Unless you haven’t touched the Internet or left your house in ages, you’ve likely heard of cold brew coffee. It has gained a ton of popularity as of late and can be found at nearly every coffee shop that you walk into. Whether you’re just curious about what cold brew coffee is, want to know what health benefits it offers, or want to know how to make it yourself, this guide will give you the answers you need. First up, let’s look at the difference between iced coffee and cold brew, since some people mistakenly believe they are the same beverage. They aren’t!
The Difference Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee
You may not be aware of this, but there are significant differences between cold brew coffee and iced coffee. We’ll look at what each of these beverages is and what sets them apart. This will make it easier for you to decide which option is the best choice for you. It will also give you some insight into what cold brew’s production process is like. It’s quite a bit more involved than you might know.
The Basics of Iced Coffee
So, what is iced coffee? Well, it’s pretty straightforward. In the most basic iced coffee, it is nothing more than coffee that is poured over ice. However, it’s not always that simple at all. Most iced coffee is prepared in a flash brew manner. What that means is that your coffee is brewed up hot and then it is immediately placed on ice to cool it down fast. The reason this is recommended is because coffee is quite sensitive to temperature. When it’s cooled down fast, the flavors aren’t lost as quickly. Then when you get the cup of iced coffee, you get that hit of cold and the great coffee taste you’re looking for.
Most iced coffee is served as light roast, which means it is less bitter than a dark roast could be. The bitterness isn’t very appetizing when ice is present, at least for most people. For iced coffee, the best roasts are light or fruity ones. You’ll also want to go for a finer ground than you would when making a cold brew coffee. We’ll go into that a bit more later.
A cold brew coffee has a better consistency than iced coffee is known for. It is steeped for a much longer period using coarser grinds of coffee beans. That means that this coffee will typically have a caramel-chocolate quality, which gives you a smoother texture and a bigger punch than regular iced coffee. Plus, there’s no melted ice which can dilute the coffee, so the caffeine hits you quick.
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The Basics of Cold Brew Coffee
The most significant difference in cold brew coffee is that is has a long exposure to cold water. It takes longer to cold brew coffee, but it also creates a coffee that is considered of a higher quality than iced coffee. It’s up to you whether the pros offer enough to make up for the cons in this situation.
It’s fairly simple to identity a cold brew coffee even if you aren’t aware of what it is before you taste it. You’ll immediately taste a chocolatey, sweet flavor and notice a texture more full-bodied than iced coffee offers. This also leads to drawing more acidity out of the grounds, so it will not have bitterness. However, this also means that no matter what coffee you use, the taste is similar. While cold brew can take up to a day to brew, it also stays fresh longer, in some cases for up to weeks.
Which Coffee is Better?
The truth is that everyone has different preferences and a unique palate so saying one of these coffees is always better than the other would be incorrect. However, if you tend to go for sweet coffees, you will likely enjoy cold brew more. The same goes for those who want to avoid adding sugars to the coffee. The longer life can also be a perk for some people.
That said, iced coffee has its own pros and cons. If you want a coffee with complex flavor, you might enjoy the iced coffee more. That is because more of the coffee’s flavor is left in the iced coffee. There is no wrong or right here, whatever you prefer is the right coffee for you.
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Cold Brew Coffee Interesting Facts
Cold brew is a popular coffee option and there are some interesting facts about this beverage. It’s a fantastic beverage when it’s sweltering outside, and it is steeped for a long time before being served. If you want to know more about the unique aspects of cold brew, we’ve compiled a few facts below.
1. The Coffee is Never Heated
Sure, cold brew is cold. However, what is unique about it is that it is never heated while being prepared. With cold brew, the coffee grounds are steeped in cold or room temperature water for 12 to 24 hours, instead. At that point, the grounds are filtered out of the beverage and what remains is a concentrated liquid that can be enjoyed diluted or straight up, depending on preference.
2. The Origins are Unknown
The traditional coffee we know today was discovered in Yemen and Ethiopia and the earliest proven evidence of it being consumed goes back to the 15th century. However, there is no clear evidence about where and when cold brew originated. You may see some sources say that it is adapted from a Peruvian technique, while others claim Dutch traders introduced it to the Japanese in the 1600s. Regardless of the actual answer, this technique has been around for hundreds of years.
3. Offers a Sweeter Taste
The reason cold brew coffee is sweeter is because it has a much lower acidity than coffee that is brewed hot. This also means that it is the optimal coffee option for someone who has a sensitive stomach. However, cold brew can be smooth and full-bodied, just like hot coffee. While the coffee is sweeter, some individuals add sugar or milk to it before drinking it.
