The effect of roasting of coffee beans and the extraction of ground coffee with different volumes of hot pressurised water on the caffeine and the total caffeoylquinic acids (CQAs) content of the resultant beverages was investigated. While caffeine was stable higher roasting temperatures resulted in a loss of CQAs so that the caffeine/CQA ratio was a good marker of the degree of roasting. The caffeine and CQA content and volume was determined for 104 espresso coffees obtained from coffee shops in Scotland, Italy and Spain, limited numbers of cappuccino coffees from commercial outlets and several instant coffees. The caffeine content ranged from 48-317 mg per serving and CQAs from 6-188 mg. It is evident that the ingestion of 200 mg of caffeine per day can be readily and unwittingly exceeded by regular coffee drinkers. This is the upper limit of caffeine intake from all sources recommended by US and UK health agencies for pregnant women. In view of the variable volume of serving sizes, it is also clear that the term "one cup of coffee" is not a reproducible measurement for consumption, yet it is the prevailing unit used in epidemiology to assess coffee consumption and to link the potential effects of the beverage and its components on the outcome of diseases. More accurate measurement of the intake of coffee and its potentially bioactive components are required if epidemiological studies are to produce more reliable information.