Cold brew coffee and espresso are two widely popular methods of brewing coffee, but they both taste very different from each other and have very difficult characteristics and attributes. This leads many coffee lovers to wonder which brewing process produces the stronger cup of coffee.
Cold brew concentrate and espresso are equally as strong by volume. Both brew types have roughly 63mg of caffeine per ounce of brewed coffee. It is much easier to make cold brew stronger, and the process is simple. It is impossible to make espresso stronger due to the complex brewing process.
Espresso brewing and cold brewing are both known for brewing very strong, concentrated coffee that can be used in a variety of ways. If you want a very strong cup of coffee, cold brew or espresso are the ways to go, but which is stronger overall? Let’s find out!
Cold Brew Vs. Espresso: Which Is Stronger?
Cold brewing coffee and espresso brewing coffee are very different brew methods, but they often yield a result that is similar in strength. Cold brew requires many hours of brewing, and espresso only requires a few seconds, but both produce a very strong coffee concentrate, but which is stronger overall?
The truth is that there is no straightforward or simple answer to this question, as the strength of the coffee depends entirely on how it is brewed. A shot espresso can be very weak compared to a cold brew concentrate, and vice versa, depending on the recipe and method used for the brew.
Both espresso and cold brew can be very strong, as they are both very effective methods for extracting soluble material from coffee beans into water, but the strength of the coffee that is produced depends on many intricate factors.
The truth is that a shot of espresso is generally stronger than a cup of cold brew, but a shot of cold brew concentrate is likely to be stronger than a shot of single espresso.
With that in mind, some modern double shots of espresso are as strong or stronger than a shot of some cold brew concentrates. It all depends on the recipe and brew method.
The strength of the coffee brew depends on how much coffee is used, and the concentration of the brew is determined by how much water is used in the brew and much coffee is extracted into that water.
Espresso is a very efficient brew method because it extracts a lot of coffee into a small amount of water in a very short amount of time. This is accomplished by intense pressure and heat, as well as very finely ground coffee beans to increase the possible surface area for extraction.
This leads to about 63mg of caffeine per ounce, or single shot, of espresso.
Cold brew is not an efficient way of extracting or brewing coffee, but the amount of time that is allowed for the brew compensates for its inefficiencies.
The very long time that cold brew coffee is brewed means that it extracts a lot of coffee into the water. However, the general caffeine content of cold brew concentrate is roughly 500mg of caffeine in 8 oz of liquid. This works out to roughly 62.5mg of caffeine per ounce of brewed coffee.
This figure shows that cold brew concentrate and espresso have roughly the same amount of caffeine, which makes them roughly equal in strength.
However, it is much easier to make cold brew significantly stronger with less effort than it is to make a stronger shot of espresso.
How To Make Cold Brew Stronger
We have learned that cold brew coffee concentrate and espresso are roughly equal in strength, but it is true that making cold brew stronger is easier than making espresso strong. With that in mind, how do you make cold brew stronger?
The truth is that making cold brews stronger simply requires using more ground coffee or using coffee that is more finely ground.
This will alter the extraction and brew times for the cold brew, but it will make the coffee significantly stronger if you do it well.
If you increase the amount of coffee in the brew, the brew time must increase as extraction will take longer. If you use a finer grind for the brew, extraction will not require more time overall, but the coffee will extract more quickly and will become more bitter, and is likely to become over-extracted.
The best way to produce stronger cold brew coffee is to grind the coffee beans only slightly finer, use more coffee per ounce of water, and allow the coffee to brew for a longer time. This should produce a stronger brew with an even extraction and a higher caffeine content.
How To Make Espresso Stronger
We have established that espresso and cold brew usually have a similar strength, but is it possible to make espresso stronger?
The unfortunate reality is that brewing espresso is intensely complex and very difficult to do well. Increasing the strength of an espresso shot is not as simple as increasing the amount of coffee in the brew or changing the grind size.
A good way to increase the strength of a shot of espresso is to brew a double shot. This simply means doubling the amount of coffee used in the shot and using a larger portafilter for brewing.
Further than this, the road to stringer espresso becomes very complicated.
Making espresso stronger requires finding the balance between temperature, pressure, grind size, amount of water pushed through the coffee, the amount of liquid that the shot produces, and the extraction of the coffee itself.
Finding this balance while making the coffee stringer is very difficult, and most espresso machines have a limit that cannot be exceeded regarding the strength of the coffee that they can make, based on the pressure and flow rate the machine can produce, as well as the size and type of the portafilters compatible with the machine.
There is the same amount of caffeine in a single shot espresso and an equivalent amount of cold brew, which is roughly 63mh of caffeine per ounce of brewed coffee.
This means that cold brew and espresso generally have the same strength regarding caffeine content, but espresso usually tastes stronger than cold brew because it is more evenly extracted. Cold brew coffee is much easier to brew stronger, while espresso is almost impossible to make stringer beyond a certain point.