4 Things You Need to Know About Cold-Brewed Coffee

4 Things You Need to Know About Cold Brew Coffee

As spring ushers in warmer temperatures, the cold brew coffee season is quickly approaching. At Driftaway Coffee, we’re eagerly anticipating warmer days when we can enjoy cold brew’s natural sweetness (and higher caffeine content). In anticipation of the coming season, here’s a look at how cold brew coffee is unique.

Cold Brew Takes Much Longer To Make Than Hot Coffee

The defining characteristic of cold-brewed coffee is the temperature of the water used in the brewing process. Unlike hot-brewed coffee or even iced coffee, which brewed with hot water and cooled with ice, cold-brews are made using room-temperature water. The grounds may be fully immersed in the water, or a slow drip may be set up. Either way, the water used is well below the 200°F, the typical temperature used to make hot-brewed or iced coffee.

Because water temperature affects the extraction rate, cold-brews take much longer than hot-brewed and iced coffee. A cold brew system may take anywhere from three to 24 hours.

Cold Brew Usually Has More Caffeine

In general, cold-brewed coffee is more caffeinated than hot-brewed coffee. The difference is especially noticeable when you use a full-immersion brew method to make toddy, which is why toddy is typically cut with either water or milk. Even a cold brew made with a drip method, though, can have more caffeine than a hot-brewed coffee.

Complementing Cold Brew’s Sweetness with Milk

Cold-brews are prized for their natural sweetness, which is produced by the cold water’s lower extraction rate. Even though a cold brew may sit for hours, the water will never extract all of the coffee’s solubles. While some of the unextracted solubles will be aromatic and flavorful, others are bitter and undesirable. Thus, cold-brewed coffee tends to be slightly flatter than other brew methods, but it is also much sweeter.

This natural sweetness makes cold-brews perfect for adding cream to. Although you might not think of milk as being sweet, it is full of sugars (e.g. lactose). These sugars are easy to identify when milk is steamed to about 130°F, but they also complement cold-brews’ sweetness nicely.

Use Those Older Beans to Make Cold Brew

Because some solubles remain unextracted, freshness isn’t as important with cold brewing as it is when using hot water to brew coffee. You can still make a sweet, caffeinated cold brew with coffee that’s more than two weeks old. Since the brewing method wouldn’t extract all of the aromatic solubles anyways, it doesn’t matter that they have dissipated as the coffee aged.

As the weather warms up, experiment with cold-brewed coffee. It’s a different take on coffee than hot-brewed and iced coffee, but we love its sweetness and caffeine. If you have any older coffee lying around, try using that first to see if you like this brew method. You may just come to love cold brew coffee and want to make all your coffee this way.

Our Bold and Classic profiles make a delicious cold brew. If you haven’t tried it yet, wait for a warm day (or don’t) and give it a shot! Here’s a recipe to get you started. And here’s a recipe to make New Orleans-style Cold Brew (with chicory)!

Read more about the history of cold brew, the different types of cold brew available and how cold brew is made around the world.

Author Scott

Scott is a professional writer for Driftaway Coffee. He worked as a barista for eight years, but today prefers to enjoy his beverages from the other side of the counter. When not drinking Driftaway Coffee, Scott usually has a mug of his own roasted coffee nearby.

More posts by Scott
  • Daniel

    Awesome article! Keep up the good work! Besides, check out the following infographic titled “8 Interesting Tidbits About Coffee Brewed Cold” at http://infographicplaza.com/8-interesting-tidbits-about-coffee-brewed-cold/

    • eslteachor

      read my first post above, and then let me know whether you still think this is an “Awesome article!” worthy of the compliment “Keep up the good work!”

  • bgravemeister

    The more you know :D I’m diving into the world of coldbrew and was wondering why there was such a distinct sweetness to it. Now I know! I’ll hit it up with creme as well. Sounds tasty.

  • Just Saying

    Great article – until this article, most of the information I’ve seen about cold brewed is that it has less caffeine – but when I’ve had some I found it extremely potent compared to normal Iced coffee – buzz inducing. I’m hooked on it now.

    • Sam Pensive

      …..buzz inducing. …..that’s very helpful when attempting wakeup and takeoff ….kudos !!!!

    • eslteachor

      read my first post above, and then let me know whether you still think this is a “Great article”

  • BO

    Cold brew has less caffeine. The cold brewing process actually makes it very difficult to extract caffeine. What you are speaking of is a concentration. The concentration of cold brew is slightly higher in caffeine than regular coffee. Once you cut the cold brew it then has about 30% less caffine. Flavor does not equate to higher caffine. Infact most dark roast have less caffine than light roast coffees. These numbers have been measured. I used to be a manager of starbucks. You can make anything stronger by making a concentration. If you made a concentration of hot coffee it would be have more caffeine than concentrated cold brew.

