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Have you recently decided to be more conscious about what you are eating and drinking?
If you are like the average person, you probably enjoy a cup of coffee, or two, each day. But, have you ever caught yourself wondering if coffee is actually good for you?
You may have read about cold brew and it potentially being healthier for you, but is this true? Or is it just a ruse to get you to drink more coffee?
In this article, we will be exploring this to let you know whether or not cold brew is actually healthier for you or not.
What is cold brew coffee?
Geez, Steven, the name says it all – cold brew coffee is coffee that is cold. Duh!
Well, it is a little bit more complicated than that.
Cold brew coffee is not:
- iced coffee (not as we know it)
- hot coffee that has been left to cool for a day
- hot coffee that has been put in the fridge for a couple of hours
- hot coffee left outside on a winter’s day (especially in Chicago see image below)
- hot coffee that has been flashed cooled (as in some Japanese canned coffees)
When you spill your coffee in Chicago!
(We don’t know the original source of this image, but we found it on Me.me)
Cold brew coffee can be used to make iced coffee. Otherwise, cold brew coffee is nothing like the ‘usual’ iced coffees made in most delicatessens, fast-food outlets, or even at home.
The essential difference between a cold brew coffee, an iced coffee, or any other coffee brewing method is that the cold brew coffee is made without any heat.
How is cold brew coffee different from hot brew coffee?
In a nutshell heat is not used to make cold brew coffee.
In hot brew coffee, hot water is used to extract the component molecules (e.g. caffeine, acids, oils, and sugars) of the coffee.
In cold brewed coffee, cold water is used to extract the component molecules of coffee.
If you took chemistry at school and college, you may remember that heat speeds up chemical reactions and cooling slows down chemical reactions.
More substances also dissolve in hot water compared with cold water.
Consequently, hot water extracts more components from coffee than cold water, and the extraction is much faster compared with cold water extraction.
Some people may still use hot water for the extraction, followed by filtration, and storage in the fridge. However, we suggest that this isn’t really cold-brew coffee.
This also means that it extracts more of the acid components of coffee.
Cold water extraction of coffee (i.e., cold brew) is very slow and can require at least 12 hours, and up to about 48 hours, to extract the coffee.
You need to be patient when making cold brew coffee at home.
Some methods claim to perform quick cold water extraction within an hour or so and we will look at these a little later.
The overall taste of cold brew coffee tends to be smoother and less bitter and acidic when compared to the normal hot brew process.
Some potential advantages of cold brew coffee compared with hot brew coffee
- Heat not used
- Lower acidity
- Lower bitterness
- Retains delicate flavors
- Kind to your tummy
- More stable than hot coffee
- Can be kept for days without significant chemical changes
How is cold brew coffee made?
How to make cold brew coffee?
Cold brew coffee can be made using equipment you can find in most kitchens, or using some of the usual coffee brewing gear, or using some innovative techniques.
First, let us clarify what is meant by ‘brew’ and ‘brewing’. Brewing involves at least basic steps:
- Steeping (also called immersion) which means you soak in water
- Heating (at boiling or close to boiling)
- Fermenting (e.g., add yeast and sugar to produce alcohol)
These three basic steps are used in making beer and wine.
However, when we brew coffee or tea we only use the first two steps.
When we make cold brew coffee we only use the first step.
Dorian Bodnariuc from Coffee Brewing Methods.com has a good article on cold brew methods.
Some of the main cold brew methods include
- The ‘Basic’ Mason Jar
- French press
- Coffee sock or bag (coffee grounds in a cloth bag or similar)
- Cold brew filter system
- Cold brew vacuum system
- Cold brew drip system
As we have previously mentioned cold brew coffee is made by cold water extraction of coffee. All of the cold brew preparation methods, except the drip system (infusion method), use full immersion of the coffee grounds.
Full immersion is usually better because it extracts more of the coffee components and gives a flavorsome cold brew coffee.
The basic recipe for preparing cold brew coffee varies with the technique you use.
Generally, the methods involve the following steps.
- Grind coffee beans
Grind your choice of coffee beans. Use from medium, medium coarse, or course grind depending upon the technique you use and your preference. You can experiment!
