Cold Brew vs Espresso – A Peer-to-Peer Comparison

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Poulami Ganguly

Cold Brew vs Espresso

Is cold brew stronger than espresso? Does espresso have more caffeine than a cold brew? Which one is less acidic – espresso or cold brew? To find the right answers to all your answered questions regarding these two popular coffee brewing methods, check out this precise cold brew vs espresso comparison!

Coffee, the magically nuanced conduit for the legal and most popular ‘drug’ in the world – caffeine started its journey in the 15th Century. This never-ending voyage began in Ethiopia, and now, coffee favoritism exists in almost every corner of the planet.     

A lot of aficionados consider coffee the most appropriate alternative to alcohol, which is continuing to increase the ‘coffeehouse culture,’ which is known for stimulating intellectual conversations and the exchange of innovative ideas. The rich and highly admired history of coffee has always remained a favorite topic for authors across the globe, and Tom Standage’s “A History of the World in Six Glasses” is one of the finest examples of the stated fact. 

In the community of global coffee-buffs, ‘espresso’ and ‘cold brew’ are pretty popular names. While espresso is for its strength, cold brew rules the kingdom of freshness. In today’s post, we will help you identify the primary areas that differentiate espresso from cold brews. Read on! 

Cold Brew vs Espresso – The Definition 

When it comes to defining cold brew, you can say that it’s the method of brewing that involves a long steeping process – around 12-24 hours. The coffee beans are soaked in room temperature water for more than twenty hours to prepare cold brew coffee. It is said that cold brewing takes the maximum amount of time to make the coffee concoction. 

You need to ground the coffee beans before soaking them to make a cup of delicious cold brew. This method allows you to extract the bitterness of the coffee and lets you enjoy a highly caffeinated drink with fantastic nuance. 

On the other hand, you can define espresso as a coffee brewing method that carries an Italian origin. When a small amount of nearly boiling water is forced under 9-15 bars of pressure through finely-ground coffee beans, the process is termed pulling an espresso shot. This concentrated form of coffee has less caffeine, and it acts as the base of various delectable coffee beverages, including mocha, latte, macchiato, and more. 

Cold Brew Vs Espresso – Caffeine Content

The integral difference between cold brew and espresso lies in their caffeine level. However, you may come up with a question – how do different methods produce different caffeine levels when the ingredients are the same. Well, here’s your answer! 

Both cold brew and espresso have higher caffeine levels. However, when it comes to comparing the caffeine levels of these two specific coffee beverages, espresso wins hands down. The reason behind this is its high brewing pressure and higher coffee-to-water ratio. One ounce of espresso can have 64-75mg of caffeine.

Contrarily, cold brew is left to brew for more than 20 hours. The increased brewing time raises the caffeine content, contributing to its higher level of caffeine. However, it doesn’t require a higher brewing pressure, leaving it with lesser caffeine levels than espresso. Being an entirely different beast, on average, a 16-ounce cold brew contains approximately 200 to 260 milligrams of caffeine.

Cold brew vs Espresso – Primary Differences

Area of differenceEspressoCold Brew
Caffeine levels Higher than cold brews, approximately 60-75 mg in one ounce12.5-26 mg in one ounce
Water temperatureHot or lukewarm while servingTypically cold while serving
ConsistencyThicker, heavier, not at all wateryLight, smooth, and watery
Tasting notesIntense, creamy, earthy, caramel, chocolate, bittersweet Intensely dark, cocoa, and earthy
OriginItalyKyoto, Japan
AcidityHigh acidityLess acidity
HealthfulnessPacks magnesium, antioxidants, and high calorie. Helps in increasing focus. Easy to digest, helps boost metabolism, mood enhancer
Brewing time2 minutes12-24 hours
Grind sizeMedium to fine Coarse to medium
Coffee to water ratioHighLow

In a graphical view, here are differences you can spot easily –

Cold Brew vs Espresso

Differentiating Factors of Cold Brew and Espresso in Detail

From the given chart, you must have developed a nearly clear idea of how cold brew and espresso differ. To provide you with a more detailed input, we have thoroughly jotted down the details of the primary differentiation factors below. Take a look!

Caffeine Levels

In a single ounce of espresso, caffeine is around 64-75mg whereas, in cold brew, it’s 12.5-26mg. In an ounce, it seems like espresso has much greater caffeine, but when we take a look at the drinking pattern, espresso is generally consumed as 1-2 shots in a single drink whereas, a cold brew is mostly served from 16oz to 32oz size resulting in higher caffeine levels than the espresso.

Water Temperature

As the method of brewing espresso requires a pressurized force of hot water through ground beans, the temperature of the brew is inevitably hot or warm. However, it’s worth remembering that sometimes espresso may be used as the base of some iced coffee. On the other hand, cold brew coffee is usually cold. 


Espresso is known for its concentrated, thick, and creamy consistency. It’s not at all watery, which results in a robust and rich taste. Its nice crema holds the ability to render you a silk-like mouthfeel. On the other hand, cold brew, being soaked over such a long time, picks up a watery consistency.

Tasting Notes 

A shot of espresso is necessarily earthy, nutty, and chocolaty, and the overtones of caramel add more to its out-of-the-ordinary delectability. Now talking about cold brews, they are typically earthy and feature a cocoa-like flavor. 


The first known mention of cold brew was found in some Japanese books of the 17th century. Therefore, it is believed that cold brews originated from Japan. In Japan, cold brew is known as Kyoto, which points to the possibility that the first-ever cold brew was prepared in the town of Kyoto. 


Espressos are highly acidic. Due to this reason, if you are someone who experiences digestion issues frequently, you should avoid drinking espressos repeatedly. On the other hand, cold brew is less acidic, ensuring that it’s soft on your digestive system. So overall, when we talk about cold brew vs espresso acidity, cold brew concludes as less acidic.


Both espresso and cold brews are good scorers when it comes to health benefits. While espresso helps enhance focus, produce energy, and supply the body with magnesium and antioxidants, cold brew is easier on your stomach, and it’s a fantastic metabolism booster and mood enhancer. 

Brewing Time

Espresso is quick; it takes 2 minutes to be pulled. On the other hand, cold brew is the most time-consuming process of brewing coffee, and it takes around 12-24 hours to prepare a cup using the cold brew method.

Grind Size

Espresso requires medium to fine grind, while cold brews need coarse to medium grind. Thus, to pull shots of world-class espresso, make sure that you have medium to finely grind coffee beans handy. Likewise, for cold brews, grind your coffee beans in coarse to medium size before soaking them in water.

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Wrapping Up

Be it an ice cube-loaded, thirst-quenching cold brew or a delectable and robust espresso, the drink’s taste always depends on the quality of the coffee beans and the perfection of the brewing and roasting methods. Besides, serving plays a significant role as well. 

So, now that you know the differences between espresso and cold brew go ahead and fill your bag with some quality knowledge of the brewing methods, the roasting levels, and the serving methodologies. 

For example, if you let your espresso be cooled down (not talking about the specialty iced drinks), you will regret your decisions as cold espresso tends to be bitter and tasteless unless you make a ristretto or ‘specialty’ kind of drink with it. On the other hand, the art of adding sweetness to your cup of cold brew is also something that requires special attention. 

Thus, before moving forward to flaunt your barista skills, consider learning the real coffee things adequately – I’m sure this will help you enjoy the coffee brewing experience to the fullest. Hope this helps! 

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