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Hot take on Cold Brew

By M.J. Blanchet

What is it about a cold cup of black coffee that is so distasteful? Maybe it’s the fact that it’s been sitting around long enough to cool from delightfully warm to disgustingly room temperature? Or maybe it’s that French press you made hours ago and some of the grounds have leached into the coffee - ew. No one likes crunchy coffee.

And yet, Cold Brew exists. The very idea seems alien. Who purposely brews a cup of coffee either chilled or room temperature?

I’m not talking about an iced coffee, those are brewed hot and then cooled with ice.

No, a cold brew is well… a brew that’s cold. Generally the grounds are soaked in water for twelve hours or longer so the end results are definitely room temperature or if chilled while soaking, colder.

The result is actually much better than you might assume. Because of the length of brew time it has a much lower acidity than a regular cup of coffee, which generally makes it seem sweeter.

Another difference of note: Since at no point in the brewing process are the beans actually exposed to heat, the process of drawing the flavors from the coffee results in a different chemical profile than heat brewing methods.

So what is the attraction? Crack open a cold one with the boys? Instead of beer, you pass out bottles of cold coffee, beads of condensation trickle down the bottle and hand feels a little damp.

The game is on, your team just scored - Life is good.

Except - no - the more likely scenario is this: Your boss just left your tiny, windowless cubicle. You’re behind on your reports, life is stressful. You need a midday pick-me-up, something to give you that boost of energy to beat the drowsy feeling that is the result of long days, not enough sleep and a comfy office chair.

The break room refrigerator just got in a new supply of drinks, one of which is a cold brew. You overhear your idling coworkers talking about it. One of them mentions that they heard that it has more caffeine in it than a regular cup of coffee. Perfect! Just what you need!  

Except - that’s not exactly right either.

Why? Because whoever started the rumor that cold brew has more caffeine in it probably got it confused with a “Nitro Cold Brew”. That’s a drink that is engineered to have a higher serving of caffeine, and not by natural methods, I might add.

So here’s the truth: The science, the cold, hard facts. (See what I did there?)

When you brew coffee with hot water it actually extracts a greater amount of caffeine from the coffee.

However cold brew is generally brewed more as a concentrate and will have a higher water to coffee ratio which will lead to a greater caffeine concentrate. So fresh from the cold tap you may have a drink that has more caffeine, however the majority of cold brew is often cut with water, ice or cream so the concentrate is very often much less caffeinated than a regular cup of coffee.

That doesn’t mean you won’t still get a boost, it’s caffeine after all! But if you’re needing that extra boost, a cold brew may not be the solution.

Though, there is something to be said about enjoying a cold drink during a blistering hot day, or while sitting in a overheated office writing overdue reports, or watching your favorite sports team, or hanging around your favorite coffee shop!

Just… pour the awful day-old black coffee down the drain.

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