Cold brew and espresso are two of the most foundational (and delicious) coffee beverages out there. These two powerhouses of the coffee world have stood at the top for years, and for good reason.
Both can be used to make all sorts of delicious beverages, give us a hit of caffeine, and are part of all sorts of new and interesting coffee trends.
Today, we’re going to do a quick comparison of these two coffee drinks. We’ll go through the obvious differences and dive into more of the finer details you might not know. So keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the cold brew vs. espresso matchup.
1. Brew Methods
The most significant difference between these two types of coffee is how they are brewed. You could take the same coffee beans, brew them in these two different ways, and get wildly varying results. Let’s walk through the brew methods of each.
How To Brew Espresso
Brewing espresso coffee is quite a complex and intricate process. There’s a reason why the espresso machine at your local coffee shop has so many dials and buttons, and levers: it’s a difficult thing to make.
The first thing you need to do is grind your coffee. Espresso beans are finely ground so that the water can extract as much coffee flavor as possible in a short amount of time. Now measure out your grounds.
One espresso shot contains between 16 and 20 grams of coffee grounds, depending on who is brewing it.
Next, place your grounds in the portafilter. The portafilter is that metal contraption you place in and out of the espresso machine. It has a metal basket that holds the grounds. Fine holes cover the bottom of the basket, through which the finished espresso is pushed.
Once your grounds are in the portafilter, take your tamp and tamp them down, using about 20 to 30 pounds of force. This will form a dense puck of espresso that will help generate the pressure required to brew espresso properly.
Now, place the portafilter into the espresso machine and press the brew button. There’s a lot of science and engineering that happens inside that machine. But basically, the machine forces hot water that’s about 204 degrees Fahrenheit through the coffee grounds at about nine bars of pressure over the course of about 25 to 30 seconds.
Espresso is typically brewed with about a 1:2 ratio of grounds to water, so this yields somewhere between one and two ounces of the finished product.
So there you have your espresso. It’s a rich, concentrated form of coffee that may be tough to make, but it’s delicious to drink, especially when mixed with steamed milk to form a latte.
How To Brew Cold Brew
Cold brew has an entirely different brewing process. Start out once again by grinding up your coffee beans. Only this time, we’re going to grind them coarsely instead of finely. You’ll see why in just a moment.
To make cold brew coffee, you typically have between a 1:4 and 1:8 ratio of coffee grounds to water, depending on the type of coffee you use and whose recipe you’re using.
Now, grab a large pitcher or other liquid vessel and pour your grounds in with your water. Give them a good stir to ensure that all the grounds are saturated with room temperature water, and then wait.
You’re going to have to do a lot of waiting with cold brew. Cold brew recipes call for anywhere between 12 and 24 hours. Once your time is up, pour your coffee mixture through a filter to get all of the grounds out, and you’ve got a delicious batch of cold brew ready for you.
The result is a rich, strong coffee. It’s stronger (in taste and caffeine) than a regular cup of coffee but not quite as strong as espresso. It has a great mouthfeel. The cold brewing temperature creates a very subtle sweetness that makes the coffee refreshing and pleasant.
Another Type of Cold Brew
Recently, another cold brew brewing method has been growing in popularity: cold brew concentrate. This creates a highly concentrated coffee that is similar in taste to espresso but similar in method to cold brew.
To make cold brew concentrate, you still use coarsely ground coffee, cold water, and long brew times, but you instead use a 1:1 ratio of coffee to water. This makes a highly concentrated form of coffee that’s packed with rich flavors.
While regular cold brew can only be drunk plain or with a splash of milk or creamer, cold brew concentrate can be used much like espresso. With cold brew concentrate, you can create lattes, americanos, iced coffees, cappuccinos, and the like.
So while cold brew concentrate is brewed like a cold brew, it functions much as espresso does.
2. Storage Times
One of the more practical differences between cold brew and espresso is how long each of them will keep for. If you’re making coffee at home, it’s important to know how long you can store your coffee and have it still be good to drink.
How To Store Espresso
A shot of espresso doesn’t have a very long time before most of its flavor is gone. After just one day, even when stored in the fridge, the espresso will start to lose its flavor and deteriorate, making it less than ideal for drink making.
After three to four days in the fridge, the espresso will likely be bad, and you shouldn’t drink it any longer. But if you do want to go this route and store espresso anyway, it’s best to store it in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
How To Store Cold Brew
Cold brew keeps for significantly longer than espresso. Because of its brewing method, cold brew stores well in the fridge, and it can last between one week and 10 days when properly stored in the fridge.
To store cold brew, keep it in a sealed container in the fridge, and make sure you don’t add ice so that the drink doesn’t get diluted.
How To Store Cold Brew Concentrate
Cold brew concentrate has the longest window out of all three of these methods. Believe it or not, Javy cold brew concentrate can last up to four to six weeks after being opened.
Just make sure you keep it in the bottle it came in and close the bottle properly before storing it in the fridge.
Espresso, cold brew, and cold brew concentrate are all very different when it comes to how accessible they are to the average person. Accessibility matters because all of us deserve to have delicious coffee (and a little afternoon pick-me-up).
Let’s look at the differences between each type of coffee.
The Accessibility of Espresso
Espresso is the least accessible out of all of these options. If you want delicious espresso drinks, you have one of two options.
The first option is to go to a coffee shop and buy one. This option is fairly simple, but to get a flavored latte at a coffee shop, you’ll typically need to spend at least five or six dollars, making it far more expensive than other options.
Even if you just wanted to get a double shot of espresso, you’d be paying about two dollars, which is better, but still more expensive than other options.
The second option is to make these drinks yourself, but this is even less accessible than an expensive latte. To make espresso, you will not only need some barista skills, but you will have to buy an expensive espresso machine and coffee grinder, which not everybody can do (or wants to do).
The Accessibility of Cold Brew
Cold brew is a bit more accessible than espresso. Of course, you can buy cold brew from a coffee shop or in bottles at the store, but you’ll still pay fairly marked-up prices and spend a pretty penny.
You could also brew your own cold brew, but this takes time, and it isn’t necessarily the most efficient use of coffee beans.
The Accessibility of Cold Brew Concentrate
For example, one bottle of Javy coffee concentrate contains 30 servings of coffee. It doesn’t get much more accessible than that. Add in a variety of fun flavors, and you’ll have what feels like almost endless options too.
Cold Brew vs. Espresso
There are a lot of differences between cold brew and espresso. If you’re a coffee drinker, you likely have a lot of love for both. Few things beat a delicious, creamy latte made by your local barista.
But when it comes to coffee at home, cold brew, specifically cold brew concentrate is a far more convenient and efficient option than espresso. This magical solution to all of your coffee problems is just a click away.
Check out Javy and discover the joy of making your favorite coffee beverages right at home.
Cold Brew Coffee: Pilot Studies on Definition, Extraction, Consumer Preference, Chemical Characterization, and Microbiological Hazards | PubMed Central
Espresso | Coffee Research
What Is Concentrated Coffee? | Teamsters Local 805