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Home » Cold Brew vs Hot Brew

Hot Brew vs Cold Brew

Hot brew is any coffee brewed using hot water, which can include drip coffee, French press or pour over coffee. Cold brew, however, is a specific brewing method. To make cold brew you steep coffee grounds in cold water for extended periods of time. The term hot brew is usually only used to differentiate it from cold brew coffee.

The main difference between hot brew and cold brew is the method of preparation. Still, this also creates differences in the chemical structure, particularly when it comes to acidity and antioxidant levels. Hot brew and cold brew have benefits for your health including a reduced risk of diseases and a temporary increase in energy and alertness. 

Cold brew vs hot brew

Differences Between Cold and Hot Brew

The main difference between cold brew and regular coffee is the method of preparation, but this creates differences in the strength, flavor, and antioxidant levels.

The differences between cold brew coffee vs hot brew are:

  • Preparation – Cold brew is prepared by steeping coffee grounds in cold water over an extended period of time, whereas hot brew is prepared by using hot water to extract coffee by drip or immersion over a period of around 2-5 minutes.
  • Ratio – Cold brew is usually prepared as a concentrated coffee, with a ratio of 1:5, whereas hot brew is prepared with a ratio of between 1:10 to 1:17 depending on the brewing method.
  • Flavor – Cold brew is considered to have a smoother, sweeter taste than hot brew, with less bitterness.
  • Acidity – Cold brew is less acidic than hot brew coffee, and is less likely to cause stomach irritation.
  • Caffeine – The caffeine content of cold brew can be much higher, but this is due to the amount of coffee used, and not the preparation method.
  • Antioxidants – Hot brew has higher levels of antioxidants when prepared with dark roast coffee beans.

Which One is More Acidic, Cold Brew or Hot Brew?

Hot brew is more acidic than cold brew because hot water extracts more of the compounds from the beans that cause acidity. Coffee contains a number of acidic compounds, but the one responsible for the unpleasant acidic taste and stomach irritation is quinic acid. Quinic acid is released as part of the brewing process, at temperatures over 140°F. Cold brew is prepared with room temperature water at approximately  68°F and brewed at temperatures under 40°F.

What Are the Flavor Differences Between Cold Brew and Hot Brew?

Cold brew has a smoother, sweeter flavor than hot brew, with less bitterness. The flavor of hot brewed coffee depends on the exact brewing method.

Cold brew brings out more of the chocolatey flavors in beans while muting the bitter and acidic flavors. It has a smooth taste with a natural sweetness that many people find they enjoy without milk or sugar. However, you won’t get the same intensity of flavor or aroma that you do with hot brewed coffee.

The taste of your hot brew coffee varies with each brewing method. For example, French press coffee has a full bodied flavor with a rich mouthfeel. The pour over method of brewing produces a crisp, clean cup of coffee that accentuates delicate flavors. Coffee made with a drip machine has a simple, rounded flavor profile with some earthy notes.

Which One is More Versatile, Cold Brew vs. Hot Brew?

Cold brew coffee is more versatile because it is usually made as concentrated coffee. This means you can drink it as a concentrate for an espresso-style shot, or dilute it with water for different strengths. If you dilute the concentrate with hot water, you can also enjoy it as a hot coffee. However hot brew coffee could be considered more versatile because it can be prepared using various brewing methods, including pour over, French press, AeroPress, or drip coffee machine.

Hot Brew

What Are the Chemical Differences Between Cold and Hot Brew?

The chemical differences between cold and hot brew are found in the acidity and antioxidant levels. When brewed using light roast coffee, both cold brew and hot brew have very similar levels of antioxidants. As the roast of the beans gets darker, the levels of antioxidants in hot brew increase, while the levels of antioxidants in cold brew remain the same. So hot brew prepared with dark roast beans has more antioxidants than cold brew prepared with the same coffee.

The acidity levels in coffee also depend on the roast level of the beans. Light roast beans are the most acidic, and acidity declines as the roast level increases. However, hot brew coffee is more acidic than cold brew across all roast levels. Although cold brew can have a higher caffeine concentration, this is simply because more ground coffee is used. When prepared using the same amount of coffee, cold brew and hot brew have the same caffeine levels. 

Which One is Stronger, Cold Brew or Hot Brew?

