of espresso, she might experience side effects like dehydration and anxiety in larger proportion. To be specific, a pregnant woman should not consume more than 200 mg of caffeine, which is found in around one and a half shots of espresso.

Individuals With Sleep Disorders

It goes without saying that insomnia and espresso consumption do not go hand-in-hand. What you might not know is that espresso isn’t good even if you sleep too much. Hypersomnia, a condition that’s the opposite of insomnia, should not be treated by overdosing on caffeine. Another sleep disorder is narcolepsy, where an individual sleeps randomly without any predictable schedule. 

Regardless of the sleep disorder, one has, one should not try to medicate with espresso. That doesn’t mean you cannot have coffee because you have sleep issues. You just need to time your coffee use well and avoid making it a ‘drink when sleepy’ solution. Having a schedule like a morning and evening coffee can help avoid overconsumption.

Breastfeeding Moms

The breastfeeding period in motherhood is slightly delicate but not as vulnerable as later trimesters of pregnancy. Espresso should be consumed with caution because having more than two shots of espresso in 24 hours can result in significant traces of caffeine in breastmilk. 

Caffeine, even in as small a dose, can have an adverse impact on the baby’s health. Moreover, naturally breastfeeding dehydrates the body, and so does espresso. That’s why even with one or two shots of espresso, the breastfeeding mother must have enough water to offset the diuretic effect of coffee.

Those With Arrhythmias

Finally, one of the most serious situations to be in as a coffee lover is having arrhythmias. The medical condition results in an uneven and unpredictable heartbeat. Because of irregular heartbeat, any substance, food item, or activity that can result in a sudden peak in one’s pulse or blood pressure is dangerous. One of those “things” is espresso, which can increase the rate of your heartbeat because of its caffeine content.

If you have arrhythmias or experience heart palpitations, then having an espresso is not a great idea. Some people in the said situation can get away with having coffee once a day; others have decaf coffee. You can have multiple shots of decaf espresso without experiencing adverse effects on your heartbeat. Please avoid having more than one regular espresso shot to avoid palpitations and increased heartbeat irregularity.

Final Thoughts

Even though it takes over 75 shots of espresso for the human body to reach a lethal limit, you can start experiencing negative side effects by the fifth shot. Six espresso shots are too many, and you should not make that amount the norm. Instead, try to hydrate your way out of drowsiness and get proper sleep, especially if you’re pregnant, have irregular heartbeat, or have IBS.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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