Cold brew coffee is pretty much everywhere these days, but what is it, exactly?
On many menus, it’s usually more expensive than iced coffee, so what’s the real difference?
Cold brew coffee is made from coffee grounds that have been steeped in cold or room temperature water for at least 12 hours, whereas iced coffee is made by brewing coffee grounds in hot water for a few minutes, then poured over ice.
Since you're heating the coffee when making iced coffee and cold brewing doesn't require any heat, the chemical process by which the water is flavored is different, resulting in beverages that can taste totally different even when using the same beans.
When brewing coffee using hot water, the coffee solubles are pulled out of the grounds quicker, which leads to a more acidic tasting and bitter brew. This process also causes oxidation and degrades the flavor of the coffee quicker, which is why hot coffee (or iced coffee) should be drunk the day it’s made and will not keep fresh for long.
When cold brewing, coffee solubles are pulled out more slowly, creating a mellower, smoother beverage. Since there is much less oxidation, you can keep concentrated cold brew in your fridge for up to two weeks and it will stay fresh.
The only slight downside to making cold brew coffee is that it's not an instant process, so you do need to plan ahead if you want to enjoy this popular drink at home.
How to make cold brew concentrate
When cold brewing, you will be using about two times more coffee grounds than hot or iced coffee. This process creates a flavorful concentrate that should not be drunk on its own; so when serving, be sure to add equal parts water, if you like black coffee, or milk.
- Coffee to water ratio: 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) of coffee for every 8 ounces of water
- Equipment: Pitcher, fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
- 3 cups cold water (This recipe makes 3 cups of cold brew coffee concentrate, or roughly 4 glasses of iced cold brew coffee.)
- ¾ cup fresh ground coffee (coarse grind)
How to make cold brew coffee
Add coffee grounds and cold water to a Mason jar or pitcher.
Cover and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth.
Pour over ice with equal parts water and/or milk. If you want to sweeten it, use simple syrup instead of sugar crystals so it will dissolve evenly in the cold liquid.
Keep coffee concentrate covered in the fridge for up to two weeks.