Alternatively, you could use some of the commercial pre-ground ground coffee bags. If they have enough coffee!
- Prepare a cold brew concentrate
Add water to the ground coffee. The coffee to water ratio can be from 1:3 to 1:8. That is 1 cup of ground coffee to 3 cups of water. A 1:8 ratio will be less concentrated.
The ground coffee can be placed in a cloth bag (this is also known as the coffee sock method) to make it easier to make a drink free of loose coffee grounds.
Stir and/or shake to soak all of the ground coffee.
For more details on preparing a cold brew concentrate and the required brew ratios please read or post ‘Cold Brew Coffee Ratio. 3 Steps for Perfect Flavor Every Time’
- Immerse for 12 to 48 hours.
This allows sufficient time for extraction to occur. Some people may immerse at room temperature and some may prefer to immerse at the usual refrigerator temperature of about 4°C. As you know coffee bean extraction depends upon temperature so you could immerse for less time at room temperature (e.g. 20 hours) compared with the refrigerator temperature (e.g. 48 hours).
In any case, cover the water-coffee mixture to keep it protected.
The time required for immersion applies to most cold brew techniques except for the vacuum and cold pressure techniques where the time is reduced to minutes.
- Filter and Decant the brew
If you didn’t enclose your ground coffee in a coffee sock or cloth bag then you will need to filter your brew to remove the loose coffee ground.
You can also leave the coffee solution a couple of hours to sediment any remaining fine coffee grounds. Then you can decant the clarified coffee from the sedimented coffee grinds.
- Prepare according to taste
Take some of the cold brew concentrate and add additional water, ice cubes, milk, or sugar.
Mason Jar Cold Brew Coffee
You don’t need any special equipment to make cold brew coffee and you can simply use a Mason jar to make cold brew coffee.
However, we will quickly visit some of the other main methods of preparing cold brew coffee.
French Press Cold Brew Coffee
A French Press is an immersion brewing method so it lends itself easliy to preparing cold brew coffee. The following video by Black Tie Kitchen shows how to use a French Press to make cold brew coffee.
Coffee Sock Cold Brew Coffee
Well, it isn’t a sock although some would claim that a sock was used sometime in history. I’m not sure.
You can use a commercial version of the sock or just make your own from a suitable cloth.
A suitable cloth would be one that has a wide enough weave to let the water flow freely but not let the coffee grounds pass through.
The following video by JayArr Coffee shows how to use a commercial coffee sock and a mason jar to make cold brew coffee.
Cold Brew Filter System
This is where we come into the coffee machine domain. There are quite of few of these systems including the well known Filtron, Toddy, Oxo, and Hario. We’ve listed these in the Cold Brew Coffee Equipment below.
They all essentially work on the same principle of a cold brew immersion that is subsequently filtered after brewing. The filter may be paper or cloth. They are convenient in that it is an all-in-one system that is also relatively easy to clean.
The video below by ‘Evertything Kitchens’ shows the Oxo which is one of the better cold brew coffee makers and uses a ‘rain maker’ lid helps spread the water over the ground coffee and has a simple ‘flip the switch’ filter to release the coffee after steeping.
Cold Brew Filter Coffee Makers
Sorry, it looks like the link has been broken!
Cold Brew Coffee Vacuum System
These machines are the exception to the rule in that they can make cold brew in a matter of minutes instead of hours.
The Dash was the first on the market using the vacuum system and they called it their ‘ColdBoil™ technology’. The coffee is extracted by first creating a vacuum the water is then continuously circulated through the trapped coffee grinds under pressure.
The video below by ‘Doc Talks Tech’ shows the Dash Rapid Cold Brew System as an example of the cold brew coffee vacuum system. ‘Doc Talks Tech’ prefers instant coffee but you can use your fave ground coffee beans.
Dash Rapid Vacuum Cold Brew Coffee Makers
Sorry, it looks like the link has been broken!
Cold Brew Drip System
This method simply drips ice-cold water onto the ground coffee. It is also known as ‘Dutch Brew’ coffee. This is an infusion coffee extraction method rather than an immersion method.
