Is Starbucks cold brew gluten-free?

Cold brew coffee is growing in popularity as a refreshing, smooth way to get your caffeine fix. As more people adopt gluten-free diets or deal with celiac disease, a common question arises: is Starbucks cold brew gluten-free? Let’s take a deep dive into Starbucks’ cold brew ingredients and preparation to find out.

What is Cold Brew?

Cold brew coffee is made by steeping ground coffee beans in room temperature or cold water for an extended period of time, usually 12-24 hours. This long steeping time extracts the oils and caffeine from the beans without exposing them to heat. The result is a smooth, naturally sweet coffee concentrate that can be served straight or diluted with water or milk.

Compared to traditional hot coffee, cold brew has less acidity and bitterness. It often contains more caffeine as well since the beans are fully saturated during the long steeping process. Many people who find hot coffee to be too acidic or bitter find cold brew to be gentler on their stomachs.

How Does Starbucks Make Their Cold Brew?

Starbucks uses a relatively simple cold brewing method to produce their bottled and tap cold brew options. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Starbucks starts with a custom blend of 100% arabica coffee beans. They use a coarse grind size optimized for cold water extraction.
  2. The coarse coffee grounds are placed into fabric filter bags and loaded into large extractors.
  3. The extractors are filled with cold or room temperature filtered water and steeped for 20 hours until the coffee concentrate is ready.
  4. After steeping, the filter bags are removed and the concentrate is bottled or prepared to be served on tap.

The ingredients going into a Starbucks cold brew are just coffee beans and water. No other flavorings, sugars, preservatives, or additives are used in the brewing process. The result is a smooth concentrate that maintains the natural flavor of the beans.

Are the Ingredients Gluten-Free?

Neither coffee beans nor water contain any gluten. So up to this point in the cold brew process, everything is naturally gluten-free. Even though Starbucks doesn’t label their drinks as “gluten-free”, their core cold brew ingredients should not pose any issues for gluten-free diets.

Coffee Beans

All coffee beans are naturally gluten-free. They contain no wheat, barley, rye or contaminants that contain gluten. Starbucks does not add any gluten-containing ingredients to their bean blend used for cold brew.


Plain water does not contain gluten or pose a cross-contamination risk. Starbucks uses filtered water for their cold brew production, not raw water that could potentially be exposed to gluten-containing grains.

Production Equipment

Since the coffee grounds only come into contact with the filter bags and extraction equipment, this is another area that could introduce cross-contamination. However, Starbucks produces such high volumes of coffee that gluten exposure in shared equipment is very unlikely. They have thorough cleaning protocols in place as well.

What About Added Ingredients Like Milk and Flavor?

While the core cold brew ingredients at Starbucks are gluten-free, added ingredients like milk, sweeteners, and flavors may change the gluten-free status. Here’s a breakdown of what to look out for:

Dairy Milk

The milk options at Starbucks should all be gluten-free as well. They use regular dairy milk, soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk, none of which inherently contain gluten.


Many of the flavored syrups and sauces added to cold brew drinks are marked as gluten-free right on the menu. Examples include caramel, vanilla, hazelnut, and mocha sauce. However, a few flavors like white chocolate mocha sauce do contain gluten. So be sure to check the menu closely for gluten-free label indications before ordering a flavored cold brew.

Whipped Toppings

Whipped cream toppings are gluten-free at Starbucks. However, some blended toppings like the cold foam in cold brew nitro drinks may contain traces of gluten from ingredients like malted milk powder or brown butter.


Basic white and brown sugar options are gluten-free. However, flavored syrups added for sweetness may contain sources of gluten. For example, Starbucks vanilla syrup contains wheat. Honey and stevia sweetener packets are gluten-free alternatives.

Risk of Cross-Contamination

Even though the core ingredients in a plain Starbucks cold brew are gluten-free, there is some risk of cross-contamination through shared equipment. Since many drinks containing gluten are made behind the same counter, trace amounts could come into contact with your cold brew order during preparation.

Some ways to potentially minimize cross-contamination risk include:

  • Ordering your cold brew black with no added syrups or toppings
  • Asking the barista to use fresh containers, pitchers, and tools to make your drink
  • Opting for bottled or canned cold brew instead of tap versions
  • Going at off-peak times when equipment is less likely to be contaminated from heavy use

Keep in mind that Starbucks does not claim their drinks to be gluten-free or allergen-free. If you have celiac disease or are highly sensitive, cross-contamination may still be a concern.

Should You Consume Starbucks Cold Brew on a Gluten-Free Diet?

Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding if Starbucks cold brew is a good option for your gluten-free diet:

No Issues for Most People on a GF Diet

For anyone avoiding gluten out of preference or mild sensitivity, Starbucks cold brew should be fine when customized to avoid direct gluten-containing ingredients. The trace risk from cross-contamination is minimal for most.

Use Caution with Celiac Disease

People with celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance may want to exercise more caution. While the basic drink should be gluten-free, it’s impossible to fully eliminate the risk of trace gluten exposure in their facilities.

Take Precautions to Minimize Risk

If you want to enjoy Starbucks cold brew on a strict gluten-free diet, take some precautions. Stick to basic ingredients you know are GF, ask for extra clean handling, and monitor your health for any adverse reactions.

Try an At-Home Cold Brew

Making your own cold brew at home gives you full control over the ingredients and process. You can use a GF-certified coffee and prevent any cross-contamination from equipment. Just remember it needs to steep for 12-24 hours!

