What is Cold Brew?

I´ll never forget my first cold brew. The café where I was working at the time put cold brew on the menu in the summer and so I was given a cup to taste before we opened that day. 

Iced Cold Brew Coffee

I was expecting an iced coffee. I had become so accustomed to the slight bitterness that is present in iced coffee, I just assumed that was the trade off for enjoying coffee cold.

How wrong I was. I was blown away by the balance and the sweetness of the drink. It was so satisfying and so refreshing. Ever since that day, whether I bought in a coffee shop, or I made my own cold brew coffee at home, it is my choice of daily caffeination.

But why is this the case? What makes cold brew different to iced coffee? In this article I will address that question and talk a little bit more about why I love this fantastic beverage so much.

What is Cold Brew and Why I Love It

Cold brew and iced coffee are nothing alike. There are two things the drinks have in common – they both have caffeine and they are both cold. That is where the similarities stop.

•    Iced coffee is hot coffee that has been cooled. Cold brew on the other hand is coffee that was brewed cold.

•    Cold brew coffee is brewed with room temperature or cold water over as period of 12-24 hours normally. Most hot brewing methods don’t take longer than five minutes to complete their extraction.

•    Due to the long brewing time, cold brew is normally brewed as a coffee concentrate and stored in the fridge. It is then diluted before it is drunk.

Although it is a relatively new phenomenon in the western world, some cultures have been brewing coffee cold for centuries. The practice originated in Japan, believe it or not.

Is Cold Brew Better than Iced Coffee?

The act of brewing cold as opposed to brewing hot and cooling the coffee down changes the game completely.

The traditional way of brewing coffee hot was developed because heat allows us to extract the qualities from the coffee bean very quickly.

This quick extraction also has its drawbacks however. The whole reaction is sped up which means that the coffee is also much quicker to spoil.

You will know from experience that a hot coffee should be drunk hot. If you forget about it for a bit then drink it a little while later you will notice that it has taken on a bitter quality. When hot coffee comes into contact with the air, it starts to oxidize, which is the reason that a cooled down coffee tastes bitter.

This is the reason that iced coffee can never be a balanced drink. Coffee that is brewed hot then cooled down is always going to be an unbalanced, bitter brew. But have a look at our article that compares cold brew vs iced coffee, if you want to know more about this.

Why Do I Love Cold Brew?

With cold brew, the coffee is brewed at low temperatures. This means that the chemical reaction occurring during extraction is much slower. Therefore, the brew is much more stable. Cold brew can last up to a week in a fridge before it starts to spoil and become bitter.

The longer extraction time also allows the beans to be in contact with the water for much longer. This in turn gives the water much more time and opportunity to extract more flavor from the coffee which gives birth to an amazing tasting profile.

There was a time in my life when my health was not at its best. Coffee had a big impact on my stomach back then. I found it that cold brew was easier on my stomach, but this not the only one of the health benefits of cold brew. Take a look at our dedicated page, if you need to learn more.

Four Reasons I love Cold Brew

The Cold Brew Tasting Profile

The initial reason I fell in love with cold brew was the totally delicious and unique tasting profile. It is unlike any other coffee drinking experience.

As I mentioned, the lack of heat present in cold brewing means that the extraction process is totally different.

As I mentioned, without heat the extraction time is much longer and more flavors are extracted from the bean.

The major quality that heat gives us when we hot brew, however, is actually acid. When we brew with heat, we are able to extract the acidic qualities from coffee. Without heat, these acidic notes aren’t extracted.

This means that cold brew has a totally different tasting profile. Hot coffee is typically bright, fruity and acidic whereas cold brew is smooth, bold and sweet – often with notes from the left side of the tasting wheel such as chocolate and nuttiness.

This knowledge allows us to design our brewing method around the natural taste profile of the bean. Bright and acidic coffees can be brewed hot for optimum extraction and bolder, darker coffees can be brewed cold.

I think beans brewed in South America that have these darker, bolder notes are best enjoyed and appreciated when brewed cold. But there are some other coffee beans that are great for cold brew, check our selection on the above page.

Cold Brew Is Easy to Make and Convenient

After I experienced the incredible taste of cold brew, I was determined to brew a batch myself.

I couldn’t believe how incredibly easy cold brew is to make. The cold brewing method is extremely forgiving. Compared to hot coffee, there is almost no technique required. On top of this, it is very possible to make a batch of cold brew with items you already own in the house – there is no investment required.

To make cold brew, all you need is fresh, coarsely ground coffee, a large container, some kind of filter and water. That’s it. Check out the basic method of cold brewing here.

There are various methods of cold brewing that you can try out today if you wish:

  • The paper filter method – With this method, you brew your coffee then filter it with a paper filter you would use with your drip coffee machine.
  • The French press method – this method is extremely popular for beginner cold brewers because literally all you need is your French press. It acts as the container and the filter.
  • The coffee sock method – the coffee sock is just a cloth sock that can be bought for a few dollars. It can also be made if you are handy with a sewing machine. The sock acts as a filter that completely contains the coffee when it is closed. The brew then doesn’t need to be filtered after brewing. simply remove the coffee sock from the water and you are good to go.
  • If you are really into cold brew, you can also buy some cold brew coffee makers such as the Toddy or Oxo that make the cold brewing process even easier.

Cold Brew Has a Long Shelf Life

Bottled cold brew coffee

Due to the lack of heat, cold brew is by nature extremely stable. It is the only type of brewing where coffee can be successfully mass brewed and stored after brewing. With all other types of brewing, coffee needs to be consumed straight away in order for it to be fresh.

This is very useful, as it takes such a long time to brew cold. It would be very frustrating to have to brew each cup individually!

Essentially, because we can mass brew, cold brew is more or less ready to go when you are. There is no waiting for the coffee machine to warm up and make your coffee. Just take your cold brew concentrate out of the fridge, add water or milk and you´re done. This ties into the previous point and is another reason why cold brew is so incredibly convenient.

That same summer when I discovered cold brew, I was so grateful for it as a barista. Due to the fact that it is brewed en masse, there was no preparation required for serving. This meant I could cut through the queue much more quickly!

Cold Brew is Easier On Your Health

Anecdotal evidence suggests that cold brew is easier to drink for people with sensitive stomachs and teeth.

Although cold brew has less acid than hot coffee, this is likely not the reason that cold brew is easier to drink for some of us. Cold brew has a similar ph to hot brew although it tastes less acidic.

However, the coffee compounds that cause your stomach to produce acid are not extracted at cold temperatures and so the net result is that cold brew is gentler on your stomach.

Other Reasons I love Cold Brew

  • I find cold brewing therapeutic.
  • Cold brew coffee is easy to work with in food and drink recipes. Check our non alcoholic cold brew coffee cocktails, and try some of those recipes.
  • Cold brew is simple and no nonsense. I love the simplicity. I feel like it is how coffee brewing should be.
  • The different flavor profile is amazing and I love experimenting with the darker coffees and notes from the left side of the flavor wheel.
  • I love it because they make Nitro Cold Brew with it. Have you ever tried it? Well, nitro cold brew it’s sparkling coffee made with cold brew coffee. It’s pretty amazing and unique. Try it sometime, or read about it here, if you want to learn more.

For me, cold brew is the perfect summer coffee. I always switch to cold brew in the summer months. I consider it the summer version of a pour over (my favorite brew). The extraction is nearly always perfect and anyone can do it.

If you are a cold brew fan, let us know what you like most about this amazing beverage in the comments below!