A Coffee Rookie’s Guide To Cold Brew Coffee

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What is the first thing that often comes to your mind when you hear the phrase ‘brewed coffee?’ You’d probably think of a piping hot cup of joe, but what about cold brewed coffee? Have you ever heard of this kind of coffee before?

Although you might’ve discovered cold brew coffee recently, the truth is, it’s been around since the 1600s in the land of the morning sun, Japan. It got its first international taste when the Dutch conquerors brought and introduced it to the west. Now, you can enjoy a sip of freshly cold brewed coffee in the comfort of your home with just coffee grounds, water, and your fridge.  

So, what does cold brew coffee mean, and how is it different from other brewed coffee? These are just some of the most common questions people often ask that will be answered here in this rookie guide. If you’re ready, then keep reading below to learn more.

Making cold brew coffee with milk in a french press, also known as a cafetière, coffee press, or coffee plunger

What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew coffee is coffee brewed by saturating ground coffee beans with room-temperature or cold water for several hours. It produces cold coffee with a different chemistry and flavor profile than traditionally hot-brewed coffee.

If you haven’t tried one yet, go to your local coffee shops and check if they have traditional cold brew available. It is a great way to taste and fully understand its essence, richness, and flavor profile.

People asking, ‘What is cold brew?’ might also wonder how it is produced. Well, the truth is, cold brewing is fairly easy. It doesn’t require any special gadget, but a filter, a glass jar, and patience—tons of patience. 

So, how is it different from other brewed coffee?  

Cold Brew Coffee vs. Iced Coffee

Cold brew and iced coffee are cold and refreshing, especially during the summer heat. However, they’re certainly not the same. So, what makes them different? The answer to the question lies in how they’re produced.

Iced coffee is produced by steeping ground coffee beans in hot water and letting them cool by adding ice cubes or simply putting them in the fridge. On the other hand, cold brew coffee is produced by brewing coffee grounds in cold water. In addition, here’s how they’re different in terms of caffeine content and flavor profile:

  • Flavor: In terms of flavor, iced coffee is no different from hot coffee—it’s bitter and acidic. On the other hand, cold brew coffee is smoother, nuttier, and silkier but less acidic, making it a more gentle and calmer blend. That is why it’s ideal for people who have a sensitive stomach.
  • Caffeine: Cold brew and iced coffee have the same amount of caffeine, around 26 mg per fluid ounce. Although iced coffee has the same flavor profile as hot coffee, it’s been diluted due to the addition of ice, causing its caffeine content to drop a bit.

Cold Brew vs. Hot Coffee

You probably know how these two are different from each other. Unlike cold brew coffee, hot coffee is coffee brewed using hot water. So, how do these two differ in terms of flavor and caffeine content?

  • Flavor: Hot coffee is more acidic and bitter than cold brew, which is sweeter, smoother, and has more muted flavors. Also, many believe that hot brew is more full-bodied than cold brew, probably due to how heat affects the chemistry of coffee. But often, you’ll get a sharpness similar to vinegar.
  • Caffeine: Hot coffee has a higher amount of caffeine, around 27 mg per fluid ounce, compared to cold brew, which is only one number lower. Therefore, the statement ‘hot coffee will give you a longer energy boost’ is no more than a myth.

Cold Brew vs. Espresso Coffee

Unlike cold brew, making espresso coffee is a bit complex and costly because it requires an espresso machine. This tool uses intense heat and pressure to produce a smooth and silky espresso coffee. That said, here’s how cold brew differs from espresso coffee in terms of flavor and caffeine content:

  • Flavor: Espressos are much thicker, bitterer, creamier, and more full-bodied than the smooth, watery, and sweet cold brew coffee. However, both coffees may produce the same nuttiness.
  • Caffeine: Yes, you guessed it right! The caffeine content in espresso coffee is about three times higher than in regular cold brew coffee. So, if you need a boost, brewing espresso is the way to go.

What Are The Different Methods For Cold Brewing Coffee?

There are different methods to create cold brew coffee: immersion (the easiest way), slow drip, and AeroPress. Here’s how you can perform each of them.

Modern Cold brew drip tower coffee maker on dark stone background

How To Cold Brew Using The Immersion Method?

For the immersion method, you must prepare fresh coffee beans, a coffee mill or grinder, a French press, a quality filter, a coffee scale, and water. Once you’ve gathered all that’s needed, you may proceed to that step-by-step process:

  • Step 1: Weigh 100 g of coffee beans and grind them as coarse as you want. 
  • Step 2: Place the freshly ground coffee in the French press. 
  • Step 3: Gradually add 700 g of water and allow the coffee grounds to steep evenly. It will be coffee concentrate.
  • Step 4: After five minutes, gently stir in the coffee grounds floating at the top of the slurry with a wooden paddle or a spoon. 
  • Step 5: Leave the French press and allow the coffee grounds to steep for at least 12 hours in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight. You may also leave it inside your fridge to be safe. 
  • Step 6: After 12 hours of brewing, gently plunge into the French press filter. If you don’t want to drink it right away, you may pour the coffee concentrate through another filter in a container and keep it in the fridge for a maximum of two weeks. 
  • Step 7: If you’re ready to drink it, grab a glass and combine equal parts of water and concentrate. Then, add a couple of ice cubes and enjoy! 

