Does cold brew coffee have more calories?

Cold brew coffee has become increasingly popular in recent years. As a chilled coffee drink, cold brew is often perceived as a healthier, lower calorie alternative to traditional hot coffee. But is this perception accurate? Do cold brew coffees really contain fewer calories and less caffeine than regular coffee? Let’s take a closer look at the cold brew process and nutritional information to find out.

What is cold brew coffee?

Cold brew coffee is made by steeping ground coffee in room temperature or cold water for 12-24 hours. This elongated brew time extracts the flavors and caffeine from the coffee grounds without exposing them to heat. The resulting concentrate is then diluted with water or milk and served chilled.

The lack of heat used in the cold brew process results in a smoother, less acidic coffee that some claim has a cleaner, sweeter taste compared to regular hot coffee. It also contains less caffeine when prepared properly. But when it comes to calories, does the cold actually make a difference?

Does the cold brew process affect calories?

The cold brew process itself does not inherently alter the calorie content of the coffee. Regardless of brew method, calories in coffee come from just two sources:

1. The naturally occurring oils and compounds extracted from the coffee beans. This is where the majority of flavor and caffeine originates.

2. Any additions like milk, sweeteners, or flavorings. These additions can dramatically increase the calorie count.

So no, cold brewing does not directly affect the calories or nutritional values of the underlying coffee. The key factors are the beans themselves and what you add to the finished coffee.

Calories in black cold brew vs. hot coffee

Looking at plain, black coffee with no additions, cold brew and regular hot coffee contain virtually identical calories and macronutrients:

Black hot coffee nutrition (8 oz)

Calories 2
Fat 0g
Carbs 0.4g
Protein 0.2g

Black cold brew nutrition (8 oz)

Calories 2
Fat 0g
Carbs 0.4g
Protein 0.2g

As you can see, plain black cold brew coffee contains a negligible amount of calories, fat, carbohydrates, and protein – on par with hot coffee. So if you enjoy your coffee black, the cold brewing process does not impact its calories or macronutrients.

Calories with dairy and sweeteners

This is where cold brew starts to gain an edge in the calorie department. Cold brew coffee is commonly served chilled over ice. To maintain its drinkability as the ice melts and cools the coffee further, cold brew requires less dilution compared to hot coffee.

Less dilution means you can get away with adding less milk, cream, sweeteners, and other high-calorie mix-ins without compromising taste. This is where the calorie saving benefits of cold brew come into play.

Let’s compare calories of some popular coffee drinks made with cold brew vs. hot coffee:

With milk

12 oz Hot coffee with 8 oz 2% milk 124 calories
12 oz Cold brew with 4 oz 2% milk 80 calories

With cream

12 oz Hot coffee with 2 oz half & half 83 calories
12 oz Cold brew with 1 oz half & half 41 calories

With sweetener

12 oz Hot coffee with 1 tbsp white sugar 49 calories
12 oz Cold brew with 1 tsp white sugar 42 calories

As demonstrated above, cold brew coffees can provide calorie savings compared to hot when adding dairy, cream, and sweeteners. The cooler temperature allows you to use smaller amounts without compromising taste.

Caffeine content

In addition to having slightly fewer calories when adding mix-ins, cold brew coffee actually contains less caffeine as well.

The prolonged steeping time of cold brewing extracts more of the oils and flavor compounds from the coffee grounds, but less of the caffeine. Typical caffeine content per 8 oz:

Hot coffee 95mg
Cold brew 70mg

So along with having marginally fewer calories with additions, cold brew can provide a less jittery, lower caffeine coffee drink.

Best practices for lowest calorie cold brew

To make sure your cold brew coffee is as low-calorie as possible, follow these best practices:

Use a natural sweetener

Instead of white sugar, try monk fruit or stevia to lightly sweeten without added calories.

Choose low-fat dairy

Opt for skim or low-fat milk and limit higher fat additions like heavy cream.

Dilute concentrate

The standard is equal parts cold brew concentrate to water or milk of choice. Avoid adding too much concentrate.

Ice is nice

Letting ice melt into the coffee leads to natural dilution without compromising richness.

Easy on the extras

Limit high-calorie flavor additions like chocolate, caramel, and sugary syrups.

Healthiest choices

If keeping your cold brew light is the goal, here are some of healthiest preparations:

  • Black cold brew unsweetened
  • Cold brew with skim or low-fat milk
  • Cold brew with a splash of plant-based milk like almond or oat milk
  • Cold brew lightly sweetened with monk fruit or stevia

Prioritize simple, clean ingredients to allow the natural flavors of the cold brew to shine. This will also result in the lowest calorie and sugar cold brew options.

The bottom line

When prepared properly without heavy additions, cold brew coffee can represent a lower calorie alternative to hot coffee with the same great taste. The cold extraction and serving process allows for less dilution, meaning you can use smaller amounts of high-calorie dairy, sweeteners, and other mix-ins without sacrificing flavor. Just be mindful about what you add to keep your cold brew light.

Leave a Comment