The Science Behind Cold Brew Coffee
With summer approaching, you’ve probably heard the term “cold-brew coffee” a hundred times by now. But besides tasting remotely like iced coffee, you may not be aware of what cold-brew coffee is. It would be easy to dismiss it as a trending, more expensive version of iced coffee. Cold-brew, however, is an entirely different type of coffee, which is mostly due to its brewing process and resulting taste.
To make this type of coffee, you put coffee grounds into cold or room temperature water and leave the grounds to steep for a few hours, or even a few days. Once this coffee “tea” has set for a while, you strain the mixture to remove the grounds before serving. This is significantly contrasted in that of the hot brew process; coffee grounds percolate in boiling water or water is poured directly through the grounds to get the coffee flavor.
Since solubles are best produced under high temperatures, hot brew releases more solubles than colder brewed coffee, making it more aromatic and flavorful. The hot brewing process also oxidizes more of the grounds’ compounds, which makes it taste acidic. Because a colder brew doesn’t have the benefit of hotter temperatures, it has to brew for longer and with twice the ratio of grounds to water. Cold-brew also doesn’t oxidize as much, making it far less acidic than ho- brew.
Overall, the taste is what makes cold-brew entirely different from hot brew coffee that’s been iced down. Whereas hot brew is fuller bodied with floral accents, cold-brew is smooth and more sweet than acidic. The contrast is significant, and many people dislike cold-brew for its subtlety and lack of aroma. However, this brew can be very well-liked for the same reasons: it's sweet, non-acidic, and low profile. This makes it the perfect option for coffee drinkers who like their cream and sugar.
Though cold-brew costs more in stores, don’t be fooled! Making your own is easy and cost effective, especially since cold-brew doesn’t stale as quickly as hot-brew. While a cold-brew at a coffee shop will cost you about $4, making your own only costs the price of coffee grounds.