Cold Brew Vs Espresso A Guide For Coffee Lovers!

Cold Brew Vs Espresso A Guide For Coffee Lovers!

Last updated on May 28th, 2024 at 10:32

Coffee enthusiasts and bona fide coffee lovers are often debating Cold Brew Vs Espresso which is best. As a legitimate coffee lover and one who does love both a fabulous cold brew coffee and an excellent well brewed and expertly made espresso, I aim to give the cold truth, the hard facts as they are in a completely independent manner.

Sure, there is room for my opinion, but only where and when appropriate. It is not my intention to influence you in either direction – we all like different drinks for different reasons and at different times of the day – and year in the case of cold brew.


we all enjoy a different coffee based on how we are feeling.

If you are a genuine coffee lover and love trying great coffee from a high-end coffee shop you will have noticed the delicious coffee craze that hits them every summer – cold brew coffee.

Cold brew is a bold, strong, robust and punchy drink that gives a serious challenge to not only iced coffee but to espresso too.

The question remains, how does it weigh up against the champion of all coffees – espresso?

This guide and detailed comparison is for every coffee enthusiast, lover, aficionado and coffee connoisseur.

Keep reading as we dig down on the very topic of Cold Brew vs Espresso

What Is A Cold Brew

A cold brew coffee is the method of brewing coffee grinds with cold, or better still, ice-cold water using one of two techniques.

The first technique is full immersion of the coarsely ground coffee beans in cold water. The other is by suspending them in water using a special cold brewer. The coffee is suspended in the middle of the jar as the flavors and nutrients are extracted from the coffee beans. Both result in a great tasting coffee. The suspension method usually involves lower extraction times.

It is best to use water as cold as possible when brewing. I love making my cold brew with water that is ice-cold in order to extract the low temperature flavor compounds and keep it in the fridge while it is brewing.

Extraction times can be 16 to 24 hours.

A third way is Kyoto cold brew, also known as Japanese Flash Cold Brew. Cold-brewed coffee with this technique uses hot water that is poured over coffee grounds in a slow but even manner. The brewed coffee is then immediately dripped over ice and thus “flash” cold brew. This technique produces a different taste that locks in the flavors.

This method produces a very powerful taste, especially when you double brew and use your ice-cold coffee for the second brewing cycle using fresh coffee grounds – and thus you have both the high and low temperature compounds in your coffee.

What Is A Cold Brew
A Cold Brew coffee with milk.

Read: Can you use espresso beans in a coffee maker?

What Is An Espresso?

An espresso is a strong, robust and sharp shot of coffee that is brewed with dark roasted coffee beans that are ground to a very fine powder of 200 microns and brewed at a water pressure of 9 bars (130 PSI) of pressure.

It is the combination of fresh darkly roasted beans brewed under pressure that produces the thick, rich crema on top. An espresso is usually served in a demitasse cup. Without it, the crema would not remain there.

What Is An Espresso
An espresso

Read: French press Vs Espresso

Cold Brew Vs Espresso Taste Test

The process of brewing both cold brew coffee and an espresso are both very easy. The finely ground coffee beans that are tamped and packed tightly, but not too tightly to form what is known as a coffee puck, is where the flavor is produced. The hot water at a 130 PSI (9 Bars) of pressure and a coffee to water ratio of 1:2 is most commonly used, that is 1 part coffee and 2 parts water.

All of this combined produces a thick coffee with a slightly bitter taste. The taste of espresso is described as full-bodied and slightly bitter.

It is the short brew time of 25 to 30 seconds that prevents the coffee from being too bitter.

A cold brew is much more time-consuming when it comes to brewing as the extraction process is slower both due to the cold temperature and the large coarse grind size.

The taste is smoother and with a notable reduction in acidity. It is also slightly sweeter.

Cold Brew Vs Espresso Acidity

A cold brew coffee is less acidic and had more dark flavors than a shot of espresso. With both make amazing coffee and a cup of coffee you will enjoy the flavor of a cold brew, when you measure it against an espresso, it will be less acidic.

Cold Brew vs. Espresso: Brew Time

The brewing time category champion between these two is clearly a shot of espresso. While it will take you all together about 2 minutes to brew a strong shot of espresso from start to finish, the actual brew time is around 25 to 30 seconds.

Cold brew coffee even when you use suspended cold brew coffee makers and fresh coffee beans the extraction time will literally take you all day.

The brew time is typically 12 hours to 16 hours at the quickest and up to a full 24 hours even. The long brewing time is due to the low temperature and large grind size. Notably, a shorter brewing time is produced by the suspended cold brew technique when compared to full immersion cold brew.

The large difference in brewing time makes espresso the clear winner here since you are unlikely to enjoy a freshly cold-brewed coffee the same day that you make it.

Due to a well-made good tasting cold brew coffee taking so long, a lot of coffee shop owners tend not to have or have only a limited quantity. A lot of the smaller coffee shop owners will use a cold brew concentrate, which is also freshly brewed, where all they need to add water to serve it. The advantage for the coffee shop is that it stays fresh for longer.

Cold Brew vs Espresso Brew Time
Cold Brew Takes Forever To Make!

Is Cold Brew Or Espresso Stronger?

Cold brew coffee is not the stronger tasting coffee, but the total caffeine content is higher and has a greater and longer lasting caffeine buzz.

In terms of taste, an espresso has a stronger, bolder and deeper coffee taste.

Cold Brew Vs Espresso Caffeine Content

One of the greatest lies or misconceptions about coffee and espresso is that a shop of the most famous shot of black coffee is that it has a higher caffeine content.

It doesn’t.

