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Cold Brew Coffee Health Benefits
Believe it or not, coffee is one of the healthiest drinks on the planet. No, not your Starbuck’s coffee filled with an unknown number of chemical sweeteners and flavoring; but real coffee. For those of you who at least understand the benefits of drinking coffee in a healthy manner, you may want to look at cold brew health benefits to take your coffee drinking to the next level!
For those of you who can drink traditional hot coffee without any ill-effects, switching to cold brew would certainly still benefit you. However, especially for those individuals who experience stomach issues when they drink hot coffee, cold brew coffee could pose a surprising advantage!
There are many health benefits attributed to drinking cold brew coffee, however, marketing is distorting the facts exaggerating some of the facts. Here are the most discussed health benefits of cold brew:
- Improved Control of Gastric Acid Secretion, (no acid reflux)
- Less Acid in Coffee Overall
- Increased Amounts of Antioxidants, (Chlorogenic Acid)
- Less cafestol and kahweol
- Lower caffeine content, (this means you can drink more of it)
Below, I will review each of these benefits, and how they will pertain to your overall health and enjoyment of drinking coffee! I will also point out where we have scientifically verified facts versus anecdotal/marketing data.
Improved Control of Gastric Acid Secretion
We wrote a dedicated article on stomach pain and coffee, but here is a short reminder in the context of cold brew.
Generally speaking, if a person has stomach issues after drinking coffee, the first blame always goes towards the “acid” content of the coffee itself. The acidity of coffee is too low to cause stomach problems. Black coffee has a ph of around 5 whereas Coca-Cola has a ph of 2.5. So Coke is about twice as acid but causes far less irritation for the stomach.
The real problem is that coffee stimulates acid production. So the extra acidity after drinking coffee is not caused by the acids in your cup of joe. It is rather caused by compounds in coffee that stimulate acid production in your stomach. Some of these compounds are caffeine, catechols, and N-alkanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamines.
On the other hand, N-methylpyridinium, (or NMP), is a little magical substance that inhibits gastric acid secretion. NMP is formed during the roasting process of coffee and has been proven to have other health benefits in humans.
Furthermore, it has been proven many times that NMP formation is significantly higher in darker-roasted coffee, essentially proving that light roasted coffee will always be more painful on your stomach.
We recommended light coffee roasts for the cold brew in this article. Lighter roasts help even more to preserve phytochemicals in coffee. Some might argue that light roasts are harsh for sensitive stomachs, as we showed in this article. However, the low brewing temperature ensures that NMP is not extracted during brewing, therefore cold brew is not dependant on the roast type.
There is no research on the matter, but my intuition tells me that cold brew extracts less of the compounds responsible for stimulating gastric acid secretion, (caffeine, catechols, and N-alkanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamines.)
Contains Less Acid Overall
Cold brew is touted as a lower acidity option. There are many claims that cold brew may have up to 67% less acid overall than traditional brewing methods.
A common misconception is that the total acid content will affect the GERD problems for those sensitive. However, coffee acidity is so low, that it can’t cause you any problems from this perspective as shown previously.
Although I personally am not a supporter of this health claim, I have to note that cold brew coffee is less acidic than hot brews. The reason for this is simple, the brewing process. The low brewing temperature doesn’t allow the extraction of acidic substances, and therefore remains less acidic overall.
The things are getting a bit more complicated here. The ph of hot brewed coffee is about the same as the ph of cold brew. Confused yet? I just said cold brew contains less acid overall...
Recent scientific research published in Nature shows that ph is similar for cold and hot extraction, however, the total titratable acids content in hot brewed coffee is higher than in cold brew. That means that hot brewed coffee has more acidic notes. This ultimately affects the taste and not the way it interacts with your stomach.
In the end, we don't know if this affects our health in any way, but it does affect the flavor.
Cold Brew Is a Powerful Antioxidant – Contains Increased Amounts of Chlorogenic Acid
Hot brewed coffee contains 40 mg caffeine per 100 gram and no essential nutrients in significant content. Cold brew coffee is very similar to drip from this perspective. However, this is where the similarities stop. Recent discoveries in nutrition show the importance of phytonutrients in our health. Green coffee is an important source of phytochemicals, as a result, is a great antioxidant. However, high-temperature exposure destroys the antioxidants; the higher the temperature and the longer the exposure, the more of the antioxidants are destroyed. Coffee prepared at low temperatures preserves a higher ratio of antioxidants.
