Cold vs Hot Coffee: Which Is Better for Your Health and Waistline?

Cold vs Hot Coffee

File today's post under "questions you never thought to ask." We've talked before about how coffee can be healthy for you and can help you lose weight. If you've been convinced your coffee habit is healthy (and if you're avoiding the additives that make it bad for you), you're probably looking into different ways to drink your coffee in the morning and throughout the day.

This leads naturally to the decision between hot coffee and cold. Iced coffee, cold brew coffee, hot coffee; which is best? Is one better than another? Has anyone even thought to check?

Are Hot and Cold Brews Different?

First of all, let's get the simple question out of the way. Is there actually a difference between hot brewed coffee and cold brew? Other than, you know, the flavor, and the method of preparation, and the temperature when you drink it, and all that. Those are mere details. We're talking about differences at the molecular level.

The simple answer is yes. There's a definite difference between hot brew and cold brew.  

In fact, to tell the difference, try this out. Set up two pots of coffee. One of them, you can hot brew. The other, cold brew. Take the hot coffee and chill it down in the fridge next to the cold brew overnight. Then, in the morning, taste them both.

They're different, right? Cold brew is less acidic, less bitter, and has a different flavor to it. That difference is in more than just flavor, though.

Cups of Coffee

There are other factors to consider as well, of course. Light roasts and dark roasts are quite different in terms of both flavor and nutrients. We tend to recommend a lighter roast, but for the most part, it all comes down to preference.

Caffeine is another big concern, and luckily, you have complete freedom there. Researchers found that the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee was more or less identical between hot brew and cold brew and between light roasts and dark roasts. There was some variation, but we're talking a few milligrams. When we're talking about a cup of coffee, which usually has around 95-100 mg of caffeine, 1-2 milligrams difference is minimal.

What's the Difference? Which is Better?

There's one area where there's a major difference between the two, and that's in the antioxidants.

Antioxidants are present in coffee, and they're released when you brew the grounds into your water. What researchers are studying now is whether one method of brewing is better than the other for getting those antioxidants. What they've found is that, yes, there is a difference, and one is the clear winner.

"Hot brewing extracts more antioxidants from the grind than cold brew, and this difference increases with the degree of roasting." – Niny Z. Rao.

Hot and Cold Coffee

Ongoing molecular studies of coffee are finding a significant difference between hot and cold coffees, particularly in terms of antioxidants.  

Hot brewed coffee does the best at extracting antioxidants from the grounds and infusing them into your beverage. There was very little difference between light and dark roasts in hot coffee.

On the other hand, cold-brewed coffee has fewer antioxidants in it than hot-brewed. Additionally, the darker the roast, the fewer antioxidants make it into the beverage.

The mechanism for these results is unclear. Our theory is that the roast locks in the antioxidants (and probably destroys some of them in the process) and that a hot brew successfully unlocks them from the grounds. Cold brew doesn't have as much chemical action taking place and thus can't extract as many nutrients from the grounds.

Acidity also changes. If you have a sensitive stomach, an ulcer that needs care, or just don't like acidic coffee, stick with the darker roasts and the colder brews. These lower acidity but also lower antioxidants. It's a trade-off you'll have to make.

"If you want a low-acid drink, you may want to use a darker roast. But remember that the gap between the antioxidant content of hot- and cold-brew coffee is much larger for a darker roast." – Food and Wine.

The experiments that have been conducted so far are only a fraction of the variability of coffee, however.  

Confounding Variables

The studies we've found into the health and flavor components of coffee are rigorous but limited. The primary study we're citing here studied coffee at three temperatures (hot, cold, room) and two roasts (light and dark) but left out several details that might make a difference.

Brewing Up Coffee

Or, rather, they controlled for those variables. For example, they used a medium grind for all of their samples, so grind size doesn't affect the results.  

What variables might have an impact?  

Coarseness of the grind.

Ground Up Coffee

One of the variables that might have an impact on the antioxidant content of coffee is the grind. A coarse-ground coffee has less surface area than a fine-ground coffee, so it might have fewer antioxidants. Unfortunately, this detail was not part of the study (it would have added significant time and variability to the study), so all we have is theory to guess at its effects. That's going to be true of all of the variables we're listing here, as well.

Freshness of the grind.

Any coffee aficionado will tell you that the best way to brew coffee is their favorite way. If you get ten coffee fans in a room and ask them for the best way to prepare coffee, you'll get ten different answers. However, there's one thing they (probably) all agree on: fresher is better.

Fresh Coffee Beans

Coffee beans hold in their volatile oils and flavonoids within their outer surface. However, when they're ground, the oils and nutrients are exposed to air. That's what makes ground coffee smell so good and what gives the coffee the richness of flavor we all know and love.  

However, the longer that grind is exposed to air, the more nutrients oxidize and break down. That's why pre-ground coffee doesn't always smell as good, why it doesn't always taste as good, and why it might have fewer nutrients.  

