There are a lot of people out there who swear they’ll never enjoy their coffee cold. They think coffee is meant only to be consumed hot; that iced coffee is a distortion of coffee’s true steamy purpose. But these people are sadly mistaken.
Cold brew coffee is an incredible thing. There’s a reason the cold brew coffee market in the United States grew 500% over the last five years. Actually, there are three reasons – three key differences that set it apart from hot coffee.
These differences aren’t small by any means. Cold brew coffee has turned many coffee skeptics into coffee lovers. Cold brew coffee has empowered home brewers to make iced coffee with ease. Now that the world is waking up to the treasures of cold brew coffee, the coffee industry will never be the same.
It’s time you see what the hype is all about. Here are the three key differences between cold brew coffee and hot coffee that have changed the coffee world.
1. The Brewing Process
You know what hot brewing coffee looks like: auto coffee pots, french presses, pour over cones, and beyond. These methods of making coffee vary when it comes to how hands-on and forgiving they are.
Generally, it goes something like this: You heat your water. You grind your coffee. You set up your brewer’s filter and carafe. You pour your water over the coffee using a special technique. You watch closely to achieve that perfect result.
Hot coffee brewing can be intense and unforgiving.
Now check out the cold brew coffee process.
You grind your coffee and set it in your cold brew coffee maker’s mesh filter. You fill the brewer with cold water. You wait a few hours. You remove the coffee grounds. It’s that easy.
Hot water extracts things from coffee grounds very quickly. Cold water isn’t so eager. Depending on the water temperature, it can take 12 to 18 hours for cold water to extract as much as hot water does in 3 minutes. Don’t let this scare you away – it can be a great thing.
This means that you can begin cold brewing in the evening and have great iced coffee ready for you in the morning. It means you have a lot of wiggle room in terms of how long you brew, whereas hot coffee’s quality can be destroyed by brewing for just one minute too long.
This brewing length also produces a very strong concentrate, rather than a ready-to-drink beverage. To make a glass of iced coffee, all you have to do is cut the concentrate with cold water and ice. The concentrate can then be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.
The process for brewing hot coffee is quick, sometimes frustrating, and can bring out the craftsman in you. The process for making cold brew coffee is simple, forgiving, and gives you on-demand iced coffee for up to two weeks.
2. Flavor Experience
Hot water extracts bright acids and bitter tannins very quickly. These aren’t always bad things. They can contribute to great flavor if the coffee is brewed very carefully, but they are often the causes of upset stomachs and turn some people away from coffee.
Cold water, on the other hand, leaves most of those harsh compounds in the coffee grounds. As a result, cold brew coffee can be up to 60% less bitter and acidic than hot coffee.
This makes the other flavors of the coffee stand out more, creating a flavor experience that is completely unique to cold brew coffee. Imagine what your favorite coffee could taste like if the vibrant aromas, the refreshing sweetness, and the rounded flavors weren’t overshadowed by intense acidity and unpleasant bitterness.
The flavor experience of hot coffee is rich and warming, but can be a bit too harsh for some people. The flavor experience of cold brew coffee is smooth, refreshing, and satisfying. It’s just the kind of thing you would want on a hot Summer day.
The final main difference between cold brew coffee and hot coffee may not be one you would have considered: the versatility of the final brew.
Hot coffee, for the most part, is hot coffee. You can add cream, sugar, or a flavored syrup, but you can’t really get too creative with it.
Cold brew coffee, however, is ripe for creative drink crafting. The obvious thing to do is mix the concentrate with cold water and ice to make iced coffee, but there’s nothing stopping you from mixing it with hot water instead to give you a mug of hot cold brew coffee.
If you’re a fan of iced lattes, cut the concentrate with milk to make a cold brew iced latte. If you’re one for adventure, mix the concentrate with lemon juice and simple syrup to make a cold brew sour; or top the concentrate off with simple syrup, fresh mint, and soda water to make a cold brew mojito.
Without the harsh acidity and bitterness, cold brew coffee pairs surprisingly well with a variety of other liquids. There’s a lot of room for creative exploration here.
Hot coffee is great for enjoying a nice warm mug in the morning. Cold brew coffee is great for making refreshing iced coffee, smooth hot coffee, and a variety of other fun beverages.
We’re major fans of both hot and cold brew coffee. Each type has its advantages, but we find ourselves constantly making cold brew coffee because of how simple, tasty, and versatile it is.