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When most people think about cold coffee, they typically think of iced coffee. The kind that I have on my desk and forget about until it’s a lukewarm watered-down mess.
Up until a few years ago, I had never really considered cold brew coffee as an alternative. It was cold, it was coffee, what’s the actual difference?
Well, it turns out that iced coffee and cold brew coffee are two entirely different drinks.
I have always been a hot coffee kind of guy but when the summer rolls around in Utah it’s pretty much unbearable to drink any hot beverages. However, when I switched to iced coffee I found it to be fairly bitter…which led to me adding a bunch of cream and sugar.
With this next summer coming fast, I decided it was time to change things up. Cutting back on sugar is a huge part of that. So, I also thought that meant I was going to need to cut back on coffee altogether.
Since that wasn’t really an option (although I have detoxed from coffee before) I decided to seek out an alternative. Enter cold brew coffee.
I learned that you make cold brew coffee in an entirely different way than either iced coffee or a regular cup of joe. Done correctly, it turns out to be a lovely and bold coffee that doesn’t have all the bitterness or acidity that was wrecking my stomach or calories count.
In fact, because it’s so smooth I found that you can enjoy a cold brew without adding sweeteners.
There are so many benefits to learning how to make cold brew coffee. If you’re going to take advantage of it this summer like I am, it’s time to learn everything there is to know. Not only will you be able to make this at home, but it will be your favorite cold and refreshing beverage.
Understanding My New Love For Cold Brew Coffee
As we mentioned before, cold brew is entirely different from iced coffee. It isn’t bitter, and it has its own sweetness. Those two factors play a huge role in making this one of the greatest caffeinated drinks you can make ahead of time for a busy day.
Cold-brew isn’t something that you have to make in the morning and drink while it’s still fresh. You should drink hot coffee within about 10-minutes, which is when it’s at its peak freshness. As soon as it gets lukewarm or cold, it’s technically not fresh anymore. I guess that explains why it doesn’t taste as good when you microwave it … which I do way too often.
You make cold brew in a similar fashion as you make tea. The significant difference is the fact that you make cold brew with room temperature water.
By avoiding hot water, you can also prevent releasing the oils and acidity that you find in hot coffee. So, you can enjoy the sweet, nutty flavor without needing sugar.
You can even change up the taste by trying different blends of coffee or adjusting the amount of time you let it steep. The longer it steeps, the bolder the flavor will be.
The best part of all is the fact that there is no right or wrong method. You can adjust everything to your preferences as you learn how to make cold brew coffee to fit your palate. That could include adding or omitting sweeteners.
The Caffeine Content Of Cold Brew Coffee
Let’s face it, espresso is where it’s at when you want to make a strong or bold coffee choice. But if you don’t want hot coffee and don’t have a fancy machine, that isn’t exactly an option. At least not in the comfort of your own home.
Luckily, cold brew is something you can make at home with very few tools. You can also make it as strong or mild as you want.
When you learn how to make cold brew coffee, a big step is going to be diluting it before you take a sip. Otherwise, you’re definitely not going to understand what all the fuss is about. Homemade cold brew is a coffee concentrate that you dilute with cold water or milk. You can also add creamer, cream, milk, or whatever else you love in your coffee.
You can adjust the strength of the caffeine in your cold brew coffee by adding less water and more concentrate. But if you want it to taste the best it possibly can, you should stick to a half-and-half ratio of cold brew concentrate to water.
Overall, it’s going to contain less caffeine than hot coffee. Heat is the best way to extract caffeine from coffee beans. But the amount of caffeine is pretty irrelevant because the flavor is going to be spectacular. So you could drink more if you need an extra boost.
Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee
Technically there are tons of cold or frozen coffee options out there. Though it depends on where you go. Many places make their own special blends and have so many fun flavors that it is impossible even to make a list.
So we’re going to stick to the classics.
In this case, we are focusing on the difference between cold brew coffee and iced coffee. Cold coffee drinks are often confused. It’s understandable because they sound so similar.
As we mentioned before, it all comes down to the brewing process. Breaking down the differences, and how you can make them at home, is going to open up some new coffee options.
There’s a good chance that you’ve had iced coffee because it takes the least amount of time to make in terms of brewing. But learning how to make cold brew coffee is a whole new experience and has a lot of benefits of its own.
