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How Strong Is Cold Brew Coffee? Is It Stronger Than You Think?

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If you’ve ever enjoyed a glass of cold brew and wondered just how strong is cold brew, you’re not alone. In the world of coffee, few drinks possess the allure of cold brew, with its smooth, yet punchy taste.

And the answer to the question is actually not as simple as it seems. Is it mightier in caffeine than its hot counterparts? Does it grow stronger with time? And what does strong coffee even mean?

So if you want to know if cold brew is strong and whether cold brew is stronger than other types of coffee drinks, this guide is for you. From the taste to the amount of caffeine and coffee concentration, I answer all your questions about the strength of cold brew coffee.

collage of cold brew coffee with text overlay how strong is cold brew coffee.

So Just How Strong Is Cold Brew Coffee?

The short answer to the question of how strong is cold brew coffee is that it can be strong but it can also be weaker than other types of coffee drinks. Complicated, I know.

Much of the confusion regarding the question of how strong cold brew coffee is relates to what does “strong” even mean?

Coffee strength generally refers to three different things:

  • Coffee flavor
  • Caffeine level
  • Coffee concentration

Cold brew is brewed in cold water over a long period of time. The method uses a higher coffee grounds to water ratio than hot coffee brewing methods. The resulting brew is a cold coffee concentrate used as the base for cold brew coffee drinks.

So a broad brush answer to the question of the strength of cold brew coffee is that cold brew concentrate, when brewed correctly at a high coffee to water ratio, is stronger in flavor, caffeine and coffee concentration than other types of coffee drinks.

But as we will explore below, the final cold brew coffee drink can vary greatly in all three factors depending on what is added to the concentrate.

top view of glass of cold brew coffee with ice.

Does Cold Brew Taste Stronger?

One of the top reasons why people love cold brew coffee is due to its super smooth flavor. So in terms of taste, cold brew does not tend to be associated with a strong flavor profile.

Coffee beans are left to soak in cold water for around 16 hours. The coffee is extracted slowly at a low temperature and the bitter components commonly tasted in hot coffee are not extracted.

The result is a completely different flavor and far less bitterness than what is usually found in hot coffee brewing methods.

So you may prefer cold brew coffee drinks if you’re typically put off by the strong, bitter taste of hot coffee.

And while you can add milk to cold brew, given it has a naturally sweeter and smooth taste, many people drink cold brew black, or they add less creamer or sugar than they typically would.

In fact, if you want to switch to drinking black coffee, cold brew is a great way to make the transition.

You can enhance the smooth flavor even more with nitrogen, when you 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? 

So on to the question of caffeine strength and whether this makes cold brew strong.

As I mentioned at the start, cold brewing creates a coffee concentrate. The concentrate does contain more caffeine than regular coffee (even espresso), when cold brew coffee beans are brewed correctly.

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

However, the brew method will impact on the caffeine levels. They can also vary significantly depending on whether the concentrate was bought from the grocery store, a coffee shop, or made at home

Also, while the concentrate contains more caffeine and is technically stronger, cold brew is generally diluted with water or milk before drinking.

So this reduces the overall caffeine level and a cold brew coffee drink will often have a similar amount of caffeine as a regular coffee after dilution.

bottle of cold brew in background with glass of cold brew coffee in foreground.

Is Cold Brew More Concentrated Than Other Types Of Coffee?

One of the main reasons why cold brew has more caffeine compared to other coffees is due to the different coffee to water ratio used in the brewing process.

Cold brew is made with a much higher coffee to water ratio over a longer period of time. This then results in a higher coffee concentration than other brewing methods.

If enjoyed straight, over ice, cold brew coffee can taste very strong as the ratio of coffee to water is much higher than say drip or pour over coffee.

It is worth noting that if hot coffee used the same ratio of coffee to water in the extraction process, it would be more concentrated and have more caffeine.

The reason for this is that hot water is more effective at drawing the caffeine from coffee than cold brewing methods. 

That is why brewing methods like french press brewing can taste much stronger than cold brew, as it uses a higher coffee to water ratio than say espresso or drip coffee.

If you’re still confused, the video below has a good explanation of the difference between hot and cold brewed coffee!

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 to extract the optimum amount of coffee and caffeine it requires:

  • The right grind
  • A good cold brew coffee maker
  • Plenty of patience as it usually takes around 12 to 18 hours to fully brew.

The coffee may taste weak if brewed for less than 12 hours. The cold brewing method needs ample time to release the caffeine and flavor from the coffee grounds.

However, while it may be tempting to leave cold brew to brew for a longer period, this does not result in a better brew.

In fact cold brew can become bitter and lose its smooth mellow flavor if steeped for too long, or left in the cold brew coffee maker with the grounds after brewing.

mason jar with cold brew coffee brewing.

Cold Brew Coffee Recipes To Try

Ok, now you know how strong cold brew is and what impacts the strength of the brew, are you ready to make some cold brew at home?

This guide steps you through how to brew a batch of cold brew in a french press and I review the best cold brew coffee bean brands here.

Then you can use the concentrate in these tasty recipes:

Or find even more cold brew recipes to try in this cold brew recipe collection.

pouring cold brew coffee into glass.

More Cold Brew Guides

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Rachel Rodda

It's no surprise that as a former barista and founder of Creators of Coffee, I'm obsessed with all things coffee. I love to share easy and delicious coffee recipes, expert brewing tips and helpful coffee gear reviews with my fellow coffee lovers!

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