Does Coffee Lose Caffeine When Cold?

by Peter Taylor | Last Updated: 25 February 2021

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Does Coffee Lose Caffeine When Cold?

There are all kinds of cold coffee drinkers, from cold brew enthusiasts to those that swear by icing their hot brew, to those that drink the hot brewed cup that went cold hours ago. But one question all cold coffee lovers might wonder about is whether cold coffee loses its caffeine kick.

Coffee does not lose caffeine when cold. The amount of caffeine extracted from ground coffee depends on the type of beans, the brewing temperature, the extraction time, the coffee to water ratio, and the size of the grind. But once your coffee is made, it will not lose caffeine, whether hot or cold.

Let’s look at how caffeine levels in cold coffee may vary, cold coffee styles, and tips on hot and cold brewing to find the best cold coffee that meets your caffeine needs.

Cold Coffee and Caffeine

There are many ways to make cold coffee, but the methods ultimately come down to two extraction processes: brew it hot or brew it cold.

In the brew it hot category, you can use any brew method, from automatic drip to a Moka pot to French press, either pouring the hot coffee directly over ice or cooling the hot coffee first before icing it.

In the brew-it-cold corner, you mix coffee grounds with either room temperature or cold water and either press it out within minutes or steep it, usually anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. If steeped, you strain the liquid essence, combine it with fresh cold water, and pour it over ice.

Voila! Now, what about caffeine?

Caffeine in Coffee Beans

No matter how you come by your cold coffee, the caffeine in the cup comes from the beans.

Most coffee beans come from the fruit of two coffee plants, Arabica and Canephora (commonly known as Robusta), which grow in the equatorial zone known as “The Bean Belt” that wraps the globe from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer.

Arabica beans represent most of the coffee we drink and have 34.1-38.5 grams (1.2-1.4 oz) of caffeine per kilogram of dry beans. Robusta, which is primarily used in blends with Arabica beans for some espresso, and to make instant coffee, packs a bigger punch with 68.6-81.6 grams (2.4-2.9 oz) of caffeine per kilogram.

In addition to the type of bean, the amount of caffeine extracted from ground coffee can be affected by the water’s brewing temperature, the volume of coffee that you brew, and the amount of time the water is in contact with the beans.

Extraction Time, Roast, and Grind Size

While your coffee beans have a steady caffeine level, the amount of caffeine that reaches your cup will depend on the extraction time and coffee roast. A 2017 study found that the longer steeping times for cold brewing coffee extract more caffeine than the average (6 minutes) hot brewing methods. The study also found that cold-brewed medium roast coffee has more caffeine than cold-brewed dark roast.

The finer coffee is ground, the faster it can be extracted (think espresso), and immersive brewing methods (think Turkish coffee) extract more caffeine than filtering techniques, such as auto-drip and pour-over.

Caffeine in Prepared Coffee

Based on the typical mix and volume of coffee beans used on average, the amount of caffeine in an ounce of hot filtered coffee, regardless of the filtering method used, is approximately 12 mg. Per ounce, cold-brewed coffee steeped 8 to 24 hours has 13 -20 mg of caffeine, and about 63 mg of caffeine are in an espresso shot.

Because so much depends on the coffee bean blend and brewing methods used, the caffeine levels in specialty coffees at retail shops can vary.

Does Coffee Lose Caffeine When Cold?

For example, Starbucks’ brewed Pike Place coffee delivers 19.6 mg of caffeine per ounce, while hot brewed coffee at Dunkin Donuts has about 15 mg of caffeine per ounce. But Dunkin Donuts cold-brewed coffee delivers more caffeine, with approximately 18.6 mg per ounce, than Starbucks, with 13 mg per ounce.

Additional Tips for the Best Home-Brewed Cold Coffee

The method you use to make cold coffee will depend on your taste, time, and interests. Whichever you choose, you should start with fresh, good quality beans ground properly for your extraction method. A scale can be helpful, though a scoop also works, and the tech equipment you need for your preferred method.

Iced Coffee – Hot Brew Methods

After a decade-long surge in cold brew popularity, hot brew methods for making iced coffee seem to be gaining favor.

Getting the water content just right is a matter of technique and taste. For iced drip and pour-over coffees, you may need to brew with less water and measure your ice to account for melting to get the balance just right.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people have varying takes on which hot brew technique is best (like this one and this one). Still, you probably already have a few of these coffee-making items at home to start experimenting and finding your favorite.

Cold Brew

Cold brew coffee is reasonably easy to make. You can use this recipe, made in a mason jar with cold water. Be sure to keep leftover coffee concentrate fresh by storing it in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. You also can make cold-brew with a French press or make a room temperature Aeropress coffee and pour it over ice.

Grinding and Storage

The best route to the freshest home-brewed coffee starts with the freshest coffee beans, ground in a burr grinder right before brewing. If you prefer pre-ground beans, make sure to store them to maximize their shelf-life. They will keep for three to five months in an airtight container stored in a cool dark place.

If you store your coffee in the freezer, take care of your beans. Vacuum sealed bags are best, but you also can use a well-sealed container. Take freezer-stored coffee out for the least amount of time possible to prevent condensation from depleting the quality of your grind.

Whether in a cabinet, your counter, or the freezer, don’t keep your coffee in the refrigerator because it will absorb moisture and other food flavors, quickly losing its freshness and taste.

How To Limit Caffeine in Your Cold Coffee

The Food and Drug Administration recommends adults have no more than 400 mg of caffeine daily. Despite its various benefits, too much can have undesirable side effects, including jitters and stomach upset. But fear not, you can certainly enjoy a few cups of cold coffee within the recommended limit.

To reduce your intake without giving up your coffee altogether, consider incremental steps to limit caffeine. For example, brew your coffee with pure Arabica beans, change your brewing style, use lower caffeine or decaffeinated coffee, increase the ratio of water to coffee, or reduce the amount of coffee you drink.

Final Thoughts

Cold coffee does not lose caffeine, so if you add ice to hot brewed coffee or drink a cup that’s gone cold, the caffeine content will not change. However, cold-brewed coffee may have a higher caffeine content per ounce than hot brewed because of the volume of coffee extracted to produce a concentrate.

Whether brewed hot or cold, regular or decaffeinated, to get the best quality coffee in your cup, use your favorite coffee beans, make sure they are fresh and ground to your coffee style.


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