Do you feel on waking up that you don’t rate the sapiens in your Homo until you’ve had your cup of joe? Welcome to my world. Late-night reading and writing always leave me in need of a serious caffeine fix. I’d take it intravenously – but I like the taste of coffee too much.
But when it’s close to 90 F by the time you wake up, it can feel just too hot for a hot coffee. So you hie over to your favorite cafe and check out their menu – and get stuck choosing between iced coffee and this newfangled stuff called cold brew coffee.
Which will wake you up better? Which tastes better? Is there any difference at all or is the mermaid just trying to get more of your money?
Cold brew coffee is an entirely different beverage from hot and iced coffee. It’s made without heat at all, instead steeping the coffee in cold water for 12 to 24 hours resulting in a very different flavor profile. Because cold brew is made with higher concentrations of coffee to water, it can also contain more caffeine.
Let’s delve into the details of this drink that’s been taking over American coffee culture by storm since 2015.
Let’s talk first about the difference between cold brew and hot coffee.
Cold Brew vs Hot Coffee
While regular hot coffee is brewed for just a few minutes using hot water, cold brew coffee is made by steeping the grounds in cold water, usually for at least twelve hours. The different processes result in very different flavors and characteristics.
Flavor-wise, hot coffee tends to be more bitter than cold brew, but releases a more complex aroma and can be fruitier, brighter, and more fragrant. Cold brew coffee tastes smoother and sweeter, often more chocolatey or cinnamony, with less bitterness and perceived acidity.
Without heat, the cold brew process doesn’t extract as much of the compounds that can tinge hot coffee with unpleasant notes, and there’s no heat-caused breakdown and oxidation that further changes the taste of the coffee. Even better, this means cold brew coffee doesn’t go stale in just a couple of hours the way hot coffee does.
Some coffee enthusiasts however find that cold brewing doesn’t extract the full flavor potential of the coffee bean and creates a coffee with rather muted flavors and aroma.
If you’re drinking coffee for its healthy antioxidant content, go for hot coffee. Hot brewed coffee contains more antioxidants than cold brew coffee because heat extracts the antioxidant compound 3-caffeoylquinic acid better.
Is Cold Brew Stronger than Hot Coffee?
In terms of caffeine content, we’ve got an apparent paradox. You’d think that hot brewing would extract more caffeine, and you’re right. Caffeine is more soluble in hot water than in cold water, so we would expect hot coffee to be stronger, right?
Cold brew coffee is made using very different proportions of coffee and water, as much as 2 to 2 1/2 times more than in hot coffee. This fact combined with the long steeping time results in a lot more caffeine concentrated in a cold brew.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Cold brew coffee is meant to be drunk diluted with an equal amount of ice, water, milk, or other liquids. This dilution can reduce the amount of caffeine to lower than an equal serving of hot coffee.
For example, a Tall (12 oz) cup of Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee contains 155 mg of caffeine, while the same size of their Pike Place Brewed Coffee contains 235 mg of caffeine.
On the other hand, if you make cold brew coffee at home and don’t add as much water, ice, or milk as Starbucks does you can easily get a lot more caffeine from cold brew.
TL;DR? Cold brew coffee can be stronger or weaker than an equal amount of hot coffee depending on the number of other liquids you add to it.
Why not just make a cold brew to your preferred strength instead of making a concentrate?
It turns out that the concentration helps cold brew coffee keep better. Concentrated cold brew coffee will last up to a week in the fridge without any perceptible flavor change, up to two weeks with little change, while a diluted version will only last two to three days.
