We commonly look to cold brew as the healthier option for coffee drinkers because of the relationship it has with our gastrointestinal tracts. Cold brew coffee requires steeping coffee grounds in water overnight, for a minimum of 12 to 24 hours. This process provides a cup of coffee with rich flavors that seem to lack the acidity of a hot cup of Joe, and for that, we’ve saluted this highly versatile style of coffee.
Cold brew also allows for easy mixing while still providing the bold flavor of coffee, minus the bitterness. Between the refreshing taste as we embark upon warmer months, and the plethora of ways to mix it – including alcoholic beverages – there’s a lot to appreciate about it.
But what about the comparison of cold brew coffee and hot-brewed coffee when it comes to our health? How do we get more bang for our buck with our morning pick-me-ups and their health benefits?
In spite of cold brew’s ever-growing popularity in the last year, is it really the healthier option of the two?
Healthy eaters often tout that the low acidity of cold brew is much kinder to their stomachs. Because it’s a smooth beverage, they find it easier to mix in lighter additions like coconut milk and almond milk, with fewer sweeteners, making for a nice low-calorie treat.
However, according to a study out of Thomas Jefferson University, cold brew coffee, and hot-brewed coffee had similar pH levels after all. Both coffee brew styles revealed pH levels ranging from 4.85 to 5.13.
What does this mean? Don’t believe the hype anymore about cold brews being a better option for avoiding heartburn.
While it might tempt you to believe that hot coffee may have lower antioxidant levels than cold brew – because heat may reduce those levels – that’s actually not the case. In fact, it’s in the bitterness of hot coffee that we find higher levels of antioxidant properties.
That same study out of Thomas Jefferson University found that there were higher levels of titratable acids, which is often a term you’d find when reading about the bitterness or sourness of wine. These acids are also present in coffee, which suggests that the more bitter the coffee, the better for you it is.
It seems counterintuitive to think that heat doesn’t harm antioxidants. We’re taught that cooking oils have “smoke points” at certain temperatures that cause them to oxidize easily and develop harmful free radicals. We also learn in high school how proteins denature at around 108 degrees, which is why we fear fevers that reach levels above 104 degrees because of their potential for internal damage to our bodies.
However, in the case of antioxidants, heat has the potential to make them more bioavailable to us. So if you love a good cup of coffee in its simplest form, you’re not only getting the most affordable option on the menu – you’re likely getting the most value.