The Real Reason Cold Brew Is More Expensive Than Iced Coffee

There may be no other recent "food fad" that has entered into the cultural zeitgeist as much as cold brew. Cold brew has become the coffee option that is almost impossible to ignore on a hot day — or any day, regardless of the weather. While the jolt of caffeine and the pure coffee flavor may be incomparable, your wallet may also take a real hit from the clear price hike. If you've ever wondered why a plain ol' iced coffee is so much cheaper than cold brew, look no further. 

Vinepair states that while Starbucks may have helped cold brew become mainstream, it has been a technique used for years in New Orleans. Today notes that cold brew tends to have "full body and less acidity," and is "a bit mellower and [tastes] more rounded out" than your typical brew. 

So, why is your cup of cold brew so expensive? According to Philly Mag, cold brew requires three times the amount of ground coffee beans usually required for the same amount of coffee. Also, the lack of heat means a much longer "brewing" time. Cold brew is an infusion that is usually steeped overnight, whereas hot coffee can be brewed within only a few minutes. On the other hand, iced coffee is simply just traditionally brewed coffee that is cooled and then served over ice. That's the other perk of cold brew — no need for added ice, so no risk of melted ice cubes diluting your beverage.

The benefits of splurging on cold brew

The other notable distinction is the lack of acid in cold brew and a smoother, more pure coffee flavor. Chameleon Cold Brew actually notes that cold brew has half (!) the acidity of traditional coffee and about three times the caffeine — wow! Vinepair says that another reason cold brew is so expensive at cafes and restaurants is because the supply takes so long to make — and if an establishment runs out mid-day, it's legitimately impossible to come up with fresh cold brew in a minute's notice. The Kitchn reports that Starbucks soaks their cold brew batches for 20 hours, whereas Chameleon Cold Brew soaks theirs for 16 hours.

If you're looking to make cold brew at home and maybe save some dough, it's important to strain the cold brew properly, use lots of water, and make sure to get a larger, coarse grind on your beans, according to The Kitchn. There's a lot of variations once you have a glass of cold brew at your disposal, but for many, the age-old combo of cream and sugar is unbeatable. Regardless of how you drink your "joe," cold brew has become a hugely popular coffee alternative for a good reason, and we don't see its popularity waning any time soon — no matter the cost.