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Here's Why Your Cold Brew Coffee is So Expensive

By Emilie Ruscoe | May 19, 2015 10:17am | Updated on May 19, 2015 7:30pm

Happy cold brew season, New York! If you prefer your coffee cold, you may be running through your coffee budget faster than usual: cold brew, which has become ubiquitous at third-wave coffee shops citywide over the course of the past few years, costs as much as $4 in many shops where the average hot cup goes for around $2.

This is not an elaborate coffee shop conspiracy intended to make caffeinated chumps of us all. Depending on which coffee shop or shops you patronize, there are different factors that your barista might present if asked to justify the price difference between hot coffee and cold brew. Here are some of them:

 The Bean, the Blend, the Roast

Because cold brew is seasonal, distributors sometimes offer unique beans for it, such as a single origin and/or directly traded bean, which can be more expensive than a house blend. Some shops use a dark roast or their espresso roast for cold brew, which can cost more than a standard roast.

Brewing Time

Longer brew periods make for a more well-rounded flavor profile. The widely accepted minimum time period for cold brewing is twelve hours, though some shops brew for as long as twenty-four hours. And as we know, time is money.

 Serving Cold Brew: Cups, Ice, and Milks

Some well-covered territory in the cold brew expense equation is the slightly higher price of iced drink cups, lids, and straws compared to paper cups, and the expense of ice for drinks. Biodegradable cold brew cups are also significantly more expensive than conventional ones.

Organic and local dairy options are popular on the boutique coffee shop circuit, and almond milk is increasing in price as it overtakes soy as the non-dairy option of choice.

Finally, factor in the fluctuation in demand. There are lots of ways for shops to lose money on prepped cold brew — occasionally for not having enough of it on hand. Weather is a major factor; rainy days can kill cold brew sales, and even the length of the cold brew season can be wildly unpredictable.

If you're a cold brew fanatic with your habit burning a hole in your pocket, investigate the process of making your cold brew at home. To everyone else biting the cold brew bullet, enjoy your drink, and try not to let that price tag keep you from tipping your barista.