As the cold brew versus iced coffee debate steeps on, there's another coffee-adjacent product that's trendy in its own right, especially among health-conscious people: green coffee extract. Although they're all made from the same bean, green coffee extract is nothing like the other two — both in how it tastes and the way it's manufactured.
While cold brew is made by steeping coffee beans in room-temperature water for hours, green coffee extract is essentially compounds that have been taken out of a green coffee bean, explains Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, PhD, a professor in food science and horticulture at Texas A&M University. Technically, all coffee beans start green when they're harvested. Coffee is then typically roasted and processed with all different flavors before it ends up with your barista. "In the case of green coffee extract, what they do is instead of roasting that green coffee, they take the green beans and extract all the different components that are present in the bean," he says.
As it turns out, untreated green coffee beans contain lots of good-for-you compounds, including caffeine. Specifically, green coffee beans contain very high amounts of a substance called chlorogenic acid, which has an antioxidant effect on the body, Dr. Cisneros-Zevallos says. Studies suggest that chlorogenic acid present in the green coffee can help with weight management, and may help prevent metabolic disorders such as diabetes, and even protect against heart disease, he says. Manufacturers have figured out ways to extract this good stuff in concentrated amounts, and turn it into a powder or supplement.
The thing is, green coffee extract doesn't really taste like anything — and definitely not coffee, at least. Sure, you could add a supplement or powder to a regular drink to reap the benefits, or get a flavored drink that uses green coffee extract (Starbucks Refreshers contain it) for energy, but you're not going to get the smooth java taste many people long for in the morning. "It's not going to get you that kind of pleasure, but at the same time, it will provide you with a benefit," Dr. Cisneros-Zevallos says.
With green coffee extract, you also have to be mindful of how much you're consuming. Dr. Cisneros-Zevallos says there is a limit to the amount you can safely have. Problem is, based on the current research, it's unclear how much you'd have to consume to experience the benefits, and we're not entirely sure what the side effects of taking too much would entail. (On top of that, dietary supplements aren't vigorously regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so there's no telling how much green coffee extract you're taking.) At least with cups of coffee, it's somewhat easier to track how much you're sipping, and when you've gone overboard with the caffeine.
Whether you stick to cold brew or switch to green coffee bean extract is up to you. But it's nice to have another good-for-you caffeine drink option out there — and one that's a little less polarizing.