What is cold brew coffee, thumbnail

Here’s What Cold Brew Coffee is [The Ultimate Guide]

Brewing coffee is definitely an art in and of itself. That’s why there are a dozen of different brewing methods that you can try. And undoubtedly one of the most popular ones is the cold brew technique. But what is cold brew coffee?

Cold brew coffee refers to ground coffee that is steeped in cold or room temperature water for an extended period of time.

The end result is what’s known as cold brew concentrate, which then has to be diluted with water before drinking due to being too strong in its raw form.

This nontraditional brewing method relies on time instead of heat in order to extract all the oils, fats and solubles from the coffee beans, which is in contrast to traditional coffee drinks like espresso that are made using hot water.

Also, this type of coffee is best made with coarsely ground coffee beans that are then steeped in water for between 12 to 18 hours before serving for best results.

That’s exactly what cold brew (CB for short) java is – coffee that’s made with cold or room temperature water!

Let’s now take a closer look at all the details and why this brewing method is different from iced coffee, regular coffee etc.

What Exactly is Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold brew coffee is a brewing technique that’s made using room temperature or cold water, instead of hot water as in regular coffee.

Now, the fact that the cold brew method relies on water that’s not hot means that the steeping period is way longer (ideally 12-18 hours).

But thanks to the longer steeping time and cold or room temperature water, cold brew java has a taste that’s more balanced and mellow.

And that’s one of the primary reasons for the rise in popularity of CB coffee over the last couple of years.

What’s the Difference Between Cold Brew and Regular Coffee?

The main difference between the two is the brewing method used:

Clearly, it takes more time to prepare cold brew but once brewed (assuming you didn’t brew a single cup only), you have readily available coffee at your disposal.

While regular java doesn’t taste as good when it’s not hot anymore, meaning you’ll have to brew a fresh cup each time for the best taste.

Some more differences between cold brew and hot coffee include:

  • Bitterness – regular java is more bitter than cold brew
  • Acidity – cold brew is less acidic than hot brew

And taste-wise, the difference is even more apparent:

  • Regular (hot) brew – rounded flavor, gentle sweetness, pleasant aroma and crisp acidity
  • Cold brew – smooth flavor, gentle hits of acidity, plentiful sweetness and zero bitterness

Lastly, both regular and cold brew coffee contain similar amounts of caffeine when diluted.

But it’s worth pointing out that cold brew is much more caffeine-packed when not diluted with water, milk or cream.


How Do You Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home?

First, get some coarsely ground coffee and then steep them for 12 to 18 hours (16 hours seems ideal) in cold or room temperature water.

After that, here’s what you’ll need and how to actually prepare it…

Needed Ingredients and Equipment:

  • 1 small cup of coarse ground coffee beans (around 5 oz./147.6 g)
  • 8 cups of water (around 40 oz./1180 ml)
  • 1 large plastic, glass or ceramic container
  • Cheesecloth or a flour sackcloth
  • Mason jar or a bottle for storing the coffee
  • A strainer

How To Prepare Your Cold Brew:

  1. Put the coarsely ground beans into your large container
  2. Pour enough water on top so that all coffee is nicely steeped
  3. Stir the coffee-water mixture gently for several seconds
  4. Cover the container with a lid (or even a small plate) and let it steep for 12-18 hours (although 16 hours seems to be the sweet spot)
  5. Strain your cold brew by using the strainer and cheesecloth (or flour sackcloth) and pouring it into a large container, bowl or a bigger cup
  6. Serve the coffee by diluting it with water or milk (add as much as you want)
  7. Pour the remaining cold brew java into a mason jar (or a bottle) and put it in the fridge and store in the fridge for up to 1 week

Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee, Black...

Cold Brew Coffee Benefits

There are plenty of awesome benefits when it comes to drinking cold brew coffee and here are the best ones:

Cold Brew Is Less Acidic (And Easier On Your Stomach)

Do you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux related to drinking regular coffee?

Then you might want to try CB as it contains less acid than its hot counterpart and it’s also smoother.

The pH of cold brew is 6.31, while hot coffee’s pH is 5.48 pH, making cold brew more alkaline and less acididc!

That’s because the heat used when brewing regular coffee means that more oils are released, which results in a more acidic drink!

All of this will be great news if regular coffee upsets your stomach.

Cold Brew Is Naturally Sweeter

Thanks to its less acidic nature, cold brew is naturally sweeter than hot brew.

This is greats for those of you who have a sweet tooth but also for those of you who keep track of your calorie intake.

Drinking a naturally sweeter cup of Joe means that you’re less likely to add sugar or other artificial sweeteners to your java.

And not adding any extra calories to your coffee is especially great if you have certain weight loss goals.

Cold Brew Provides a Stronger Caffeine Kick

Cold brew coffee contains more caffeine as it’s much more concentrated than regular hot java.

This is great news if you want an extra caffeine kick.

However, this is only the case if you don’t dilute your cold brew drink, if at the very least if you dilute it only slightly.


Because regardless of whether you’re adding water, milk or cream to your cold brew, they all dilute it, decreasing the caffeine concentration.

So if you want a stronger drink in terms of caffeine content, consume your CB as little diluted as possible.

Nonetheless, there are several factors that affect how powerful the caffeine kick of your cold brew will be:

  • The kind of coffee beans that are you using (Robusta beans contain more caffeine)
  • The amount of water, milk etc. that you’re diluting it with (less diluted = more caffeine)
  • The steeping time (the longer it steeps, the more concentrated it’ll be)

What is cold brew coffee, coffee with water and ice on a table

What Is The Difference Between Cold Brew Coffee and Iced Coffee?

Iced coffee is brewed using hot coffee, while cold brew is made with cold or room temperature water.

Another key difference is that when preparing cold brew java, you steep the coffee beans in water for 12 to 18 hours.