Caffeine Strength Comparison of Popular Coffees
Really need to wake up? Here’s a comparison of the caffeine content from popular Starbucks products:
|Beverage||Short (8 oz)||Tall(12 oz)||Grande (16 oz)||Venti (24 oz)||Trenta (32 oz)|
|Pike Place Brewed Coffee||155 mg||235 mg||310 mg||410 mg|
|Blond Roast||180 mg||270 mg||360 mg||475 mg|
|Featured Dark Roast||130 mg||195 mg||260 mg||340 mg|
|Brewed Decaf Coffee||15 mg||20 mg||25 mg||30 mg|
|Caffe Americano||75 mg||150 mg||225 mg||300 mg|
|Blonde Caffe Americano||85 mg||85 mg||170 mg||170 mg|
|Cordusio Mocha||155 mg||155 mg||315 mg||320 mg|
|Reserve Latte||135 mg||135 mg||135 mg||265 mg|
|Caffe Mocha||90 mg||95 mg||175 mg||180 mg|
|Cappuccino||75 mg||75 mg||150 mg||150 mg|
|Blonde Cappuccino||85 mg||85 mg||170 mg||170 mg|
|Flat White||130 mg||130 mg||195 mg||195 mg|
|Blonde Flat White||150 mg||150 mg||225 mg||225 mg|
|Caramel Macchiato||75 mg||75 mg||150 mg||150 mg|
|Caramel Flan Latte*||75 mg||75 mg||150 mg||150 mg|
|Espresso||75 mg (solo)||150 mg (doppio)|
|Blonde Espresso||85 mg (solo)||170 mg (doppio)|
|Hazelnut Macchiato||75 mg||75 mg||150 mg||150 mg|
|Cinnamon Dolce Latte||75 mg||75 mg||150 mg||150 mg|
|Pumpkin Spice||75 mg||75 mg||150 mg||150 mg|
|Salted Caramel Mocha||90 mg||95 mg||175 mg||185 mg|
|Cold Brew Coffee||155 mg||205 mg||310 mg||360 mg|
|Cold Brew Coffe w Milk||150 mg||200 mg||300 mg||310 mg|
|Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew||140 mg||185 mg||275 mg||320 mg|
|Reserve Cold Brew||150 mg||200 mg||300 mg|
|Protein Blended Cold Brew||180 mg|
|Cold Foam Cold Brew||155 mg||205 mg||310 mg||360 mg|
|Salted Cream Cold Foam Cold Brew||140 mg||185 mg||275 mg||320 mg|
|Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew||145 mg||185 mg||275 mg||320 mg|
|Irish Cream Cold Brew||145 mg||185 mg||275 mg||320 mg|
|Salted Cream Nitro||200 mg||270 mg|
|Reserve Nitro Cold Brew||280 mg||400 mg|
|Cold Foam Cascara Nitro||200 mg||270 mg|
|Dark Mocha Nitro w Milk||225 mg||295 mg|
|Cold Foam Dark Cocoa Nitro||215 mg||290 mg|
|Torched Vanilla Nitro||210 mg||280 mg|
|Nitro Latte||115 mg||155 mg|
|Nitro Freddo||215 mg||285 mg|
|Nitro Cold Brew||215 mg||280 mg|
|Nitro Cold Brew w Sweet Cream||230 mg||325 mg|
|Molten Chocolate Frappuccino||80 mg||110 mg||150 mg|
|Vanilla Frappuccino||65 mg||90 mg||125 mg|
|Caramel Flan Frappuccino||65 mg||90 mg||125 mg|
|Caramel Frappuccino||70 mg||100 mg||130 mg|
|Caramel Ribbon Crunch||60 mg||85 mg||115 mg|
|Cinnamon Dolce||65 mg||90 mg||125 mg|
|Coffee Frappuccino||70 mg||100 mg||130 mg|
|Double Chocolaty Chip||10 mg||15 mg||15 mg|
|Espresso Frappuccino||130 mg||165 mg||185 mg|
|Hazelnut Frappuccino||65 mg||90 mg||125 mg|
|Mocha Frappuccino||75 mg||110 mg||140 mg|
|Iced Lattes||75 mg||150 mg||225 mg|
|Iced Blonde Lattes||85 mg||170 mg||255 mg|
|Iced Mochas||95 mg||175 mg||260 mg|
|Iced White Chocolate Mocha||75 mg||150 mg||225 mg|
|Iced Caramel Macchiato||75 mg||150 mg||225 mg|
|Iced Cappuccino||75 mg||150 mg||225 mg|
|Iced Americano||75 mg||150 mg||225 mg|
|Iced Blonde Cappuccino||85 mg||170 mg||255 mg|
|Doubleshot on Ice||150 mg||225 mg||375 mg|
|Iced Flat White||90 mg||130 mg||175 mg|
|Iced Coffee||120 mg||165 mg||235 mg||285 mg|
|Iced Coffee w Milk||90 mg||125 mg||170 mg||190 mg|
|Iced Clover Reserve||280 mg||380 mg||470 mg|
|Iced Clover Blonde||255 mg||340 mg||425 mg|
|Iced Clover Medium||280 mg||375 mg||445 mg|
|Iced Clover Dark||280 mg||380 mg||470 mg|
*Other flavored lattes have similar caffeine content.
