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Cold Brew Coffee: A Beginner’s Guide

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Updated October 22, 2023

Coffee is such a versatile drink that some enjoy hot, cold, or both. Cold brew coffee has become increasingly popular over the years seeing as how most cafes and grocery stores sell some type of cold brew product. 

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone knows what cold brew coffee is or how to tell it apart from other types of brews. In this cold brew coffee beginner’s guide, you’ll learn everything this is to know about how cold brew is made 

What is cold brew coffee?

Just as the name implies, cold brew coffee is brewed with cool filtered water as opposed to hot to warm water. Cold brew is not instant coffee and usually requires a longer steeping time of anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. 

Cold brew coffee is not a new invention, but it’s become more of a staple in coffee shops and households within the past 10 years or so. According to Statista, the cold brew coffee market stood at $371 million in 2021 and is predicted to increase to $944 million by 2025. 

A 2018 survey showed that 66% of coffee drinkers preferred cold brew over iced coffee. Iced coffee is often confused with cold brew but it's made quite differently. Iced coffee is brewed double strength with filter water just off the boil. Then, it’s chilled and can be served with a variety of flavors and creamers. 

Cold brew coffee has a flavor that is less acidic and bitter than regular brewed coffee. Some might even describe it as naturally sweet or chocolaty flavor notes.

Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Cold Brew Coffee Maker

How is cold brew made?

The concept of preparing cold brew coffee is pretty simple. You need coffee grounds, cold filtered water or room temperature water, and about 8 to 24 hours to allow the coffee grounds to steep in a room temperature setting. While this type of coffee time is your most important asset rather than temperature. 

Cold brew coffee is also commonly made as a concentrate as well so you may want to dilute it down once it’s finished brewing to your desired taste. A general recommendation to start with is 1 cup (113 grams) of whole coffee beans and 4 cups (907 grams) of water. Once the coffee has been brewed for at least 12 hours, you can add more water or even milk as you please to dilute it down to the taste you want.

If you’re going to try to make cold brew coffee at home, consider getting a cold brew coffee maker. These machines are designed to simplify the process of brewing your coffee and you can set things up to steep overnight. The Oxo Brew Maker is great for cold brew coffee as well as cold brew tea. The machine evenly distributes the water over the grounds and has measurement markings for portioning. 

What kind of coffee should I use for cold brew?

You can use your favorite coffee bean for cold brew. While some people recommend you go with a medium or dark roast, what matters more is the size of the coffee grind. You’ll need coarse ground coffee for the best cold brew.

Cold brewing brings different flavors out of the coffee bean for a smoother and rich flavor with hints of chocolatey and nutty flavors. You can grind your own coffee beans or purchase pre-ground coffee that is coarser and try out different things. 

Everyone drinks coffee differently so you may need to play around with the type of coffee and your technique to find the best flavor for you. The same goes for ordering cold brew coffee at a cafe. You can try out different drinks from different shops to see what tastes best until you find your favorite. 

How long does cold brew last?

Since it takes longer to make, cold brew coffee tends to last longer than your regular hot-brewed coffee. Of course, cold brew will be at its most excellent quality on day 1. But you can keep it in the fridge for up to 10 days. On average, you’ll want to drink it in 7 days’ time to avoid it tasting stale after a while.

Does cold brew have more caffeine than hot coffee?

It really depends on how much caffeine your cold brew coffee has compared to coffee that’s regularly brewed. If you’re using the same coffee beans or ground as you would with hot-brewed coffee, then there won’t be much of a difference. However, it all depends on how much you dilute your cold brew. 

When you make cold brew, it’s typically made as a concentrate which means it does have much more caffeine in it. That said, if you dilute your brew with more water after it steeps, then it won’t have much more caffeine than regular coffee. It all depends on your taste preference and whether you dilute the cold brew concentrate or not. 

Cold brew vs regular coffee

As you can see by this cold brew beginner’s guide so far, there are quite a few key differences between cold brew and regular coffee. Here’s a summary of the differences so you can tell the two options apart with no problems.

Cold brew:

  • Brewed with cold or room temperature water
  • Brewed for 12 to 24 hours
  • Can last for 10 to 14 days
  • Low acidity and bitterness levels
  • Smoother taste
  • Can have more caffeine if not diluted
  • Can be more expensive to buy ready-made

Regular coffee:

  • Brewed with warm or hot water
  • Brews in minutes
  • Shorter storage life (best taste is consumed within one day)
  • Can be more bitter and acidic
  • Can be cheaper to buy ready-made

Summary

There are so many different ways to prepare the perfect cup of coffee and cold brew is just one of the techniques to consider is cold brew. Cold brew is easy to make or buy from your favorite coffee shop or grocery store. If you like iced coffee, you should try cold brew to see if you can notice the difference. Or perhaps, you might find that you like cold brew better. If you’re going to try making your own cold brew at home, consider getting a cold brew coffee machine like the Oxo Brew Maker.

Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Cold Brew Coffee Maker

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