Cold Brew vs. Espresso: Which One Has More Caffeine?

Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Espresso? | Learn the facts about caffeine content in cold brew vs espresso. Which one has more caffeine?

Coffee lovers, have you ever found yourself staring at your local café’s menu, wondering: is cold brew stronger than espresso? This can be a daunting question, attempting to navigate between these titans of the coffee world.

In short: Cold brew tends to contain more caffeine and sports a smoother flavor, making it seemingly “stronger” than espresso in those terms.

Curious to learn more? Let’s explore the ins and outs of each coffee kingdom and better understand their caffeine content, flavor development, acidity levels, and more.

Key Facts:

  1. Cold brew is typically steeped in cold water over a period of 12-24 hours, resulting in higher caffeine content.
  2. Espresso is brewed by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee under pressure, resulting in a concentrated beverage.
  3. Cold brew generally has a smoother, less acidic flavor compared to the more robust, intense taste of espresso.
  4. Serving temperatures vary for both: cold brew can be served hot or cold, espresso is typically served hot.
  5. Cold brew boasts a longer shelf life while fresh espresso is best consumed immediately after brewing.

Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Espresso? The Caffeine Showdown

Let’s look at these two powerhouses of the coffee world under a magnifying lens, examining their caffeine content and influence on our daily routines and energy levels.

Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Espresso
Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Espresso

How Much Caffeine is in Cold Brew?

Cold brew is prepared by steeping coffee grounds in cold water over an extended period, usually about 12 to 24 hours. This method emphasizes flavor extraction rather than caffeine extraction, resulting in a unique, robust profile. But that doesn’t mean cold brew is lacking in the caffeine department.

A 16-ounce cup of cold brew averages around 200mg of caffeine. This number can vary depending on factors like the coffee bean variety, steeping time, and water temperature.

Here’s a comparison of the caffeine content in various popular cold brew brands:

BrandCaffeine Content Per 16 oz (mg)
Chameleon Cold Brew Coffee216
Stok Cold Brew Iced Coffee217
Starbucks Cold Brew Black200
Blue Bottle Cold Brew210

Key Takeaway: Despite its drawn-out brewing process, cold brew packs considerably more caffeine per ounce compared to regular coffee.

How Much Caffeine is in Espresso?

On the other hand, espresso is a full-bodied coffee type brewed by forcing a small amount of near-boiling water under pressure through finely-ground coffee beans. A single shot of espresso contains around 50-75mg of caffeine, but keep in mind that a serving of espresso is usually much smaller than that of cold brew.

Below is a chart showing us the caffeine content in popular espresso shots:

BrandCaffeine Content Per Shot (mg)
Starbucks, Blonde Roast85
Dunkin’ Donuts, Espresso75
Peet’s Coffee, Espresso88

Tip: While the caffeine content per ounce is higher in espresso than in cold brew, the serving size is significantly smaller.

Which Packs More Caffeine: Cold Brew or Espresso?

If you’re searching for a caffeine kick, both cold brew and espresso will get the job done. However, if we’re simply talking about caffeine content, cold brew might slightly edge out espresso, especially if you’re used to enjoying your coffee by the cup.

But remember, nuances such as the coffee-to-water ratio, the grind size, brew time, the coffee varietal, and even the temperature can change the caffeine content. Plus, many coffee lovers dilute their cold brew with water, reducing the caffeine impact.

Flavor Profile: Cold Brew vs Espresso

While caffeine content is one yardstick for measuring strength, flavor is another key player in the coffee game. Let’s examine what each brew brings to the table.

What Does Cold Brew Taste Like?

The cold extraction process of cold brew results in a coffee that is usually described as smooth, full-bodied, and rich. Cold brew tends to be less acidic and bitter compared to espresso, general speaking, the flavor is strong but not overpowering.

The extended brewing time allows cold brew to extract the subtle sweet and chocolaty notes from the coffee beans, delivering a flavor profile that’s unique and lovable.

Tip: For a more personalized cold brew experience, try using different coffee bean varieties to explore different flavors.

What Does Espresso Taste Like?

There’s no ambiguity when it comes to espresso—it’s bold and intense. An espresso shot delivers highly concentrated flavors that are often described as rich, robust, and slightly bitter. Some also discern a hint of sweetness. Its iconic crema adds a velvety, almost creamy texture to the brew.

Key Takeaway: If you have a penchant for bold, intense flavors, espresso could be your dream brew!

Which Has a Stronger Flavor: Cold Brew or Espresso?

Nailing down which has a stronger flavor can be subjective, as it very much depends on personal taste. While cold brew presents a strong, smooth, and subtle taste, espresso hits hard with its intense, robust, and highly concentrated flavor.