4. Has Less Caffeine Content
While this can be a pro or con depending on your needs, cold brew coffee contains less caffeine than hot brewed coffee. It can have up to 20% less, in fact. However, the actual amount depends on a number of factors including the steep time, grind size, water to coffee ratio, and amount of caffeine in the bean. While most brewing methods do not extract all of the caffeine from beans, cold brew extracts more than heated coffee.
5. Concentrate Has Multiple Uses
The liquid concentrate that can be left behind after cold brewing is great for making coffee ice cubes, coffee ice cream, coffee fudge, coffee brownies, and more. There are nearly countless options and all of them are delicious. You can even use the concentrate in a smoothie with yogurt, banana, and soy or almond milk.
6. Distinct Flavor Profile
Even with the exact same coffee beans, cold brew has a distinct flavor. This is often the first thing people who try cold brew notice when sampling it. Because the coffee is made cold, the acid and oils in the coffee take on a lighter feature. This leads to a coffee that is strong, smooth, and that enhances the vanilla, chocolate, and fruit notes of your chosen bean.
The Chemistry Behind Cold Brew and its Amazing Flavor
Curious about the chemistry behind cold brew coffee? It’s actually pretty fascinating to hear about. The first thing you need to understand is that coffee grounds contain various acids, oils, and chemical compounds. Those things, which are called solubles as a group, are what provide coffee with its flavor. During the brewing process, they are extracted from the coffee grounds.
As you know, there are two basic brewing options. Hot brewed coffee and cold brew coffee. With hot brewed coffee, we’re referring to the traditional hot coffee we all know and love. In most cases, this is made at home in a coffee pot or by adding hot water to the grounds and then filtering out the grounds and collecting the liquid in a cup. This is what you get at a diner or the local fast-food restaurant. It can be made extremely quickly, in only minutes, and has a deep aroma and acidic or bitter taste.
On the other hand, cold brew is made by soaking grounds in cold or room temperature water or hours or even days. After the soaking process is complete, the coffee liquid is strained from the sludge that remains. Cold brew is quickly becoming a popular option with a less acidic and deeper but more subtle taste. In addition, the coffee is more concentrated than hot brew coffee. It’s also a refreshing option for days when it is hot outside.
So, in terms of chemistry, when water is mixed with coffee grounds, a number of reactions take place. This pulls the solubles from the ground and produces the typical taste and smell characteristic of coffee. The solubles dissolve the best when at temperatures between about 195- and 205-degrees Fahrenheit. That leads to a more flavorful taste, which is not present in cold brew coffee. The hot water pulls out the chemicals quickly, which means they hit the air and give the coffee aroma hot brew is known for.
However, you don’t want better solubility in every case. Hot water also causes the chemicals to oxidize and degrade, which leads to the bitter taste. Those who prefer a sweeter taste will appreciate cold brew for offering that option. That isn’t to say that cold brew doesn’t cause degradation and oxidation, but it means that happens at a slower pace. This is why it’s known for being less bitter and acidic. It also makes it possible for cold brew to stay fresh longer, up to four weeks when refrigerated. With hot coffee, it typically goes stale in less than a day.
Because cold brew has a much lower temperature, that means that drawing out the solubles takes a lot longer. In addition, nearly two times the amount of grounds is used for it in contrast to conventional coffee. Some people find the taste of cold brew better, but it doesn’t have the same intense aroma as hot coffee. It’s also often most expensive due to the time needed to brew it and the additional coffee grounds utilized to do so. However, it’s not difficult to make on your own with the right equipment.
Options for Making Cold Brew Coffee
So, if you want to make your own cold brew coffee, we’re going to provide all the information you need to do so. While you can head to your local coffee shop and buy a cup, sometimes that can get expensive. In addition, with the right techniques, you may find that the coffee you brew is even better than what you get at the shop. We’ll go over the most common ways to make cold brew and then look at mistakes to avoid while doing so.
French Press Cold Brew
One of the simplest options for brewing cold coffee is by utilizing a French press. If you already own one, you’re good to go. All you need is coffee and water to make this work. If you’re raring to go and make your own cold brew, this is the most convenient way to go forward. Plus, this is the easiest and cheapest option for making it. Let’s get started:
- Step one involves getting your beans ready to go. The ratio of coffee to water should be either 1:4 or 1:5, depending on how strong you’d like it to be. In this case, 90 grams of coffee is about right. You want a cold brew grind, which is larger than the typical grind for a French press. After you have the grounds ready to go, add it to the press.