Both cold brew and iced coffee are served cold, unlike regular (hot) coffee.

Iced coffee, on the other hand, is prepared just as you’d brew your typical cup of Joe.

However, to make iced coffee icy you have to let it cool after it’s brewed and then add ice cubes.

Dunkin' Donuts Cold Brew Coffee Packs

What Is Dunkin Donuts Cold Brew Coffee?

Dunkin’ Donuts’ cold brew coffee drink saw the day of light back in 2016 and it’s characterized by a 12-hour steeping period (in cold water).

This results in a cold brew drink that has an inherently sweeter flavor with notes of dark chocolate.

Also, Dunkin’ Donuts offers cold brew packs based on their legendary cold brew drink for effortless, hassle-free preparation.

All that you have to do is steep each pack in cold water for 8 to 12 hours and you’ll have your smooth and rich cold brew java in the morning!

What is cold brew coffee, milk and cold brew coffee on a small table

Cold Brew Coffee FAQs

1. How do you know if cold brew has gone bad?

Here are 5 common signs to tell if your cold brew has bone bad:

  • Foul or moldy smell
  • Lack of (or very little) aroma
  • Diminished flavor profile
  • Notably acidic taste
  • No caffeine kick

Or in other words, your nose will be the first thing that will let you know if your cold brew is no longer drinkable.

And if the taste is off, better discard it or use it to water your plants if they prefer more acidic soil (e.g. roses, begonias and ferns).

2. How long does cold brew last?

About 2 weeks maximum if stored in the fridge, although your cold brew will taste best for around 1 week.

But if you dilute your cold brew with milk or cream, then it’ll only be good for around 2-3 days before going bad.

That’s because dairy products tend to spoil fast, even if stored in a refrigerator.

But if you store your cold brew in an opaque air-tight container, then you can even get roughly 1-2 months of acceptable taste and flavor.

3. Can I drink expired cold brew coffee?

Yes, you should be perfectly fine drinking it but it probably won’t taste great.

It most likely won’t make you sick, but it won’t be tasty and flavorful either.

Note that you could potentially store your CB in the fridge for months.

And even over a year if you put it in the freezer.

However, taste-wise it’ll only stay fresh for 1-week maximum as after that chemical degradation takes place and the spurious flavors of items in your fridge begin to creep in.

4. Does cold brew have more caffeine?

Yes, cold brew coffee has more caffeine than regular hot coffee.

The reason for this is quite simple – the cold brew process requires much more coffee grounds than regular brewing methods.

Cold brew coffee typically utilizes a coffee-to-water ratio between 1:4 and 1:8, while drip coffee relies on a ratio between 1:15 or 1:25.

It’s not uncommon for a home-made CB concentrate to have 500+ mg of caffeine per 8 oz., as opposed to roughly 100 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. for a hot brew drink.

However, the concentrate is not the end product as you have to dilute it with water, cream or milk before it can be consumed.

The safe range for caffeine consumption seems to be up to 400 mg per day, for most healthy adults (1).

This lowers its caffeine content, making CB coffee more even with hot brew drinks in terms of the caffeine kick.

What is cold brew coffee, glass pitcher filled with coffee

5. How long does cold brew coffee need to steep?

Anywhere between 14 to 18 hours would suffice, although 16 hours is ideal for best results.

The coffee extraction would be drastically slower towards the 18-hour mark, so aiming at 16 hours would be optimal.

Note that steeping your CB for over 18 hours would bring out some awful woody flavor notes.

New coffee aficionados generally assume that steeping longer is the way to go for achieving a stronger cold brew coffee.

However, that’s not the case.

Just don’t dilute the cold brew concentrate as much if you want a stronger and more caffeine-infused drink.

6. What type of coffee to use for cold brew coffee?

Dark roast coffee seems to suit the cold brew method best.

This brewing technique complements darker and richer flavors (e.g. earthy, nutty, chocolaty) really well.

It’s just that the more robust flavors tend to dominate, even if you do end up extracting any brighter notes.

But here are some popular coffee types and how they can alter your CB experience:

  • South American – They make the drink more mellow with extra chocolatey notes.
  • African – Adds a more pronounced fruit-forward profile.
  • House blends – These blends offer balanced, yet sweet and complex notes.

Eventually, it all comes down to personal preference.

Feel free to use any type of coffee that you see fit for your CB.

7. What is the best ratio for cold brew coffee?

A coffee-to-water ratio of 1:8 is typically considered the standard ratio for making cold brew.

This is probably your best bet if you’re just starting out with CB coffee as you can always experiment with other ratios later on.

Most people use a coffee-to-water ratio ranging between 1:4 to 1:8, depending on personal preferences.

You can always add more or less coffee, depending on how strong you’d want your CB to be.


Now you finally know the answer to the puzzling question – what is cold brew coffee?

It’s simply a different brewing method that utilizes cold (or room temperature) water instead of the hot water that’s generally used for brewing java.

And of course, it typically takes around 12 to 18 hours to prepare CB coffee at home.

That’s because you have to steep the coffee beans in water for quite a bit before all the good stuff is extracted.

Have you personally tried cold brew coffee and/or have you ever used this brewing method?

Drop a comment in the comment section below with your answer!

Jessica Saint-Pierre
Copywriter at CoffeeLifious | Website | + posts

Jessica is a coffee aficionado who has spent years exploring the world of coffee. She has a deep passion for the art of brewing and enjoys experimenting with different brewing methods to create the perfect cup of cold brew coffee. Her love for coffee has led her to become an expert in the field, and she is known for her meticulous attention to detail when it comes to selecting and brewing the perfect cup. Jessica is also an avid writer who loves sharing her knowledge and experiences with others through her writing.

Last update on 2023-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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