Cold Brew and Caffeine 101

Caffeine Cold Brew Primer

Hot brew coffee and cold brew coffee come from the same basic process. Coffee. Water. Mix. Enjoy. 

Shouldn’t that mean hot and cold brews have the same caffeine content? The truth is a little more complicated. Here’s what you’ll need to know about the caffeine content of cold brew coffee—and what it means for your next sip.


Cold brew caffeine content comes down to a few simple facts:

  • Hot water extracts more of the caffeine from the beans, which means not all brewed coffee is made alike—even with the same ingredients.

  • Cold brew coffee tends to be sold in a concentrated form. Less water and more coffee grounds tilt the caffeine scales back to cold brew.

  • Cold brew coffee is great for customizing at home. People might add more cream and milk, for example. When they do, it “cuts” the caffeine content down to size.

Which actually has more caffeine: cold brew or hot brew coffee? The only honest answer is that it depends. Cold brew will have more caffeine because it’s more concentrated. But what you do after that is up to you.


The typical ratio of water to coffee in hot brew coffee is 16:1. Hot water has the benefit of extracting more out of the beans, which explains why you can use so much water. Without it, hot brew can be too strong. Cold brew coffee typically uses about half of that ratio: 8:1. 

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always make the caffeine content predictable. Here are some cold brew caffeine facts to keep in mind:

  • Caffeine content will vary. If you’re looking for a solid answer as to the average caffeine content of a cup of cold brew, there’s a reason you’re having a hard time. It varies too much. As the New York Times said, “Caffeine content among cold brews is considerably harder to predict than the amount of acid.”
  • Caffeine content in prepackaged cold brew is more difficult to predict. Which cold brew has the most caffeine? As the NYT notes, some cold brew coffee at places like Starbucks may have even less than hot coffee. In prepackaged cold brews at home, caffeine content can be more difficult to predict. Once again, it comes down to water content.

A glass of our Cold Brew on Tap will give you the approximate caffeine content of two espresso shots. That’s if you use the same amount of water. 

Our advice? Find what works for you. If you add in milk or cream to give yourself a cold brew latte, you can decrease the caffeine per sip until you find the right mix for your morning coffee.

W. Bear