- The next step is to add after. For this recipe, use 3 ¾ cups of filtered water. Pour it in slowly using a circular motion but don’t stir it. If there are grounds floating on top, use a metal spoon to press them down. Make sure all the coffee grounds are properly submerged.
- Step three involves a whole lot of waiting. You will let your brew hang out at room temperature for at least 12 hours. This ensures everything is extracted properly and that the oils and flavors reach the water. Don’t rush, do your best to be patient for the best result.
- Now that you’ve waited for hours, it’s time to decant the coffee. Put on the press top and push down the plunger a few inches. If you push it down all the way, this can lead to a bitter coffee so avoid that at all costs. With the screen on, now you can pour the coffee into a sealable container. From there, you can enjoy your fresh cold brew coffee.
Cold Brew with an Aeropress
An Aeropress is a great tool for a coffee drinker on the go. It’s simple to use, portable, and can produce fantastic coffee. This also means it’s great for making cold brew coffee. There are various ways to make it with this tool, but most are simple. Some use an inverted Aeropress brew, while others might make use of plastic bottles or mason jars. You may want to experiment with various options to find that works best for you.
If you already own an Aeropress, this is a good solution for making your cold brew coffee. It also has the perk of not taking up a lot of space and being easy to do. However, it’s more difficult to make a large batch, which is a negative for many who enjoy cold press. It can also be a little messy until you get some practice with the method. However, it’s definitely worth a try, especially if you already have the materials needed.
The True DIY Cold Brew Method
If you don’t feel like purchasing an Aeropress, French press, or cold brew coffee maker, you can go with the DIY method. All you’ll need is ground coffee, water, and something to strain it through. This is certainly the simplest and least expensive method available, but it may not create the best possible coffee. It’s also likely to make a huge mess, but that’s what happens with do-it-yourself projects sometimes.
- First you will measure out coffee and water at a ratio of 1:8 or so. So, if you use two cups of water, you’d want around 4.5 tablespoons of ground coffee. Alter the measurements depending on the size of the batch you wish to make.
- Next, you’ll mix up the two ingredients in some sort of container. Make sure that everything is well-saturated, so no grounds stay dry. However, don’t do any unnecessary stirring once everything comes together.
- Next, you’ll want to cover the container and leave it out at room temperature. This can be for as little as 12 hours or as long as 24 hours. Somewhere in the middle is a good choice.
- After the wait is over, use your chosen filter to remove the grounds from the liquid. Depending on how well this works, you may need to strain it again.
- At this point, you can enjoy your cold brew coffee and store what is leftover in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
The Cold Brew Coffee Maker Option
Once you’ve tried the other methods, you may want to get more serious about brewing. In this case, it’s best to purchase a coffee maker that is specifically made for cold brewing. There are tons of options out there in terms of price, size, and design so select one that fits your preferences. If you choose to use a cold brew coffee maker, the process is easy, and you can expect the best possible taste. You can also make large batches of cold brew, which is also a positive. Since each machine is a bit different, follow the instructions with your machine if you go this route for the best coffee possible.
Mistakes to Avoid When Making Cold Brew Coffee
There are numerous mistakes that beginners might make when making cold brew. We’re going to look at some of the most common errors made, so you can ensure you make the best batch possible. Everything from using the incorrect ratio to choosing the wrong grind size can lead to problems, so it’s important to be precise and consider the details.
Using the Incorrect Grind Size
When making a great cup of java, one of the most important things is choosing the right grind size. This is true for cold brew and every other type of coffee. When it comes to cold brew, you want grounds that are super coarsely ground. If you use too fine of a grind, the extraction will go too easily, which means you’ll be left with coffee that is too bitter. That isn’t the only issue, though. Fine grounds can also lead to sludge in your cup, and nobody wants to drink that. Having an excellent grinder is key to getting the right size and ensuring all grounds are even in size.
Selecting the Wrong Ratio
You can make a lot of errors with cold brew and still gain a great cup of coffee, which means some individuals don’t think about the mathematics when brewing. This is a mistake. If you want a true cold brew, the average ratio of water to grounds is 7:1. If you are using a concentrate, the most common ratio is 1:1. When people do this incorrectly, it usually involves using too few grounds. That’s no surprise since it takes a lot of coffee, which can get expensive. If that’s an issue for you, go with a mid-range coffee instead of a premium one. Going too strong isn’t an issue since you can dilute it, but when it’s too weak, there isn’t a lot of recourse available.
