Cold brew coffee has been around for decades (with records suggesting that the Japanese were brewing coffee this way back in the 1600s), but a recent explosion in popularity has brought this beverage to the attention of even casual coffee drinkers. Credited with being both more convenient and more palatable by its fans, this is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down, so we’ve decided to tell you everything you need to know about cold brew coffee.
What is Cold Brew Coffee?
Cold brew coffee refers to a particular way of preparing coffee that doesn't require any heat in the brewing process. Instead, coarsely ground coffee beans are steeped in water no warmer than room temperature for 8-12 hours, creating a coffee concentrate that can be strained to remove the leftover grounds and kept in the fridge. This concentrate can then be used with water or milk (either hot or cold) to create a lovely cup of coffee.
Why is Cold Brew Coffee Better? (According to Some!)
There are a few reasons why some people favour cold brew coffee, including its taste. According to cold brew fans, this method of preparing coffee results in a less acidic, smoother and sweeter drink - enhancing the enticing flavour of coffee while downplaying any bitterness.
Another factor that cold brew coffee has in its favour is its convenience. The concentrate can be made with nothing more than a jug, any form of strainer, and an investment of time. Once made, a batch of cold brew coffee removes the need to brew coffee with every new cup - in fact, enough coffee concentrate can be made for several cups of cold or hot coffee.
Is There a Difference Between Cold Brew and Iced Coffee?
This is (for understandable reasons) a common question regarding cold brew, and there is indeed a difference between cold brew and iced coffee. Iced coffee is brewed traditionally using hot water, before being cooled down in the fridge for a few hours or immediately poured over lots of ice before serving. Cold brew, as we have mentioned, is brewed cold and kept in the fridge, and is great for making iced coffee because it tastes fresh (whereas hot coffee cooled down can lose some verve) and doesn't get as easily diluted by melting ice.
How Long is Cold Brew Coffee Good For?
Another advantage of cold brew coffee is that it keeps well at cool temperatures. Hot coffee isn't at its best once it's been allowed to sit for a couple of hours, whereas cold brew concentrate remains fresh-tasting for far longer. Cold coffee concentrate can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, and this long shelf life is great for reducing waste and minimising fuss.
Is Cold Brew Coffee Stronger Than Hot Coffee?
The short answer to this question is that, generally speaking, cold brew coffee has slightly less caffeine than hot brewed. However, it is also the case that the amount of caffeine in coffee varies immensely due to various factors - including beans and roasting methods - so it isn't possible to determine conclusively whether hot or cold brew coffee is stronger across the board.
Brewing coffee in hot water extracts more caffeine than cold water, but typically cold brew coffee concentrate is made with a higher coffee to water ratio than used in traditional brewing methods, which complicates matters. Before drinking, however, people tend to add more water or milk to their cold brew, which has the effect of diluting its strength.
Can I Reuse Coffee Grounds For Cold Brew?
We would strongly recommend not reusing grounds of coffee - once coffee beans have become over-extracted, they will be extremely bitter and unpleasant.
Can you Overbrew Cold Brew Coffee?
Cold brew coffee can be steeped for up to 24 hours - in fact, it is difficult to overbrew coffee using this preparation method. The best of the beans flavour will seep into the water within the first 8 hours and all the caffeine will have dissolved to form the concentrate in this timeframe too. We recommend allowing cold brew to steep for 12 hours in the fridge, but some prefer a longer brew - generally, this is a matter of personal taste.
If you would like to find out more about cold brew coffee, including our own recipe and suggestions for how to flavour and use your concentrate, don’t miss our post How to Flavour Cold Brew Coffee.