When Does Coffee Become an Energy Drink? Science Behind Starbucks Doubleshot

Updated 3/26/2020 by Danielle Robertson Rath (the “GreenEyedGuide”)

Is Starbucks Doubleshot an energy drink?

Most people love coffee. Many people think energy drinks are dangerous and unhealthy. So what happens when a beloved coffee company makes a drink with energy drink ingredients? Starbucks Doubleshot Energy may not be as pure and healthy as a black cup of coffee, but is it as dangerous and unhealthy as a stereotypical energy drink?

Danielle Robertson Rath GreenEyedGuide speaking event

Hi there, I research energy drinks.

I’ve been passionate about the science behind energy drinks since 2003. After getting my degrees in biochemistry and food science, I wrote a book all about energy drink ingredients and safety concerns.

I’ve always been fascinated by caffeinated beverages, especially the ones that seem to blur the lines of different categories. Starbucks Doubleshot is one of those drinks.

An In-Depth Review of Starbucks Doubleshot Energy

For this month’s in-depth review, we’ll assess:

  • Starbucks Doubleshot Ingredients
  • A comparison between Starbucks Doubleshot and the stereotypical energy drink
  • A comparison between Starbucks Doubleshot and coffee-energy drink hybrids from Monster Energy and Rockstar
  • Whether Starbucks Doubleshot is safe
Starbucks Doubleshot Energy Drink

I’ve highlighted some important words from the Starbucks product page, “Then we enhance this premium energy drink with ginseng, guarana, and B-vitamins. ” It looks like Starbucks considers this “energy coffee beverage” an energy drink.

[Source: http://doubleshot.com/drinks.html#coffee Accessed February 2018 – *NOTE* this link now redirects to a different page]

Starbucks Doubleshot Energy Ingredients

The key ingredients in Starbucks Doubleshot Energy are shown above. It’s more meaningful if we compare these ingredients to those in a stereotypical energy drink.

Comparing Starbucks Doubleshot to the Stereotypical Energy Drink

First of all, there is no legal definition of the term “energy drink”. But Starbucks Doubleshot does contain some of the key ingredients in Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar:

Common Energy Drink Ingredients in Doubleshot:

  • Caffeine
  • B-vitamins
  • Guarana
  • Ginseng
  • Taurine
starbucks doubleshot energy

THAT’S RIGHT! This “Energy Coffee Beverage” has almost all the typical ingredients of a stereotypical energy drink! Surprised? 

Caffeine Content

Secondly, Starbucks Doubleshot Energy has almost as much caffeine as the original Monster and Rockstar (146 mg per can compared to 160 mg in Monster and Rockstar Original).

Sugar Content

Finally, sugar content is not a fair comparison because both Monster and Rockstar offer low-Cal and no-Cal options. If we only look at the regular drinks, Starbucks Doubleshot Energy has half the sugar: 26 g per can in Doubleshot versus 54 g sugar in Monster Energy and 60 g sugar in Rockstar.

Comparison of Similar Energy Drink Coffee Hybrids

Monster and Rockstar both make drinks that are very similar to Starbucks Doubleshot. All three coffee-energy drink hybrids below contain caffeine from coffee and guarana. Furthermore, all three have the common energy drink ingredients taurine, B-vitamins, sugar, and ginseng.

Ingredient-wise, these coffee-energy drink hybrids are not significantly different! All-in-all, the biggest distinction is that one of them is made by coffee company and the other two are made by energy drink companies.

The similarities between these beverages brings up a complicated question. With the caffeine and ingredients so similar, how can we call one “dangerous” and not the others?

Is Starbucks Doubleshot bad for you?

The site Brew Smartly has a wonderful, in-depth article on whether coffee is good or bad for you. Even something as beloved as coffee has its pros and cons. But for our discussion let’s focus on the pros and cons of this Starbucks Doubleshot coffee energy drink hybrid.

The American Heart Association recommends adult men limit their Added Sugar intake to 9 teaspoons/36 grams per day. For women, the limit is 6 teaspoons/25 grams per day. Even though it has less sugar than the original Monster and Rockstar energy drinks, Starbucks Doubleshot has almost a full day’s allotment of sugar with 26 grams.

The coffee-energy drink hybrids from Starbucks, Monster, and Rockstar all have too much caffeine for a minor. People under 18 are not supposed to have more than 100 mg caffeine per day [Ref: American Academy of Pediatrics]. For adults, the caffeine content in this drink is fine. Adults can have up to 400 mg caffeine per day. [Ref: EFSA]. Biochemically, caffeine does not affect the body differently when it comes from a natural source versus a synthetic source.

If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you should not consume this drink. If you regularly consume a Grande cup of plain black coffee (330 mg caffeine according to Caffeine Informer), then the caffeine content shouldn’t be a problem for you.

When it comes to the “dangers of energy drinks”, we have to be careful about what kind of exceptions we make for coffee beverages. When you think about it, caffeine is more dangerous than most, if not all, the food additives that get a bad reputation in today’s media. Nonetheless, most people don’t seem alarmed when someone has multiple cups (or a whole pot) of coffee. The assumption is the caffeine content is not dangerous since it’s coming from a natural source.

However, if you’re under 18 or sensitive to caffeine, too much caffeine is too much caffeine, regardless where it comes from.

What about energy drinks and heart arrhythmia? Aren't energy drinks more dangerous than coffee because of the ingredient interactions?

No one has been able to prove there is an interaction between energy drink ingredients, however there is some research that suggests there is SOMETHING going on. However, those studies are limited, and they involve energy drinks with WAY MORE caffeine than what’s in Starbucks Doubleshot.

For more information on how energy drink ingredients impact heart arrhythmia and blood vessels, read these posts next:

Will Energy Drinks Hurt Blood Vessels?

What Science Tells Us about Coffee Versus Energy Drinks for Heart Arrhythmias

Thanks for visiting GEG Research and Consulting - your experts in caffeine and fatigue.

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