Typically, the average amount of caffeine in a shot of espresso is 75 milligrams per shot. That is a lot less than many other coffee drinks.

A good 16 ounce (480ml) cup of cold brew coffee has 200 mg of caffeine.

This is due to a lot of coffee beans being used in the brewing process – typically a coffee to water ratio of between 1:8 and 1:12 is used in cold-brew coffee.

To be entirely fair, and for a matter of accuracy, facts and being impartial. An espresso shot has more caffeine per ounce (or per ml).

If you were to make a 16 ounce coffee exclusively with shots of espresso, you would have nerve jittering 1,200 mg of caffeine which is enough to have toxic effects and is 3 times the daily limit of 400 milligrams.

Health Benefits

Cold brew coffee is said to contain more polyphenols and all the health benefits of a shot of espresso such as a reduced risk of diabetes and heart attack. It is said that you have a reduced probability of dementia and Parkinson’s disease and is easier on your digestive system.

An espresso is particularly high in antioxidants which are said to be beneficial for your immune health and also said to be great for your focus and concentration.

Personally, I am not saying which is the better in terms of health benefits, as I am not a doctor nor am I qualified to say so. I certainly have no intention of misleading my dear readers.  This is the information that I was able to extract from well respected health websites like Healthline and WebMD.

There are a number of studies published by the NIH and Pubmed that indicate that coffee does have and may very well have positive benefits for your health. Do consult with your family doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cold Brew Vs Espresso

Is Espresso The Same As Cold Brew?


both are very different coffee drinks that are in many ways at the opposite ends of the coffee scale. A great example of this is the grind size. An espresso requires a very fine powder-like grind whereas a cold brew requires a very coarse grind size.

Also, the coffee to water ratio is highly concentrated for an espresso at a 1:2 ratio and 1:8 to 1:12 for cold brew. And the brewing time is 25 seconds vs all night! 12 hours at least.

The resulting coffee drinks are very different.

Is Cold Brew Healthier Than Espresso?

The studies and articles I have read indicate that coffee is indeed healthy. A lot of which were studies relating to caffeine. There are studies directly relating to espresso, but very few about cold brew coffee.

I can only say that coffee in general appears to be a drink with some positive health benefits. As above, I am not a medic nor do I claim to be. If you have health concerns or specific questions, seek an answer from your family doctor or qualified health professional.

How Much Cold Brew Is Too Much?

Cold brew is a fantastic coffee. It is light, it is refreshing and tastes great. Like any coffee or drink with caffeine, it is best that you stay within the guideline of a maximum of 400 mg per day.

Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Espresso?

In terms of caffeine content, a cold brew coffee has more caffeine than a shot of espresso. This is due to the long period of time that it takes to brew, and gives the beverage a good extraction of the caffeine.

The table below show the caffeine content for the two beverages.

Coffee Drink Cold Brew Coffee Caffeine Espresso Caffeine
Short 8 Oz (240 ml). 155 mg. 75 mg. (single shot)
Tall 12 Oz (360 ml). 205 mg. 150 mg (double shot)
Grande 16 Oz (480 ml). 310 mg. N/A
Venti 20 Oz (600 ml). 360 mg. N/A

In terms of flavor and taste, unquestionably an espresso has a much stronger, bolder and more intense flavor.

Does Espresso Have More Caffeine Than Cold Brew?

No, an espresso has notably less caffeine than a cold-brewed coffee. A single shot of espresso has 75 mg of caffeine and a doubleshot has 150 mg of caffeine. While a short 8 Oz (240 ml) and Tall 12 Oz (360 ml) cold brew coffee has 155 mg and 205 mg respectively.

Is Cold Brew The Strongest Coffee?

No, while cold brew coffee is high in caffeine, there are other coffee beverages that are more caffeinated a fine example of this is the amount of caffeine that you will find in Starbucks clover brewed coffee beverages.

Is Cold Brew Just Espresso?

No, cold brew and espresso are two different coffee drinks, each with their own brewing method.


There is a cold espresso which is made with a pump based or lever based espresso machine and brewed with cold water.

Is Espresso Or Cold Brew Easier On Stomach?

A cold brew coffee is easier on your stomach as it is a well-rounded and balanced coffee with a 60% less acid than other brewing techniques.

Frappé-Ing It All Up – Cold Brew Vs Espresso

Cold Brew Vs Espresso – did we missing anything out? Do you have any questions about Cold Brew Vs Espresso that we did not cover?

We will be delighted to answer the question for you!

I am sitting firmly on the fence here as I love both. There is not a more refreshing summer coffee than a well-brewed cold brew coffee with cold brew coffee ice cubes (to prevent your coffee from becoming watery). It is even better than an iced coffee.

But, on a cold winter day I love a good double shot of espresso or a lungo. In all, it will depend on you, your situation and which you want to drink and when.

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Derek Marshall, a certified barista by the Specialty Coffee Association possesses over two decades of experience in specialty coffee shops. He holds professional certifications for coffee brewing and barista skills. Derek is also an author with authoritative books covering various coffee topics including specialty coffee, sustainability and coffee, coffee brewing, coffee recipes, coffee cocktails and books focusing on Brazilian coffee, Vietnamese coffee, Indonesian coffee and Malaysian coffee. As a barista for over two decades, Derek Marshall has worked in specialty coffee shops across the United Kingdom, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. His expertise extends to the distinct coffee cultures, specialty beverages, and brewing techniques of each nation. Functioning as a coffee consultant, Derek charges US$50 per hour. To learn more about Derek Marshall and Latte Love Brew, visit his About Me Page. For coffee inquiries, contact him at +34-639-410-375 or, mentioning your name and location

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