What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

In the Philippines, cold brew coffee has become popular in the past five years or so after it has been introduced by top-selling coffee chains; at the same time, this is hardly a new way of preparing coffee. Cold brew coffee has been around for centuries, and it dates back to the 1600s, usually attributed to Japanese and the Dutch traders. People believe that the Dutch traders prepared coffee concentrate they can use during their long voyage, and when they reached Kyoto, Japan, they were introduced to a new method of brewing coffee using cold water (as Kyoto brew their tea using the same process).

Since its introduction to the public, it has become a staple for and favourite of many people; however, there are still some points of confusion about what cold brew is and how it’s prepared, so let’s talk about that.

Is Cold Brew Just Another Name for Iced Coffee?

First things first: iced coffee is not cold brew. Cold brew includes a more meticulous process than adding ice or cold water to your coffee. Additionally, iced coffee uses brewed coffee, espresso, or instant coffee (all these are prepared hot) and then poured over ice or cold water (sometimes both). Iced coffee can also be prepared within minutes while cold brew requires patience as the brewing process takes literal hours.

So how is cold brew prepared then? Cold brew is made by using coarse ground coffee beans and steeping them in cool or cold water for 12–48 hours. In short, cold brew is prepared without any source of heat introduced to it during the process. You then filter the infusion to separate the coffee grounds and silt from the liquid. Preparation is basically a three- or four-step process, but it is the steeping time that requires a lot of patience.

What Makes Cold Brew Distinct from Iced Coffee?

Flavor. Since no heat is introduced to the beans during the brewing process, the coffee you get with cold brew is less bitter. This is because some compounds and other solubles in the beans that give it the gross bitter taste when over-extracted are not fully dissolved. Most of the time, the coffee you get from cold brew method have rich, sweet, fruity or nutty flavor depending on the beans that you use.

Acidity. Coffee produced using cold brew method is also less acidic and poses less risk of upsetting your stomach. This is also because of the cold water used to brew the coffee slows down the oxidation and degradation of the coffee molecules and compounds, thus, extracting and infusing less acid into your brew.

Shelf Life. Your undiluted cold brew coffee can last up to two weeks when stored properly while diluted cold brew can last up to 2–3 days in your fridge as opposed to iced coffee or hot brewed coffee that starts to taste stale after a few hours. Just make sure that you don’t expose it any source of heat and keep it in airtight containers. It’s best to keep them refrigerated as well.

Price. Commercial cold brew is normally a little more expensive than iced coffee because you get less coffee with cold brew. Since you let the beans soak in the water for too long, some if the liquid is absorbed by the beans, yielding less coffee after the brewing time. Another reason is the ratio of beans to water: you need more beans to prepare cold brew coffee (1:4 or 1:6) than the amount of beans required to make hot brewed coffee (1:15 or 1:18).

Strength. Since most cold brew coffee is prepared in batches, these normally come in concentrate. You might need to dilute your cold brew coffee with either milk to water—or both—before drinking it. Some people also suggest that there is more caffeine in cold brew coffee than hot brew coffee, but that still remains to be proven scientifically since caffeine content is determined by several factors: beans to water ratio, type of beans, brewing time, etc.

What Can I Use Cold Brew Coffee For?

Cold brew concentrate is very versatile. You can use it as base to make different coffee drinks.

  • Iced Coffee: mix your cold brew with cold water and ice
  • Iced Latte: mix your cold brew with cold mild and ice
  • Hot coffee: mix your cold brew with hot water
  • Cold brew cocktails: mix your cold brew with spirits, sugar, and other mixers
  • Cold brew soda: mix your cold brew with your choice of sweetener, soda water, and ice

There are a lot of other things you can make your cold brew coffee for. If you feel like experimenting, you can always search the internet for recipes that use cold brew coffee.

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