December 5, 2022

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Cold Brew Coffee vs Iced Coffee: What consumers are buying the most

Cold coffee: Is it just a trend or here to stay?

When it comes to cold coffee, it’s hot! OK, it’s a tired pun, but the cold coffee explosion over the last decade has seen coffee lovers paying good money at specialty coffee houses and even the more mainstream coffee places for a taste of the cold stuff. In this blog we are going to look at the two different types of cold coffee and what consumers are buying more of. 

What is cold brew coffee?
To make the perfect cold brew coffee, first you must know what it is. A Cold-brewed coffee or cold brew, is coffee made by steeping ground coffee in room-temperature water for several hours. This usually takes 12 to 18 hours or even longer, then straining out the grounds and chilling it before serving it either as-is, over ice, or diluted with water.

This differs from iced coffee which… 

What is iced coffee?
Iced coffee on the other hand is where the whole process of steeping ground coffee at room temperature doesn’t happen. Instead, coffee is brewed hot using standard methods – from a coffee machine to a french press method – and then cooled down by either pouring it over ice or sticking it in the fridge.

Rise of nitro cold brew 

A common theme in many origin coffee houses or speciality coffee houses is the introduction and subsequent rise of nitro cold brew. Cold brew coffee producers have found a way to add a premium status with the introduction of nitrogen into the cold brew coffee procedure. 

By infusing cold brew with nitrogen gas, you get a light and creamy texture to the coffee as well as an appealing visual of micro-bubbles cascading out of solution, much like a famous Irish alcoholic beverage available on tap around the world. However, whilst this is becoming one of the more favoured drinks by aficionados, getting it on the menu is hard and therefore the take up is lower thanks to the operational challenges of installing and maintaining a draft system with nitrogen gas tanks. 


Rising popularity of cold coffee beverages 

If you entered a convenience store or petrol station as little as just a few years ago, finding cold coffee options were hard to come by. However, go into one today and the market has changed. 

With reports from Mintel in 2016 estimating a 67% growth from 2017-2022, the market surpassed this with more recent data showing that the market had grown by nearly 72% in that time. It therefore supports much of the justification given for the string of acquisitions then and now in the coffee market around ready to drink coffee beverages, especially in the cold brew methodology.  

Another great way to see what is happening with consumer trends is to take a look at Google trends. Searches for Iced coffee are almost twice as popular as searches for cold brew, and cold brew does not appear to be closing the gap. Whilst it can be argued that people may be searching for iced coffee thinking that they are getting cold brew, that’s another question which is harder to answer from this data alone. 

Consumer purchase data over the last five years (2017 – 2022) would indicate that cold brew and not iced coffee was the chosen preference for drinkers. 

Summary

In the words of Zoolander nemesis, Mugatu, cold brew coffee is “so hot right now”. The market has seen incredible growth in just a short period of time and whilst many will enjoy the flavours of a cold drink during a hot summer period, consumer data shows that even in the colder winter months, it’s a very popular drink. 

Thanks to nitro cold brews and the incredible taste and flavour profile that it provides, many coffee lovers have a new favourite drink and anyone who runs a coffee shop today has to see the potential of having it on the menu.