The Untold Truth Of Starbucks Cold Brew

Just when you thought Starbucks couldn't do anything new with coffee, the retailer introduced a new way to serve coffee cold. 

Starbucks began rolling out its version of cold brew in its stores in 2015, and it has caused plenty of iced coffee lovers to convert. The menu item has proven to be a good move by the company, which has since launched flavored varieties, a bottled version, and a DIY pitcher pack for coffee lovers to recreate the cold brew magic at home. 

But is cold brew just another way for Starbucks to get you to part with your hard-earned cash, or is there really something special about cold brew coffee? If the cold brew craze has left you with a lot of coffee confusion, read on to learn more about what makes this slow-brewed coffee variety stand out from the rest of the Starbucks menu. What you find out might surprise you.

Starbucks cold brew is totally different than iced coffee

If you're already overwhelmed by all of the options on the Starbucks menu, you may be wondering whether or not the world really needs another coffee drink to choose from. You may also be wondering just what makes cold brew different from any of the other cold coffee drinks already available. 

For starters, iced coffee and cold brew are made with entirely different brewing processes. Iced coffee is essentially hot coffee brewed at twice the strength and served over ice, as Starbucks explains on its website. In order to make a batch of cold brew, Starbucks adds its blend of coffee grounds to cool, filtered water and steeps them for 20 hours. On its website, Starbucks describes the flavor of cold brew as having "the right balance of sweetness with citrusy and chocolate notes."

Those iced espresso beverages don't use cold brew coffee, either. They're made by pouring espresso shots over cold milk or water and ice.

Starbucks cold brew's flavor is in a class by itself

From your first sip, you'll notice that Starbucks cold brew has a distinct flavor from the other cold coffee drinks on the menu. Everything from the beans to the special slow brewing process gives Starbucks' coffee creation a reason to stand out from the rest of the pack. 

Starbucks cold brew starts with a unique blend of coffee from Africa and Latin America that according to People is specifically designed to be served cold. Because there is no heat involved in the brewing process, there is less acidity than iced coffee, and as a result, cold brew has a much smoother, full-bodied flavor, according to Starbucks.

The delicious smooth flavor of Starbucks cold brew may make you want to gulp down your drink in record time, but try to resist. Take your time to enjoy the taste, because as The Daily Beast pointed out, the flavor will not change with the temperature. Unlike iced coffee, the cold brewing process helps to keep the flavor consistent. 

Be prepared to pay more for Starbucks cold brew

Most people walk into Starbucks knowing that their cup of joe is not going to come cheap. But if you order a cold brew, you should expect to pay even more. 

One reason for the higher price is the cost of the materials needed to serve cold coffee drinks. As Money noted, supplies like plastic cups and straws are more expensive than paper cups. But it's also important to note that cold brew costs more to make and those costs are passed on to Starbucks customers. Starbucks stores that serve cold brew only make one batch of the specialty coffee drink per day. And because the brewing process takes 20 hours, once the batch is gone, there is no more. 

The cost of cold brew varies across the country, but the average retail price for a grande is $3.25, compared to an average price of $2.65 for a grande iced coffee, according to the Chicago Tribune. And although an additional 60 cents may not seem like much, it can add up if those cold brew runs happen too frequently. 

Starbucks' nitro cold brew is a whole other level

If you thought Starbucks' 20-hour cold brew steeping process was intense, Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew takes things to the next level. The drink puts a twist on the coffee chain's traditional cold brew coffee by infusing it with nitrogen bubbles. Nitro Cold Brew comes out cold, so you won't need ice. It also comes out with a foamy top — much like beer — so you can forget the milk, sugar, and straw, as Today noted.

In case you were wondering, the drink has built quite a following. In fact, the Nitro Brew with Cascara Cold Foam held the top spot in a ranking of all the drinks on the Starbucks menu, according to Thrillist.

But if you're the kind of person who needs to have your coffee supersized, you're in for a disappointment. Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew is served in tall and grande sizes only. According to Fox News, a company spokesperson explained that the drink is not available in venti because serving it in that size would cause the drink to lose the frothiness and bubbles that make the drink special.   

Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew was the first new pumpkin drink at Starbucks in 16 years

Starbucks brought a little fall flavor to its menu in the summer of 2019 when it introduced the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew. The drink puts a fall-flavored twist on a summer favorite, adding vanilla and pumpkin cream foam to the traditional cold brew, and a sprinkle of pumpkin spice powder on top. 

Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew was the first new pumpkin-flavored beverage on the menu in 16 years since the Pumpkin Spice Latte (affectionately referred to as the PSL by those in the know) launched in 2003, according to Business Insider.

