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What is Cold Brew Coffee? The Ultimate Guide

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When people hear the term cold brew, it is often confused with iced coffee or even craft beer. The reality is, a cold brew coffee is an entirely different creation on its own, and whilst it is similar to an iced coffee, the outcome is the opposite. 

While there are so many types of coffee to choose from, cold brew is another coffee variety that you’ll love, especially during the hottest summer season as it still gives you that unique coffee taste and kick, whilst being cold and refreshing. It’s not just plain black coffee either, there are a variety of flavors and mixtures available. 

With its popularity increasing and cold brew gaining a cult following, you should know what it is and how it’s made. You can also check out this article on what is a red eye coffee?

What is Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew coffee is a drink that involves brewing ground coffee in cold water for a long period of time. This creates a strong and smooth cold coffee drink that be enjoyed with added syrups or creams. This is different from iced coffee that involves pouring hot coffee over ice.

Cold Brew Coffee is More Than Just Cold Coffee

Most people assume that cold brew coffee can be made by simply brewing a regular coffee and throwing some ice and cold water in there. That would actually be an iced coffee. It actually involves more technique and timing to produce the perfect outcome. 

The way to brew regular coffee is to use hot water to extract the coffee goodness from the roasted beans. With cold brew coffee, rather than using hot water, it uses cold or room temperature water instead. The way to extract the coffee goodness in this method is through steeping the grounded coffee beans for at least 12 hours, the long process allows enough time for the chemical reaction and the water to absorb the flavors from the coffee grounds. 

Once you have your cold brew coffee concentrate, you can upgrade it by adding more ice or blending with either milk or creamer. There is also the option to add syrups, sugar, and other unique flavorings to your liking. That’s the benefit of making cold brew coffee at home.

What is so Special About Cold Brewed Coffee?

There are 4 main reasons why cold brew coffee is special. This includes reduced acidity, being able to be heated up, having a long shelf life, and being able to be enjoyed on hot summer days. 

The first might come as a shock to some, but you can serve cold brew as a hot beverage, not just cold. We prefer to just make a hot coffee but understandably, cold brew coffee will have reduced acidity, which might be more preferable to some people. If you do wish to heat it up, there shouldn’t be any effect on the taste or the coffee itself.

The second that makes cold brew special, as mentioned above, is that it has lower acidity levels compared to regular coffee. This is due to a number of reasons including heat, chemical reactions, and the amount of water used. It can be a great option for those who are advised to steer clear of coffee due to the acidity.

The third is that you can store cold brew for up to two weeks without worrying about it being stale. The general idea is that it can last between 7 and 14 days. This would depend on the temperature, the coffee, and the amount brewed.  

The final reason as to what makes cold brew coffee special is that it can be enjoyed on hot days. There are many people that avoid their favorite coffee drinks in the summer because it can cause them to overheat. With cold brew, you have a refreshing cold drink that can be served with ice, and it still gives you a caffeine kick.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee?

A cold brew coffee is very simple to make and requires few ingredients. It’s not the best choice of drink if you are looking to drink it instantly as you will need to wait around 12 hours for the coffee to brew correctly. All you need is medium-coarse coffee beans, room temperature or cold water, and patience to wait for at least 12 hours. Make sure that you use an airtight container when you store it in the fridge to maintain its freshness. 

Follow these steps to make the perfect cold brew:

  1. Find the perfect coffee for your drink. We recommend this single origin coffee or this coffee subscription.
  2. Choose your devices. Some prefer a French Press for the filter, and some will use a jug. If you use a large container, you will need to filter the coffee, which can be difficult depending on the size.
  3. Grind your coffee beans on a coarse setting or use pre-ground coffee.
  4. Measure out your water based on the coffee to water ratio. Some recommend a 1:4 and some a 1:8, experiment with both and see what works best for you.
  5. Add the coffee grounds to your container.
  6. Add the water over the coffee.
  7. Store in the refrigerator and allow steeping for 8-24 hours. This time will vary based on the amount you make and how strong you like it. If you like it strong, leave it for longer. You can always taste it throughout the day. 
  8. Remember to filter out the coffee once it’s ready, and your drink will be ready. Store it for 7-14 days in the refrigerator and drink when needed.

