Can Cold Brew Concentrate Be Used As Espresso? 

So you are looking to make some delicious specialty coffee at home but you can’t afford a fancy espresso machine. 

Cold-brew is easy and inexpensive to make, can’t we just use a concentrated cold brew in place of espresso?

Yes, you can use cold brew concentrate as espresso when making specialty drinks such as a latte or cappuccino. However, you are going to have some pretty noticeable taste differences. 

The most noticeable taste difference is the acidity level. Cold-brew makes your espresso less acidic which might not be a good thing depending on the drink you are making. For example, the foamy milk of a latte may overpower the espresso without its acidity. 

Let’s deep dive into the brewing process to shine some light on the key differences!

Brewing Process: Cold Brew And Espresso

Brewing Process: Cold Brew And Espresso

Cold brew and espresso have very different brewing processes. Because of this, there will have to be taste differences. After all, the coffee brewing process is a chemical reaction, you change any part of that and the finished product will be different!

Finely ground espresso is brewed using heat under a high amount of pressure. The shot is pulled quickly and you are left with a rich, bold, acidic form of coffee. You also end up with a layer of crema (That whitish, yellow foam on top). 

The cold brewing process is much different. Coarsely ground coffee beans are submerged in cold or lukewarm water for up to 12+ hours! Then the grounds are strained and voila, you have cold brew. 

These are very polar opposite brewing methods, so how does that affect the taste?

Taste Difference: Cold Brew Vs Espresso

There are a lot of factors that play into tastes differences between cold brew and espresso.

The first noticeable difference is acidity. Cold brew is much less acidic than espresso. 

Cold-brew also tends to be much smoother and less bitter than espresso. If you are planning on replacing espresso with cold brew concentrate for various drinks, you’ll need to factor this in. The strong bitterness of an espresso shot plays a big role in the flavor profile of a latte, cappuccino, macchiato, or just plain espresso shot. 

Sure a strong concentrated cold brew will give you something close to a traditional espresso-based drink, but will you feel like a real Italian sipping on a caffé con panna in the streets of Venice? Probably not.

What Has More Caffeine: Cold Brew Or Espresso

What Has More Caffeine: Cold Brew Or Espresso

When comparing a single shot of espresso to an equal portion of cold brew concentrate, cold brew is going to have way more caffeine. 

It’s simply because of the amount of coffee grounds you use in an espresso shot versus in a batch of cold brew. When making cold brew you actually use a lot of coffee grounds. A typical batch is 1 to 4 ratio of coffee to water but some people even go more concentrated up to a 1 to 2 ratio. 

This is why you normally dilute cold brew before serving it. 

Of course, there are other things to consider when comparing caffeine content. Some cold brew batches are made with fewer grounds so that no dilution is necessary after brewing. Because espresso shots are so small, it’s normal to have multiple shots in an espresso-based beverage. 

Does Cold Brew Espresso Need To Be Brewed With Espresso Beans?

There’s a common misconception that espresso needs to be brewed with espresso beans. There truly isn’t anything unique about espresso beans besides some fancy marketing.

It is true that “espresso” beans tend to all fit a similar roasting profile. They are very dark. This helps produce that strong, bitter taste.

Also, many espresso blends like to include robusta coffee beans. Robusta again helps add to the bitterness of an espresso shot but it also promotes that crema layer you see on top of a shot!

Using Cold Brew Concentrate instead of Espresso For Iced Lattes

Traditionally, the iced lattes you purchase at a coffee shot come with espresso shots poured over ice. Could you make a similar beverage by just using cold brew concentrate?

You can, but once again, it will affect the taste. Having worked as a barista in the past, I can tell you that our iced coffees made with cold brew tended to be smoother, sweeter, and less acidic. 

Personally, I preferred pouring shots of espresso over ice. You just ended up with a much stronger-tasting drink that is less sweet. 

How To Make Espresso Cold Brew

So we know that cold brew and espresso have inherent taste differences, but there are some things we can do to make cold brew concentrate taste a little more like espresso.

There are two methods.

Changing Ground Size And Traditional Cold Brew Method

Just as the name sounds, the first method is going to be simply changing how you grind the coffee beans before soaking them in cold water. 

Normally when making cold brew you want to use coarse coffee grounds so that they don’t over-extract. With this method, you will grind the coffee beans finer.

  • First grind the coffee beans. Not quite as fine as espresso but about as fine as you would for your traditional drip coffee maker.
  • Then put your grinds into a container, such as a mason jar, and add cold water.
  • Let the grinds steep in cold water like you normally would for around 12 hours. 
  • Drain the cold brew through a traditional coffee filter or cheesecloth.

The result will be a bolder-tasting cold brew that resembles espresso a little bit more. 

Making Cold Brew Espresso with Cold Water and Pressure

This isn’t exactly cold brew, but it is a method of getting a cold shot of espresso. Believe it or not, you can use a handheld espresso machine with cold water and pressure to actually make a cold espresso shot with the layer of crema on top.

Crazy, I know. But it’s true.

The perfect daily grind did an interview with coffee experts Andrew Pernicano and Randy Anderson regarding this Cold Press Espresso method. 

Basically, you are making espresso with cold water and pressure. But there are a couple of tweaks you will need to make:

  • You will need to use a hand operated manual espresso machine because automatic espresso machines heat up the water. 
  • You will grind the coffee a little bit finer than normal espresso.
  • You will use a little bit more coffee in your espresso puck. 
  • You will let the coffee ground immerse in the water for longer, about 120 to 180 seconds.

Not familiar with how espresso water immersion works? Basically, you add just enough pressure to the pump to let the first couple of drips of espresso through, then you wait and let the grounds immerse in the water before adding more pressure and finishing the shot. 

Can You Purchase Cold Brew Espresso Concentrate

There aren’t too many cold brew espresso concentrates out there but here is one popular option.

Again, this is a cold brew so it won’t taste exactly like espresso. But this brand, in particular, uses a blend of beans that make a bold, robust flavor that imitates espresso. 

Try it out!

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