The recent surge in cold brew coffee has brought forth an important question: why does it taste different from hot brew coffee? The taste difference between hot coffee and cold brew coffee is striking and this difference highlights the complex nature of how flavor works in coffee brewing. If you’ve asked yourself this question, read on to find out why cold brew has such a characteristic flavor difference from hot coffee.
What Is Hot Brew Coffee?
Suffice to say, the term is quite self-explanatory. Hot brew coffee is any coffee that is brewed with hot water and served hot or warm. This has been the predominant method of brewing coffee for centuries now, and despite the rise of cold brew, hot brew coffee is still a café favorite and a household staple.
Hot brew is best prepared with water that is just below boiling, so around 92-96° C is ideal. Avoid brewing with boiling water since this can give you a bitter cup.
Cold Brew Coffee vs Hot Brew Coffee
The difference between hot and cold brew coffee is simply that cold brew coffee is made with cold or room temperature water and is never heated. Cold brew is also served chilled, often with ice. Cold brew also takes much longer to brew: hot brew takes a few minutes while cold brew can take up to 24 hours to brew.
A common confusion is between cold brew coffee and iced coffee. These aren’t the same! Iced coffee is brewed hot, then cooled down, and served chilled while cold brew is never heated at any stage. This may sound minor but it makes a huge difference in flavor, smoothness, and even caffeine concentration.
Cold brew coffee has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to its unique smoothness and also for its versatility. Hot brew coffee is fairly standard with few variations but essentially the same. Cold brew coffee on the other hand can be mixed into cocktails, sodas, and more.
Does Cold Brew Taste Different?
Anyone who’s had cold brew will tell you how different it tastes from ‘regular’ coffee. But why? there’s one major factor: temperature.
Water is the most important thing in your cup after the actual coffee beans. The quality of your water can make or break your coffee experience and temperature plays a huge role in flavor and extraction. The process of extracting the coffee compounds from the beans requires heat which comes from the hot water used to brew. Without heat, extraction takes much longer which is why cold brew coffee takes at least 6-24 hours to make. Brewing with cold water extracts less of the compounds that impart acidity and bitterness, so cold brew is smoother and has low acidity.
Using cold water doesn’t just slow down extraction, it also delays the degradation of coffee oils. These oils, which impart flavor and aroma, evaporate quickly when heated like in hot brew coffee whereas they remain in your cup for longer if you brew with cold water. This gives you the primary flavor difference between hot and cold brew coffee. Hot brew has a distinct acidity, rounded flavors, and hints of bitterness with a strong aroma. Cold brew is smooth, sweeter, and less acidic with almost no bitterness and a mild aroma.
Finally, the brewing ratio differs between hot and cold brew. For cold brew, the recommended ratio is 1 part coffee to 10-12 parts of water and for hot brew, the ratio is 1 part coffee to 17 parts water. This gives cold brew a slightly higher caffeine content.
Additionally, cold brew can easily be brewed in large batches and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week while hot coffee is usually brewed in smaller quantities and cannot be stored for long.
Choosing Between Hot Brew Vs Cold Brew Coffee
The right choice is always the one that works for you, your needs, and your lifestyle. There’s nothing like a warm, steaming cup of joe in the mornings but you also can’t deny the simple pleasure of a smooth cold brew coffee on a tiring day. Most of us alternate between hot brewing and cold brewing, which is probably the best way to go about it.
Each type has its advantages:
- Cold brew coffee is smoother, sweeter, less acidic, can be brewed in large batches, and has a longer shelf life. The drawback is that it takes much longer to brew.
- Hot brew coffee gives you full flavors, strong aromas, and bright acidity, all in a few minutes. However, it can’t be brewed in large batches and can’t be stored for long.
Based on these characteristics, you can decide which type of coffee suits you. You don’t have to miss out on either one, so keep experimenting to discover the intricacies of both hot brew and cold brew coffee.