Considering Cold Brew

This month, Holler Roast Coffee spotlights a year-round coffee you may have dismissed as difficult or confusing. Take a look at Cold Brew Blend. It’s really worth a gander, and it’s the August Coffee of the Month.

A Summer Beverage

If you want to eliminate every unnecessary source of heat during these very hot days, brew delicious coffee with cold water alone. Admittedly, if you put Cold Brew Blend into your espresso or coffee maker, you’ll love the rich, nutty, cocoa aroma and savor the deep and creamy flavor. But if you soak the same beans in cold water, you may be surprised to find different notes altogether, along with a long-developing aroma you taste more than smell.

Many factors affect the flavor of coffee: water temperature, grind size, brewing time, filter type, and, especially, coffee type and quality. Cold brewed coffee, however, contains levels of several flavor components different from those in coffee brewed with heat.

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“Hot brewing extracts more antioxidants from the grind than cold brew, and this difference increases with the degree of roasting,” says Niny Z. Rao, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Thomas Jefferson University, speaking of her study on the impact of roasting and brewing on the chemical composition of cold brew coffees. “In other terms, hot brewed coffee seemed to have a constant level of antioxidant activity regardless of the roast, whereas the antioxidant activity in cold brew coffee was a bit lower for light roasts and continued to get lower as the [cold brew’s] roast became darker.”

Antioxidants found in coffee include polyphenol chlorogenic acid (CGA), which also affects bitterness. CGA has anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-obesity effects, and may help reduce the risk for some chronic diseases. Rao doesn’t claim that one coffee brewing method is healthier than the other, but if you’re controlling oxidative stress and love cold brew coffee, you may wish to specify a dark roast.

Acid and Bitterness

Cold brewing “doesn’t just slow down the extraction of these yummy compounds. It actually changes what is extracted and what stays behind in the grounds,” says  Garrett Oden in “Hot Brewed VS Cold Brewed Coffee: 4 Things To Know.” “The acids that normally become bitter in hot coffee don’t get extracted.”

Just try a mug of hot coffee and a glass of cold brew from the same beans, and you will know they had a common source, but be surprised at the flavor differences. Great hot brewed coffee has a rounded flavor, a satisfying aroma, a gentle sweetness, a crisp acidity, and a hint of lower bitter notes to wrap it all together. Great cold brew coffee has a smooth flavor, a rich sweetness, a very gentle hint of acidity, and virtually no bitterness.

A mere sniff will prove that cold brew doesn’t have the rich aromas that hot brewed coffee does.

However, since those oils don’t evaporate during the cold brewing process, they actually stay in the cold brew coffee. And when you swallow it, Oden writes, “those aromatic oils hit your retro-nasal passages and your brain interprets them as a truckload of vibrant floral flavors.”

The pH levels of hot and cold brewed coffee are comparable, ranging from 4.85 to 5.13, but hot-brewed coffee has a higher concentration of acids. The darker the coffee is roasted, though, the lower the level of acid it’s likely to contain. “If you’re talking about drinking something that is lower in acidity, your best bet might be a cold-brewed, dark-roast coffee,” says Stumptown Coffee’s director of research and education Megan Meyer, writing in The Huffington Post.

Then There’s Caffeine

Hot and cold brewing methods don’t affect the caffeine content. The caffeine quotient is determined by the coffee-to-water ratio, Giuliano said. Less water produces a more caffeinated cup. The caffeine level also remains constant across roasts. “If you’re going to drink cold brew or hot brew for the caffeine, cold brew may have a higher caffeine level because of the grind-to-water ratio,” Rao says, but “not because one has more caffeine than the other.”

Make Cold Brew

It’s neither complicated nor difficult to make cold brew. Grind the beans coarsely. Then combine the grounds with water, let it steep for about 12 hours, strain, and store the concentrate, capped, in the refrigerator. The standard recommendation for hot-brewed coffee is 1 tablespoon coffee per 4 ounces of water. For cold brew, begin with 1 tablespoon coffee per 8 ounces of water for full-strength coffee, and somewhere between 1:4 and 1:2 to make cold coffee concentrate. Adjust any of these ratios to your taste, of course. Chill your cold brew with coffee ice cubes for a really consistent concentration from top to bottom of the glass.

One advantage of cold brew over heat-extracted coffee is the shelf life. If you let your morning coffee cool and decide to add ice and enjoy iced coffee, you’ll usually be disappointed. The oils have boiled, the aromas have taken flight, and the bitterness has frolicked: not so great. Time to reach for that mason jar of cold brew – the beans from Holler Roast, of course.