Using the Wrong Kind of Beans
While some people will say that you can get a great cold brew out of cheap beans, this isn’t entirely true. Going with mid-range or premium beans is a better option. You are going to spend more but you are also going to get the benefit of an excellent container of coffee. The truth is that the more expensive beans have better flavors, and cold brew pulls those flavors out. You should also use a light roast when possible, because the cold brew process removes the acidity associated with it. So get some good beans in a light roast and go make some coffee.
Being Too Impatient
Home brewing isn’t the right option for anyone who is overly impatient. If you can’t handle waiting for the brew process, you’re better off picking up your cold brew at the local coffee shop. Cold brewing coffee takes a large dose of time and you have to be willing to wait on it. That amazing rich, smoothness that is associated with cold brew is a result of the wait. Being patient is rewarded, so make sure you’re willing to let your brew steep for 12 to 24 hours. Otherwise, you could end up with undrinkable coffee.
Storing the Coffee Too Long
One of the perks of cold brew is that you can store it for a reasonably long amount of time, however that doesn’t mean it will last before. If you are brewing undiluted cold brew, don’t expect it to last longer than one to two weeks. The flavor of the cold brew coffee will start to degrade in a few days and after a longer amount of time, it’s going to taste horrible. For those who add milk, it will also go bad much faster. It’s better to add the milk at the time you consume it, instead.
Tips for Creating the Best Cold Brew Coffee
We’ve gone over the options for brewing your cold brew coffee, so you can handle that at this point. However, there are a few tips that can make the process easier and result in the best coffee. We’re going to share a few of those so you can incorporate them into your own brewing process. Most are easy and don’t add any time to your process so there’s no reason not to abide by them.
1. Dilute the Coffee
When you make cold brew, you use an extremely large amount of coffee grounds which allows for the best flavors to be extracted. It also means that dilution with water and ice is possible. Manly people prefer a diluted cold brew at about one-to-one ratio of coffee and water. Consider trying this to see if it works for your palate. It will make your batch last longer and you may prefer the flavor.
2. Keep the Coffee Tightly Stored
With cold brew, the flavors are considered better than those of other coffees. The oil in the coffee can attract other odors, however, such as cheese or milk. Your cold brew can last for a week or more in the refrigerator, but to ensure the best flavors, you should make sure it is tightly covered at all times. The last thing you want is coffee that has taken on the taste of your diced onions or garlic bulbs.
3. Strain the Coffee Slowly
This is another situation where patience is king. If you force the straining process, it can ruin the quality of your cold brew batch. Don’t let that happen to you. Instead, strain the grounds gently and slowly. Sometimes working in batches is the best solution here. Just take your time and let things happen without stressing over it. The best coffee takes a bit of time, something cold brew proves more than anything else.
4. Soak it While You Sleep
Cold extraction is something that takes time, which we’ve mentioned before. If you are impatient, this can be problematic. In order to avoid the instinct of stopping the brewing process early, consider doing it overnight. Start your brew in the evening and expect to strain it the next afternoon. This will give you the best tasting coffee possible. It also prevents you from stopping the steeping process too soon if you’re just hanging out and watching the clock.
5. Make Sure to Use Filtered Water
The quality of the water can make a massive difference in how your cold brew batch turns out in the end. It’s the same for things like baking bread and making soup. Rather than using tap water, you can use a filter pitcher or buy bottled water for your foray into cold brew coffee. The choice is yours, although a filter pitcher may be less expensive in the long run.
6. Grind the Beans Properly
The last thing you want to do is buy pre-ground coffee that you find on the shelf at a supermarket. The grind needs to be coarse to make proper cold brew, anything less will affect the flavor in the end. If you need an example, the texture should be similar to a coarse sugar.
Health Benefits of Cold Brew Coffee
You may already know the many health benefits of coffee, but cold brew has some of its own that are fairly important. Drinking cold brew can actually be healthier than choosing a hot brew, but we want to share exactly what benefits it provides and why, so you can make a decision about trying it on your own with the proper knowledge. If you are dieting or looking to lose weight, cold brew is a fantastic option that can help with cravings for sweet snacks.
Cold Brew is Perfect for Those on Diets
If you are watching your weight but are missing all the sugar you used to consume, cold brew can be a fantastic beverage option. If you usually add several sugar packets to your coffee, along with cream, that can add up in terms of calories. With cold brew, you get the creamy, rich, sweet taste but without the need for additives. It’s healthier and tasty, which can bring you closer to your weight loss goals. That’s a win-win situation in our book.
