Cold coffee: Is it just a trend or here to stay?

Segafredo coffee
Photograph courtesy of Segafredo Zanetti®

Cold coffee is hot—no doubt about it, but is it just a craze or here to stay? That’s what foodservice operators want to know before investing time, effort and money. 

Consumers are drinking more iced coffee and cold brew—, but how much more are they drinking?  Iced coffee grew 19% in restaurants and cafes that menu it over the past four years while cold brew grew a whopping 245% in the same time period1! Even through the pandemic, cold brew proved resilient and became a top-five delivery item in 2020, growing 206% over the year prior according to GrubHub’s Year in Food Report. 

While younger consumers are driving interest in cold coffee beverages they’re not the only ones enjoying it. Allegra’s World Iced Coffee 2020 report noted that although early adopters of cold brew were younger consumers, category consumption is growing consistently across age groups, up 29% among consumers ages 45-59, 27% among ages 30-44 and 27% under 30. 

Evidence of increased drinking occasions and incremental sales are also pointed out by Allegra’s World Iced Coffee 2020, in which 45% of surveyed consumers said they make additional food or snack purchases alongside cold coffee beverages. In addition 32% of consumers who purchase cold brew drinks also purchase other beverages like bottled water, soft drinks and juice. Operators open up a whole new world of sales opportunities by offering cold coffee options. 

Plenty of potential

Yes, consumer interest in cold brew is there—but does it have legs? 

Even with the incredible growth cold brew has had in the past four years, it currently only has about 9% of the menu penetration among commercial restaurants that serve coffee, compared to iced coffee which has about 15%, suggesting there’s lots of room for cold brew menuing programs to thrive2.  

According to the National Coffee Association 58% of consumers who have not tried cold brew yet are aware of it, which means there are a tremendous amount of sampling opportunities that would of course extend to workplaces and other noncommercial foodservice facilities.


Cold brew evolves into an even more premium status with the introduction of nitrogen. Infusing cold brew with nitrogen gas adds a light and creamy texture to the coffee as well as the appealing visual of micro-bubbles cascading out of solution, akin to a famous dark adult beverage also served on tap. While nitro cold brew is growing at a higher rate than still cold brew, menu penetration is relatively low likely due to the operational challenges of installing and maintaining a draft system with nitrogen gas tanks. 

As the category grows and innovation evolves, newer dispensing systems are becoming available, which is ideal for operators that don’t want to invest in an extensive draft bar or a kegerator setup. There are countertop units with inline nitrogen boxes making it easier to get the on-tap experience without the hassle.

Tips for the best brew

Critical to understanding cold brew’s appeal is knowing that it is an actual coffee extraction method and not just regular hot brewed coffee poured over ice with a hipster name. As the name implies, the coffee grounds are steeped at cool or ambient temperatures for hours, resulting in a uniquely rich and smooth, low-acid, slightly sweet cup of cold coffee that can’t be obtained with the traditional hot extraction method. 

Any type of coffee can be cold brewed. In fact, most cold brew is handcrafted back-of-house, chilled and dispensed from an urn or put in kegs and run through a tap system in the case of nitro cold brew. Since cold brew is refrigerated, it can hold flavor and freshness much longer than hot coffee. Handcrafting a cold brew back-of-house has the added benefit of being used as an “espresso” strength coffee base perfect for making a variety of cold brew lattes and blended drinks. 

Foodservice operators can experiment with various premium roasts and blends to create a range of cold brew flavor profiles. The Segafredo Zanetti® Brillante® blend, for instance, has a bright and ultra-smooth cold brew profile due to its light roast and unique coffee components. Consult with a trusted beverage partner on which coffees and roast profiles are needed to produce a desired cold brew results. 

Cold brew can be dressed up for any occasion playing well with both traditional milk and plant-based milks and even versatile enough for adding a spin on cocktails and mocktails. Even serving it straight over ice is refreshing with the added benefit of zero-sugar and a zero-calorie count to boot. In other words, it’s easy to make a cold brew program work for any operation and customer needs.

Stay at the forefront of cold brew trends while capturing share in the growing (and profitable) beverage category. Because every operation is different, Segafredo Zanetti® has established a range of cold brew and nitro dispensing solutions to satisfy operators’ unique needs. 

While the labor-intensive aspect of handcrafting cold brew has prohibited operators from efficiently scaling a cold brew program at a commercial high-volume level, the introduction of ready-to-drink cold brew in a bag-in-box developed by Segafredo Zanetti® makes it possible to efficiently scale a cold brew program without compromising the quality and consistency drinkers expect. 

The Segafredo Zanetti® cold brew program is not just a product, but a customizable solution for menu concepts that’s flexible to the needs of operators. Consult with a Segafredo Zanetti® team member or contact for more information.

  1. 1. National Coffee Association Data Trends 2020
  2. 2. Menu Matters, Menu Trends 2020

This post is sponsored by Segafredo Zanetti®