Cold brew is made by steeping some specially ground coffee in cool water for a long period. The length of time that you spend steeping is going to depend on the recipe, blend, and personal taste. It might take a little experimentation to learn how to make cold brew coffee that is perfect for you.
Learning how to make cold brew coffee might not sound like a fun project but there are some serious perks.
For one thing, the final product is actually going to be a coffee concentrate. It’s not something you want to drink straight up, but it gives you the freedom to make your drinks strong or mild. All you have to do is mix it with milk or water. So you could play around with the ratio of coffee and water for the best flavor, as well.
Last, but not least, the cold brew concentrate can last around one to two weeks in a sealed container. So, you can make it in a large batch and mix it up whenever you’re in a hurry.
In other words, it is the ideal coffee choice for busy people, especially in the summer.
Iced coffee is also very easy to make. All you have to do is make some of your favorite hot coffee and add some ice and milk. It isn’t the quickest thing to make in the morning in comparison to cold brew, but it’s an easy process.
The major difference between cold brew and iced coffee is the flavor. Making coffee with piping hot water is going to release the bitterness and acidity in the brew. Some people prefer this robust version.
I must say, I always steered clear of iced coffee unless I had some flavored creamer around to mix in. I typically love strong, drip-brewed coffee, but only when it’s hot. There is something that drastically changes when it gets cold. Again, it all comes down to personal taste and what makes you happy. That might even depend on what you’re in the mood for.
However, the naturally robust and slightly sweet taste of cold brew is part of the reason I’m looking forward to switching this summer. It’s going to be a much milder flavor that I can enjoy without additives.
What To Know Before Making Cold Brew Coffee
Learning how to make cold brew coffee is going to take some patience, but it is so worth the wait. Plus, you don’t have to put a whole lot of your own time and effort into it.
It’s only a matter of whipping things together and waiting. That might mean you can’t drink it until the next day, but you can make enough to last for a while.
It’s easy peasy.
Tips For The Best Cold Brew
More than anything, you are going to need to take advantage of some high-end coffee options here.
In other words, you need to grab some beans, not ready-ground coffee. It can be tempting to read this and whip up some cold brew right now. But if you don’t have good coffee beans on hand, you might not be a fan of the outcome.
Using coarse-ground coffee will cut down on bitterness. Plus it’s going to make the filtering process a heck of a lot easier.
Other than that, it’s crucial to store your coffee concentrate in a sealed container in the fridge. That will keep it fresh and ready to go for a week or two.
Last of all, it’s imperative to dilute the cold brew with water or milk. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing that at this point — we’ve mentioned it quite a few times now. However, if you want to get the perfect taste, you need to dilute it properly. Dilution will also depend on the recipe, but as a general rule, you should use about half concentrate and half water.
Common Mistakes When Making Cold Brew
Since we covered the basic rules on how to make cold brew coffee, we should also include the rules of “what not to do.”
Learning how to make cold brew coffee is super simple.
The main rule here is going to be that you should use cold or room temperature water. It’s kind of the whole point of this process. Using hot water is going to help release those acids and bitterness. Therefore, using hot water, in the same manner, is going to make this some strong stuff.
You’ll basically be taking way longer to make hot coffee, and there’s just no point to that. You could whip out the coffee pot and have it done in 10 minutes. So using this process will essentially give you old coffee … which just doesn’t sound as refreshing.
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee – Step By Step
Learning how to make cold brew coffee is a piece of cake. The whole process is very straightforward, and you merely need to make sure you have the right tools for the job.
Tools Needed For Cold Brew
- A coffee grinder
- A cheesecloth
- Two large containers with lids (mason jars or pitchers work well)
- Whole coffee beans
- Distilled water at room temperature
- A canning funnel
The Brewing Process
Once you have those simple tools, the entire process can be summed up in a few simple steps.
Start by putting your whole coffee beans through the grinder. You need coarse ground coffee for your cold brew. As mentioned before, coarse ground coffee will add flavor, avoid bitterness, and is much easier to strain out.
Add the grounds directly to the distilled water. Keep in mind that using distilled water is a loose rule, and you don’t have to follow it. The rule of thumb here would be to use filtered or distilled water if you already prefer not to drink your tap water.
Let the grounds steep for as long as the recipe calls for. It’s an excellent idea to follow a recipe first and experiment with ratios and steeping time later. It will give you a good foundation to start with before you start tweaking it to fit your preferences.
