Sip, Snap, Share: Gen Z and Cold Brew Culture

From mocktails, to pressed juices, to probiotic soda alternatives, we’ve seen a shift in trending beverages throughout the years. One drink in particular has taken the food and beverage market by storm – Cold Brew coffee. Often referred to as the “Cold Brew Craze,” the popularity of this coffee has prevailed for nearly a decade and it's not just a fad. Estimates anticipate the trend is here to stay, with the Cold Brew market predicted to have grown $1.37 billion from 2020 to 2025. No longer a niche preference, Cold Brew coffee has become the drink of choice among Millennials and Gen Z. With these generations starting to make up a significant part of the workforce, companies should look to rebuild their office perks to attract and retain new talent. In this blog post, we will explore the origins of Cold Brew’s popularity, as well as delve into the coffee’s unique characteristics and the cultural influences that have contributed to its widespread appeal. 

Tracing the Origins of Cold Brew Coffee 

The first evidence of Cold Brew coffee dates back to the 1600s in Kyoto, Japan. After the Dutch traded their coffee beans to regions in Asia, the Japanese began brewing coffee by letting cool water drip slowly over the grounds. This became known as Kyoto-style coffee. In 1960, a man named Todd Simpson was introduced to Cold Brew during a trip to Peru. Upon his return to the U.S., he replicated what he observed and patented the Toddy Cold Brew System. By the 90’s and early 2000’s, coffee shops began adopting Cold Brew, but hot drinks and regular iced coffee remained preferable. It wasn’t until the 2010s that Cold Brew began to gain popularity among consumers, largely due to chains like Starbucks and Dunkin expanding their cold coffee offerings. By 2014, ready-to-drink (RTD) Cold Brews in the form of cans and bottles hit supermarkets, increasing the accessibility and convenience of this coffee. Sales soon skyrocketed. In 2015, Cold Brew sales totaled $8.1 million, and just two years later, the sales reached $38.1 million. Cold coffees began to outperform hot coffees, even during cooler months. For example, in the Fall of 2020, Starbucks sold 90 million Pumpkin Cream Cold Brews, which outperformed the Pumpkin Spice Lattes– what had previously been the chain’s most popular drink for years. To this day, Cold Brew remains beloved, with the cold coffee sector forecasted to grow 22% each year for the next five years.

The Unique Characteristics of Cold Brew

At the heart of Cold Brew’s popularity lies its revolutionary flavor profile. The slow, deliberate steeping process results in a smoother brew. The boiling water typically used to make hot coffee causes the oils in coffee to degrade and oxidize, so Cold Brew, with the absence of heat, degrades and oxidizes at a much slower rate. This prevents bitter compounds from being extracted from the grounds, giving Cold Brew a sweeter and less acidic taste. As a result, Cold Brew has become an enticing option for those seeking a refreshing and bold coffee experience without needing added creamers or sugars.

Another unique characteristic of Cold Brew is its higher caffeine content compared to regular iced coffee. Hot coffee served over ice results in a drink that becomes diluted quickly. With its longer steeping process and higher coffee to water ratio, Cold Brew has a greater caffeine kick at 200 mg compared to 165 per 16 oz. Nitro Cold Brew, a special form of Cold Brew that is infused with nitrogen, has even more caffeine. At Commonwealth Joe, our award-winning Nitro Cold Brew contains 234 mg per 8 oz pour, which is double the amount of caffeine compared to the average cup of hot coffee. The heightened caffeine content, paired with the smooth and naturally sweeter taste, has turned Cold Brew into a favorite choice for study sessions, busy work days, and late nights at the office. 

Health Consciousness and Sustainability

The rise of Cold Brew’s popularity among Gen Z is closely intertwined with their heightened emphasis on healthy habits and sustainability. As a generation that values well-being and mindful consumption, Gen Z is drawn to the perceived health benefits of Cold Brew. With its reduced acidity, Cold Brew is gentler on the stomach and an appealing option for those seeking a coffee experience without the discomfort of traditional brews. Moreover, Cold Brew’s natural sweetness is perfect for a generation that trends toward lower sugar intake. Compared to 10% of Baby Boomers and 14% of Millennials, 29% of Gen Z say they avoid consuming sugar entirely. Unlike hot coffee or your standard iced coffee, Cold Brew can be enjoyed without adding sweeteners. 

Sustainability is another factor that has propelled the Cold Brew trend. Cold Brew requires less energy than traditional hot brewing methods, since there is no need for heated water. The long and slow steeping also allows for less water used throughout the process. Additionally, the on-tap systems used to serve Cold Brew reduce single-use packaging and waste. Together, these aspects make Cold Brew a more environmentally-friendly option, a value possessed strongly by younger generations. Findings reveal 82% of Gen Z express concern about the state of the planet, and 73% are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Gen Z’s desire to make eco-conscious choices is evident, and Cold Brew’s alignment with this value further solidifies its dominance in the beverage industry.

Instagram Aesthetics and Social Media Influence

The prominence of social media in Gen Z culture is another contributing factor to the Cold Brew trend. Platforms like Instagram have become playgrounds for capturing and sharing the visually striking aspects of everyday life, and Cold Brew’s aesthetics are no exception. Look up “Cold Brew” and you’ll be met with images of deep-hued coffee swirled with cream and milk alternatives, perhaps even topped with a generous heaping of fluffy Cold Foam. Ever heard of the saying “we eat first with our eyes?” Essentially, when consuming food and beverages, our perceptions of their taste and flavor are affected first by what we see. It is no surprise then that social media propels food and drink trends, as these platforms are the host of overlapping visual and social cues

Notably, the influence of social media extends beyond mere aesthetics. The ease at which people can share information has fostered immense creativity among baristas and the at-home coffee enthusiasts. Innovative Cold Brew DIYs have overtaken the once popular “latte art” videos across platforms like Instagram and TikTok. While latte designs require a steady and skilled hand, making fun Cold Brew drinks– from Pumpkin Cream to Cookie Dough-inspired– is easily accessible to all. Anyone can snap and share their uniquely crafted creations, further promoting Cold Brew consumption and building a community among this generation that resonates strongly with connection, personalization, and individual expression. As Cold Brew continues to captivate hearts and palates, its social media presence serves as a reminder that food and beverage trends are driven by both taste and the artistic and communal narratives they inspire.  

Coffee Culture Reinvented 

Cold Brew is at the forefront of beverage trends. Its journey from obscurity to mainstream popularity has been shaped by its distinct flavor profile, photogenic nature, social media presence, and health-conscious considerations. As Gen Z continues to shape the cultural landscape with their individuality, creativity, and community values, Cold Brew stands as a symbol of their impact. With the younger generation redefining conventions, companies too can look to evolve.

At CWJ, we help businesses embrace the new and reinvent their office spaces with our Cold Brew on Tap. From law firms, to software companies, to financial advisors, our customers enjoy our refreshing Cold Brew in a comfortable, creative, and communal atmosphere. In the end, Cold Brew coffee isn’t just a beverage– it’s a catalyst for transforming any space into vibrant communities that cater to the preferences of a new generation. 

Interested in getting Cold Brew on Tap in your office? We would love to connect you with our sales team by scheduling a call, filling out a webform, or sending an email to



By: Ellie Dessart

Blog post assisted by ChatGPT.

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1 comment

  • This engaging blog post explores the intersection of Gen Z and cold brew culture, shedding light on how this generation is shaping coffee consumption trends. It delves into the influence of social media and the desire for unique, shareable experiences in driving the popularity of cold brew among Gen Z. It’s a captivating read for coffee enthusiasts and marketers interested in staying attuned to evolving consumer preferences.


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