Cold brew coffee is generally stronger than hot brew in terms of caffeine, but it depends on the recipe, and how the hot brew is prepared. When you prepare it to a standard recipe using 1 part coffee to 5 parts water, cold brew has a caffeine concentration of 518 mg per 8 oz serving.

The caffeine content of hot brewed coffee will depend on the preparation method. Regular drip coffee contains approximately 175 mg per 8 oz cup, French press coffee approximately 204 mg per 8 oz cup, and Aeropress coffee can contain up to 312 mg per 8 oz cup.

Which One is More Expensive, Cold Brew or Hot Brew?

Cold brew is more expensive than hot brew because making cold brew coffee requires more coffee grounds to make it. Cold brew is generally prepared as a concentrated beverage, at a ratio of 1:5 (one part coffee to five parts water). So to prepare an 8 oz cup of cold brew, you need around 48 g of ground coffee. Compare this to French press coffee prepared at a ratio of 1:12, which only requires 20 g of coffee to make an 8 oz serve. If you buy cold brew in a cafe, cold brew is also priced higher due to the time and electricity required to keep it refrigerated during the steeping process.

For hot brew coffee, however, you will need to take into account the cost of your initial setup. You’ll generally need a specific coffee maker, such as a drip machine, a French press or a pour over. While cold brew coffee makers do exist, cold brew can be easily prepared without any special equipment.

Cold Brew

Which One is Better for Focus, Cold Brew or Hot Brew?

Both cold brew and hot brew can be good for focus, but it really depends on how well you tolerate caffeine and the kind of work that you are doing. 

A study published in 2020 found that participants given 200 mg of caffeine showed an increased ability for problem-solving compared to participants who were given a placebo. However, there was no change in the participants’ working memory, or their ability to do creative work including generating ideas. 

Cold brew has higher levels of caffeine than hot brew, but this isn’t necessarily better for focus. Too much caffeine can cause anxiety and overstimulation, which can actually reduce your ability to focus. 

Is Cold Brew Healthier Than Hot Brew?

Cold brew is not necessarily healthier than hot brew, but the two coffees do have some differences in their health benefits. What makes cold brew coffee different is that it’s less acidic than hot brew, which can make it a better choice for anyone suffering from acid reflux or digestive issues. Hot brew coffee has higher levels of antioxidants, which can help to protect your body against aging and cancer. Depending on the brewing method, hot brew coffee can also be better for your cholesterol levels. Methods that use paper filters such as pour over coffee and some drip coffee machines have lower levels of the compounds cafestol and kahweol, which can raise LDL cholesterol. 

What Are the Benefits of Hot Brew Coffee?

Hot brew coffee, and coffee in general, has many benefits for your health and for your energy levels. Regular coffee consumption has been shown to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Coffee drinkers also have a longer life expectancy. In the short term, hot brew coffee provides a boost of energy that can increase physical performance, as well as help you stay more alert. Hot brew also has the benefit of more antioxidants than cold brew.

Can I Cool Hot Brew Coffee?

Yes, you can cool hot brew coffee by pouring it over ice. However, it’s not recommended that you cool hot brewed coffee by placing it in the fridge or freezer. Leaving coffee to sit for extended periods of time allows it to oxidize, which creates a sour or bitter flavor. For the best results, start with stronger hot brew coffee, as the ice will dilute the flavor as it melts. Alternatively, you can use ice cubes made from frozen coffee, which won’t dilute the flavor.

Cooling your hot brew coffee will create iced coffee, not cold brew. Read how the two compare with our guide to cold brew vs iced coffee.

What Are the Benefits of Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew coffee has all of the same great benefits for your health and energy as hot brew coffee. In addition, cold brew benefits include a smoother taste and lower acidity. This means that it can often be enjoyed without sugar or creamer for a healthier drink. It’s also suitable for people with stomach problems such as acid reflux.

Can I Heat Cold Brew Coffee?

Yes, you can heat cold brew coffee by adding hot water to cold brew concentrate. Heating the cold brew directly is not recommended. For the best results, preheat your cup by filling it with hot water then discarding it. Add your cold brew concentrate, then fill the rest of the cup with hot water. This will give you a drink similar in strength to regular coffee.

Alternatively, you can fill the cup with hot milk instead of hot water for a cafe style drink.

Kashmir Brummel
Growing up in a coffee-free household, the discovery of the Moka pot as a teen was something of a revelation. I’ve now upgraded to the AeroPress for my daily brew, with a Hario V60 on hand for lazy weekend mornings.

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