Information is taken from Caffeine Informer.
Why Does Cold Brew Coffee Upset the Stomach Less?
Cold brew coffee not only has a more rounded, less bitter taste, it’s also touted by many coffeeshops, baristas, and roasters as being less acidic. Cold brewing equipment maker Toddy claims cold brew has as much as 60% less acid. This has made cold brew widely recommended for coffee lovers with sensitive stomachs.
Surprisingly, however, a Thomas Jefferson University study recently found that the acid content of both hot and cold brew coffee is nearly equal.
When brewed until full extraction was obtained – six minutes for hot coffee, 400 minutes for cold brew (6.7 hours), far less than the usual 12 – the pH ratings of both kinds were very close. So why does cold brew taste less acidic?
The difference in how cold and hot brew coffee impacts the stomach varies by heat. In hot coffee, the chlorogenic acids are changed by heat into quinic and caffeic acids, which have bitter and astringent flavors. Heat also removes compounds that balance coffee’s flavor. This does not happen with cold brew.
Because these changes don’t happen in cold brew, you get a smoother, rounder flavor that comes across as less acidic and is less likely to give you heartburn.
However, you should also keep in mind that too much caffeine in any form can increase your stomach acidity, and since we’re all built a little differently you may have a lower tolerance to caffeine than most.
If even cold brew coffee gives you hyperacidity, try reducing your coffee intake, choose Arabica beans grown at lower altitudes or non-volcanic soils, and try using darker roasts which have lower acidity.
Difference Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee
Cold brewing is a method of making coffee, while iced coffee is a method of serving coffee. Iced coffee can be made using either hot brewed coffee or cold brewed coffee. However, hot brewing is much faster so most iced coffee served in coffee shops is made from hot drip-brewed coffee.
Because drip-brewed coffee can have a fuller flavor profile than cold brewed using the same beans, some baristas prefer to use this method for making iced coffee. Flavor can be further enhanced by using the Japanese method of making iced coffee, which is to drip the coffee straight onto ice.
Remember what we said earlier about heat causing flavor changes in hot coffee?
The Japanese method makes the most of hot brewing’s ability to extract flavor and aroma from coffee beans but stops the unwanted flavor changes. While the usual way of making iced coffee is to let the coffee cool then serve it with ice, this gives the coffee time to go flat.
With the Japanese method, also called the flash-brewing or flash-chilling method, the shock of dripping the coffee straight onto ice halts the loss of volatile compounds and the decomposition of chlorogenic acid into quinic and caffeic acids the same way we shock pasta with cold water to stop it from cooking beyond al dente.
The result is a fruitier and more aromatic iced coffee.
It even has some of the benefits of the cold brew method, because like cold brewing the Japanese method stops the decomposition of chlorogenic acid. If you want cold coffee with a bolder flavor and more pronounced aroma, you will likely enjoy Japanese-style iced coffee better than cold brew.
On the other hand, while the process is much shorter it also requires more attention on your part and also makes less coffee at a time. If you want a milder, rounder flavor that’s easy on the tummy and easy to make in quantity, the cold brew method is for you.
In terms of caffeine content, the same principles apply. Brewing with heat can extract more caffeine, so if you’re comparing standard diluted cold brew coffee with iced coffee, there’s a good chance the iced coffee is stronger.
However, if your idea of iced coffee is cold brew concentrate with just two or three ice cubes don’t be surprised if you end up looking and feeling like a tarsier when owls are flitting overhead.
Does Cold Brew Have Fewer Calories?