In case you were wondering why Starbucks would launch a new fall-inspired beverage in the summer, it probably has a lot to do with business. As Forbes reported, a Starbucks spokesperson credits the Pumpkin Spice Latte as the company's best-selling seasonal beverage of all time. The chain had sold over 350 million as of 2018. 

The popularity of cold coffee has risen drastically in the last few years, with cold drink sales at Starbucks increasing from 37% of sales in 2013 to 50 percent in 2019, according to NBC News. With numbers like that, it's no wonder the company invented a cold brew version of this seasonal favorite.

Pitcher packs make it easy for you to make your own Starbucks cold brew at home

If you're craving Starbucks cold brew but don't want to have to leave home to get it, the coffee giant has made it easy for you to skip the line at the restaurant and make your own at home instead. In 2016, Starbucks launched its Cold Brew Coffee Pitcher Packs which are sold in stores and online. 

Each pitcher pack is filled with a perfectly measured portion of the same blend of Latin American and African coffee that is used to make batches of cold brew in Starbucks stores. 

To make your own cold brew, simply add two of the sealed pitcher packs to 4 cups of water and let it steep in the refrigerator for 24 hours, according to Starbucks. Add 3 more cups of cold water the next day to create a pitcher of the same smooth cold brew coffee that you can sip in a Starbucks store without having to add a ton of cream and sugar. You'll be able to store your cold brew in your fridge for up to one week.

Starbucks cold brew comes in a bottle too

You may not have 24 hours to make your own pitcher, but you can still enjoy the taste of Starbucks cold brew at home or on the go. The coffee retailer has bottled its popular cold brew coffee and made it available in the grocery aisle.

In case you're a little skeptical about drinking your cold brew from a bottle, you should know that Starbucks is getting some pretty great reviews. Eat This, Not That! credits the Black Cold Brew bottle as tasting "as though it was made by a small hipster cafe in Brooklyn." And the folks at BuzzFeed ranked Starbucks Cold Brew Cocoa and Honey with Cream second in a taste test of seven bottled cold brew brands. 

But be careful with some of Starbucks cold brew bottle varieties. While the black cold brew coffee has 15 calories and zero grams of fat and sugar, one 11-ounce bottle of Starbucks Cold Brew Cocoa and Honey with Cream has 150 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, and 21 grams of sugar, according to Eat This, Not That!.

Starbucks cold brew can make some cool cocktails

Anyone who's ever had an Irish Coffee or a White Russian knows that there are some classic coffee-flavored cocktails that have practically been around forever. But if you're looking for something new, cocktails made with cold brew may just become one of your new caffeinated obsessions. 

Starbucks wants its customers to know that cold brew is not just for breakfast. In fact, coffee lovers can enjoy the taste of cold brew during happy hour as well. The coffee giant has created cocktail recipes that feature its cold brew as one of the main ingredients.

For a sweet coffee-flavored drink, a Cold Brew Martini adds vanilla-flavored vodka and coffee liqueur to two shots of cold brew coffee. The Cold Brew Old Fashioned puts a twist on the classic whiskey cocktail by replacing the bourbon with cold brew and adding orange syrup, bitters, and a cherry for garnish. 

Add cold foam to turn your Starbucks cold brew into a brewski

Coffee lovers usually associate foam with the warm, frothy milk that usually sits atop a cappuccino or latte, but Starbucks changed all that. In 2018 Starbucks got creative with its cold brew and launched a line of drinks topped with a layer of cold foam in its U.S. and Canada locations. The company went all out to make sure its customers were able to truly appreciate the foamy addition, even serving the drinks in special plastic cups without straws designed to give customers unrestricted access to the smooth, cold foam on top of their drink. 

According to Spoon University, Starbucks baristas use a special blender to turn cold nonfat milk into a sweet, creamy cold foam topping that customers can add to their favorite iced drinks. The result will make your cold brew look more like a brewski. 

There are several cold foam cold brew drinks on Starbucks' menu, including the Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew, which adds a shot of caramel syrup to the traditional cold brew and tops it with a fluffy cloud of salted cream foam.

Starbucks cold brew has more caffeine than iced coffee, but that's not the whole story

If your coffee obsession has less to do with flavor and more to do with the caffeine jolt, you may want to know how cold brew stacks up to the competition. Contrary to popular opinion, espresso and dark roast coffee don't necessarily always have the highest levels of caffeine per serving, as Huffpost points out. In fact, the amount of caffeine in your coffee depends on everything from how your coffee is ground to the way it is brewed. 

