Cold Brew vs Espresso Coffee: A Side-by-Side Comparison

By Evelina •  Updated: 04/25/23 •  10 min read

If you’ve been following the coffee world at all, you know that there’s been a lot of talks lately about cold brew coffee. This fairly popular coffee brewing method has been around for a while, but it’s only recently that it’s started to gain mainstream attention.

Espresso, on the other hand, is an old-time favorite that is tried and true. It’s been around for centuries, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

So, what’s the big deal? What’s the difference between these two coffee brewing methods, and which one is better?

In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at cold brew vs espresso coffee, outlining the key differences between them. We’ll also give you our verdict on which one is the better option.

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

cold brew coffee maker

If you’re not familiar with cold brew coffee, it’s basically just coffee that’s brewed with cold water instead of hot. The brewing process is a bit different than with traditional coffee, and it results in a coffee that has a different flavor profile and a higher caffeine content.

To make cold brew coffee, you’ll need to use a different ratio of coffee to water than you would for traditional coffee. You’ll also need to let the coffee steep for a longer period of time (anywhere from 12 to 24 hours).

Once the coffee has finished brewing, you can either drink it black or add milk, sugar, or other flavors to it.

Important: The coffee beans you use for cold brew coffee should be between medium and fine grind.

What is Espresso?

Cold Brew vs Espresso Coffee

Espresso is a type of coffee that is brewed by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans. The brewing process is much shorter than with other methods, and it results in a concentrate that is much more potent.

Espresso is usually served in small shots, and it can be enjoyed on its own or used as the base for other coffee drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.

To make espresso, you’ll need an espresso machine (or even a Moka Pot or a French Press) and some finely-ground coffee beans. The espresso machine will force hot water through the coffee, and the resulting shot of espresso will be collected in a small cup.

The simplicity of espresso is one of the things that makes it so popular. You can make a delicious cup of espresso in just a few minutes, and you don’t need any special equipment to do it (besides the machine).

Cold Brew vs Espresso Differences

DifferencesCold BrewEspresso Coffee
TasteA much less acidic, with a lot more 'dark' flavors (from cocoa to earthy)

Nutty, Thick, Intense, Creamy, Bitter, Earthy, Chocolate and Caramel Undertones
Caffeine Levels~200 mg per 16 ounces64 mg per shot of 1 ounce
AcidityLess AcidicHigh Acidity
Health BenefitsEasier on your stomach. Boosts Metabolism and MoodContains Antioxidants and Magnesium. High Energy and Focus.

Cost3.95 - 6.00$2.00 - 3.50$
OriginJapan in KyotoItaly
Water TemperatureCold WaterLukewarm or warm right after it is produced
Grind SizeMedium to coarseFine
Time Brewing16-24 hours or 2 minutes with AeroPress2 minutes
Matches Best WithSweet and SourSweet
ConsistencyWatery, refreshing, light, and smoothIt'll be thick and heavier than typical brewed coffee, but not watery

1. Taste

Cold brewed coffee feels very distinct from hot brewed coffee that has been cooled. It has a far lower acidity, more ‘black’ flavors (ranging from chocolaty to nutty and earthy), and less of the nuanced smells that define the coffee’s roots, type, and method.

On the other hand, espresso that has been properly made is full of rich tastes. The acidity is intense but well-balanced. The sharpness is controlled by a little bitterness, which provides deep undertones.

Aromatic tastes rise from the shot and reach your nose and your mouth. It has nutty chocolate and earthy tones. If prepared properly, a pleasant sweetness binds the entire dose altogether.

You will experience more flavor and aroma from an espresso than you will from a cold brew, but it is a more intense and compacted flavor.

Read Also: 10 Ways to Make Cold Brew Sweeter

2. Caffeine Levels

espresso vs cold brew caffeine

The caffeine content in a standard 16-oz. cold brew is 200 mg. So, in a summary, cold brew has much more caffeine than iced coffee, and, based on the way it’s made, it may occasionally have almost double the caffeine content of its cold coffee competitor!

1 oz of espresso contains 64 mg of caffeine on average. If you’re looking for an extra caffeine kick, it might be best to choose espresso over cold brew. This is because most coffee shops and machines are two-dosed, meaning that they pull two shots of espresso instead of one when making a drink.

So, if you want a higher caffeine content, espresso is a better option for a hot drink since it contains a higher amount of caffeine per fluid ounce.

3. Acidity

Cold brew coffee has less acidity than iced coffee or any other brewed technique since acidity is proportional to warmth. Because the beans actually are not released to heat during the cold brewing procedure boiling cold brew concentrated seems to have no influence on its bitterness.

Espresso though has a higher acidity level. This is due to the shorter amount of time that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds. The result is a more acidic cup of coffee. The concentration of the coffee also makes it more acidic.

4. Health Benefits

When it comes to health benefits, cold brew has more antioxidants than espresso. This is because the cold brewing process helps to preserve more of the antioxidants in the coffee beans.

