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Cold brew coffee has been a hot trend for years now. If you haven’t tried it yet, you might wonder whether you switch to drinking cold brew as well. You might wonder: What are the benefits of cold brew coffee over hot-brewed coffee? Why do people drink it?
We will discuss all of that in this article, so that you will have a better idea of the benefits of cold brew coffee versus regular coffee, and whether switching to cold brew is worthwhile. Also, on how to brew your own cold brew.
We started making cold brew coffee at home about ten years ago. As you’ll see below, the process is so simple, and the ability to store cold brew in the fridge makes the beverage super convenient to have on demand.
Eventually, I saw retailers like Dunkin Donuts and other coffee shops incorporate cold brew coffee into their menus, and stores started carrying increasing numbers of bottled or canned cold brew coffee.
The trend probably won’t end anytime soon, so I figured discussing the purported benefits of cold brew coffee is still on point today.
What is Cold Brew Coffee?
Several sources on the Internet, including this one, surmise the earliest form of cold brew coffee occurred in the 1600’s in Kyoto, Japan. The theory is that people in Kyoto cold-brewed tea at the time, so transferred the same technique to coffee after receiving imports from the Dutch.
“Cold-brewing” refers to using cold water to extract coffee bean flavor instead of using hot water, although actual techniques for cold brewing vary.
Most guides suggest cold-brewing coffee for up to 24 hours, so cold brew coffee has a much longer brew time than hot-brewed coffee. However, since most people make a large batch of cold brew in one go, the payoff of having cold brew at the ready for days afterwards makes up for the brew time.
Also, because the coffee concentration in cold brew can be quite high, many people dilute their cold brew concentrate with water before drinking it. This practice can make each batch of cold brew last even longer, so unless your household consumes a lot of coffee, you probably won’t have to make new cold brew very often between batches.
(Note: although we started out by diluting cold brew with water for drinking, some of my extended family members eventually started drinking the cold brew with little or no dilution. If you like the stronger flavor and don’t mind the caffeine, go for it!)
You can drink cold brew coffee hot or cold. Even though you might think heating cold brew coffee seem antithetical to the drink being “cold brew,” it’s really not! The main impetus for cold-brewing coffee is to reduce the acidity leached out of coffee beans, but finished cold brew coffee no longer has coffee beans in it. Thus, heating the liquid won’t suddenly change the beverage’s acidity.
In fact, I usually prefer my coffee hot, but sometimes iced coffee sounds good or a blended coffee drink. You can drink or use cold brew coffee however you would normally drink or use hot-brewed coffee.
Why Is Cold Brew Coffee Popular?
Most potential trends only need publicity to become mainstream. Here, precisely why or how cold brew coffee became mainstream is not certain.
Logical theories are that certain manufacturers or coffee shops like Stumptown and Grady’s began selling cold brew coffee, which then spread to other companies, but it’s unclear who exactly started the trend.
Starbucks, joined the trend by selling cold brew coffee in 2015, and you can only imagine how many other coffee shops and beverage manufacturers joined the bandwagon afterwards.
This report estimates a 580% growth in cold brew coffee sales between 2011 and 2015. A 2017 report then documents a growth of about 460% in cold brew coffee sales between 2015 and 2017, translating to an estimated $38.1 million in sales.
Despite the growing demand for cold brew coffee, less than 10% of survey participants made cold brew coffee at home. Thus, a demand certainly exists for buying cold brew coffee at coffee shops or in stores versus making it.
How Do You Make Cold Brew Coffee?
Despite the low percentage of people who make their own cold brew coffee, any fan of the stuff really should consider making it at home. Cold brew coffee is so incredibly easy to make that easy preparation should be one of my listed benefits of cold brew coffee! (I only omitted it to focus on intrinsic cold brew benefits.) Making cold brew coffee yourself is also a lot cheaper than buying it elsewhere.