In the end, all you have to do is strain the liquid through a cheesecloth into the second container. Some people recommend using regular coffee filters, but most people find that using cheesecloth is easier. Again, this might take a little experimentation.
Make sure to strain the liquid twice to remove all the grounds.
Once that’s done, you will have a cold brew coffee concentrate. Before you drink it, all you have to do is mix it with equal parts of water.
Instead of adding water to the whole batch at one time, you should make individual cups. At least if you are making a large batch one time.
The undiluted version will last in a sealed and refrigerated container for a week or two. But once you have diluted it, it’s best to drink it within two to three days.
Starbuck Cold Brew Coffee Recipe
The Starbucks cold brew has been everyone’s favorite for some time now. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get it in the comfort of your own home? Well, you can now!
The recipe is as easy as any other cold brew recipe, so this is a great place to start for anyone who is learning how to make cold brew coffee.
Keep in mind that this recipe will make 2 quarts of concentrate. That tallies up to a whole gallon of cold brew once you have diluted it!
- 8 ounces of Starbucks whole coffee beans (or use your favorite, I use peaberry beans)
- 8 cups of water (it is recommended to use distilled water, but not required)
- Coffee grinder
- Two jars or pitchers with lids
- A large fine-mesh strainer
- First, you need to grind your coffee beans until they are a coarse ground. Depending on the size of the grinder you have, you may need to do this in batches until you have enough.
- Add the water and the ground coffee to one container. Make sure your container has a lid.
- Stir the coffee and water mixture until all the coffee is wet. A lot of it will float to the top, but that’s to be expected.
- Pop on the lid and store it in the fridge for a full 20 hours. It’s fine if you give or take a few hours. Shoot for at least 18 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Line your fine-mesh strainer with the cheesecloth and place it over a container. Be careful to make sure the container is large enough to catch the liquid without a mess. But, it’s also nice if you’re able to place the strainer on it so it can hold itself in place. That will make the process a little easier.
- Allow the grounds to drain on their own. Don’t try to press or squeeze any more liquid out of them.
- If you feel the need, you can strain the batch for a second time to ensure there are no stragglers left behind. This is optional, but it’s certainly a good idea.
- Transfer the strained cold brew to the second clean container.
- When you’re ready for a cup, mix 1/2 cup of the brew, 1/2 cup of water, and about a cup of ice. You could adjust the ratio of brew and water, depending on how strong you like it. Milk also is a delicious alternative to regular water if you want a creamier flavor.
- Store your cold brew in the covered container for up two weeks.
Save Time and Money by Learning How to Make Cold Brew Coffee
Learning how to make cold brew coffee can be a fun new experience. For one thing, it’s incredibly easy. Not only can you do this at home, but you also don’t need any special tools.
You might need to get a coffee grinder, but if you’re a regular coffee drinker, there’s a good chance you already have one.
I don’t know about you, but cold brew is the answer to my summertime coffee dreams. I have been on the hunt for the perfect summertime alternative to coffee. Cold brew is ideal for me because it has a strong flavor, but it lacks the acidity and bitterness of hot coffee or iced coffee. Overall, it’s a nice change of pace.
In addition to all of those perks, you can save so much money if you usually buy cold brew in a Starbucks or local cafe. Not only will you have it on hand and ready to go whenever you want, but you won’t be paying a ridiculous amount for each cup. Sounds like a dream to me, since I’m always looking to save money. Then again, most of us are.
Other Alternatives To Iced Coffee
I figured it was time to branch out. Now, unless you go to a coffee shop all the time, there’s a good chance you haven’t bothered to learn about the different types of coffee. We are obviously focusing on cold brew, but it’s nice to know that you have a wide selection.
You’ll find that the main distinction between cold brew coffee and others is in the brewing process. You make every other type of coffee with hot water, except cold brew. They have various methods to achieve a different feel and flavor, but heat is the thing they all have in common.
Understanding all the brewing processes of each kind of drink is not something everyone needs to know. Nonetheless, it is handy knowledge for coffee lovers everywhere.
Just think, the next time you wander into Starbucks, you could actually understand the gibberish on the menu.
