Starbucks Cold Brew Vs. Espresso: how do they compare?

If you are a coffee lover, you definitely are aware of the recent trends in cold brew. Though the brew has been around for a while, it’s not until recently that it has gained popularity and mainstream attention. On the other hand, espresso is an old-time favorite that is true and tested. And it has existed for centuries, and most coffee lovers love it. It was not until recently that I tried the cold brew coffee. I am an espresso lover and was a bit reluctant to try another coffee type.

Therefore, if you are torn between either purchasing an espresso or cold brew, I created a post that would help you decide based on my experience.

What are the differences between Starbucks Cold Brew Vs. Espresso?


Cold Brew



Ice, milk, brewed coffee

Whipped cream, brewed espresso, sugar, and propellants like nitrogen and nitrous oxide, emulsifier.

Taste profile

Smoother, slightly sweeter, and chocolatier taste.

Strong scent balanced with a rich caramel taste.

Caffeine content/ nutritional value

A 16-ounce of Starbucks cold brew coffee cup contains 200mg of caffeine.

The cold brew has 80 calories, 0g of fat and protein, and 19g of total carbs.

An 8-ounce cup of espresso has 75mg of caffeine.

The double shot of espresso is not only sugar-free but also contains low-calorie content: 10 calories and 2g of carbs.

Availability/ accessibility

Cold brew is easily accessible in Starbucks location. You can also easily order the beverage via the Starbucks mobile app.

Starbucks espresso is always available at Starbucks locations and also via mobile ordering.

Roast level

Blonde to Dark roast

Dark roast

Starbucks Cold Brew Vs. Espresso – How They Compare

Starbucks Cold Brew Vs. Espresso

What it’s made of (ingredients)

Cole brew coffee can be basically referred to as coffee that has been brewed using coarse-ground coffee and cold water instead of the hot water used to make normal coffee. Furthermore, when creating cold brew coffee, you will have to steep the coffee for a longer period of 12+ hours.

On the other hand, espresso coffee is prepared by applying extremely high pressure hence forcing hot water through coffee that has been finely ground. Creating espresso drink using this method results in a concentrated coffee shot that has a distinctive crema and caramel sweetness. Starbucks uses their ground espresso roast coffee as their signature coffee for their espresso drinks.

If you have a sweet tooth, then espresso wins for you in this category due to the ingredients like whipped cream and extra sugars added; and its natural caramel-like flavor.

Taste profile

The cold brew coffee has a smoother and slightly sweeter taste. The smooth taste is mainly attributed to the less acidic nature that the coffee has because of the brewing method used. The drink has a chocolate-like taste. On the other hand, the Starbucks espresso has a rich caramel taste with a strong scent that is well balanced. The espresso has a lot of fans who have a sweet tooth due to its fruity-like flavor.

This category is a draw for both coffees as they have unique tastes according to what you prefer. If you are a sweet tooth, then the Starbucks espresso is definitely for you. But if you prefer a drink with a smooth taste and less acidity, the cold brew will win for you.

Caffeine content/ Nutritional Value

A 16-ounce cup of cold brew coffee has 200 mg of caffeine. This same amount of coffee has 80 calories, 0g of fat and protein, and 19g of total carbs.

On the other hand, one shot of espresso, which is equivalent to an 8-ounce cup of coffee, has 75mg of caffeine. This means that two shots of espresso have 150mg of caffeine. Therefore, the Starbucks cold brew has high caffeine content than the espresso. This same amount of espresso coffee is sugar-free and has only ten calories and 2 grams of carbs.

In this category, both the cold brew and espresso draw depending on what nutritional value you are seeking. The cold brew will be best for you if you are seeking high caffeine content. However, the Starbucks espresso is for you if you want a dietary drink with fewer calories and no sugar.

Availability/ Accessibility

Both the Starbucks cold brew and espresso are easily available and accessible at the Starbucks location. Furthermore, you can also easily order the drinks via the Starbucks mobile app by simply inserting their names when customizing the drinks.