    • Robert Jenkins

      Yeah … the person who wrote this article can’t even be bothered to capitalize the brand name “Toddy,” so I don’t think they read the instructions — which clearly state that the the concentrate is supposed to be diluted, 3 parts water to 1 part concentrate, to get the finished coffee product. (Surprise, the concentrate has more caffeine!)

    • eslteachor

      wrong about “dark roast hav[ing] less caffeine [sorry, but a former SB’s manager can’t spell “caffeine”? party foul] than light”: this is highly variable at best, and absolutely requires precise clarification. when measured by weight, dark roast caffeine > light; when measured by volume, light > dark. again, they didn’t teach you this (fairly basic distinction) at any point through managerial level?

      • Drew Golden

        Can you tell the difference between a typo and the inability to spell something? I hope that you’re not actually a language teacher.

        • eslteachor

          Can you tell the difference between a (self-proclaimed) authority on a subject presenting an even passable discourse on his supposed area of expertise–e.g. taking the time to (among other things) proofread his own work–and someone who simply doesn’t care enough about the issue to do so? Based on your gratuitous personal assault on my field (in which–sorry–my students not only ask for but insist on fine-grained instructional attention to matters such as spelling), your sole interest is to fire up a misguided potshot at what you perceive to be an ‘injustice’ against someone who should be thankful a person other than a prospective employer caught his error. When you’re done playing frustrated SJW, ask yourself whether pity is the right emotion when we’re talking professionals offering expert assessments in a sloppy, self-discrediting fashion–or would you pay your plumber the faulty amount for an innocent mistake of moving the decimal one place to the right? While we’re at it, since you were so focused on your ‘Be nice!’ crusade (from which you conveniently exempt your own not-so-nice behavior), you missed my larger point: This “barrista” and Starbo’s “manager” clearly didn’t know what he was talking about, over and above the (100% avoidable) misspelling

  • Jay

    tablespoon per tablespoon of grounded coffee used to make hot vs cold brew, yes hot brew would be more caffeinated. Who makes cold brew with 2 tablespoons of coffee though. Compare the finished product, cup per cup of finished coffee, well, cold brew is stronger for sure because of the concentrate. So it really all depends.

  • BO

    The finished product of cold brew is not the concentration. The finished product is the concentration cut with water. You can make cold brew without it being concentrated. You can make tea as a concentrate too. You wouldn’t serve a tea concentrate, you would serve the concentration cut with water. The flavor of the drink is pretty important. It is the whole point of the cold brewing method. Some reason people think it is to make a stronger coffee. It isn’t. You make cold brew to for a smoother less acidic coffee. Even if you drank the concentration, it is going to taste terrible (by most) and it will only be ever so slightly stronger than drip.

    • Courier.6

      straight cold brew is delicious what do you mean

      • eslteachor

        reread BO’s post; still have the same question? no one else does

  • eslteachor

    sloppy, vague phrasing leads to confusion–which this article (and some posts below) are full of; here are the facts about caffeine content in coffee: 1] type of bean matters (e.g. Robusta–though a lesser grade flavor-wise–produces the highest caffeine levels); 2] brewing method makes a difference (professionally prepared espresso has the most caffeine per capita, with boiled–e.g. Turkish–coffee also quite strong, although their serving sizes tend to be much smaller than ‘drip’ or press coffee); 3] temperature is pivotal (per capita, water at or near boiling extracts substantially more caffeine than cold brew–it is only the larger average amount of ground coffee in the recipe which gives cold brew more caffeine per ounce than most hot brews, but the ready-to-drink versions feature considerably more caffeine in hot-brewed coffee ounce for ounce); 4] as partly noted already (see reference to espresso), grind matters [finer grind allows water to saturate beans more rapidly], but even this is not absolute, since the amount of time in contact with solvent (e.g. hot water) has a powerful effect on caffeine extraction, with a max-out point of course. Roast does not meaningfully affect caffeine level, unless one differentiates how ground coffee is measured before brewing (i.e. by volume–in which case, light roasts produce slightly more caffeine per capita–or by weight, which favors dark roasts). The actual caffeine content of a given serving of coffee, then, depends on an interplay of factors such as water temperature, brewing method, time of contact between beans and [esp., hot] water, grind/roast, and specific species of bean(s) used–with the obvious caveat that past date, improperly stored, or otherwise ‘defective’ beans/grinds generally lowers caffeine content regardless of the above components. “Scott” may be a cool dude and a retired ace barista, but he does a poor job of writing in general–with a particularly careless error through failing to qualify his claim that “In general, cold-brewed coffee is more caffeinated than hot-brewed coffee”: Ounce for ounce, the reverse is true–by a wide margin

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