Caffeine and Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee is a wonderful thing, but many people still seem to forget that what you get from the brewing method is a coffee concentrate and thus, it can have a lot more caffeine in it than your normal cup of coffee. It can be a little difficult to gage the level of caffeine in your cold brew, as there’s not many details to find out there.
Luckily, I found where Aaron Braun, cupping technician at SWISS WATER tested coffee using the High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) method. For the non-techie coffee drinkers, this is very good. I am referencing from an article on the SCAA.org website.
I use the Toddy System and Braun ran these tests using the same system. I have done a few home cold brews that used mason jars for the brewing and papertowel and cheesecloth filtering for the processing. The measurements seem very proportional, so I’m guessing that these findings will work for whatever method you use to make your cold brew.
Know that the variance in any coffee testing for caffeine will depend on the type of coffee bean and the type of roast. Not many coffees or coffee roasters give out exact caffeine levels of their product. I shoot for an overall estimate for my own calculations.
Aaron Braun used a coffee from Peru for this testing. For what I use at home, this seems like a good estimate for my own use.
When I first started using the Toddy System a few years ago, I was blind as to what caffeine was in my coffee, and how much I should have for my particular health. I’ll admit it, I was drinking too much, and over-caffeinating myself. Just like so many still do with their cold brew coffee.
And you can’t blame them completely. The Toddy instructions say to start with a ratio of 1 part coffee concentrate to 3 parts water. But people, including myself, will adjust according to taste.
Usually I find that people I serve in my home prefer a ratio of 1 part coffee concentrate to 1 part water. This seems to be what the average individual likes, according to a few comments out there.
Problem is, you’ve got to realize and warn those you serve at the 1:1 ratio that this means their cup of coffee has more caffeine than the hot brew counterpart they’re used to. According to Braun’s test, this 1:1 ratio makes an 8 ounce cup of coffee have 259 mg of caffeine in it. That’s a lot for many people.
To give you an idea of how high that is, Health Canada states that moderate intake of caffeine as part of a healthy lifestyle is 400mg/day. Two cold brew coffees would exceed that.
Braun approached two ways to enjoy your cold brew coffee and keep the caffeine levels down. Both are methods I’ve been doing for many months before seeing this post, so this really spoke to me.
- Mix a bit of decaffeinated coffee in with your caffeinated coffee before brewing.
- Use all decaffeinated coffee for your cold brew.
My morning hot coffees are made right now using the first method of mixing in some decaffeinated coffee before brewing. My favorite mix is to use 1/2 decaffeinated Guatemala and 1/2 full caffeine Panama. The Guatemala bean gives the coffee punch while the Panama lends a hint of milk chocolate. The two complement each other well.
Note: Cold Brew does not mean you have drink cold coffee. I store the cold brew in fridge at a 1:1 ratio and heat it up in the microwave for the hot coffee lattes. My husband does the same, except he drinks coffee with no milk or sweeteners. (I’m jealous…he does not have to watch his caffeine intake.)
In the afternoon, I drink cold lattes. For these, I use an all decaffeinated cold brew. This allows me to drink the coffee at a stronger ratio still, without adding a ton of caffeine to my daily count. My coffee of choice is a good espresso decaf from the fresh roaster.
In Braun’s test, the caffeine level of the cold brew decaffeinated concentrate was 17mg per 8oz.
According to Toddy’s website, the blend they sell that’s called Extreme Caffeine is 150mg per 12oz cup using the 1:3 ratio. I’ve never tried it. I’m not sure of the strength of this coffee, nor the flavor. I suspect most of what I drink is closer to Braun’s 159mg per 8 oz measurement.
If you drink at Starbucks, here’s a way to see the coffee content of the cold brew coffee you order.
As with all wonderful things in this world, coffee can be good for you, in moderation. Be informed before you drink, so you can enjoy your coffee and be safe.