If you want the biggest caffeine bang for your buck at Starbucks, it may depend on your preference. When you're in the mood for cold coffee, cold brew is definitely the way to go. Cold brew has more caffeine per serving than traditional iced coffee. According to the nutrition facts listed on the Starbucks website, a grande cold brew contains 205 mg of caffeine, compared to 165 mg of caffeine in a grande iced coffee. But when compared to some of the hot drinks on the menu, cold brew doesn't hold up. There are 310 mg of caffeine in a grande Pike Place

There are health benefits to choosing Starbucks cold brew

You may depend on your daily dose of coffee to give you the energy to get through your day, but you may not know that a lot of other good things are happening in the process.

Drinking a cold brew coffee provides many of the same health benefits as hot coffee, according to Healthline. Caffeine consumption has been shown to help boost your metabolism and enhance your mood. 

In case you needed another reason to justify your morning cup of joe, you should know that drinking coffee can also help protect you from serious illnesses. According to a study by Harvard Medical School, drinking three to four cups of coffee each day has been linked with a reduced risk of serious illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Parkinson's disease. 

And as Spoon University mentioned, there is an advantage to drinking Starbucks cold brew coffee over other drinks on the menu. Cold brew is 67% less acidic than other varieties, which means that it may be easier for people with sensitive stomachs to digest.

Chocolate Cream is the newest addition to Starbucks' cold brew lineup

In May 2022, Starbucks unveiled its latest flavored cold brew menu item: Chocolate Cream (via Starbucks). This new iteration consists of Starbucks cold brew combined with the sweet flavor of vanilla syrup and topped off with a dollop of chocolate cream cold foam. According to Today, this foam is made by whipping together vanilla cream and chocolate malt powder.

"When creating this beverage, we wanted to bring our customers a drink that would transport them back to their favorite summer memories with each sip," said Rosalyn Batingan, a member of the Starbucks beverage development team. "The classic combination of coffee and notes of chocolate, along with the malt flavor in the chocolate cream cold foam, are reminiscent of a chocolate malted milkshake or that last bit of melted chocolate ice cream on a warm summer day to recreate the sweet, creamy flavor of summers past."

The result of Starbucks' efforts is a refreshing drink that is less bitter than standard coffee yet not overly sweet, despite the addition of vanilla and chocolate. These ingredients do make their presence known on the nutrition label, however. A grande-sized Chocolate Cream Cold Brew packs 250 calories, 28 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of fat. 

Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew was a highlight of Starbuck's Summer Remix Menu

Starbucks' Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew is, as the coffee maker describes it, a "savory-meets-sweet" concoction. It is traditionally made by adding a dash of sweet caramel to cold brew coffee and topping the drink with salted cold foam.

But that only begins to describe the fun you can have with this refreshing pick-me-up. In August, Starbucks included the Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew on its Summer Menu Remix, a list of drink customizations designed to add a new-and-improved wrinkle to customers' favorite caffeinated beverages. For the Salted Caramel Cream, this customization included using a cup with extra caramel sauce lined around the inside (you can even order it this way online and through the Starbucks app).

A delightfully sweet trick, indeed. But, as it turns out, this is just one way to personalize the cold brew drink. According to Starbucks baristas, some other popular Salted Caramel Cream customizations include substituting caramel syrup for white mocha and toffee nut syrup and adding a drizzle of mocha sauce for a bit more sweetness or a shot of Starbucks Blonde espresso for an added kick.

Vanilla Sweet Cream is Starbucks' lowest-calorie flavored cold brew

Starbucks' delectably sweet coffee drinks are a dream to the tastebuds but usually a nightmare to the waistline (read: they're not particularly healthy). And the chain's flavored cold brew offerings are no exception.

Plain cold brew has no sugar, no fat, and virtually no calories. But when syrups and creams get added, it's a different story. Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew has a whopping 250 calories in a grande-size serving to go along with 31 grams of sugar and 12 grams of fat. Chocolate Cream and Salted Caramel Cream aren't much better, boasting the same or slightly fewer calories but also including more fat.

But there is a saving grace to the nutritionally starved lineup: Vanilla Sweet Cream. This refreshing, caffeinated drink has less than half the calories of its flavored cold brew compadres—just 110. Even better, the drink's fat total (5 grams) is also less than half of that found in any of the coffee chain's other flavored cold brews. And although Vanilla Sweet Cream is similarly packed with an abundance of sugar (14 grams), it's one of the few cold Starbucks beverages with fewer than 15 grams of the sweet stuff.