The Bottom Line

In summary, here’s the bottom line on whether Starbucks’ cold brew is gluten-free:

  • The core coffee beans and water used are 100% gluten-free
  • Added dairy, syrups, sauces may contain gluten depending on the recipe
  • There is some risk of cross-contamination from shared equipment
  • Customizing your order can help minimize gluten exposure
  • Most people on GF diets should tolerate it well in moderation
  • Those with celiac disease may want to exercise more caution

While not certified gluten-free, Starbucks cold brew can likely be enjoyed in moderation by most adhering to a gluten-free diet. Those with celiac disease or severe sensitivities may want to exercise more caution or opt for a homemade version instead.

Gluten-Free Cold Brew Options at Starbucks

Here are some suggested ways to order a gluten-free cold brew from Starbucks:

Plain Black Cold Brew

Ask for a “grande black cold brew, nothing added” to get the most basic gluten-free option.

Cold Brew with Gluten-Free Milk

Opt for lactose-free milk, almond milk, or coconut milk to add creaminess without gluten.

Cold Brew with Gluten-Free Sweetener

Add your own honey or stevia packets to lightly sweeten your drink.

Cold Brew with Gluten-Free Syrup

Flavor it with mocha, caramel, or vanilla syrup marked gluten-free on the menu.

Iced Shaken Espresso

Sub cold milk for the usual default dairy and ask for GF vanilla syrup instead of the classic version.

Finding Other Gluten-Free Options at Starbucks

Beyond cold brew, Starbucks has many other drinks and menu items that can be customized to fit a gluten-free diet. Some options include:

  • Hot brewed coffee
  • Americano
  • Cappuccino with lactose-free milk
  • Tea or hot chocolate with non-dairy milk
  • Iced coffee with gluten-free syrup
  • Refreshers made with green coffee extract
  • Gluten-free breakfast sandwiches (without bread)
  • Yogurt parfaits
  • Snack boxes with fruit, cheese, hard-boiled eggs
  • Gluten-free protein boxes

With some modifications and special requests, you can find gluten-free versions of many Starbucks classics. Their baristas are used to accommodating food allergies and dietary preferences.

Drinking Cold Brew and Following a Gluten-Free Diet

Here are some tips for enjoying cold brew while sticking to a gluten-free diet:

Check the Menu Carefully

Read the menu closely and ask questions to the baristas to ensure you order a 100% gluten-free cold brew customized to your diet.

Specify Allergies

Clearly state that you have celiac disease or a gluten allergy when ordering. Most baristas will take extra care with your drink.

Watch Out for Toppings

Whipped creams, drizzles, and blended toppings may contain hidden sources of gluten from stabilizers and emulsifiers.

Enjoy Cold Brew at Home

When preparing your own cold brew, use certified GF coffee and make sure all equipment is thoroughly cleaned beforehand.

Drink in Moderation

Be aware that consuming any product not labeled GF does incur a small risk. Enjoy Starbucks cold brew in moderation as part of a healthy GF diet.

The Benefits of Cold Brew for Gluten-Free Diets

Sipping an icy cold brew can be a refreshing way to stick to your gluten-free diet. Here are some of the benefits of choosing cold brew coffee drinks:

Smooth, Low-Acid Option

Cold brew is less acidic and bitter than hot coffee, making it easier on sensitive stomachs.

Highly Customizable

With so many dairy, sweetener, and flavor options, you can tailor your cold brew to your dietary needs.

Naturally Free of Gluten

The simple ingredients of coffee beans and water are guaranteed gluten-free from the start.

Antioxidants and Nutrients

Cold brew provides immune-boosting antioxidants as well as energizing caffeine to help power your day.

Perfect Iced Drink

Smooth, chilled cold brew is the ideal refreshing iced coffee drink for spring and summer.

Recipes for Gluten-Free Cold Brew Drinks

Try out these delicious ideas for gluten-free cold brew coffee drinks you can mix up at home:

Vanilla Almond Cold Brew

Combine cold brew concentrate with almond milk and vanilla syrup or extract. Top with sliced almonds.

Mexican Mocha Cold Brew

Stir together cold brew with GF chocolate syrup, cinnamon, and cayenne. Add your choice of dairy/non-dairy milk.

Caramel Macchiato Cold Brew

Mix cold brew with milk of your choice. Layer on caramel sauce, then floated whipped cream on top.

Chai Spice Cold Brew

Add chai tea concentrate or pumpkin pie spice blend to milk and cold brew for a fall flavor.

Mint Mocha Cold Brew

Blend cold brew with GF mint-chocolate syrup and milk. Top with cacao nibs or shaved chocolate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is plain cold brew from Starbucks gluten-free?

Yes, the basic ingredients of coffee beans and water used to produce Starbucks’ plain cold brew are naturally gluten-free.

What should you avoid adding to cold brew to keep it gluten-free?

Avoid adding syrups containing wheat, barley, malt, or rye, like regular Starbucks vanilla syrup. Also avoid toppings with malt powder.

Does Starbucks offer any gluten-free food options?

Yes, Starbucks has a range of gluten-free snacks, oatmeal, yogurt parfaits, and breakfast sandwich options without the bread.

Is there still risk of cross-contamination with Starbucks cold brew?

There is a small risk of cross-contamination from shared equipment and utensils in Starbucks stores. Those highly sensitive should take precautions.

Can you request gluten-free preparation of cold brew drinks?

Yes, you can request the barista use fresh containers, pitchers, utensils, and ingredients kept away from gluten to minimize contamination.

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