Classic Types Of Hot Coffee
This is the coffee we know and love. From the electric coffee pots at home to the gas station coffee we grab on the go. It is the fuel behind the American working force and a staple in most homes.
Electric Drip Brewers
The electric drip coffee pot is the most common device for a quick brew in a large quantity. All you need to do is pop in a filter, pour in the water, add the coffee of your choice, and press a button. It’s coffee magic that people take advantage of daily.
Over half of the adult American population drinks coffee every single day. When they do, there is a good chance that it came from an electric drip brewer.
Single-serve coffee machines, such as Keurig and Nespresso, have taken the world by storm. It has been a must-have appliance since 2004. Mainly because it is an easy way to grab a cup of coffee in the morning.
Not to mention, you can also make the perfect amount to fill your cup. So there is less of a chance that you will waste a bunch of coffee with a single-serve machine.
Keurig is the most popular option in the United States, and Nespresso machines are more popular in Europe.
In theory, these machines are similar to drip-style coffee pots. They heat the water and brew coffee quickly, but a single-serve coffee pot is much quicker with a controlled quantity. Plus, you can make individual cups to have fresh coffee throughout the day.
Specialized Hot Coffee Drinks
In this case, we are focusing on the gourmet hot coffee beverages, since cold coffee is on deck next. These specialty drinks all revolve around espresso. It’s difficult to make espresso at home without a specific machine or the right tools. More often than not, we skip the hassle and head to the local coffee shop for these treats.
You create Espresso by forcing nearly boiling water through finely-ground coffee. It tends to be thicker than regular coffee because it has a large concentration of suspended and dissolved solids.
You need a Nespresso or espresso machine to brew this drink because it needs to produce enough pressure to force the water through the grounds.
Overall, people assume that espresso has more caffeine than other brewing methods. In reality, you are usually drinking a very small amount at one time. So, you aren’t drinking much caffeine in one sitting.
It might still be a caffeine bomb, but it comes in such a small package.
If you’re looking for a small treat and bold flavor, a macchiato is as close to a pure espresso as you can get. It is mostly espresso with a “spot” of steamed milk. It is rich and robust, so it isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you like black or strong coffee, this is a fantastic choice.
Unfortunately, with the espresso being the star of this drink, it isn’t something you can accomplish at home. Unless, of course, you have an espresso machine.
A cappuccino is a delicious frothy beverage that is made up of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. In general, it has a mild coffee flavor, and the milkiness really comes through.
If you have been getting your cappuccinos at a local gas station, you might be a little disappointed to know you are just drinking manufactured sugar bombs. A real cappuccino is made with espresso and carefully steamed milk. So, there is no way to recreate that with an automatic machine. All the steps need to be performed separately and put together with love.
If you don’t have an espresso machine or a milk frother, you’re only going to find this treat in a cafe.
Now, the drink you might be most familiar with is the latte. At least, it’s the most impressive upon presentation because this is where you will find cute little pieces of art in the foam.
In reality, it is very similar to a cappuccino in terms of ingredients. It contains espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. However, it is a stronger version.
Instead of equal parts of everything, you make a latte with a double-shot of espresso, about 6 to 8 ounces of steamed milk, and about a centimeter of milk foam. Instead of the milkier taste of the cappuccino, the taste of espresso is going to come through a bit bolder. The mouthfeel is also going to be a bit thicker and creamier, and not quite as light and airy.
If you enjoy the strong flavor of espresso but find it to be a tad too much, the Americano is a perfect choice for you. Instead of having a normal espresso, the Americano is stretched out with hot water.
It might not sound special or fancy since it’s nothing but espresso and water, but it has the same bold flavor you might get in a black coffee.
In fact, the name of this drink gives away an interesting origin. As the story goes, some Americans were introduced to espresso in Italy during WWII since the Italians only drank espresso. The American soldiers didn’t have much of a choice but to drink these powerful little shots of coffee.
They were not fans of it because they were used to percolated coffee at home. Espresso was a little bit too strong for their taste. To dilute the flavor a bit, they preferred adding hot water to their espresso.
Thus, the Americano was born.
At the end of the day (or end of winter in this case) I’ll be sticking to cold brew coffee. Having a great cold brew recipe that lets me make my option thermos full quickly and easily is a game-changer.
So if you’ve been stuck on either hot coffee or iced coffee up until now it’s time to branch out and see what the world has to offer. Enjoy!