For anyone who wants to try making their own, I’ll share some brief instructions.
Firstly, you should get a pitcher like this one that we use, which facilitates the process and doesn’t take up a lot of refrigerator space. If you take a look at the pitcher I linked, you can get a very clear idea of how to make cold brew coffee very easily.
The first step in making cold brew coffee is to coarsely grind your coffee beans. We use about a cup of medium ground coffee beans per liter of water. The pitcher instructions suggest 80 grams of coffee grounds per pitcher, but you can obviously use more or less to your liking.
Pour your coffee grounds into the filter and then fill the pitcher up with cold water, until it’s almost full, ensuring the water won’t overflow.
At that point, you basically wait for the coffee to sufficiently infuse the water. We always immediately put the pitcher into the fridge for brewing, usually 8-12 hours. After the coffee has sufficiently brewed, you just remove the beans and keep the pitcher in the fridge, ready to pour on demand.
What Are the Benefits of Cold Brew Coffee?
So, what exactly are the purported benefits of cold brew coffee to make it so popular?
One of the most touted benefits of cold brew coffee is its lower acidity than hot-brewed coffee. The acidity in regular people can cause heartburn, indigestion, and other symptoms typically associated with acidic foods in more sensitive individuals.
This study confirmed that cold brew coffee is less acidic, although not dramatically so. Another study determined that the type of coffee roast matters. Cold brew coffee made from medium roast coffee beans was more acidic than from dark roast coffee beans, possibly because the higher roasting temperature decomposes more acidic compounds.
The latter study also found that cold brew coffee typically contains more caffeine than hot brew coffee, which makes sense with the longer brew time.
Another interesting tidbit from the former study was that cold brew coffee contains less antioxidants than hot-brewed coffee. (However, if you’re interested in higher antioxidant levels, you should consider drinking green tea!)
Generally, people describe cold brew coffee as having a “milder,” less bitter flavor than hot-brewed coffee, which can be a benefit depending on your taste buds.
However, for people who enjoy “strong” black coffee, the aforementioned mildness may not necessarily translate into a negative experience. This study showed that participants generally rated hot brew coffee as having a stronger taste, aroma, aftertaste, acidity, and body than cold brew coffee. However, despite these differing scores in specific areas, participants rated the “overall impact” (i.e. their overall impression) that they got from drinking cold brew coffee as very similar to their overall impact from drinking hot brew coffee.
The latter means that people did not necessarily enjoy the experience of drinking cold brew coffee less than drinking hot brew coffee, and vice-versa. So, if you’re used to drinking hot brew coffee, you may enjoy drinking a less acidic, milder cold brew coffee just as much.
The same study said that participants generally described cold brew coffee as having the following flavor profiles: malt, pepper, almond, cocoa, and black fruit. Meanwhile, participants generally described hot brew coffee as having the following flavor profiles: chocolate, vanilla, and honey. If you can usually discern these types of flavors in your coffee, then those descriptions may be helpful.
From my own experience, I’ve never considered myself a coffee connoisseur to be able to distinguish or discriminate against different coffees, unless a cup is noticeably bad. However, I would generally agree that cold brew coffee tends to have a milder, less intense flavor. I also usually diluted my cold brew concentrate with water, though, so I could have had a stronger cup with less dilution.
Like with any cup of coffee, you can influence the flavor to how you like it, whether by using certain beans, or adding cream or sugar. With cold brew coffee, you can either dilute it or not, particularly if you make or buy a cold brew coffee “concentrate.”
So, really, if debating between cold brew or hot brew, the main factors to consider are whether you need to watch your acid intake and the flavor profile that you prefer. Preparation could be a factor as well, if making coffee at home. If you don’t have a coffee machine, then cold brew is definitely more convenient to make and have on hand in the refrigerator.
What are your thoughts on cold brew coffee, including on the benefits of cold brew coffee, and your preference for cold brew versus hot brew? Please share below!