The key thing to remember here is that following any guide or recipe online might not work for you. You should use it as a rough guide and experiment with what works for you. For example, if you like weak coffee, try only leaving the cold brew for 7 hours. If you like it sweet, add cream to it after with syrup. 

Now, if you’re still not convinced about making this drink, imagine getting fresh coffee every day without having to brew it every single time. All you need is one day to make a coffee batch, and you’re all set for the entire week. But if you don’t want to make it, try buying it online or in a grocery store instead.

Best Cold Brew Coffees to Try

We curated a short list of the best cold brew coffees that you can purchase if you don’t want to make your own. More and more brands are creating cold brew variations and buying them is much easier than making them. 

These can be ordered directly on Amazon, or you can also check out the selections of cold brew coffees at Rook Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee.

Common Questions About Cold Brew

Can You Heat Cold Brew Coffeee Up?

Cold brewed coffee doesn’t have to always end with just serving it cold. As a matter of fact, if you prefer your coffee hot, then you definitely can do that with a cold brew. You can either directly heat the cold brew using the microwave or pour hot water over the cold brew.

Will the coffee taste be removed if you heat cold brew coffee? Well, the beauty about called cold brew is that because it is concentrated, you won’t have to worry about it being diluted with additional water. So the answer to that is no, the coffee would be the same as its cold state, just hotter.

Is Cold Brew Coffee Less Acidic?

Cold brew is less acidic in comparison with regular coffee. The secret to this lower acidity level is the extraction method that cold brew undergoes. According to Niny Z. Rao, a researcher of Thomas Jefferson University, when the brewing temperature is high, the level of titratable acids and antioxidants is also high. This makes regular coffee more acidic compared to cold brews. 

How Long Does Cold Brew Last?

You can store cold brewed coffee for up to two weeks without it going stale. If you want to store a regular brewed coffee for later consumption, pour it in an insulated carafe and place it on the countertop and not inside your fridge in order to keep your coffee tasting fresh.

Because the extraction method is through steeping coffee using room temperature or cold water, you should store it inside the fridge. Purchase an airtight container in order for you to be able to store cold brew for up to two weeks. 

How Much Water for a Cold Brew?

By now, you already know that cold brew is a coffee concentrate with a higher coffee to water ratio compared to regular coffee. The standard brewing ratio of coffee to water is 1:17 for regular brewed coffee, this standard ratio is also known as the “Golden Ratio”. This means that for every gram of coffee, you’ll need to brew it with 17 grams of water.

The standard ratio to get the ideal cold brew coffee concentrate is 1:4, this makes the drink more potent with higher caffeine content. Some may suggest a ratio of 1:8, but you should test out which one works to your liking. Neither will fail, but they will produce different results.

What Grind Size Should I Use for a Cold Brew?

The best grind size for cold brew coffee is a coarse grind. This is the same that you would use for a French Press. Using a fine grind would likely result in sediments in your drink, and would also not allow the water to soak up the necessary oils and flavors.

Can I Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home

Cold brew coffee is very easy to make at home. All you need is coffee, a brewing container or regular container with a filter, and water. The process takes around 5 minutes, but the result can take anywhere between 10-24 hours.

Is Cold Brew Coffee Stronger than Regular Coffee?

Cold brew can be stronger than regular coffee, but it depends on the coffee to water ratio used. Generally, hot water extracts more caffeine than cold water, but if you use a higher coffee ratio to water, the cold brew would have more caffeine. 

Key Take Away

Cold brew coffee is a great addition to the coffee family and can be enjoyed on hot summer days. It’s a nice refreshing drink with a smooth coffee taste and is easy to make. You can purchase them from stores and online, or make it yourself at home.

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