The Antioxidant Alternative: How Cold Brew Coffee Stacks Up

Cold Brew Coffee


Who doesn’t enjoy sipping a morning cup of coffee? The coffee-drinking habit is deeply ingrained in Western culture, as evidenced by a coffee shop on every corner! There’s also evidence that a cup of joe has health benefits. But what’s the best way to drink it? Most people enjoy hot coffee, either prepared at home or quickly ordered from a drive-through coffee shop, like Starbucks.

But in recent years, another type of brew has gained ground – cold brew coffee. With its smooth taste and lower acidity, it’s a beverage that delights the senses and goes down easily. And since you take it from the fridge rather than the coffee maker, it’s the perfect drink to enjoy over ice on a sizzling summer day. But what makes cold brew different from hot coffee and does it have the same health and antioxidant benefits of traditional, hot coffee?

How Cold Brew Coffee Differs from Standard Coffee

Before exploring the antioxidants in coffee, let’s look at the chemical differences between hot and cold coffee brewing. When you brew hot coffee, you expose the ground coffee to elevated temperatures. In response to the sizzling hot environment, the coffee beans release oils, and bitter compounds. These are the very compounds that give coffee a bitter taste.

But preparing cold brew coffee is gentler. First you steep the coffee grounds in cold water for 12 to 24 hours, a much longer time. This prolonged steeping releases oils and other compounds in the beans more slowly. The reward? A smoother, sweeter taste. Plus, the slower extraction reduces the acidity of the coffee, making it gentler on your stomach. If you’re tired of the bitter taste coffee leaves in your mouth, you might appreciate less acidic cold brew more.

The Caffeine Content of Cold Brew Coffee

Here’s another interesting fact about cold brew coffee. It’s usually lower in caffeine than coffee prepared through a pour-over or drip coffee maker. Caffeine doesn’t dissolve as well in chilly water, so less caffeine ends up in the final product. But it’s tricky. Making cold brew involves using a higher ratio of coffee beans to water, around 2-5 times higher, to create a stronger brew.

The custom is to dilute cold brew concentrate with water. So, depending on how much you dilute it, it may contain less caffeine. But if you enjoy strong, bold cold brew, and drink it without dilution, it could contain slightly more. A 16-ounce Starbucks cold brew contains 200 mg of caffeine. But the amount of caffeine can vary depending on the length of time you steep it and the roast of the coffee. Lighter roasts usually have higher caffeine than dark roast coffee beans.

What About the Antioxidant Benefits of Cold Brew Coffee?

Now the question of antioxidants. If you’re counting on cold brew to be a major source of antioxidants in your diet, here’s the scoop. Not all the antioxidant benefits are retained in cold brew. A study published in Scientific Reports found that hot brewed coffee trumps cold brew in terms of antioxidant content. The higher temperatures used to extract compounds from coffee beans leads to more antioxidants ending up in your glass.

The Health Benefits of Cold Brew Coffee

Although the lower antioxidant levels are disappointing, the lower acidity of cold brew is a bonus if hot brewed coffee gives you indigestion or heartburn. It’s not as harsh on your tummy and the lack of bitterness is a bonus.

And if you’re worried about staining your teeth or having coffee breath, cold brew is a delicious option. Since it’s served over ice, it’s less likely to leave stains on your pearly whites. It’s easier to drink with a straw since it’s served cold. So next time you’re reaching for a cup of coffee, consider cold brew instead – your stomach (and your teeth) will thank you!

Although cold brew coffee is less acidic and has a smoother taste, hot coffee is your best bet if you drink coffee for the antioxidant benefits it offers. You’ll get more bitterness from traditional hot coffee but fewer antioxidants.

Cold Brew Is Versatile

You have to love the versatility of cold brew. Dilute it a little and enjoy it over ice. You can also mix it with dairy or non-dairy milk or add flavored syrups to indulge your sweet tooth. Some people even add cold brew to cocktails, smoothies, and milkshakes. You can even use cold brew in desserts like tiramisu or ice cream. It adds a delicious coffee flavor without the bitterness of traditional hot coffee. If you don’t like the idea of making your own cold brew, it’s available in many grocery stores and specialty coffee stores theses days. It’ no surprise that cold brew is becoming a favorite among coffee lovers everywhere, especially during the summer.


Don’t give up hot brewed coffee but expand your horizons with a glass of cold brew this summer. The super slow extraction of the coffee beans is the key to its smoother, less acidic taste and yields a delightfully smooth, less acidic brew. Whether you prefer it on the rocks, mixed with flavors, or straight up, cold brew is a refreshing and delicious way to enjoy coffee, especially during the hot months where hot beverages don’t cut it. It’s a smoother twist on an old favorite!


  • “9 Impressive Benefits of Cold Brew Coffee (Plus How to Make It).” 08 May. 2019, healthline.com/nutrition/cold-brew-coffee-benefits.
  • Rao NZ, Fuller M. Acidity and Antioxidant Activity of Cold Brew Coffee. Sci Rep. 2018 Oct 30;8(1):16030. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-34392-w. PMID: 30375458; PMCID: PMC6207714.
  • Rao NZ, Fuller M, Grim MD. Physiochemical Characteristics of Hot and Cold Brew Coffee Chemistry: The Effects of Roast Level and Brewing Temperature on Compound Extraction. Foods. 2020 Jul 9;9(7):902. doi: 10.3390/foods9070902. PMID: 32659894; PMCID: PMC7404565.
  • Ajmera, Rachael. 2021. “Cold Brew vs. Other Coffee Drinks: Which Has More Caffeine?” Healthline. Healthline Media. July 28, 2021. healthline.com/nutrition/cold-brew-caffeine.
  • ‌Rao NZ, Fuller M. Acidity and Antioxidant Activity of Cold Brew Coffee. Scientific reports. 2018;8(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-34392-w
  • “Cold brew coffee as healthy as the hot kind | News | Harvard T.H. Chan ….” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/cold-brew-coffee-as-healthy-as-the-hot-kind/.

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