The Japanese made a more elaborate version of the Dutch Brew Coffee Maker commonly known as the ‘Yama Tower’.
The following video by JayArr Coffee explains a little more about Dutch Brew and the Yama Tower cold brew method.
Yama Tower (Dutch Brew) Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Sorry, it looks like the link has been broken!
Is Cold Brew Coffee Actually Healthier For You?
Photo by VisionPic .net from Pexels
Surprisingly, there are many health benefits you can have from drinking cold brew coffee. Cold-brew is fairly healthy, but as with any kind of drink, this is in moderation. In this section, we will be discussing a number of these benefits.
Although regular coffee does contain antioxidants, it is thought that because you are brewing the coffee at a particularly high temperature, this affects the antioxidants left in the coffee.
With cold brew coffee, because the coffee beans are never actually heated up, it is thought that it is richer in antioxidants. Antioxidants are great for the body, so this is a great reason to choose cold brew coffee.
Acidity And Digestion
As mentioned above, cold brew coffee tends to be a lot less acidic compared to regular coffee. If you are someone that struggles from excess stomach acid or acid reflux, it will be encouraging to know that you can still drink coffee without it causing your stomach to turn into an angry ball of fire!
It is less acidic because the cold water does not draw out the acid in the same way as pressing the coffee and running hot water through it does. The majority of the acidity will remain in the coffee beans.
Although this does not necessarily mean that the cold brew is healthier for you, it means that if you are sensitive to acidic foods, you can still enjoy a coffee without the uncomfortable side effects.
You are at less of a risk of the cold brew coffee from causing acid reflux and an upset digestive system. As the coffee is smoother, it should be a lot softer on your digestive system.
It is worth noting that the difference in caffeine concentration between cold brew and regular coffee is significant. If you prefer your coffee to be higher in caffeine, a switch to cold brew may benefit you.
Cold-brew is higher in caffeine concentration because of the way it is brewed. Compared to regular coffee, it is typically mixed with less water, making it more concentrated. If you need a quick caffeine fix, it is a great option for you.
Having a higher caffeine concentration, a cold brew will allow you to feel the effects of the caffeine quicker and will increase your concentration more. However, if you are more sensitive to caffeine this is worth bearing in mind as it could cause some unwanted side effects.
Health Benefits That Apply To All Types Of Coffee
Before we conclude, there are some of the same health benefits that apply for both cold brew and regular coffee too. Some of these health benefits include:
- Lower risk of type two diabetes
- Lower risk of heart attack
- Lower risk of stroke
- Lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- Increased concentration
- Increased energy
- Minerals included
- Vitamins included
- Increased cognitive function
- Anti-inflammatory agents
While these do not apply to just cold brew, they are worth mentioning as it is good to know that you will not lose out on these health benefits by drinking cold brew.
Although it is a different coffee extraction process, you do not lose out on the fundamental health benefits of coffee as a whole.
Overall, cold brew is becoming increasingly popular due to its smoother and less bitter taste. It includes all of the same health benefits a regular coffee, such as increased energy, lower risk of diabetes, and heart diseases.
By swapping over to a cold brew, you will not be losing out on any of the health or psychoactive benefits of coffee.
If anything, cold brew is slightly healthier for you when it comes to your digestive system.
Cold brew is significantly lower in acidity when compared to regular coffee, if coffee irritates your digestive system or acid reflux there should be a noticeable difference for you. This allows you to still enjoy all of the benefits of coffee, but without the unwanted side effects!
Not only is cold brew smoother in general compared to normal coffee, but it is also higher in antioxidants. The human body benefits greatly from antioxidants, so given that these are not affected by the brewing process, your body will thank you!
Overall, cold brew is the healthier option if you compare it to regular coffee as it contains all the benefits of regular coffee but with some added benefits too.
As with any drink, cold brew is healthy, but in moderation. As it tends to taste less bitter, there is less of a need to add sugars, syrups, and creams to the coffee to it, making it healthier too.
www.scienceofcooking.com/what-is-in-coffee Kallmyer, T. (n.d.). Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee. Retrieved May 10, 2019
www.huffpost.com/entry/cold-brew-caffeine-content Chemical compounds in coffee that produce aroma
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