Our theory is that fresh-ground coffee might be better for some preparations than pre-ground coffee. Investing in a coffee grinder is one of the best things you can do as a coffee drinker.

Species of coffee bean.

There are four primary species of coffee beans, but the majority of the coffee you find on store shelves is Arabica. Despite the name, it doesn't come from Arabia; but rather, it is most commonly produced in Brazil. The four species are:

  • Arabica. The most common bean, this one has the sweetest and most delicate flavor of the four.
  • Robusta. Usually the most common in Europe, this bean has a stronger, harsher flavor and a lot more caffeine than Arabica.
  • Liberica. A fruity and woody coffee, this is a very rare bean that is not broadly commercially grown due to the specific climate necessary for it to thrive.
  • Excelsa. A tart and fruity coffee, this is another rare treat from Southeast Asia and is uncommon to find.

Coffee Bean Species

While you can probably assume that the core premise holds true – that antioxidants and nutrients diminish in cold brew versus hot brew – no experiments have been conducted on different coffee beans to verify that assumption.

Method of preparation.

Preparing Cup of Coffee

In addition to the differences between hot brew and cold brew, you might also want to account for differences in preparation. Pour over, Chemex, French press, AeroPress, Moka Pot; there are many different ways of preparing coffee (usually hot), and those different methods produce different results. When different methods produce different tastes in the resulting beverage, you can assume that they will also produce a different nutritional profile. However, again, experiments are scarce for testing these differences. The primary experiment above used simple drip coffee preparations.


Adding Milk to Coffee

Anything you add to coffee will affect its health profile. Adding any cream, milk, syrup, sweetener, or adulterant will make your coffee a lot less healthy to consume. About the only thing you can reliably add and stay healthy is MCT oil. For the purposes of the experiments above, though, the scientists stuck with simple black coffee.

A Note on Instant Coffee

One thing we want to mention is that instant coffee does not necessarily mean the coffee is bad for you or worse than a good hot brew.  

When you find coffee like ours, what you get is crystallized instant coffee, NOT ground coffee. Coffee like this is typically prepared using dehydration methods. The coffee is brewed, and then the moisture is removed, leaving crystallized coffee bits that dissolve back in water when you mix them together.

Bella Iced Coffee

This is hot coffee, dried out. You can then brew it cold, and you'll still have all of the benefits of hot coffee.

Of course, our coffee product also has additional ingredients to help you lose weight. We include Garcinia Cambogia, l-carnitine, and a healthy creamer to help accentuate the fat-burning properties of the coffee while giving it a better flavor. You can drink our coffee mixed with hot or cold water (though we recommend cold) and still have a wonderful drink. No need for cream, as we've already sweetened it for you.

What To Do If You Love Cold Brew

If you're a big fan of cold brew coffee, but you want to get more antioxidants in your coffee drink each morning, you have three choices.

The first choice is to buy an instant coffee like ours, linked above. Our coffee is brewed hot and dehydrated, so when you rehydrate it, you have all the benefits of a hot coffee. You can rehydrate it with cold water and ice, and it will still have all of the nutrients of a hot coffee. More, in fact, because of the things we add to it.

The second option is to brew your coffee hot and chill it down. It's not actually cold brew if you do this, but it does allow you to have a cold/iced coffee drink. By brewing the coffee hot, you can extract all of the nutrients you want, then chill it down to drink cold on a hot day. This is great if you're after the antioxidants, but it doesn't do much good if you like cold brew because it's less acidic. It's a trade-off you have to make.

Cold Brew Coffee

The third option is to add something with antioxidants to your cold brew. MCT oil is one of the go-to additives for coffee, but you can also try out additives like cinnamon, maca powder, and turmeric. These all serve to make your coffee healthier without adding calories or hurting you in other ways.

And, of course, you can simply go with the trade-off. Any coffee is better than no coffee; when it's kept black and healthy, especially when you want to lose weight. The energy and caffeine boost it gives you is great for giving you the motivation to get up and moving in the morning, focus on exercise, or otherwise get healthier.

Which Coffee Helps You Lose Weight Faster?

If you're in it to win it and lose those pounds, coffee can help, but it's not a miracle. The truth is, the difference between hot and cold coffee is minimal when it comes to losing weight. We're talking about the difference between burning 50 and 100 calories. When you need to burn 3500 calories to lose one pound, changing up your coffee habits will barely impact the bottom line. It's better, instead, to replace something unhealthy in your diet with something healthy, cut back on the calories you eat in general, or focus on working out just that little bit more.

Hot Cold Coffee

To that end, we recommend sticking with whatever coffee you find the most pleasant to drink and gives you the most energy. You want energy and motivation to work out and avoid snacking, so if you're forcing yourself to drink something unpleasant, it just won't work. Drink the coffee you like.

If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding the coffee topic, feel free to reach out at any time!

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