Many coffee enthusiasts would describe the flavor of espresso as “stronger,” due to its pronounced, powerful taste. However, others might argue that the less acidic, more nuanced flavor of cold brew is inherently stronger.

Acidity Levels: A Closer Look

The acidity level of your coffee can significantly impact the flavor profile, as well as how your stomach responds to the brew. Let’s dig into the acidity comparison of cold brew and espresso.

How Acidic is Cold Brew?

Due to the extraction process at lower temperatures, cold brew typically has lower acidity than espresso. This lower acidity often translates to a smoother, milder flavor, which can be easier on the stomach, making it a go-to option for people with sensitive stomachs or acid reflux.

How Acidic is Espresso?

Espresso, on the other hand, is known for its higher acidity, contributing to its distinct sharp and vivid flavor profile. However, this acidity might not agree with everyone’s digestive system. If you often find yourself experiencing heartburn or acid reflux after a couple of espresso shots, you may want to give cold brew a try.

Which is Easier on the Stomach: Cold Brew or Espresso?

When it comes to lower acidity and smoother flavor, cold brew usually takes the trophy. While both cold brew and espresso have their unique charms, those with acidity issues might find a friend in cold brew coffee.

Tip: If you love the intensity of espresso but struggle with its acidity, consider pairing it with food or milk to counteract the acidity.

Serving Temperature: Hot or Cold?

The serving temperature of your coffee can drastically alter the drinking experience. Let’s examine how cold brew and espresso are typically served.

How is Cold Brew Served?

Despite its icy name, cold brew coffee can be served either hot or cold. As its brewed concentrate is quite strong, it can be diluted with either hot or cold water, depending on your preference. This versatility makes it a winner year-round, providing a refreshing cool-down in summer and a warm pick-me-up in winter.

How is Espresso Served?

Espresso, on the other hand, is traditionally served hot, perfect for an instantaneous caffeine hit. One serving, or ‘shot’, of espresso is about 1 ounce. While it’s mostly served hot, it can also be used in cold drinks, like iced lattes or affogatos.

Which is More Versatile: Cold Brew or Espresso?

Both cold brew and espresso can be served hot or cold, making them incredibly versatile. In terms of sheer variety and flexibility in preparation, both have their unique recipes and variations. From cold brew with milk to espresso martinis, the possibilities are endless!

Key Takeaway: Your imagination only limits your coffee enjoyment!

Shelf Life: Which Lasts Longer?

If you’re someone who loves to prepare a large batch of coffee to sip on throughout the week, consider shelf life as a factor.

How Long Does Cold Brew Last?

Cold brew has a decent shelf life, often staying fresh for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. This makes it a fantastic choice for bulk brewing, ensuring you have a tasty coffee concentrate ready for whenever the caffeine cravings hit.

How Long Does Espresso Last?

Unlike cold brew, espresso is a bit of a diva. Espresso is best consumed immediately after brewing to appreciate its full, robust flavor. It doesn’t store well and loses both flavor integrity and crema texture as it cools.

Which Coffee Should You Stock Up On?

From a storage perspective, if you need to prep your coffee ahead of time, cold brew is a more practical option due to its longer shelf life. But for those who prefer the ritual of brewing a fresh cup each time, the immediacy of espresso might be right up your alley.

FAQs About Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Espresso?

Is Nitro Cold Brew stronger than Espresso?

Nitro Cold Brew is cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen, resulting in a creamy, stout-like effect. While the addition of nitrogen doesn’t increase the caffeine content, Nitro Cold Brew can often seem stronger because it’s usually served undiluted.

How many shots of espresso are in cold brew?

The number of espresso shots in a cold brew depends on the coffee-to-water ratio used when brewing the cold brew. While it’s hard to equate espresso shots to cold brew directly, a 16-ounce serving of cold brew typically contains caffeine similar to three to four shots of espresso.

Is Starbucks cold brew stronger than espresso?

Starbucks cold brew contains more caffeine content per 16 ounces compared to their espresso. However, an ounce-for-ounce comparison would tilt in favor of espresso due to its concentrated nature.


When considering the question, “Is cold brew stronger than espresso?,” it boils down to how we define “strength.” In caffeine content, a cup of cold brew often beats an equivalent amount of espresso, thanks to its higher coffee-to-water ratio and longer brewing time. However, when it comes to flavor, choosing a winner can be subjective as it relies on personal preferences: do you favor a smooth, subtly sweet profile, or do you gravitate toward an intense, robust flavor?

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Nick Cho
Nick Cho

Nick Cho is a Korean-American entrepreneur and specialty coffee expert. Cho is a writer, speaker, and social media influencer, inspiring excellence in the specialty coffee industry.

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