If you’re watching your weight, I have good news and bad news. The good news: Coffee, no matter which way you brew it, has very few calories, on average just 1-2 calories per 8-ounce cup. While cold brew tastes sweeter black than hot coffee, the calorie difference is negligible.
The bad news: Milk, cream, sugar, and the flavored syrups and other add-ons so popular in making signature coffee drinks add lots of calories, as much as 600 in a Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino Venti (24 oz). So if your jeans are starting to feel rather tight, you can either order smaller lattes or switch to black coffee.
Because you can enjoy cold brew black or with less sugar than more bitter or acidic hot coffees, cold brew has potentially fewer calories. The same goes for Japanese-style iced coffee, which is also very good taken black.
Calorie Content Comparison of Popular Coffees
Watching your weight? Here’s a quick comparison of the calorie counts from various coffee products:
|Instant coffee||8 oz cup||4|
|Espresso coffee||1 oz||1|
|Brewed coffee||8 oz||2|
|McDonald’s Cappuccino||16 oz||130|
|McDonald’s Latte||16 oz||180|
|McDonald’s Mocha||16 oz||330|
|McDonald’s Brewed Coffee (large)||16 oz||4*|
|McDonald’s Caramel Frappe||21 oz||670|
|Dunkin Donuts Latte||10 oz||120|
|Dunkin Donuts Cappuccino||10 oz||80|
|Dunkin Donuts Mocha Swirl Latte||10 oz||230|
|Dunkin Donuts Brewed Coffee||10 oz||15|
|Dunkin Donuts Caramel Swirl Frozen Coffee||32 oz||1170|
|Starbucks Brewed Coffee||16 oz||5|
|Starbucks Caffe Americano||16 oz||15|
|Starbucks Caffe Latte||16 oz||220|
|Starbucks Caffe Mocha (no whipped cream)||16 oz||290|
|Starbucks Caffe Mocha (with whipped cream)||16 oz||360|
|Starbucks Cappuccino||16 oz||140|
|Starbucks Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha (with whipped cream)||16 oz||560|
|Starbucks Caffe Vanilla Frappuccino Blended Coffee||16 oz||430|
|Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino||24 oz||600|
|Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew w Sweet Cream||12 oz||70|
|Starbucks Iced Coffee (sweetened)||12 oz||60|
|Starbucks Iced Caffe Americano||12 oz||10|
How to Make Cold Brewed Coffee
Cold brew coffee is the easiest to make of all coffees, as you can literally do it while you sleep. Or rather, the brewing happens while you sleep. There are two methods you can use, the slow drip method and the immersion method.
The drip method requires a cold brew drip tower and ice water.
Coffee enthusiasts praise the method for its ability to extract better-nuanced flavors from coffee beans than the easier immersion method. The immersion method however is usual for home coffee brewers, requiring only a non-reactive container for the coffee and water, and a filter for straining the brew afterward. We’ll describe the immersion method here.
To make immersion cold brew coffee, simply place coarse-ground coffee in your cold brew bottle or French press, add cold water, and let it sit in your fridge for 12 – 24 hours. A ratio of 1 part coffee to 5 -10 parts water will make a cold brew that’s drinkable straight (but keeps only 2-3 days), while stronger ratios of up to 1:2 will make concentrates that will keep well for a week.
Filter before serving.
Ratios are given in weight of coffee (grams) to milliliters of water. So a 1:5 ratio means 100 grams of coffee to 500 ml of water. You can experiment with ratios, as different coffees will taste better at different ratios.
How to Make Japanese Iced Coffee
You don’t need special equipment to make Japanese-style iced coffee yourself.
You can use a Chemex, Aeropress, or French press. All you have to do is make coffee using only half to two-thirds the usual amount of water, and make up the rest with ice in the receiving container.
This method works especially well with pour-over coffee makers like a Chemex or Hario. Brewing over ice is very important; you can’t just add the ice after, as you would lose the technique’s benefits.
Because you’re using less water than usual to make the coffee, you should use a finer grind. This allows your limited water to extract more flavor from the beans.
Related Post: Can Espresso Be Made With Any Coffee?