Why Is Cold Brew Coffee so Expensive?

Learn why cold brew coffee is more expensive than regular coffee, including the cost of ingredients, brewing time, and labor.

Ever wondered why is cold brew more expensive than your regular iced coffee?

If you’re a coffee aficionado or even a casual drinker, you’ve likely noticed the price gap between cold brew and iced coffee. It’s not just a few cents; sometimes it’s a couple of bucks. That can add up if you’re a daily consumer.

So, is cold brew cheaper? The simple answer is that cold brew requires more coffee beans, a longer brewing time, and specialized equipment, all contributing to its higher cost.

Intrigued? Stick around. I’ll delve into the nitty-gritty of the cold brewing process, the steeped history of this premium drink, and why every ounce of cold brew might just be worth your dime. Whether you’re pondering cold brew vs iced coffee or curious about cold brew coffee benefits, I’ve got you covered. Let’s explore why this caffeinated delight is a cut above the rest.

Key Facts:

  1. Cold brew uses more coffee grounds than iced coffee.
  2. The brewing process for cold brew takes longer, usually between 12-24 hours.
  3. Specialized equipment is often required for cold brewing.
  4. Labor and overhead costs are higher for cold brew.
  5. Cold brew offers a smoother flavor and lower acidity, which some find worth the extra cost.

Why is Cold Brew More Expensive?

Cold brew is more expensive than regular coffee because of the time and effort needed in the preparation. Here are the main reasons:

  • More coffee grounds: Cold brew requires three times the amount of coffee grounds as regular coffee to achieve the same flavor profile. This is because cold water is less effective at extracting flavor from coffee beans than hot water.
  • Longer brewing time: Cold brew is steeped in cold water for 12-24 hours, while regular coffee is brewed in minutes. This means that cold brew makers need to have more coffee brewing at any given time, which requires more space and equipment.
  • Specialized equipment: Cold brew makers often use specialized equipment, such as Toddy makers or Nitro Cold Brew kegs, which can be expensive to purchase and maintain.
  • Higher demand: Cold brew has become increasingly popular in recent years, which has driven up the price.

In addition to these factors, some coffee shops may also charge a premium for cold brew because it is perceived as a more upscale product.

The Intricacies of Coffee Bean Selection

The type of coffee bean used in cold brew is often of higher quality than that used in regular coffee. This choice of premium coffee beans significantly impacts the overall cost. Coffee beans for cold brew are usually sourced from specific regions known for their unique flavor profiles.

The Role of Coffee Bean Quality in Flavor

High-quality coffee beans contribute to the unique, full-bodied flavor profile of cold brew. Unlike traditional brewing methods, cold brew’s slow extraction process allows for a more nuanced flavor, capturing the essence of the coffee bean. This is why you’ll often find cold brews that are labeled with their origin, emphasizing the quality and uniqueness of the bean.

Tip: When choosing coffee beans for cold brew, opt for beans known for their smooth and low-acidic profile to get the best flavor.

The Brewing Time Factor

Cold brew takes time—lots of it. Unlike hot coffee, which can be brewed in minutes, cold brew requires a steeping process that lasts between 12 to 24 hours. This long brewing time is a significant factor in its higher cost.

Why Longer Brewing Time Matters

The extended brewing time allows for a more robust flavor extraction, resulting in a smoother, less acidic beverage. It’s this slow process that gives cold brew its signature taste, differentiating it from its hot-brewed counterparts.

Key Takeaway: The longer brewing time not only enhances the flavor but also contributes to the higher cost of cold brew.

Specialized Equipment: A Necessary Investment

Creating cold brew isn’t as simple as mixing coffee grounds with cold water. It often requires specialized equipment like cold brew coffee makers or high-grade filters to ensure that the end product is free from impurities.

How Equipment Affects Cold Brew Quality

Specialized equipment ensures that the cold brew is smooth and free of any residual grounds, contributing to a better-quality drink. This equipment can be expensive, adding to the overall cost of producing cold brew.

Tip: If you’re making cold brew at home, investing in a good cold brew coffee maker can make a world of difference in the quality of your brew.

Labor and Overhead Costs: The Hidden Expenses

Cold brew is labor-intensive. The long steeping process, coupled with the need for specialized equipment, means that more effort is required to produce each batch. This increases labor and overhead costs, contributing to the higher price tag.

A Breakdown of Labor Costs in Cold Brew Production

The labor costs in making cold brew can be broken down into the time spent on brewing, filtering, and packaging the product. Each of these steps requires manual labor, which adds to the overall cost of production.

Key Takeaway: The labor and overhead costs are often hidden but play a significant role in the pricing of cold brew.

Is Cold Brew Worth the Extra Cost?

Cold brew offers a smoother flavor and lower acidity levels compared to traditional coffee. These unique characteristics often make it worth the extra cost for many consumers. The health benefits, such as lower acidity, also add value to this premium drink.

How to Make Cold Brew at Home: A Cost-Effective Alternative

Making cold brew at home can be a cost-effective alternative to buying it from coffee shops. All you need is a good cold brew coffee maker, quality coffee beans, and some patience.

Tip: Homemade cold brew can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, making it a convenient and cost-effective option.

Cheaper Alternatives to Cold Brew

If you love the smoothness of cold brew but are looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider trying iced Americanos or iced lattes. While not the same, they offer a similar refreshing experience at a lower cost.

FAQs About Why Does Cold Brew Cost More

Is it cheaper to make or buy cold brew coffee?

Making cold brew at home can be cheaper, especially if you consume it regularly.

Why is Starbucks cold brew so expensive?

Starbucks cold brew is expensive due to the quality of coffee beans used, specialized brewing equipment, and labor costs.

What’s so special about cold brew?

Cold brew offers a smoother, less acidic flavor compared to hot-brewed coffee.

Does cold brew require more coffee?

Yes, cold brew requires more coffee grounds, contributing to its higher cost.


In summary, why is cold brew so expensive boils down to the quality of coffee beans, longer brewing time, specialized equipment, and higher labor costs. These factors collectively contribute to the premium pricing of cold brew. Is it worth the extra cost? For many, the unique flavor profile, lower acidity, and potential health benefits make it a worthwhile investment. So, the next time you sip on that delicious cold brew, you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for.

Key Takeaway: Cold brew is more than just a trendy drink; it’s a premium beverage that offers a unique flavor and a range of benefits, justifying its higher cost.

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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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