2019 showed us that cold brewed coffee is on the rise. A steep rise! There wasn’t a coffee shop we’ve visited this summer that didn’t offer at least one version of this (now) popular caffeinated beverage.
Many call it a novelty, we call it the new normal. Yup, cold brew conquered the coffee world. And what we like about it is that cold brew is actually an entry point to the world of specialty coffee for those who have until now dwelled in the world of predictable commodity coffee.
But many people are confused … what is it about cold brew coffee that is different from hot brewed coffee and why should we even drink cold brew coffee?
We gathered a few reasons why we love to drink cold brew. Maybe you should try it out as well?
Lower acidity, less bitterness
Acidity in coffee? What the …? This is something we hear from people who tried a lighter roasted cup of specialty coffee for the first time. And yes, we must admit – the acidity in coffee can be surprising for many. It’s something one needs to get used to. After that you will never look back. But as first contact with specialty coffee, cold brew might be the answer. Yup, you understood right, cold brewed coffee is less acidic than hot brewed coffee. Let’s learn why. The key word here is extraction.
Extraction is actually the process when water dissolves soluble components from ground coffee – sugars, acids, oils and other stuff that can be dissolved. Some are good, some are bad. In general, we brew coffee with water at 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit (90 – 95 degrees Celsius). Use a hotter water and your coffee will be bitter. Hot water will destroy the acidic components and turn them into bitter components. Not good. Use colder water and you’ll turn the sweet acidity into a horrible sour taste. Water just doesn’t’t have the punch to dissolve the non-acidic compounds that create balance in your coffee. Again – not good.
As you might imagine, brewing with cold water produces changes from brewing with hot water—and some of these changes are really noticeable from the first sip. For example, cold brew coffee has a lot less acidity and bitterness compared to hot brewed. We use the mentioned water temperature to achieve balance in coffee, where no one acid or bitter compound overpowers the cup.
Cold brewing plays by its own rules. The cold water slows down the extraction of the tasty parts of coffee. AND! It actually changes what is extracted and what is left in the ground coffee.
Compared to hot brewed coffee, a cup of cold brew can be more than 60% less acidic and bitter. That happens because the acids that turn to bitter don’t get extracted. And the acids that add that sharp bite to hot brewed coffee don’t oxidize. The end result is smooth, refreshing coffee.
Flavor, oh that flavor!
Okay, so cold brew is less bitter and less acidic than hot brewed coffee. And the thing is that with less oxidation and degradation of flavor compounds in coffee, you will notice a very clear change in flavor of coffee. There is a lot of science for professors of chemistry to explain, but we won’t open that can of worms. Let’s just put it short: the chemical picture of cold brewed coffee is different. Try this: brew a pour over and a cold brew with the same beans. Yes, the base flavors are the same. But you’d be surprised how different they taste.
A nice cup of pour over coffee has a balanced flavor, lovely aroma, it’s gently sweet and has a crispy acidity that gives it that lovely flavor punch. Add to that a little bit of the bitter notes to give it a bit more character and body. A nice cup of cold brewed coffee has a smooth flavor that is combined with sweetness and just a hint of acidity. Oh and it has almost no bitterness!
Bottom line – pour over can be described as rich while cold brew is smooth. Let7s call chemistry to the rescue to solve this flavor mystery … The secret that makes these two coffees so different are the oils. These are aromatic oils that are stacked in coffee. And if you heat them up (with hot water) these oils will get volatile and evaporate quickly. Gone forever. They are quite unpredictable when hot, that is why dialing your water temperature for pour over is sometimes difficult. By brewing your coffee with cold water these oils will remain stable and will smoothly extract into your beverage. And because they are aromatic, these oils will hit your nose with aromas that the brain will interpret as vibrant floral and fruity flavors. LOVELY!
VersatilityOkay, don’t get us wrong … we love hot coffee! There’s nothing like a nice cup of a single origin coffee that we make with a combination of immersion and pour over method with our GINA. But there are limits to hot coffee when you try to mix it with anything else. Not very versatile …
Cold brew coffee on the other hand, is the king of mixology! Especially if you steep your coffee stronger, you’ll get a cold brew concentrate that is just perfect for mixing with other drinks and foods! Here are a few tips for mixing your cold brew. And make sure you check our Instagram highlights, a lot of yummy cold brew recipes are to be found there!
A few ways to mix your cold brew:
- Iced coffee: mix it with ice and a little cold water.
- Hot coffee: cold brew with a splash of hot water makes sense when you do not have time to brew hot coffee, as you can store cold brew in your refrigerator.
- Cold Brew Latte: add ice and milk.
- Cold brew cocktails: a whole plethora of recipes possible! Play with your brew, add booze, juices or anything you might think will fit the flavor.
- Cold Brew Tonic: 1 part cold brew and two parts tonic + ice. YUM!
- Cold Brew Soda: Add soda water and a bit of sugar (if you like it sweet).a
Good news for coffee lovers! As cold water does not extract as much caffeine, cold brew is less caffeinated than hot coffee. That means you can drink more! Of course it all depends on the type of beans you use, but we could generally say that cold brew has about a third less caffeine than regular hot coffee.
We won’t get into details here, but coffee is healthy when consumed modestly. There is research that proves positive effects of coffee when it comes to reducing risk of hear diseases, makes you more alert and alive, some even say it can be beneficial for diabetes patients, there’s research that says coffee can help prevent Parkinsons disease and Alzheimers disease. Bottom line is that coffee is a strong antioxidant and that fact itself says: drink coffee!
As for cold brewed coffee it can be a solution for those who suffer from reflux and other stomach acidity problems. With less acidity in coffee, a lot of people claim that they can not drink hot coffee as the heartburn is killing them. But cold brew can solve those problems. One more reason to enjoy it!