Chlorogenic acid is a powerful antioxidant which is found in coffee beans, but it is extremely sensitive to heat. Chlorogenic acid itself is a reason for you to drink coffee every day, but roasting the coffee beans is detrimental to the health of this amazing antioxidant.
Light roast coffee can post a breakdown in chlorogenic acid up to 60%, while darker roasts can have a breakdown of up to 100%! This is an extremely huge loss to the health of your coffee overall, as it is a commonly considered goal of science to one day maximize the amount of this product in every cup of coffee.
The only trade-off with cold brew is that some of the terpenes, (aromatic oils), in coffee are the basis for the aromas and taste of coffee. Since the terpenes need heat to be extracted from the grounds, cold brew doesn’t have the same kick that hot brew has. That’s why we didn’t all switch to cold brew yet. However, once you try a cup of cold brew you will be amazed by its complex aroma and taste. Cold brew coffee has a unique delicate flavor. People describe it as sweet, with floral and earthy notes, and without any bitterness. You don’t need any sugar and the taste is very mild.
The same research mentioned before measured the amount of antioxidants in coffee. Their findings confirmed the previous research that chlorogenic acid is preserved better with cold brew. However, Niny Rao and Megan Fuller, the article authors found a higher antioxidant capacity in hot brew. This is because other antioxidant compounds in coffee are extracted at higher temperatures.
I love my espresso in the morning. In fact, I love my espresso even in the afternoon. Many people though, cannot have the second cup, because of the caffeine. Some people don’t have any reaction even with huge amounts of caffeine, but for some, even a sip over the daily coffee dose can lead to serious problems. Even without an apparent reaction, large amounts of caffeine can lead to serious conditions such as osteoporosis, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and many other problems. N.I.H. has an article about this here.
Cold brew coffee contains about 40 milligrams per 100 grams of coffee. This is 20 milligrams less than your regular drip coffee from the coffee shop. Sure, many people only drink coffee for the energy jolt. I drink it for pleasure, and I like to drink more of it, without the effects of ingesting too much caffeine. If your afternoon drink needs to be even less caffeinated, the best option is to mix it with chicory. This way you have a strong coffee, without the caffeine. Cold brew coffee and chicory is my favorite afternoon drink. Here is my article about chicory coffee.
Caffeine extraction can be improved by steeping longer.
Cold Brew and Cholesterol
There are a few studies that show that the consumption of unfiltered coffee can affect the cholesterol production. The two compounds that are responsible for stimulating the LDL cholesterol are kahweol and cafestol. This was confirmed scientifically and presented by JRSM here.
I personally don’t care much about LDL cholesterol raised by coffee, even though I am a health nut. But that’s another discussion. Anyway, going back to the subject, it is assumed that cold brew contains less kahweol and cafestol because of the low brewing temperature. There is no scientific research on the subject, it’s just assumed that the two terpenes are extracted better at higher temperatures. If you want to make sure you don’t get them into your coffee, just filter it. Oh, and make sure your grinder is a good one so that your grounds are uniformly ground. Fines can transfer the two compounds into your cup.
Cold Brew Health Benefits Review
If you are one of the millions of people who avidly begin their day with a cup of coffee for energy and alertness, it is wise that you consider how you are serving your coffee.
If you have attempted to drink dark roast coffee, and still cannot handle the stomach issues, cold brew coffee is probably the perfect drink for you! Cold brew has a lower amount of acid but this doesn't mean much in relation to your health. The many faces of cold brew nutrition should be enough for you to at least give it a try!
Cold brew coffee will give you more of the powerful antioxidant, chlorogenic acid, but hot brew will give you other antioxidants.
My name is Dorian hand I am a former barista. I consume coffee in any form, as a beverage, in savory recipes and desserts. My favorite caffeinated beverage is the espresso.
I love to share my coffee brewing knowledge and my geeky coffee research. This blog is one of the places I write about coffee. More about Dorian…