“Cold brew coffee keeps coffee beans cool from start to finish. This is different from regular hot coffee and even iced coffee where both types start out hot,” says Kimberley Rose-Francis, RDN. Repeat: It is not the same as iced coffee. Read on for the full breakdown of cold brew benefits, plus our five favorite brands for every type of caffeine-seeker.
What are the benefits of cold brew?
“It is said that cold brew has a lower acidity level than regular hot coffee and iced coffee. Lower acidity levels may be beneficial for someone who suffers from gastrointestinal symptoms and does not want their beloved brew to cause stomach irritation,” says Rose-Francis. Cold brew is also rich in nutrients like B5, potassium, and magnesium, as well as antioxidants (though it should be noted that hot coffee does contain more antioxidants than cold brew).
For many, it tastes better, too. Brewing hot coffee extracts quinic acid, which can give the coffee a slightly bitter flavor as it cools. Cold brew, on the other hand, tends to have a smooth, strong, and chocolatey taste. And because of the long extraction time required to make cold brew coffee, it tends to contain more caffeine than iced coffee as well. This is why you see many cold brew brands refer to their bevs as ‘concentrate’—they’re meant to be stirred with ice or milk to mellow their potency. (And because many people tend to pour their hot coffee over ice to make iced coffee, the fact that cold brew is stronger is doubly true—it’s not watered down.)
What’s the best cold brew to buy?
Best Nitro: Rise Brewing Co. Original Black Nitro Cold Brew Coffee
Best No-Jitters: Taika Macadamia Latte
Taika The Sampler Box (12 Pack) — $36.00
If you feel like you’re drinking too much caffeine because it’s making you feel jittery but you still need it to function, these cute little cans are going to be your new best friends. The coffee is blended with ingredients that promote focus and calm, like theanine and ashwagandha, so you get your energy fix without all the anxiety. They’re also lightly sweetened with allulose, a sugar found in dates and figs, and monk fruit. This sampler box comes with their three flavors: oat milk latte, macadamia latte, and black coffee.
Best Custom Caffeine Level: Explorer Starter Pack
Explorer Starter Pack (4 Pack) — $20.00
This is basically the choose your own adventure of cold brew coffees. The set comes with four two-ounce bottles; each bottle is a different caffeine level (no-caf, low-caf, reg-caf, extra-caf) so you can feel out how your body reacts to each one. Then, once you’ve found your fit, you can purchase a big bottle of your fave.
Best Flavor Intensity: La Colombe Single-Origin Cold Brew
La Colombe Single-Origin Cold Brew (12 Pack) — $36.00
This double-filtered cold brew is made from coffee steeped in steel wine tanks, so it tastes incredibly smooth and strong. It contains chicory root fiber, which helps deepen the coffee flavor and adds a touch of sweetness without adding sugar. Each can contains the caffeine equivalent of 2.25 cups of coffee.
Best Ready-to-Drink: Wandering Bear Extra-Strong Cold Brew Coffee on Tap
Where did the method originate?
In Japan, they have been cold brewing tea for centuries. Dutch traders arrived in Japan in the 1600s, and they brought with them coffee concentrate. They would add hot water to this concentrate in order to create hot coffee. The Japanese then began using the cold brew method for coffee as well.
How is cold brew made?
It is made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for 8-24 hours, then straining. Again, this is different than iced coffee because iced coffee is just hot coffee poured over ice. Cold brew is also incredibly simple to make at home, Karcher said previously. Karcher recommends the Toddy Cold Brew Coffee Maker System ($42), which comes with all the brewing accessories that you need. Add ground cold brew-blend coffee and water. Let it steep for 12-24 hours. You can also use a French press; just fill it halfway with coarsely-ground coffee, add cold water, and let everything steep for 12 hours before plunging it down.
The benefits of coffee, explained by a dietitian:
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