How Strong Is Cold Brew?

Have you ever enjoyed a cold brew coffee, been surprised by the caffeine hit and asked the question just how strong is cold brew coffee?

Does cold brew have more caffeine than other brewing methods?

If you have pondered these questions and need answers, read on! In this article we cover the most popular questions about the strength of cold brew coffee.

glass of cold brew with milk with jug of cold brew in background.

How Strong Is Cold Brew?

When thinking about cold brew, you may assume that it has the same strength as coffee that is brewed with hot water.

However, this is not the case. It is usually stronger than regular coffee when comparing the caffeine content. 

Cold brew is brewed with a higher coffee to water ratio than hot coffee brewing methods. The result is a coffee concentrate which, when undiluted, is very strong and high in caffeine.

When the cold brew coffee beans have been brewed, it contains more caffeine than regular coffee, even espresso, due to how concentrated it is.

A cup of cold brew coffee can have up to 200mg of caffeine, compared to a typical cup of coffee which contains around 95mg. 

For this reason it is a popular choice as the base for drinks like proffee, a protein coffee drink.

While it does contain more caffeine and is technically stronger, cold brew is generally diluted with water or milk before drinking.

This reduces the overall caffeine levels in a cup of cold brew. Examples include this cold brew with chocolate milk, and this almond milk cold brew recipe.

When it is diluted, it does not necessarily taste as strong as regular coffee and will have a similar amount of caffeine.

It is also far less bitter due to the extraction process and tends to have a much smoother taste overall. 

top view of glass of cold brew coffee with ice.

Does cold brew get stronger the longer it sits?

The process of extracting coffee from cold brew coffee beans is a slow one.

If you want the optimum amount of coffee and caffeine to be extracted it does require patience and usually takes around 12 to 18 hours to fully brew.

If the coffee is brewed for less than 18 hours it may taste weak as the cold brewing method needs ample time to release the flavors from the coffee grounds.

However if you leave it longer than 18 hours, it can sometimes start to become quite bitter and less smooth, which defeats the purpose of cold brewing.

The majority of the caffeine and flavor is extracted in the first 8 hours. Over the next 8 hours, the second half of the brewing time is to smooth and enhance the flavors in the brew.

While it may seem tempting to leave cold brew to brew for a longer period, this does not cause it to become stronger.

If the cold brew is steeped for too long, or left in the cold brew coffee maker after brewing, it begins to taste bitter and earthy, which can cause it to taste as though it is stronger.

mason jar with cold brew coffee brewing.

Does Cold Brew Taste Stronger?

While cold brew does have proportionally more caffeine in it in comparison to iced and warm coffee when undiluted, it has a completely different flavor.

This is due to how the coffee is extracted from the coffee beans, using cold water instead of hot water.

Given this difference (and the fact you tend to dilute cold brew), cold brew tends to be associated with a smooth flavor rather than a strong flavor. 

As the coffee beans are left to soak in cold water for around 16 hours, the coffee is extracted slowly and the bitter components commonly tasted in hot coffee are not extracted due to the cold brewing temperature.

So if you are typically put off by the strong, bitter taste of hot coffee, you may prefer the taste of a cold brew coffee drink.

The taste of cold brew tends to be a lot smoother and sweeter overall, allowing it to appeal to more people in comparison to regular coffee.

Given that it does have a sweeter taste in comparison to regular coffee, many people drink cold brew black, or they add less creamer or sugar than they typically would.

The smooth taste of cold brew is enhanced even more when injected with nitrogen, to make nitro cold brew.

The fine nitrogen bubbles generate a creamy mouthfeel and a super smooth texture.

pouring black coffee into tall glass with jar of coffee beans in background.

Does Cold Brew Have More Caffeine? 

When comparing cold brew to regular coffee it does have more caffeine in it in comparison to iced coffee or espresso, for example.

But, the amount of caffeine that is in cold brew will vary significantly depending on if it was bought from the grocery store, a coffee shop, or made at home

One of the main reasons why cold brew has more caffeine in it compared to other types of coffee can be linked back to the brewing process.

In comparison to an espresso shot, cold brew is made with a higher coffee to water ratio for a longer period of time, which equates to more caffeine overall. 

To put this in perspective an average of 8oz of hot brew coffee typically contains around 100mg of caffeine.

Whereas the equivalent amount of prepackaged cold brew concentrate could have over 200mg of caffeine, and homemade cold brew may have up to 200mg of caffeine.

However, once the cold brew is diluted with water or milk, it often has a similar caffeine content to hot coffee.

So overall, cold brew only contains more caffeine because a higher proportion of ground coffee is used in the brewing process in comparison to when making hot coffee, and it is generally consumed at a more concentrated level than hot coffee.

It is worth noting that if hot coffee used the same ratio of coffee to water in the extraction process, it would have more caffeine in it as hot water is more effective at drawing the caffeine from coffee than cold brewing methods. 

Want to know more about cold brew coffee? Watch the video below for a good explanation of the difference between hot and cold brewed coffee.

Ready to make some cold brew? See our top picks for the best cold brew coffee beans here or hop over to all our brew guides.

More cold brew articles and recipes

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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About Rachel Rodda

Founder of Creators of Coffee, Rachel is a passionate coffee lover, SCA member and former barista, who also loves to research and share practical tips on everything to do with coffee. Favorite way to make coffee: With an Espresso Machine

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