Welcome to the beginner’s guide to cold brew coffee! By the end of this tutorial you’ll know WHY cold brew coffee tastes so magical and how to make it yourself!
Craving a cold brew coffee but don’t know how to make one? Wondering what the heck is going on with that quirky contraption slowly dripping away on the front counter at your local cafe? Don’t worry, we’re here to help!
So Why Cold Brew Coffee?
That’s obvious, it’s delicious! And it’s that little bit different to the familiar flavour of hot coffee or even iced coffee.
It’s a little richer, delightfully smooth, verging on a syrup but not quite, and it’s sweeter too, packed with vibrant fruity tones.
Cold brew is yet to win everyone’s heart in the coffee community but it’s gaining traction and picking up speed. According to the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association), more people prefer cold brew over iced coffee.
It’s not surprising either. Apart from the difference in flavour, cold brew has a long list of other benefits. Here’s just a few:
- It’s less acidic which means it’s softer on your teeth, stomach lining and gut health
- It’s seriously simple to make at home (you can even make a machine yourself!)
- It can last up to two weeks in the fridge
- The caffeine kick is strong and gradual in affect
- You can serve it hot or cold similarly to how you can serve hot brew cold (ie. iced latte)
- It’s easy to experiment with additional flavours like peanut butter, coconut or cumin
If you enjoy the process of messing with grinds, pulling the perfect shot and dabbling with latte art, cold brew coffee is just another realm of exploration that you’ll be obsessed with in no time!
Ok, but why is cold brew so different in texture and flavour to hot brew?
Fair question. The quick answer is temperature (as you might have guessed…) and time. But to really get it, we’ll need to get a little sciencey.
First of all, you need to know that coffee beans contain a seriously vast array of chemical compounds that make up the flavours we love and cherish. And they’re all on the spectrum from sweet to sour. To give you an idea, coffee beans share sweet compounds with strawberries (furaneol) and sour compounds with apples (malic acid).
By the way, for those whose memory of high school science class is a little foggy, a compound is just a substance that’s formed when two or more elements are chemically joined together. Water, for example, is a compound because it’s a combination of hydrogen and oxygen.
So, when you’re making a cup of coffee, what you’re really doing is using water to extract a combination of sweet and sour compounds from the beans.
What isn’t so obvious about making coffee is how the temperature at which you brew the coffee draws out a different set of flavours. Hot brew compels the compounds to be released rapidly, forcing the acids and oils to liquify and seep out of the bean. The result is that citrusy subtle tang that balances out the sweeter flavours.
Cold brew on the other hand is always sweet and fruity because the acids and oils aren’t soluble in cold water. They ain’t going nowhere. It’s only the sweeter compounds that break down and exude through colder temperatures.
If it’s not quite making sense, think of it like coconut oil. At room temperature, coconut oil is solid but put some on a hot pan and it melts in seconds. The oils and acids in a coffee bean are similar. They only liquify and melt into your shot under heat and they stay put in the cold.
Time is the other factor, and once again, we’re at both ends of the spectrum. An espresso shot takes 25 to 35 seconds for the water to make its way through the coffee grind and produce that aromatic crema, whereas cold brew takes anywhere from 10 to 20 hours depending on how strong you want it.
In a cold brew extraction, the cold water doesn’t so much as pass through the grind as it does steep patiently and quietly, just doing its thing absorbing all of the delicious goodness from the beans.
Once again, this affects the flavour and texture and the principle is basic: the longer you leave it, the smoother the texture and the richer the flavour.
I’m all in, but how do I actually make it?
Well, the best way to get started is probably with a reliable machine. We recommend the 1L Hario Cold Brew Pot from Alternative Brewing.
Just by looking at the machine, perhaps you can see how easy it is to make.
Simply fill the mesh filter with coffee grind and add 1L of water to the container then let it sit for a minimum of 10 hours. Do it straight after dinner and it’ll be ready by the next morning.
The Alternative Brewing company recommends the following recipe:
- Fill the mesh filter with 80g of coarsely ground coffee
- Add 1L of cold water to the pot
- Let it steep for 12-18 hours in the fridge
- Take out the filter and store the concentrate in the fridge for up to two weeks
They also recommend mixing the concentrate with cold water and ice for iced coffee, or hot water for hot coffee. Easy!
If you begin looking into the world of cold brew, you’ll notice there’s no exact ratio of coffee to water, but if you try another machine or build one yourself, a really easy ratio to start with is 1:5 coffee to water. That’s one cup of coarsely ground coffee to 5 cups of water. And do make sure the grind is as coarsely ground as you can make it, this is another key difference to hot brew.
The perfect ratio, however, will ultimately come down to you and what you like! So have a go and start experimenting!
We would love to hear your thoughts on your cold brew too!
Share your results on our facebook page… and maybe even invite us over for a cold brew or two!
The Connected Coffee Team!
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