Cold Brew vs. Espresso: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better?
cold brew vs espresso

There are many different kinds of coffee on the market. Cold brew vs. espresso is a hot debate between caffeine aficionados. In this simple guide, we elaborate on the differences between each drink, which one to choose according to the situation, and answer the ultimate question: which is healthier?

Cold Brew vs. Espresso: Is There a Difference?

Besides the fact that both are types of coffee, there aren’t many similarities between cold brew and espresso. To compare the two, we’ve detailed each of their differences below. These details have been narrowed down to six main factors: temperature of the water, brewing time, grind size, amount of caffeine, method of serving, and the taste and flavor profile.

Temperature of Water

Cold brew coffee requires the coffee beans to be steeped in cold water while an espresso is made with water heated to 195° Fahrenheit. 

The temperature of water is an important consideration for coffee since it determines how strong or light the taste will be and affects the extraction.

Espresso is made very quickly. Hot water extracts the flavor notes and nutrients from the coffee beans within seconds. 

On the other hand, it takes time for cold water to dissolve the flavors from the beans to the cup, which is why cold brew coffee cannot be made within minutes.

Brewing Time

The time it takes to brew is one of the main differences between espresso and cold brew. Espresso can be made in less than a minute while cold brew is made in a day. 

The brewing time can vary for everyone, depending on the type of extraction you employ. The hot water for espresso speeds up the process while the extraction method determines how intense the flavor is. 

The same goes for cold brew coffee. The cold water melds well with the compounds of the coffee beans, and the extraction method determines how caffeinated the drink is.

Size of Coffee Grinds

Coffee Grind for Brewing

The grind size of coffee beans is an important indicator of how strong the coffee is and how long it’s going to brew. 

Cold brew coffee is made with coarse ground coffee beans while espresso is made with fine ground coffee beans.

The hot water for an espresso quickly extracts the flavors and nutrients from the fine coffee grinds and creates an intense shot of caffeine. Espresso is made in a high-pressure machine, so using a coarse grind size can clog up the parts. 

The coarse ground coffee beans for cold brew coffee are slowly broken down to release the flavors, which are extracted by cold water and mixed to form a uniform solution that is refreshing and smooth.

Amount of Caffeine

Because espresso is a concentrated shot of caffeine, it has more caffeine than cold brew extract.

Cold brew extract actually has a lot more caffeine because the coarse ground coffee beans are steeped in water for a longer period of time, which releases every bit of caffeine out of them and results in the extract.

Espresso, comparatively, is made with finely ground coffee beans that are usually dark roasted. Due to the high amount of processing, the caffeine content is reduced, but it’s still enough to give you a jolt of energy. 

Taste and Flavor Profile

Cold brew and espresso differ widely in taste and flavor profile, mainly because of the brewing time. 

Cold brew coffee is rich with flavor, smoother in texture, and has a luxurious taste. Espresso is more bitter, intense, and acidic. 

Cold brew coffee is a great starting point for people who are interested in coffee but have avoided it because of its flavor. It’s also a great alternative to drinking tea in the summer.

Method of Serving

The serving method is also a great indicator of how well the coffee has been brewed. 

Cold brew coffee is served over ice. The added water balances the acidity of the coffee extract and makes for a refreshing beverage. Some people also choose to add milk and sugar. The brewed extract is highly concentrated, so it should always be watered down.

Espresso is either sipped on its own or you can add frothed milk or half-and-half to make lattes, macchiatos, and cappuccinos. It’s also used widely in desserts like tiramisu because it’s easy to make and concentrated with caffeine.

Cold Brew vs. Espresso: Which Is Better?

Cold Brew vs. Espresso: Which Is Better?

Now that you know the differences between cold brew and espresso, the ultimate question is which of the two is better suited for you. Well, it all comes down to three main deciding factors. Here’s what to consider when picking out your coffee for the day.


If you live in a hotter climate, a cold brew coffee is the perfect pick to refresh your mind and pick up your spirits on a rough day. It does not induce sweating and has a smooth flavor. Espresso, on the other hand, is a great choice for fall and winter. The intense flavor warms up the body and comforts the heart.


While cold brew is highly caffeinated, it is also brewed for a long time, which allows the flavors to meld and results in a refreshing but light drink. Comparatively, a shot of espresso is quite intense and perfect for high-pressure days where you need the extra boost of energy to power through.


Cold brew coffee is a labor of time. It requires the coffee beans to brew for a day or at least 12 hours. You could prepare it the night before and enjoy the drink in the morning. But, if you’re short on time, a shot of espresso would suffice. You can make a shot of espresso within minutes, and it’s more intense than cold brew.

Cold Brew vs. Espresso: Which Is Healthier?

The debate between cold brew and espresso isn’t complete without answering the question of which drink is healthier. The short answer is: cold brew coffee. 

Drinking cold brew coffee not only reduces risk of heart disease, it also lowers the blood pressure and refreshes the mind. 

Also, since it doesn’t have any calories or sugars added, cold brew coffee is great for weight loss. This drink is also full of antioxidants that reduce inflammation, and its low-acidity level decreases gut irritation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is cold brew stronger than espresso?

Yes, cold brew is stronger than espresso. This is because it essentially requires double the amount of coffee beans to steep for twice the time to make the brew. Espresso, on the other hand, requires a small amount of coffee beans, and you can pull a shot within minutes. So, the flavor profile is more intense.

How much cold brew equals a shot of espresso?

Usually, a 50ml cold brew coffee has the same amount of caffeine as a 30ml shot of espresso. But this differs from brand to brand, so if you’re on a tight calorie limit or would like a colder alternative to a shot of espresso, make sure to consult with the barista before you get your caffeine boost.

What type of coffee has the most caffeine?

To measure the caffeine content of a drink, a fluid ounce of the coffee is taken. This ensures consistency. So, with that in mind, espresso has the most caffeine content per fluid ounce. This is mainly because the shot is concentrated with the coffee bean extract. 

Is cold brew fattening?

By itself, cold brew is actually a zero-calorie drink and isn’t fattening. In fact, it is considered healthy for the gut and heart. When mixed with milk and cream, the cold brew may cause slight bloating, but it’s still less likely to cause weight gain – especially if you have a good exercise regimen. 

Is it okay to drink espresso every day?

Yes, it is okay to drink espresso every day if it’s consumed in moderation. The shot of energy can help individuals work out better and give them a boost to perform harder, which can ultimately minimize stressors and can benefit their health in the long run.

What happens if you drink cold coffee every day?

Drinking cold coffee everyday can cause increased weight gain and risk the onset of heart disease. This is because most coffees are loaded with sugars, so consuming it in excess can lead to health risks. It’s important to eat and drink all foods in moderation.

Final Thoughts

Coffee is incredibly personal to everyone, so choosing between cold brew vs. espresso also comes down to your specific preferences for flavor and the amount of effort you want to put in. Now that you know the differences and health benefits of each coffee, you can easily make a cup on your own and experiment with your taste palate. 

Related Posts

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

Get notified about new articles