What Is Cold Brew Coffee?

Cold-brew is one of the alternative brewing methods during which coffee is brewed with cold water rather than hot. Sometimes cold brew is even made with ice-cold water and requires eight to 24 hours to brew, depending on the recipe. The result is a concentrated beverage with a rich coffee flavor and high caffeine content.

The recipe gained worldwide popularity several years ago; however, it has been well-known for more than half a century. Some attribute its invention to the Dutch and say that from Holland, the idea spread to Japan. The Japanese, indeed, have been making and selling cold canned coffee for many years.

Others believe that cold brew technology was invented by Todd Simpson, a genetic engineer. He began to infuse ground coffee in cold water during his expedition to Latin America. After returning from that expedition, he created a device for making cold brew. Modern cold brew machines function on the basis of Simpson's method.

These two cold-brew origin stories are the most popular, but whoever the inventor of the drink was, it was revived after 2002, when there was a surge of interest in high-quality coffee and unique recipes.

Experts call this period "the third coffee wave," during which many recipes and technologies were rethought, including cold brew.

Pros and Cons of Cold Brew

Cold brew is most often prepared in the summer and drunk chilled from the refrigerator. It is important to note that cold brew is not consumed in its pure, concentrated form; rather, it is the basis for coffee drinks.

The pros of cold brew include the following:

  • It is a great alternative to hot coffee drinks and is easy to prepare.
  • It tends to have more sweetness and a full body.
  • It has a long shelf life. Cold brew concentrate can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Also, cold brew lacks oils and fatty acids that add bitterness to your favorite drink. In addition, cold brew is the most sustainable cooking method, as it does not require extra electricity or gas. And brewing is quite simple.

Of course, there are some drawbacks:

  • The brewing process takes a while—usually overnight, and sometimes longer, depending on your brewing method.
  • A lot of ground coffee is used to make one batch.

What Does It Taste Like?

Cold-brew coffee has a bright, refreshing taste, high density, and high caffeine content. Subtle nuances of taste are easily revealed in it, and it is pleasant to drink even without sugar and milk.

Compared to other coffee beverages, cold brew tastes different in the following ways:

  • Lower acidity. Many acids and oils that make up coffee beans are less soluble in cold water. Cold brew has 60-70% less acid than regular coffee, so the taste is softer.
  • Pronounced taste profile. The long brewing time helps to reveal berry, honey, fruit, citrus, and other flavor notes.
  • Higher density. Cold brew is infused for 8 to 24 hours, depending on the recipe. During this time, most of the soluble components are extracted into the water, which makes the drink denser.
  • An invigorating effect. The longer the extraction lasts, the more caffeine and essential oils are found in the drink.

If your drink tastes bitter, then you probably used a fine grind or the coffee beans contain more Robusta than Arabica.

To avoid bitterness, use medium or coarse ground Arabica. Both inexpensive 100% Arabica blends and elite single-origin varieties are suitable.

Any degree of roast is allowed, but light or medium roasted coffee is most commonly used for cold brew. If this is your first time preparing cold brew coffee, then you should start by trying a medium roast.

Is There a Lot of Caffeine in Cold Brew?

The caffeine content of coffee is generally extremely volatile. The first thing you need to know is that the caffeine content of coffee (already in the drink) is constantly changing. In energy drinks, caffeine is added on purpose and its exact amount is indicated, but coffee drinks can sometimes have a rather large range of possible caffeine contents.

For example, an average cup of Arabica coffee can contain anywhere from 84 to 580 mg of caffeine. And caffeine content depends on many factors: type of coffee, degree of roast, brewing time, holding time, etc.

Hot water will extract and dissolve caffeine when brewing coffee, and the hotter the water, the more it will draw the caffeine out of the coffee.

Cold water does not "draw" caffeine from coffee. But cold brew is usually made with a higher ratio of coffee to water—2 to 2.5 times more. This means it is stronger than a regular brew. However, cold brew concentrate must be diluted with one part coffee to one part water or milk, which again reduces caffeine levels.

Let's take an example from Starbucks. The trendy 500 ml Cold Brew contains 200 mg of caffeine, while the same 500 ml of hot brewed coffee contains between 260 and 360 mg of caffeine, depending on the type of coffee.

Types of Cold Coffee

Cold brew is not the only type of cold coffee drink. It's the leading method for preparing cold coffee, but there are many other options that we'll explore below.

  • Cold brew: Coffee grounds are mixed with cold water and left for a long period, usually 8 to 24 hours. Most often, the ratio of coffee to water is 1:4, 1:4.2, 1:4.6, or 1:4.8 to obtain a concentrate, which should then be diluted with ice and water or milk.
  • Iced coffee: Coffee is prepared in any classic way (from a French press to a drip coffee machine) and then served cold with ice.
  • Japanese iced coffee: Also called "flash-brewed," this coffee is brewed hot, over ice. The main difference from conventional iced coffee is that the coffee is more diluted with water released when the ice melts.
  • Nitro coffee: The name "nitro" has nothing to do with the brewing method. This can be any coffee that has liquid nitrogen added. The resulting carbonated beverage has a creamy taste, although neither milk nor sugar is used in its production. Nitro is often associated with cold brew, although nitrogen treatment can be applied to any type of brew, cold or hot.
  • Slow drip cold brew: Sometimes referred to as Dutch, Kyoto, or Japanese-style slow drip coffee, this is brewed when water, ice, or a combination of the two is placed in the upper vessel of a special tower and then flows through an adjustable valve slowly, drop by drop, through coffee grounds. The coffee is slowly saturated, and extraction is delicate. Ultimately, a concentrate is obtained, which flows into a third vessel. It must be diluted with ice, water, or milk to taste before use. The process usually takes 3 to 24 hours, depending on the volume of the drink and personal preference.
  • "Hot bloom" cold brew: This is standard cold-brew with a preliminary first step—adding hot water. "Blooming" the coffee promotes uniform extraction and means that more acids and other volatile compounds are extracted, which contribute to a balanced taste.
  • Flash-chilled coffee: Coffee is brewed hot and then instantly cooled with a special heat exchange system used in the brewing and wine industry. The principle is similar to the Japanese cooling method, but gives more control over the cooling process and whether the drink is diluted.

How to Drink Cold Brew

As noted above, cold brew is not regular coffee, but a coffee concentrate. It can sometimes contain more caffeine than espresso. Therefore, if you decide to drink pure cold brew, then it is advisable to drink it in limited quantities—no more than 2-3 servings per day.

But the drink can be an excellent basis for coffee cocktails. Cold brew is usually mixed with water, milk or cream, condensed milk, syrup or honey, ice cream, or whipped cream.

Excellent flavor combinations include mixing your cold brew with cherry juice or coconut milk. The traditional invigorating morning option is cold brew with orange juice and lemon syrup.

Due to its low acidity, cold brew is great for anyone with stomach issues.


Today, the most famous cold brew machine on the US market is the Toddy, invented by an American named Todd Simpson back in 1964. Many people call cold brew coffee "Toddy's coffee," no matter how it was made.

The key advantage of a cold brew coffee maker is the ease of preparation and its portability. One bag of concentrate can last a week, and you can take a large bag of concentrate with you for a picnic.

But in order to find the perfect recipe, you will have to experiment a little to work out the correct ratio of water and ground coffee beans. Of course, each experiment will take a while because the coffee has to infuse so long. So if you're thinking of making a delicious cold brew, remember to be patient. The drink will be worth it!