A black cold brew coffee is made up of 2 ingredients: water and coffee. So when I found out that there are 3g of carbs in most cold brews, I was a little confused. Especially since I'm really conscious of my diet and what I put into my body. So why does cold brew coffee have carbs in it?
Cold brew coffee has carbohydrates in it because coffee beans are partially made of carbs, and cold brew coffee is a very concentrated drink with lots of tiny pieces of coffee beans in it. Cold brew usually has 3g of carbs per 8oz which is higher than regular drip coffee which has less than 1g.
In this article I’ve compiled all you need to know about cold brew coffee and its carbohydrates so that hopefully you can leave with all your questions about it answered. Let’s get into it!
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients, the other two being proteins and fats. A few examples of foods that are mostly made of carbs are fruits, bread, potatoes, pasta, and soda.
Although carbs get a bad wrap in the dieting and weight loss community, they’re actually the body's main source of energy and are essential to healthy body and brain function.
Carbs only become a health problem when you eat too much of them. This is because when you eat more carbs than you use for energy, the unused carbs are stored as fat for later use.
So carbohydrates can lead to weight gain when eaten in excess, which is an easy thing to do because of how tasty they are, however when eaten in moderation they are actually a super important part of maintaining healthy body and brain function and having enough energy to get through the day.
According to Mayo Clinic, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults eat between 225 and 325 grams of carbohydrates per day, but this number will fluctuate based on your height and weight, activity levels, and dietary goals.
How Cold Brew Coffee is Made
In order to understand why cold brew has carbs in it, you need to understand what cold brew is and how it's made.
A common misconception that many people have and I myself had for a while is that cold brew and iced coffee are the same thing. When it turns out that although they’re similar, they are 2 separate drinks made in 2 very different ways.
Iced coffee is made by brewing a strong pot of hot coffee and then pouring it over ice, hence the name “iced coffee.” Cold brew coffee is made by soaking coffee beans overnight in room temperature or cold water. So it actually never undergoes a brewing process with hot water, hence the name “cold brew.”
During the cold brewing process, the coarsely ground coffee beans will sit in the water for anywhere from 12-24 hours depending on how strong the brewer wants the coffee to be. The longer they soak, the darker and stronger the cold brew will be.
Cold brew coffee is known for being stronger and higher in caffeine than iced and regular drip coffee. The reason for this is that during the brewing process of most coffee drinks like regular drip coffee, espresso, and iced coffee, the water is only in contact with the coffee beans for a short amount of time. A few minutes at most. But because the coffee beans in cold brew are in contact with the water for so long, at times up to a day, more oils, caffeine and flavor is extracted from the beans and ends up in the final drink.
If you’re a fan of cold brew or have tried to make iced coffee at home but it turns out too watery and you want to try something new, you can make cold brew at home super easily without having to buy any extra or expensive coffee equipment. I made it for the first time this winter after only watching a 3 min youtube video and it turned out great.
If you’d like to learn more about the cold brew process or figure out how to make it yourself, here’s a quick youtube video that will teach you how to do it.
Why Does Cold Brew Have Carbs in it?
The reason that cold brew coffee has a small amount of carbs in it is because the coffee beans that are used to make it are partially made of carbohydrates. And since small pieces of and the oils in these coffee beans end up in the final drink, it has carbohydrates in it.
This means that even if you drink your cold brew black, with nothing in it but coffee and water, it will still have a small amount of carbs in it.
All coffee drinks from filter coffee to french press to espresso have some amount of carbs in them, but the amount will vary with each brewing method since some extract more of the coffee beans and their oils than others.
For example regular coffee made with a filter has close to 0 grams of carbs in it, while espresso, which is made by forcing boiling pressurized water through finely ground coffee beans, extracts more of the bean and creates a more concentrated final drink with 1-2g of carbs.
And so because cold brew’s brewing method creates an even more concentrated dark coffee drink, with a lot of the bean extracted from the long soaking time, most cold brews end up having around 3g of carbs.
For reference a slice of white bread has about 15 grams of carbs in it.
Interestingly, caffeine doesn’t affect the amount of carbs in coffee, so decaffeinated cold brew will have the same amount of carbs as caffeinated.
Low Carb Sweeteners and Milk for Cold Brew
Where the amount of carbs in a coffee drink like cold brew really changes is when things like milk, cream, sugar, and syrup are added to it.
Whether you’re ordering your cold brew from a coffee shop or making it yourself at home, the best way to keep it as low in carbohydrates as possible is to either drink it black, or only use low carbohydrate milks and sweeteners.
While the amount of carbs in a black cold brew are pretty much negligible, adding things like whole milk and sugar to the drink are going to exponentially increase the amount of carbs in it.
Two great low carb sweeteners to use in place of sugar are stevia and erythritol.
And if you like milk in your cold brew but are trying to keep your coffee carbs low, you can replace dairy milk, which has about 12g of carbs per cup, with unsweetened almond milk, which only has 1-2g of carbs per cup.
Cold brew coffee does have some carbs in it because it is such a concentrated drink made by leaving the coffee beans in contact with water for a very long time. However, the amount of carbs in cold brew is so little (3g a cup) that it can pretty much be ignored, even if you’re on a keto or no carb diet.
And remember that if you’re trying to limit your carb intake you should be careful about the types of milk, cream, and sweetener you use since even a small amount of these things can add dozens of grams of carbs to your coffee.
If you enjoyed this article and you’d like to learn more about coffee, carbs, and pretty much anything espresso related, be sure to check out the rest of my website! Have a great day!