Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Espresso?

Is cold brew stronger than espresso? This article covers which drink has the most caffeine in it and which one tastes stronger.

Is cold brew stronger than espresso?
Caffeine content determines how strong coffee is

There are many contradictory claims about which is stronger, cold brew or espresso. When people talk about how “strong” coffee is, they usually refer to the caffeine content and not how strong it tastes.

From that perspective, cold brew is stronger – but we’ll take a closer look and explain why you can expect more caffeine in cold brew and which kind of coffee tastes stronger.

Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Espresso: The Caffeine Content In Cold Brew

cold brew coffee
Cold brewing does not extract much caffeine

At a glance, you might not think that cold brew has more caffeine. After all, the brewing method does not extract as much caffeine from the coffee beans as hot coffee does.

The difference is that cold brew has a higher bean to water ratio. A cup of coffee usually has a ratio of one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water.  Cold brew is usually 1-part coffee to 4-parts water, up to around 1-part coffee to 2-parts water. 

Even though cold brew concentrate is usually dilated with water, cream, or milk, it’s still a lot of caffeine. It also helps that cold brew is brewed over a few hours and often overnight, while hot coffee is brewed instantly. If cold-brew were a quicker process, it would probably have less caffeine.

You might also be interested in these hard cold brew recipes.

The Caffeine Content In Espresso

espresso coffee with espresso beans
Espresso has more caffeine than cold brew

When looking at how strong coffee is based on volume alone, espresso technically has more caffeine. An expresso shot of 1.5 ounces has 77 mg of caffeine, while a 16-ounce cold brew drink contains around 200 mg of caffeine. So if we look at these as one serving, i.e., you either down the espresso or drink a cold brew, you’re going to get more caffeine from the cold brew. 

The exact caffeine content also depends on the beans you’re using, so these figures do not apply to every espresso shot and cold brew. Even if the roast is the same, some brands just have more caffeine in their coffee. If you’re interested in learning about coffee beans and how coffee is harvested, we have you covered.

Espresso has less caffeine than a typical coffee. This is one of the reasons why espresso-based drinks like cappuccinos or flat whites tend to use two shots (but lattes only generally use one). For comparison, a 16 ounce serving of instant coffee contains 114 mg of caffeine while an Americano of the same size has 205 oz – but Americanos typically use double shots.

Which Drink Tastes Stronger?

How strong coffee tastes largely depends on the brewing method and the beans. A light roast will taste less bitter than a dark roast. That said, generally, espresso and cold brew are made from darker roasts.

When it comes to taste, espresso tastes heavier, and you might notice some more bitterness. This is because of how concentrated an espresso is. Espresso is usually diluted in other drinks like Americanos or lattes.

Another reason why cold brew doesn’t taste as strong is because of the brewing method. Hot coffee is brewed almost instantly, while the cold brewing process occurs slowly over a few hours.

You might think that the extended period would extract more bitterness, but that’s not the case! Instead, Cold-brew has a lighter, milder taste. We covered how to make cold brew coffee in an earlier post.