A New Coffee Trend is Cold Brewing

Cold brew coffee is more and more popular among coffee drinkers as their refreshing, chilled beverage of choice. The cold brew sub-segment grew 580 percent from 2011-16, with 2016 proving to be the year with the largest amount of cold brew sales. Is cold brew coffee better for your health compared to hot brew coffee? We asked expert Dr. Jonathan Morris, professor at the University of Hertfordshire and author of Coffee A Global History, to find out. 

What are the differences in cold brew and hot brew coffee? 

Dr. Morris: “Whereas iced coffee is basically hot brew coffee which has then been cooled down, in cold brew the water used to make the coffee is always at room temperature or lower. 

The absence of heat in the brewing process has two significant effects. First, the length of time required to extract the optimum flavor from the coffee is much longer – indeed many coffee shops prepare their cold brew coffee overnight. Secondly, the so-called low polar compounds (lacking in electronegativity within them) extract very poorly in the absence of heat. Significantly these include the coffee oils. 

“Consequently, hot and cold brew coffee made from the same batch of beans can taste surprisingly different in the cup, with the cold brew generally exhibiting higher degrees of sweetness, a more chocolate type taste, and lower levels of acidity – a term that coffee tasters use in a positive sense to describe the tingling citrusy sensations that one gets, say, from biting into a crisp, fresh apple. 

Is one healthier than the other? 

Dr. Morris: “So cold brew and hot brew coffees therefore do have significant sensory differences other than temperature, but the extent to which these impact on the health benefits they offer remains moot.” 

Can cold brew coffee boost your metabolism? 

Dr. Morris: “Cold brew coffee still contains caffeine and hence will boost metabolism, though this effect varies significantly from individual to individual.” 

Is cold brew coffee better for your stomach than hot brew coffee since it is less acidic? 

Dr. Morris: “Those people who encounter difficulties with the levels of acidity present in hot brew coffee may well prefer the taste of cold brew. However, there is no reason to think that hot brew coffee is bad for the stomach per se: apples, apricots, bananas, blueberries, cream cheese, grapefruit, and even ketchup are all significantly more acidic than black coffee. According to a recent study, 93 percent of commercial beverages available in US supermarkets have a pH below 4, the danger level for dental erosion – by comparison black coffee has a pH of around 5.” 

Does cold brew coffee have more or less caffeine? 

Dr. Morris: “Given caffeine is one of the compounds whose solubility is heavily dependent on the temperature you might have thought there would be less caffeine in cold brew coffee. However, as many coffee shops and producers brew their cold brew as a concentrate, the reverse is often the case. This concentrate is then diluted with water prior to serving so depending on the ratios used, the final product in the cup might have more or less caffeine than its hot-brewed equivalent. To give a practical example, Starbucks states that its Grande Dark Roast Brewed Coffee contains 260 milligrams of caffeine, while the Grande Cold Brew contains 200 grams.” 

Cold brew and hot brew coffee are similar in nutrition, you may notice more people ordering a cold brew than a regular iced coffee at your local coffee shop. As the market and recipes for cold brew coffee increase, so does the popularity to brew your own, at home, in the refrigerator. To learn more about coffee variation and its health benefits visit our other blog.