When it comes to beverages, coffee is largely considered the best in terms of anti-aging effects. This is because there are tons of antioxidants in coffee. Those antioxidants have many benefits, including protecting your skin from ultraviolet rays and chemicals in the air. That means that your skin will stay youthful, supple, and moisturized better than if you were not to consume coffee. While there is no proof that cold brew coffee provides more benefits in terms of anti-aging than regular coffee, it is still a great way to keep looking youthful.
Change to Lengthen Your Lifespan
There are numerous reasons why coffee is considered to help lengthen your life. It offers a decreased chance of dementia, increases your insulin sensitivity, and even has fat-burning properties. That’s to say nothing of how great it tastes. There are tons of studies about the antioxidants found in coffee, which are known to be anti-inflammatory substances. With cold brew, even more of those antioxidants may be available, making it a better choice than hot coffee. On top of that, coffee offers free-radical fighting chemicals in a large abundance than other caffeinated drinks such as tea. This can help to prevent cancer, which is always a positive.
Perfect for Those with Sensitive Stomachs
When coffee is heated, it leads to a bitter taste when consumed. Cold brew does not rely on heat, which means the coffee is less acidic and smoother. This makes it a great option for those with acid reflux or sensitive stomachs. If you make your own cold brew, you can also choose the beans you prefer. This can result in a much less bitter coffee that appeals to your tastes and health needs.
Cold Brew May Enhance Cognitive Function
When you drink coffee that contains caffeine, this can help increase the flow of blood into your brain. This is known to lead to an increase in cognitive function. Research shows that the compounds found in coffee can help lead to a reduction in cognitive defects, as well, and improve motor function.
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As you can see, there is a lot of information in terms of cold brew coffee. We’ve tried to offer answers to the most common questions people who are new to it may have. You now have knowledge about what makes cold brew unique, how it differs from iced coffee, what benefits it has, how to make it, and more. If you haven’t had a chance to try this popular type of coffee, we recommend that you give it a shot. Even if you prefer to just pick up a cup at your favorite coffee shop, you may just find that it’s your new favorite. Good luck!
1. Is cold brew stronger than regular coffee?
With hot water, more caffeine can be taken from coffee beans than with cold water. However, cold brew is made with larger amounts of coffee, which can make the caffeine level skyrocket. That said, if you dilute it, that number will drop again. In most cases, the cold brew is weaker than hot coffee in the end.
2. Do you put cream in cold brew coffee?
Many people find that cold brew coffee has a delicious and creamy texture that makes adding cream unnecessary. However, others enjoy an extra dose of creaminess and do add some cream. The choice to use cream or not is a personal one and can go either way.
3. Is cold brew bitter?
Actually, cold brew is less bitter than hot brewed coffee. Cold brew contains less acid due to its method of brewing. It is often described as being smooth and creamy, unlike traditional coffee options.
4. Can tea be brewed in cold water?
Absolutely! A tea that is cold brewed will be smoother and sweeter than hot brewed tea. The chemical balance is different, which also means it will typically have less caffeine and less bitterness, as well.
5. How long can you steep cold brew coffee?
The average length of time to steep cold brew coffee is about 18 hours. However, anywhere from 12 to 12 hours is sufficient. Steeping for too long can lead to a subpar coffee when the process is complete.
6. What does Nitro cold brew taste like?
Nitro cold brew coffee has a fizzy, creamy texture and is less acidity than traditional coffee, either iced or hot. Some people say that cold brew coffee has a taste similar to caramel or chocolate milk.
7. Does cold brew coffee need to be refrigerated?
Yes. Cold brew is similar to iced tea in that its shelf life isn’t long. If you want to make your batch of cold brew last, it’s best to refrigerate it with a tight lid on top. It can last up to two weeks when refrigerated properly.
8. Does Starbucks have cold brew coffee?
Starbucks and most other major coffee chains offer cold brew coffee. The cold brew at Starbucks is brewed for 20 hours and made from beans that originate in Africa and Latin America.
9. Can you warm up cold brew coffee?
Sure. Warming up cold brew is simple. You can use the stove, microwave, or add hot water. If you’re using a concentrate, adding hot water is the simplest method available. Warming cold brew is a great option when the weather outside is cool.
10. How do you make cold brewed coffee concentrate?
The process of making cold brewed coffee concentrate involves picking coffee beans, grinding them, adding water, steeping the mixture, straining it, and then drinking it. It can be consumed on its own or with the addition of extra water, depending on your taste.
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