However, some varieties of the Starbucks cold brew and also espresso experience seasonal shortages and, therefore, might not be available throughout the year.

In this category, it is a draw among the two drinks as both the cold brew and espresso can be easily accessed at Starbucks locations.

Roast Level

The Starbucks Ground coffee Espresso Roast is roasted dark and deep within caramelized sugar notes and molasses, hence its sweet caramel taste. Starbucks uses dark roasts because the extraction of espresso tends to work perfectly with darker and deep roasts as the beans have caramelized fully hence boosting flavor.

On the other hand, the Starbucks brew coffee is roasted from blonde to dark, depending on your preferred taste. However, Starbucks mostly applies dark roast to extract maximum flavor from the coffee. Using dark roast for cold brew provides a consistent flavor and a low margin of error.

Starbucks Espresso and the cold brew draw in this category since the roast level used for both coffees is appropriate to extract and achieve the desired taste needed to make the drink exceptional.

Starbucks Cold Brew Vs. Espresso – A comparison overview

Starbucks Cold Brew –Overview

Starbucks Cold Brew

If you have not tasted the Starbucks cold brew, then you are missing a unique coffee experience. Starbucks offers a large variety of cold brew coffee flavors. What I like most about the cold brew coffee is its smoother taste and less acidity found in the coffee. Furthermore, you can customize your cold brew to get the best and most enjoyable experience with the coffee flavor.

If you need an extra boost to be productive during your day like me, then the cold brew coffee is the best. A 16-ounce cup of coffee has 200mg of caffeine hence enough to get your day starting and running. However, the cold brew also has high-calorie content hence not suitable for one who is having a diet. The beverage best suits someone who loves high caffeine content but with mild acidity.

What I liked;

  • High caffeine content.
  • A smoother and sweeter taste due to less acidity.

What I didn’t like;

  • High-calorie content.

Who its best suited for;

  • A coffee lover who loves high caffeine content yet dislikes high acidity drinks.

Starbucks Espresso- Overview

Starbucks Espresso

If you love fruit flavors and have not tasted a shot of espresso from Starbucks, my advice is that you should order the drink and experience the richness of caramel taste. Apart from the flavor and the low-calorie content espresso offers, I love its simplicity as it can be prepared in just a couple of minutes.

Another aspect of the espresso drink I love is that you can enjoy it alone or as a base for other coffee drinks like cappuccinos and lattes. This enriches that flavor, and you can customize the drink to get your preferred caffeine content and taste.

A feature of the espresso that I don’t like is the intense acidity despite it being well-balanced. However, the sharpness of the acidity is regulated by a little bitterness providing deep undertones. The coffee is best for someone looking for an intense shot of coffee prepared in a few minutes and has a low-calorie content.

What I liked;

  • The richness of the caramel taste.
  • Low-calorie content.

What I didn’t like;

  • Intense acidity.

Who its best suited for;

  • Someone who loves an intense shot of coffee prepared in no time and has low-calorie content.

Final Verdict: So, Which is better? – Starbucks Cold Brew or Espresso

Both Starbucks espresso and the cold brew are two different beasts and are both amazing drinks depending on what your preference is and what you are looking for. If you are on a diet and nutritional value is what you desire, then definitely the espresso will suit you best as it has low calories on top of having no sugar and fats. However, if you are looking for a high caffeinated drink that will keep you on your toes and productive all day, the cold brew is your best choice due to its high caffeine content. Furthermore, the weather can play a huge role in which type of drink you will take. For instance, I prefer the cold brew during summers due to the weather, but I am typically an espresso die-hard.


Is cold brew stronger than espresso?

Starbucks cold brew is stronger than espresso as it has high caffeine content.

Which one tastes better between a cold brew and an espresso?

The cold brew tastes better as it is smoother and sweeter. Cold brew is more flavorful and less bitter because the coffee grounds are not exposed to high temperatures.

What is the difference between a cold brew and an espresso?

The major difference between the cold brew and the espresso is how they are brewed. Cold brew is brewed using coarse-ground coffee and cold water, while espresso is brewed using finer ground coffee and hot water.