Espresso also has some health benefits, but not as many as cold brew. Both espresso and cold brew help you with focus and mental clarity, but cold brew can also help you to lose weight and improve your cholesterol levels.

5. Cost

If you enjoy your coffee at home, cold brew is going to be the cheaper option. This is because all you need to make a cold brew is a container, some coffee beans, and water. Espresso, on the other hand, requires an espresso machine, which can cost anywhere from $100 to $3,000.

Also, the coffee beans for espresso are always more expensive than regular coffee beans. This is because they need to be a higher quality bean in order to produce a good espresso and crema.

6. Origin

espresso vs cold brew origin

Cold brew coffee comes from Kyoto, Japan. The Kyoto style of cold brew uses a slow drip method to extract the coffee, and it can take up to 18 hours to brew a single cup.

Espresso originated in Italy, and it was first created in Turin in the late 19th century. Espresso has been popularized all over the world, and it is now the most popular coffee drink in Italy and Eastern Europe.

7. Water Temperature

Since cold brew coffee is made with cold water, it has a lower water temperature than espresso. This can make it easier on your stomach and help you to avoid the “jittery” feeling that some people experience after drinking espresso.

The temperature of the water used to make espresso is around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This higher temperature extracts more of the coffee’s oils and flavors, which can result in a stronger taste.

Also, the higher temperature of the water helps to create the signature crema on top of an espresso.

8. Grind Size

Many people confuse the grind size of espresso with the grind size of regular coffee. However, the grind size for espresso is much finer than the grind size for regular or drip coffee. When you tamp the coffee grounds into the espresso machine, they should be very fine and compacted.

This helps to create a higher pressure when the water is pushed through the coffee grounds, and it also helps to extract more of the flavors from the beans.

For cold brew now, you’ll want medium to coarse ground coffee. This is because the coffee will be in contact with the water for a longer period of time, and a finer grind size will result in over-extraction.

9. Time Brewing

The whole idea of cold brew is that it takes a long time to brew. This is because the water needs to be in contact with the coffee grounds for a longer period of time in order to extract all of the flavors.

It can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to brew a cold brew, so it’s definitely not something you can make in the morning and drink right away.

Espresso, on the other hand, is a much faster brewing method. It only takes around 2 minutes to make an espresso.

So, if you’re looking for a quick cup of coffee, espresso is the way to go. If you’re looking for something that takes a bit more time to make but is worth the wait, cold brew is your best bet.

10. Consistency

Last but not least, let’s talk about consistency. When it comes to espresso, the water is not as watery as it is with cold brew. This is because the espresso machine uses a lot of force to push the water through the coffee grounds.

Since there is no pressure when making cold brews, the water is more likely to seep through the coffee grounds unevenly. This can result in a coffee that is more watery and less concentrated.

Frequently Asked Questions

Cold Brew vs Espresso Coffee - FAQs

What About Nitro Cold Brew vs Espresso?

Nitro cold brew is made just like regular cold brew with the only difference being that nitrogen is added after the brewing process. This gives the coffee a foamy head like Guinness beer.

Espresso, on the other hand, is made with the typical method we all know and love, which is with an espresso machine that uses force to create the drink we enjoy.

This makes nitro cold brew and espresso share the same differences as regular cold.

Is Cold Brew or Espresso Healthier?

Both coffees are healthy if you don’t add sugar or cream. Cold brew has less caffeine than espresso. If you are sensitive to caffeine, cold brew might be a better choice for you. When it comes to calories, both coffees are low-calorie beverages. A cup of black coffee has only 2 calories.

How Strong is Cold Brew vs Espresso?

Many people believe that cold brew is stronger than espresso, but the truth is that espresso is way more concentrated. If you drink the same ml of each beverage, espresso will be much stronger.

Is Cold Brew The Same as Espresso?

Espresso and cold brew coffee are both brewed with coffee beans, but the similarities pretty much stop there. Espresso is made by forcing hot water under pressure through tightly packed, finely ground coffee beans. This creates a strong, concentrated coffee with a thick layer of foam on top.

Cold brew, on the other hand, is made by steeping coarsely ground beans in cold water for 12 hours or more. This produces a coffee that is smoother and less acidic than espresso. While cold brew can be served over ice or mixed with milk and syrup to create iced lattes and frappes, it can also be used as a concentrate for hot drinks. 

Final Thoughts

Wow! That was a lot of information about cold brew vs espresso. If you’re still unsure about which coffee is right for you, we suggest trying both and seeing which one you like better. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could even do a taste test and let us know which coffee comes out on top!

Do you have a favorite cold brew or espresso recipe? If you do, feel free to contact us with your recipe and we’ll be sure to feature it on our site!

Need More Coffee Help?

Happy Brewing!


Evelina’s passion for coffee could never been hidden. Having worked as a barista, she learned the true value of the coffee bean and its secrets. As she continued to evolve as a barista, so did her knowledge, techniques on making different coffee blends and most importantly how to operate every kind of gear when it comes to coffee. Having a degree in biomedicine and being a barista, allows her to provide our community with in-depth knowledge surrounding the topics of coffee.

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