How To Cold Brew Using The Slow Drip Method?

The slow drip method uses a slow-dripping water tower—a tool specifically used in this technique. It might look daunting because of its science setup, but it’s pretty easy to do. All you need to do is follow the simple step-by-step guide below. 

  • Step 1: Weigh 70 g of ice, 70 g of water, and 60 grams of coffee beans. 
  • Step 2: Adjust the dripper to control the water level. Do this beforehand by using the tap water from your sink, not the one you measured earlier. Also, it’s best to set the drip rate at one drop every three seconds.
  • Step 3: Grab your pre-weighed coffee beans and grind them coarsely with a Burr coffee grinder. The consistency should be similar to rough sand. 
  • Step 4: Place the coarsely ground coffee beans in the filter basket and attach them correctly underneath the drip tower. 
  • Step 5: Before attaching the upper chamber, dampen the coffee grounds with a small amount of water. Stir them gently to ensure that all grounds are dampened. 
  • Step 6: Assemble the drip tower by placing the upper chamber on top of the bed of coffee. 
  • Step 7: Once everything has been assembled, wait for around three to five hours.
  • Step 8: After the brewing time, where all the water has dripped below, remove the upper chamber and the spent coffee grounds. Then, grab a glass and dilute the concentrate with milk or water in whichever amount you prefer. 
  • Step 9: If you have any leftover coffee concentrate, keep it in a secure, airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to five days.

How To Cold Brew Using An AeroPress?

In this method, you’ll need an AeroPress coffee machine (it’s just a simple tube with a filter underneath, don’t worry). Just follow the step-by-step guide below to produce cold brew coffee using AeroPress.

  • Step 1: Weigh 30 g of coffee beans and grind them coarsely, similar to the one you used in slow drip and immersion methods. 
  • Step 2: Set your AeroPress in an inverted position and add your coffee grounds. 
  • Step 3: Add 132 g of water to the tube and stir it gently until all coffee grounds have been evenly submerged in the water. Then, cover it to prevent dirt from entering. 
  • Step 4: Let your coffee grounds steep inside the inverted AeroPress tube for at least 24 hours or one day, and avoid placing it in direct sunlight. A cool and dry place away from the heat may do.
  • Step 5: After a day or 24 hours, it’s time to rinse your filter before using it. It will help wash away its paper-like taste that may affect the flavor of your coffee.
  • Step 6: Place the filter in the coffee basket of an inverted AeroPress. Then, place your cup upside down to prevent drippings when flipping the tube. 
  • Step 7: You can plunge it forcefully or wait for it to plunge on its own, which may take a bit longer—about two minutes.
  • Step 8: After plunging, you now have your coffee concentrate. It is where you need to combine equal parts of water and concentrate. You may adjust the amount of water based on your preference. 

What Is The Perfect Cold Brew Coffee-To-Water Ratio?

The coffee-to-water ratio determines how strong your cold brew coffee is. Also, there’s no right or wrong ratio when brewing coffee, whether you’re making iced, hot, or even espresso coffee. It all comes down to your preference.  

To assist you, here are some coffee-to-water ratios you might want to try to help you identify your preferred coffee:

  • 1:8 Ratio: This is the standard ratio acceptable to every human being. Also, this is ideal for those who don’t want their coffee to be too strong. 
  • 1:5 Ratio: If you want to drink the coffee concentrate right after the filtration, immersion, and slow dripping process, then this ratio is the best for you. 
  • 1:4 Ratio: This may be too strong for you to drink, but it’s less strong than the typical concentrate.  
  • 1:3 Ratio: This ratio is for the bold ones. Also, this may be the ideal ratio to make a coffee concentrate unless you want to drink it as is. If that’s the case, then you’re a very bold one. 
  • 1:1 Ratio: This ratio may not be as good as you think because it lacks enough water to saturate all the coffee grounds. But it may still produce a stronger flavor than the 1:3 ratio. 

How To Salvage Your Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew coffee is relatively easy to make. However, mistakes do happen, and it’s normal. Fortunately, they’re easy to save. Here are some mistakes you’ll likely make when cold brewing and some tips to fix them.

  • The Cold Brew Coffee Is Too Strong: If your cold brew coffee is too strong for your sensitive palate, you might need to add more water to dilute the flavor. It will make it less strong than it was before.
  • The Cold Brew Coffee Is Not Strong Enough: If you find that the cold brew coffee is not strong enough, you may add more of the concentrate to your glass to make it stronger.
  • The Concentrate Tastes Sour: If your coffee concentrate tastes slightly sour, you probably haven’t extracted it completely. To troubleshoot this issue, you might need to add another hour of steeping when doing the immersion method.
  • The Concentrate Tastes Bitter: If you find the coffee concentrate tastes bitter, you probably have over-extracted your coffee grounds, maybe because they are too fine or the steeping time is too long. To salvage your coffee and rectify this mistake, reduce the brewing time or use medium-coarse grounds.

Final Words

Cold brew coffee is one of the best ways to drink coffee. It is perfect for those who prefer a less bitter, nuttier, sweeter, and smoother coffee. It’s also stomach-friendly because it’s less acidic than most other coffee products, so there’s a low chance of experiencing discomfort after drinking a cup. Furthermore, absorb everything discussed in this article to master the art of cold brewing.