Over the last few years, you may have noticed a surge of cold brew offerings in just about any coffee shop. But are cold brew and iced coffee really that different from one another? In this blog, we’ll walk you through the different brewing methods and how it ultimately impacts the characteristics of your cup of coffee.
What is cold brew?
Cold brew refers to the method of preparing the coffee, not the temperature of the final product. Dating back to 16th century China, cold brew is the process of soaking coffee in cold or room temperature water for an extended period of time, about 12 hours or more, to extract sugars, oils, and caffeine. The longer the grounds sit, the more flavor is extracted and sometimes develops a chocolatey flavor. The end result is less acidic because tannins and oils are released. You may notice that cold brew is easier on your stomach and is less likely to stain your teeth as it has about half the acidity as a normal cup of coffee, hot or iced. Cold brew usually yields more caffeine because of the higher ratio of grounds to water. The slow steeping process helps bring out all the things we like about coffee (caffeine, bold, smooth flavor) and reduces what we find undesirable (acidity, dull flavor).
By comparison, iced coffee uses hot water to extract flavor, but poured over ice, it dilutes the flavor and usually takes on a thin, bitter taste. It is possible to refrigerate coffee after brewing, but you know what they say about old coffee… Because cold brew is steeped at a low temperature, it maintains flavor and smoothness much longer than if you were to refrigerate hot coffee.
How to Brew
The best thing about cold brew is that you can make it at home! All you need is coarse ground medium roast coffee like our Kenyan Blend, fresh filtered room temperature water, a vessel, and patience. For four servings, put 3/4 cup of coffee in a container with 3 cups of water and let it steep at room temperature for about 12 hours. Once you’re ready for a cup of coffee, mix in your preferred amount of sugar and milk, then add ice, and enjoy!
When it comes to containers, you have many options! Use a normal jar or carafe then catch grounds using a fine mesh strainer. A French press is perfect for cold brew, just keep the plunger up while steeping, then push when you’re ready to serve. Strain the liquid and store it in the refrigerator. There are tons of steeping pitchers on the market with baskets that are easy to remove so clean up is fast and easy and remaining coffee can be refrigerated in the pitcher.
Cold brew is totally customizable! If the flavor is too bold, add water to tone it down. If you like hot coffee, warm it up on the stove without losing flavor, smoothness, or low acid qualities.