In the world of coffee, there are a large number of methods to brew your favorite bean. Cold brew is not a newcomer on the scene, but it’s beginning to gain a lot more attention as more people begin to understand the benefits.

It’s a great thing too because it tastes delicious and can give you a caffeine kick that’s perfect for studying or working.

This article will go over all the differences between cold brew vs. espresso.

After reading through the article, you’ll clearly understand how these drinks differ. You might even end up with a new favorite coffee!

Cold brew vs. espresso, what are the differences?

There are many differences that set cold brew and espresso apart, which I’ll go over in this article. But first, what is the main difference?

The main difference between cold brew and espresso is that cold brew is made by steeping ground coffee for 12 to 24 hours in cold water, while espresso is made with hot water in just 20 to 30 seconds.

A comparison between cold brew and espresso.

More key differences set these coffees apart, have a look below:

Comparison: Cold brew: Espresso:
Brewing time 12 to 24 hours 20 to 30 seconds
Grind size Coarse grind size Fine grind size
Water temperature Cold tap water 90-96 °C
Caffeine content 250mg of caffeine 68mg of caffeine
Flavor notes Smoother and sweeter taste Intense and vibrant flavor
Acidity Low acidity Medium acidity
Serving Served over ice Served as is, also used in various recipes

Now that you have an idea about the key differences between cold brew coffee and espresso coffee, let’s go in-depth about each of them.

How do the brewing times differ?

The brewing times are where these two drinks differ massively. While you can brew an espresso shot in 20 to 30 seconds, you’ll need to steep cold brew coffee for at least 12 hours.

I like to steep my cold brew for 15 hours before straining it. I found that this is the perfect strength for me.

You can save a lot of waiting time by preparing your cold brew batch before going to bed, as you’ll already shave off a big chunk of steeping time while sleeping.

Letting cold brew coffee steep.
Making cold brew in the French press (more info here!)

Then, you can simply strain it, and you can enjoy a nice cold cup of coffee.

However, it’ll never be as fast as pulling a shot of espresso right before heading out the door.

Which grind size is used for cold brew and espresso?

There’s a big difference in coffee grind size between cold brew and espresso coffee:

  • A coarse grind size is used for cold brew because it takes longer to extract flavor from the grounds, and a less-fine grind won’t clog up your filter as easily.
  • You’ll need a fine grind size for espresso because it extracts more quickly due to the high pressure in the espresso machine.

Using the correct coffee grind size is one of the most important things to brewing amazing coffee at home.

Have a look below for a comparison between the two coffee grind sizes:

Grind size comparison for cold brew and espresso coffee.
Cold brew grind on the left. Espresso grind on the right

As you can see, there’s a big difference in grind size when making cold brew or espresso coffee at home.

If you’re using the incorrect grind size, you might end up with under or over-extracted coffee, which isn’t enjoyable. It can leave you with bitter or acidic notes.

Does cold brew have more caffeine than espresso?

Cold brew has more caffeine than espresso. This is because the coffee beans are steeped in cold water for a longer period of time, which allows for more caffeine to be extracted from the beans.

  • An 8-ounce serving of cold brew coffee has 250mg of caffeine
  • A 1-ounce serving of espresso coffee has 68mg of caffeine

The longer you leave cold brew coffee to be steeped, the stronger it gets, and it also increases the caffeine content.

If you want a higher caffeine content in espresso coffee, you can choose to use blonde roasted over dark roasted coffee beans.

Which is stronger, cold brew or espresso?

Cold brew is stronger than espresso. It has a higher caffeine content because the coffee is steeped in cold water for a longer period of time. This results in a less bitter flavor and a smoother texture. And the longer you leave it, the stronger it becomes!

When comparing this to espresso, which uses pressurized steam to force hot water through finely-ground coffee beans at high pressure in a short amount of time, there’s a big difference.

So cold brewing takes longer, but yields much richer flavor and more complex extraction levels than a serving of espresso would produce.

Espresso shot.

Although cold brew has more caffeine than an espresso, it has a more balanced and smoother mouthfeel, whereas an espresso can be quite intense, especially if you’re not used to its flavor.

Acidity in coffee also plays a big part in how we perceive the strength of coffee. Read more on this below:

How acidic is cold brew vs. espresso?

Cold brew has higher acidity than espresso due to its higher concentration of coffee. Espresso is made by forcing pressurized hot water through finely-ground coffee beans in order to produce a thick and concentrated coffee drink with more crema on top.

The acidity in both drinks can change depending on the coffee roast that is used. All coffee beans have a different taste, with some resulting in a more acidic cup of coffee.

Medium roasted and dark roasted coffee beans next to each other.
Medium roast on the left. Dark roast on the right

If you’re not leaving the cold brew coffee to steep for the right amount of time, you could also end up with a weaker and more acidic cold brew batch.

The same is true with espresso coffee. If you’re not using the right grind size or water temperature, the espresso might turn out a bit acidic.

Most often than not, all goes well, and you’ll end up with some great-tasting coffees at home.

Cold brew vs. espresso, which suits you better?

Cold brew coffee is the perfect drink on a hot summer day but can also be a great start to a tough day.

While cold brew is refreshing, sometimes a quick shot of espresso can give you the energy to get those challenging tasks done.

Cold brew vs. espresso comparison.
Cold brew on the left. Espresso on the right

Although these drinks differ significantly in brewing time, grind size, flavor, and so much more, it’s safe to say that both drinks are equally delicious.

If you’re unsure which might suit you better, the following might help you:

  • Go with cold brew coffee if you like a refreshing, smooth, and highly caffeinated drink.
  • Pick the espresso coffee if you want an intense shot of coffee that is prepared in no time!

Related coffee comparison articles

Are you wondering how the cold brew and espresso compare to other coffees?

Great! Check out the articles below for more in-depth coffee comparisons:

And to compare more coffees, visit the coffee comparison hub!

Conclusion

We all have a preference when it comes to coffee, and that’s okay. If you’re wondering which type of coffee is right for your needs, I hope this article has helped you.

I think it’s safe to say that cold brew and espresso coffee are two different beasts.

Which do you prefer? My personal preference is a good old-fashioned cup of hot espresso.

But on the hotter days, a refreshing cold brew coffee is something I enjoy as well.

Have a look below for some more coffee comparisons, so you know which coffees you can order next time around!

More coffee comparisons

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