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Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Regular Coffee? The Sneaky Truth

cold brew over ice up close from above, is cold brew stronger than regular coffee

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We love the roasty deliciousness of coffee as much as anyone, but let’s be honest: without the caffeine, many of us would have almost no discernable personality.

But determining just exactly how much caffeine you’re getting in your morning beverage can be confusing.

Cold brew is our drink of choice because it’s known as the most highly caffeinated iced coffee beverage out there, but is cold brew stronger than regular coffee? Is there really more caffeine in a cold brew than a regular cup of hot coffee or even an iced coffee?

Before we get to that, let’s take a closer look at cold brew and how it differs from other caffeinated beverages.

What’s Cold Brew?

Cold brew is a deliciously refreshing iced coffee beverage you can buy at your local grocery store, grab at almost any coffee shop, or even easily make at home. What makes cold brew different from other cold coffee drinks lies mainly in the brewing process.

The term “cold brew” refers to the brewing method, not the serving temperature. Cold brew steeps slowly (12+ hours slow) at room temperature, whereas regular coffee is brewed hot in minutes.

No special equipment is needed to make cold brew. In fact, our favorite method for making cold brew is the French press. Cold brew coffee is extraordinarily smooth and less acidic than traditional iced coffee.

But is cold brew stronger than regular coffee?

hands pouring milk into mason jar of cold brew sitting beside jug of cold brew on wooden table

Caffeine In Cold Brew Coffee

As with all coffee beverages, the amount of caffeine in cold brew coffee varies greatly. The average 16-oz cold brew has about 200 mg of caffeine. If you’re at Starbucks, this would be a Grande-size cold brew containing 205 mg of caffeine.

In contrast, the same-size cold brew from Dunkin’ Donuts has 260 mg of caffeine, while others from similar retailers contain up to 330 mg.

So, how much caffeine is safe to consume in a day? According to the FDA, up to 400 mg of caffeine is perfectly fine to consume daily. That is the equivalent of about 4-5 cups of regular coffee.

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Is Cold Brew Stronger Than Regular Coffee?

It is challenging to make a direct comparison between the caffeine in cold brew coffee and regular coffee because the beverages aren’t exactly the same.

The main difference between cold brew and regular coffee, other than the brewing method, is the coffee-to-water ratio. The ratio for cold brew is about 1:5, compared to regular coffee, which is about 1:16 for your standard drip coffee maker.

If the coffee-to-water ratios were equal, regular coffee would actually have more caffeine than cold brew because caffeine’s solubility is highly dependent on temperature. Hot water will increase the amount of caffeine dissolved.

However, because cold-brewing coffee requires more coffee for the brewing process, there will naturally be more caffeine in cold brew coffee.

white mug of black coffee taken from above close up

Cold Brew Concentrate

Okay, so now we understand the coffee-to-water ratio. But why exactly is cold brew stronger than regular coffee?

When you make cold brew coffee at home, the result is not a ready-to-drink iced coffee beverage. After steeping your cold brew for 12+ hours, you have a cold brew concentrate instead.

This coffee concentrate has significantly more caffeine than regular coffee but is meant to be diluted with either water or milk (or both) before consumption.

The great thing about cold brew concentrate is that you can control how much caffeine is in your daily cup when you brew it at home. Adjust your cold brew ratio when diluting it to consume.

If you need an extra kick, use less water. Prefer a low dose? Add a little more milk. Cold brew concentrate is entirely customizable.

When you order a 16-oz cold brew from Starbucks or another coffee shop, it’s already been diluted, resulting in a caffeine content that’s comparable to regular coffee (about 95 mg of caffeine per 8 oz).

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Closing Thoughts

So, is cold brew stronger than regular coffee? In short, it depends on how you consume it.

The higher amount of coffee used to make cold brew indeed results in a more potent brew, but the amount of water or milk used to dilute it will determine the actual amount of caffeine in cold brew coffee. 

Cold brew is touted as the best iced coffee, and we definitely agree. Whether you make it at home, snag it at your local coffee shop, or buy it at the grocery store, it’s a refreshing and delicious caffeine kick every time.

We recommend learning how to make cold brew coffee at home because it is so easy. Check out our fail-proof tips for making cold brew at home and get brewing today!


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Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Can Cold Brew Coffee Last?

When you make cold brew at home, the resulting cold brew concentrate will last up to 2 weeks when stored properly in the refrigerator. A little advanced planning, and you’ve got cold coffee at the ready for weeks! Well worth the effort.

Can Cold Brew Coffee Be Heated?

Technically, yes. But doing so defeats the purpose of the cold brew altogether. If you’re looking for a hot cup of coffee, we recommend using any hot brewing method and making a fresh batch instead. It only takes a few minutes, right? Save the cold brew for days when you’re craving something refreshing.

Why Is Cold Brew Coffee Better?

Obviously, coffee preference is a matter of personal taste, but many will argue that cold brew coffee is better than iced coffee (slowly raises hand). The slow steeping process allows for more of the subtleties of the coffee to be released, resulting in a more complex flavor profile. Not a huge fan of Cold Brew? Try Japanese Iced Coffee instead.


Heather Calatrello

Heather Calatrello owner of ShedLight Coffee Roasters