Intro to Cold Brew Coffee

If you drink as much coffee as we do, no doubt you deal with a lot of coffee grounds. While a lot of people dump their grounds down the drain (probably not a good idea) or in the trash, there are actually much better ways to dispose of even reuse your coffee grounds. Coffee grounds can be effective as cleaning scrubs, odor neutralizers, and even fertilizers. So before dump another grain down the drain, take a look at our suggested uses for coffee grounds. 

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

When you hear the term cold brew, you might think it refers to any form of cold coffee. In reality, cold brew and iced coffee are two very different things. Iced coffee is brewed hot and then refrigerated or poured over ice cubes. Cold brew is made by soaking coffee grounds in a small amount of room temperature water for 6-12 hours, resulting in a strong coffee concentrate that can be used to make cold coffee drinks. Starbucks has largely been credited for popularizing the drink, but the methods have been around a lot longer. Cold brew is popular for its easy drinking style, refreshing coldness, and strong flavour. 

Is Cold Brew better than Iced Coffee?

Given how much more effort cold brew takes compared to iced coffee, you might wonder whether the result is really worth it. The big advantage to cold brew is that it tastes better. With iced coffee, there will always be a sacrifice in flavour in the process of trying to quickly turn hot brewed coffee into a cold drink. 

Refrigerating freshly brewed coffee takes a long time, and will taste stale by the time it’s ready. While it might be convenient for you to throw a pot of coffee in the fridge and have a nice cold java the next day, you’re getting the worst of both worlds with this method: time consuming and a subpar taste. Alternatively, adding ice cubes to hot coffee dilutes the flavour quickly as the ice cubes melt. It’s like adding tap water. Plus, this method often results in a “cool” drink rather than a truly cold one. The colder you want it, the more diluted it will be. 

Cold brew produces a much more flavourful, full bodied drink. Using a strong concentrate also opens the door for more diverse cold brew recipes, such as lattes and other espresso-style drinks. So as far as flavour is concerned, cold brew is definitely superior to iced coffee. This has a lot to do with how hot vs room temperature water extract the chemical components of the coffee grinds. Hot water is prone to burning or over extracting coffee, especially if you’re not using a proper grinder and temperature-controlled kettle. 

Cold brew on the other hand extracts all the oils and fats that make coffee so good without extracting many of the less desirable components. For example, by some estimates, cold brew coffee is up to 67% less acidic than regular brew and iced coffee. This makes it better for your stomach and teeth, and also contributes to a better tasting drink. So for those who are sensitive to the acidity of coffee, you’ll probably find cold brew to be much smoother and more pleasant to drink. 

Intro to Cold Brew Coffee 1

Does Cold Brew Have More Caffeine?

Intro to Cold Brew Coffee 2

Comparing the caffeine contact between coffee drinks is not as straightforward as you might think. For example, espresso generally contains a higher concentration of caffeine than drip coffee, but a lower overall caffeine content in, say, a 12 oz drink. Not too complicated. However, there are many factors that contribute to the caffeine content of coffee. The type of beans, darkness of roast, water temperature, grind size and brew time will all impact how much caffeine is extracted. As a rule of thumb, cold brew coffee contains less overall caffeine per drink. This is because hot water extracts more caffeine than room temperature water, and because you don’t typically drink cold brew undiluted. That being said, cold brew is much more highly concentrated. If you compare 16 oz of undiluted cold brew to 16 oz of drip coffee, there might be more caffeine overall in the cold brew. Keep in mind, however, that a cup of drip coffee can contain anywhere between 190 and 360 mg of coffee on average - a pretty wide window. What this all means is that the answer is not cut and dry, but unless you’re drinking undiluted cold brew, it’s likely to contain less caffeine than other coffee drinks. 

Cold Brew vs Cold Drip

Cold drip and cold brew are actually very different. While cold brew is made by soaking coffee grounds in cold or room temperature water, cold drip is made by slowly dripping ice water over coffee grounds. The process is similar to that of regular drip coffee, but because heat it not used to extract, the process is much slower. If you’ve ever those tall glass towers that look like something out of a chemistry lab, that is a cold drip tower. Iced water drips slowly from a carafe into fresh coffee grinds, where it filters through and drips into a third carafe where the cold coffee is collected. Cold drip coffee tends to be more bitter and have a higher caffeine content. But as with any coffee drink, ratios and recipes can vary greatly. 

Darkroast Doctor

The Darkroast Doctor is a coffee enthusiast who loves nothing more than starting his day with a piping hot cup of his favorite brew. With several years of experience working in coffee shop, he loves to spend his time writing guides, tutorials, and blog posts.